We've worked exclusively in ecommerce digital marketing in HubSpot's ecosystem for 5 years, since 2015. Since we're no longer selling HubSpot Agency retainer services, I'm sharing the key lessons I'd learned to help you wow Ecommerce brands as a HubSpot Agency (with fewer time-wasting surprises).
This year we decided to cut our HubSpot agency retainers, cut any content creation or ad management consulting, and instead only offer short-term services, like Ecommerce centric Portal evaluations, Onboarding, and quick-launch Marketing Systems.
This leaves me in a position where I'm not able to use many in-depth skills I've developed over the years as Unific's primary HubSpot consultant. So I'm using this blog as a way to share regular content that would be useful to brands and HubSpot Agencies to help their Ecommerce stores grow!
Here's the top 8 lessons I've learned over the years that will help you quickly ramp up to offer compelling agency services to new clients in the Ecommerce sector:
- Show Some ROI Within 60 Days
- Migrate All Existing Automated Emails As-Is
- Get ALL Historical Orders into HubSpot
- Migrate Contacts AFTER Historical & Lead Source Migration
- Don't Generate Personal Coupons for Mass Newsletters
- Use Consistent, Sortable Naming for All HubSpot Elements
- Re-Educate Any "Tagging/List" Mindsets
- Create Ecommerce-Centric Persona Dashboards
#1: Show Some ROI Within 60 Days
We learned this lesson on one of our first major onboarding projects co-sold with the HubSpot sales team back in 2016. It was a clothing brand that we were migrating from Mailchimp and our first step was to run a Winback Campaign to their previous customers.
We took a list of all their customers who last bought between 6 months and two years ago (using Unific's Last Order Date property) and sent them a 3-email reminder offer on a great discounted deal to come back to the store. Since the Ecommerce rate of repeat buyers is consistently less than 50%, we also chose to send two different versions of the campaign to customers who bought once (with a higher discount) vs customers who bought 2+ times (with a lower discount and more messaging about what the company has been up to the last year).
This campaign had a sales conversion rate of roughly 2% (which is common for a Winback Campaign) and allowed the client to stack on a sizable amount of additional orders for that month. This wowed the client and wowed HubSpot, since many HubSpot Agencies don't demonstrate measurable financial ROI for clients for at least 3-4 months.
Ecommerce is the perfect segment for HubSpot agencies to prioritize quick-wins for clients using Winback Campaigns and templated Abandoned Cart campaigns while developing more in-depth content and persona strategy in the longer time that's needed.
#2: Migrate All Existing Automated Emails As-Is
Migrating automated email campaigns is difficult, especially if the client has 3-5+ automated campaigns that are triggered off of shopping cart data (which is common).
To save headache in your learning curve of the client's old platform and to save time in the migration, we learned that it's best to tell the client that all email content and design needs to be migrated as-is into HubSpot so that you can do a quick cutover from the old system.
You can set a timeline to iterate and improve the content and strategy in a version 2 of the campaign, but we've found you will do a much better service to the client by splitting up email campaign migration and email campaign improvements into two different project milestones.
Just have the client make 1-2 high-level changes to their automated email templates (maybe a header or footer design change that can apply to all emails), then create snapshots of those campaigns' performance ROI in their old platform to have a baseline record of performance for comparison, and then commit all email content strategy changes to version 2 once their automated campaigns are already in HubSpot.
#3: Get ALL Historical Orders into HubSpot
We've commonly run into clients who are re-platforming both their email platform AND their shopping cart platform at the same time. In that cart migration plan, you want to make sure that they're also migrating their entire shopping cart history into their new cart so that Unific's historical data can accurately calculate data like First Order Date, First Order Value, and Total Number of Orders
I'm amazed at how commonly migration of order history gets missed when re-platforming shopping carts, so if they're moving carts please make sure to bring that up in your sales process. We've recommended third party cart migration tools like Cart 2 Cart with success in the past, and there are other API-based tools like this that can make re-plaforming easy.
Also, even if they don't necessarily want to market to everyone in their past customer list, you'll be able to paint a more accurate picture of their Persona data and other customer segments without leaving HubSpot if they've imported their entire store history. With HubSpot's pending option for designating contacts for Email/Ad marketing vs CRM contacts, this should make keeping the entire contact history in HubSpot much more affordable. And you can always export backups of all HubSpot properties before deleting contacts if you need to purge their portal to get below a contact threshold.
#4: Migrate Contacts AFTER Historical & Lead Source Migration
You ideally only want to pull over contacts from their marketing platform ONCE. If you pull over their marketing contacts, but they're still collecting leads in their old system, then you will have inconsistent data across platforms and you'll have to re-import them again, at the end.
To get them fully migrated within 60 days, here's the order of operations I'd always use to eliminate the need for contact re-imports:
- Connect Unific to HubSpot and their cart
- Have Unific run the contact historical into HubSpot in the background (this can take days or weeks depending on the store size)
- Prioritize re-creating email campaigns and webforms that AREN'T initiated off of cart data (lead signups, discount popups, and newsletter signups - Unific's integration doesn't natively grab the common newsletter footer signups so you'll have to replace that with a HubSpot form, too)
- Turn on these form-initiated Workflow campaigns and swap the previous webforms with HubSpot ones (now all new leads are coming directly into HubSpot, not the old system)
- NOW migrate all previous email platform contacts (since their cart will be dual-connected to their previous platform and HubSpot through Unific, each platform should be a perfect mirror of ecommerce data while you're migrating their cart-triggered campaigns)
- Turn on all their cart-triggered HubSpot campaigns (Abandoned Cart, New Customer Welcome, Product-Specific Onboarding, etc) and turn off the campaigns in their old platform
- Re-import only their opted-out contacts and then have them close their old platform subscriptions (the only thing that should change from their old platform data now is contacts unsubscribing/marking them as spam, so just re-upload their opt-out list to account for any changes)
#5: Don't Generate Personal Coupons for Mass Newsletters
Unific has a coupon code generator for creating personalized, one-time use coupons for their contact lists.
This is perfect for implementing into automated campaigns to provide, for example, personalized 2nd purchase offers in the client's New Customer campaign that can even merge in their first name as part of the coupon code.
But because of HubSpot's API call limitations and the complicated nature of passing round trip API call data between HubSpot and their cart, do NOT utilize coupon generation for individual emails for holiday sales or regular weekly promotions.
We've had agencies try to generate personalized coupons for newsletter emails going out to 20,000 contacts and this just creates a mess for all parties. Just advise the client to use fixed coupons with expirations for your holiday or weekly promotions and save the coupon generation feature for the automated campaigns.
#6: Use Consistent, Sortable Naming for All HubSpot Elements
Many Marketing Automation platforms allow all email, landing page, and form creation to occur within that platform's "Workflow" equivalent builder (Mailchimp, Pardot, Bronto, Infusionsoft, etc). This makes it easier for the client to manage assets because when they change or review their content they can just go into the "Workflow" editor and make all email changes there.
HubSpot is making organization easier by adding folders to Workflows, Lists, Forms, and Emails, but the content is still spread out over a variety of places. You can't edit and update everything by staying purely inside of the Workflow tool, like you can in Klaviyo's equivalent "Flows" tool.
For this reason, I advocate naming all HubSpot elements with an alphanumeric hierarchy that makes them easy to view in order and stay organized:
- [Lifecycle Campaign Name] [Medium] [Sequence Order] | [Short Description Objective]
- Lead Consideration (Healthy Living Tips): Email 2 | Highlight Benefits and Remind Coupon
You can eliminate the [Medium] and [Sequence Order] concept for elements like forms and lists if you don't have multiple ones you need to keep track of, but even for Emails that should be organized in HubSpot Campaigns having the email number in the name will help them to view the content in sequential order (for emails I abbreviate "Email 2" to "E2" to save space).
#7: Re-Educate Any "Tagging/List" Mindsets
This is an area where one platform may use a terminology - like "Lists" - in a completely different way than HubSpot uses the terminology, so part of migrating a customer is also migrating their mindset from their old platform's meaning of a term to HubSpot's.
Many marketing automation and email platforms rely on a less-flexible system of "Tagging" and "Lists" for organizing contacts (Mailchimp and Infusionsoft especially come to mind).
As you know, HubSpot has Static Lists which contacts need to be manually added or removed from. They also have Active Lists (formerly Smart Lists) which are based on dynamic criteria
Many email platforms think of "Lists" in a very static sense, where customers are only added or manually removed. And then "Tags" are commonly applied to contacts within that list to further segment them inside those formal "Newsletter Lists".
I've had many conversations with clients who can't wrap their head around the fact that HubSpot doesn't have a tagging system and I have to educate them through the process of realizing they can better represent "Tags" with dynamic, custom HubSpot properties that can be rebuilt in Active Lists.
You will need to educate yourself on the way the client's source platform thinks about customer segmentation so that you can build a map (likely in a spreadsheet) of the critical tags/segments they need to maintain in HubSpot and then create equivalent HubSpot Properties for any dynamic segmentation they need to maintain.
In applicable systems, I'd commonly import Tags and Tag ID Numbers as separate properties in HubSpot to serve as a static reference of what was in their old system, if they ever need to reference them in HubSpot.
Then create those dynamic properties in the form of checkboxes or dropdown lists in HubSpot. (I stay away from the Multiple Checkbox property type in HubSpot because although you can use a workflow to ADD a particular multi-select value, HubSpot still doesn't have the ability to dynamically REMOVE a single multi-select value through a workflow which makes that property type unusable, in my opinion, for dynamic segmentation)
Here's some various documentation on Tagging and Lists per particular source platforms that you can investigate further depending on your client's source platform:
- Pardot Lists
- Klaviyo Tags
- Mailchimp Tags and Mailchimp Lists (now called "Audiences")
- Bronto Contact Lists
- Infusionsoft Tags
#8: Create Ecommerce-Centric Persona Dashboards
This is simultaneously a data visibility tool for the client plus a way to make it easier for your Agency to sell and demonstrate the ongoing value of your services.
As you spend the time with the client to set up their formal HubSpot personas (an exercise they likely won't have done on their former platform) you can have a dashboard created from the onset that shows differences in their ecommerce-centric behavior as it pertains to those segments.
You can use the RFM properties Unific syncs along with HubSpot calculated fields to enrich the data your customers can see.
By using averages of properties like First Order Value, Second Order Value, Total Value of Orders, Number of Form Submissions, and Number of Sessions you can start painting an accurate picture of how your customer behavior differs across personas that can affect your client marketing strategy:
(PS, HubSpot still doesn't have "Median" available as a reporting option, which is critical for reporting accurate data alongside "Averages", so if you want to get that feature made I'd recommend voting on it in this HubSpot ideas board.)
While you're developing Personas you can also create a dashboard showing lifetime order value and other important metrics that come through Paid Search sources. Before investing into a more advanced Ecommerce-specific ROI tracking tool like WickedReports, you can still demonstrate a lot of value within HubSpot's native reporting using Unific's data to demonstrate which ad spend sources are leading to the highest LTV.
Google Analytics can't report lifetime value because they don't keep track of data on a per-customer basis, so this is a place where HubSpot's insights can uniquely shine and help you demonstrate value during your first 60 days of onboarding:
Serving Clients During the Ecommerce Boom
I've said before that I think this is the best possible time for HubSpot Agencies to jump into ecommerce with new and existing clients that are finding their way online.
I hope this article is a helpful way for you to avoid some of the pitfalls I've learned through the years (through a lot of extra project labor on my part) to make your Ecommerce HubSpot journey as smooth as possible for your clients and your HubSpot Agency.
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