The State of Ecommerce and the Rising Cost of Paid Advertising

Ecommerce marketing is a battlefield for retailers right now. The old methods for attracting, converting and retaining customers don’t work anymore. Merchants are straining under the weight of new challenges, savvier buyers, and an ever-expanding list of platforms to reach them on.

Desperate organizations try to repeat old tactics that have long exhausted their use. Businesses still run banner ads, despite abysmal click-through rates hovering around 0.05%. Others pour their efforts into Facebook pages, hoping that an army of likes will somehow transform into actual sales.

Companies who have forged ahead have different problems. The need to engage customers across dozens of platforms has led to a data and portal crunch. From email marketing to CRM databases to customer support, your data is all over the place, and it can seem impossible to deliver the right message at the right time to the right person.

And you can’t focus on just one channel. Relying on Facebook marketing alone is a failing strategy, content marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and selling on Amazon isn’t enough to keep you from being buried under an avalanche of products.

Shouting at customers online is no longer working. But what’s the solution?

Easy. Stop chasing customers. Make them come to you. And you can do that with inbound marketing.

How Inbound Marketing Powers Ecommerce Growth

You’ve probably heard of inbound marketing by now, despite the fact that many businesses never implement it to its fullest potential.

In a nutshell, instead of just focusing on advertising, inbound marketing has you attracting potential customers by providing useful content at every stage of their buying journey. You build the channels--which can include blogs, social media, email campaigns, and more--and customers find your company because your content is helping them solve a problem.

Here’s the thing: No one pays attention to something when they don’t need it. By creating content that addresses the pain points, problems, and needs of your Ideal Customer, you’ll build your company’s credibility and naturally find the people who would be the best fit for your products.

Here’s an easy example: Say you have an ecommerce site where you sell beauty products and you want to increase sales for a line of eyeshadow. You could publish blog posts about how to do different types of eye effects, each with a link to an eyeshadow that would make it easier for people to create the effect. Then you promote it and people searching for makeup tips find your useful content and consider buying from you.

It’s a great system for finding your ideal customers. But to do it well – to track customer habits, how people move through your funnels, the reach of your content, and more – you need a robust platform that can help you manage it all.

Enter HubSpot.

Why HubSpot?

HubSpot is the industry standard when it comes to inbound marketing, but that’s not all it does. Through it’s CRM, Marketing Hub, Sales Hub, and Services Hub, HubSpot allows you to keep your customer data and transactions in one place, while giving you flexible tools to create campaigns, funnels, and more to grow your business.

In short: It’s everything you need to build a robust inbound marketing system for your company.

Well...ALMOST everything you need. But we’ll get to that.

HubSpot makes it incredibly easy to build a sales funnel from top to bottom: from when a customer clicks on your Twitter ad, to filling out a form deep on your website for more information, and, finally,  buying your product. It allows for a level of personalization and data use that was previously unheard of, enabling you to see a customer’s purchases and behavior over time to help you to identify patterns and customize your outreach to them.

Even better? You can integrate HubSpot with a wide variety of applications to boost features that are important to your ecommerce business.

And if you’re in ecommerce, you definitely care about data integration.

Syncing Data Into HubSpot: The Hard Way, and the Easy Way

There are two ways to get all of this customer data into HubSpot: the “hard way” and the “not as hard way” We’ll discuss the hard way first since, unfortunately, it’s how most companies do it.

The hard way is manual, using employees to prepare data for uploading. It requires time and effort to standardize the data, insert your data points and upload to HubSpot. It takes a lot of time, and when you add up all the hours your staff spends on the task, it costs a lot of money.

The “not as hard way” is to use general integrations platforms like Zapier that offer broad functionality but lack in-depth capability. At Unific, we use Zapier and we love it. But we can only use it for basic things. It doesn’t meet all of our needs.

Neither of these is a good, easy or permanent solution for getting data into HubSpot.

Let's now talk about one that is.

How Unific Calibrates HubSpot for Ecommerce

While you can find several different pieces of software that can port your data into HubSpot, Unific is the only one that tailors your account specifically to your ecommerce business. It offers the most reliable, fast, easy and deep integration available.

How? Well, in technical speak, Unific is the only Ecommerce Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) built for HubSpot.

Put simply: We’re built to power ecommerce businesses just like yours.

Here’s how it works.

Unific works as a connection point between HubSpot and the ecommerce store of your choice. We’re built to easily work with WooCommerce, Magento, BigCommerce, and Shopify.

Sales that occur on those platforms have their data funnel through us and into HubSpot with no effort on your part.

That’s when the fun begins.

Unific automatically segments your customers for you across 30+ categories (and you can add new ones customized for your data). From the moment Unific syncs your data, you can access valuable insights to build data-based marketing plans that engage your best customers.

Our goal is to make it a cinch for you to turn first-time visitors into first-time buyers and, eventually, make them lifelong customers.

And we do this by helping you empower your business through your data. Want to target customers between 45 and 60 who have bought from you at least twice in the last 3 months? That’s easy enough because Unific will have automatically categorized your customers by their age brackets AND by their buying habits. Two clicks, and you’ll have a list of the customers you want. Now all you have to do is build a workflow to perform the desired action for this audience, and you’re good to go.

What’s a “workflow”? It’s another great feature that HubSpot offers to automate sales and marketing processes to help you engage with customers, without spending a lot of time.  You’ll learn more about them in the next section, where we give you an overview of every facet of HubSpot so that you can get value out of it TODAY, not in a month from now.

Let’s start with HubSpot’s groundbreaking CRM.

The Benefits of the HubSpot CRM (Contact, Company, Deal, Product, Tickets)

HubSpot comes complete with an industry-leading ecommerce CRM  that allows you to keep all of your contacts, information, data, and insights in one place. Its features include:

CRM: Store all your contacts and their companies in the HubSpot CRM, including a record of every interaction with a customer or company. You can also customize your HubSpot activity feed so that you’re tracking these interactions and can follow them right from your HubSpot page.

Sales Hub:

You can attach a deal to any contact or company within HubSpot. Deals are used in two different ways: If you’re a B2C or B2B merchant, Unific will sync the orders placed in your shopping cart as a Deal in HubSpot within the Ecommerce Pipeline. If you have an inside or field sales organization, you can also use Deals to manage your pipeline. HubSpot makes it easy to track when a customer has taken an action that could lead to an increase in revenue for you by segmenting these interactions into their own sections. With Deals, you can track potential sales as they move through a pipeline, gain customer insight, and stay on top of everyone coming to you.

Unific will also sync your shopping cart’s product library. When an order is placed, Unific not only syncs it as a deal but also syncs the products as order items.

Service Hub: HubSpot now includes a Service Hub to manage your tickets, knowledgebase, and gather customer feedback and health scores. It also keeps track of interactions that require your input, including requests for product support, but can include a wide variety of interactions depending on how involved you’d like to be in overseeing different aspects of the business.

Conversations: Woven throughout the CRM, Marketing Hub, Sales Hub and Service Hub are HubSpot Conversations. You can store snippets and templates for your customer interactions, but the coolest thing you can do is build bots that leverage all the data within your CRM to automate personalized conversational marketing. Learn more about HubSpot Ecommerce bots here.

THE INS AND OUT OF YOUR NEW MARKETING HUB

HubSpot is the best digital marketing hub a marketer could ask for. Let’s look at some of the notable features in HubSpot and discuss our recommendations for how to get started using them.

Forms

One of the simplest but most important features of HubSpot is the ability to create and customize forms to convert a new visitor into a new buyer. Each form can have a specific purpose (from getting someone to sign-up for a newsletter or guiding them through the checkout process) and HubSpot has dozens of drag and drop templates you can customize for your needs. Each is seamlessly tied into your contact database so that all of your data is tabulated and stored with every interaction.

You can also select what happens after a form is filled out. Whether you want to be notified about a new sign-up so you can reach out to them personally, or you want to trigger an automatic email chain to the customer, you can set it up and automate it in HubSpot.

Our Recommendation: Forms will likely be one of the first things you design when you get into HubSpot, so it’s important that you get started on the right foot. You should create the basic Contact Us, Newsletter Sign Up and Checkout forms that most websites have and include at least one multiple-choice question in each form. Doing this early can help you segment customers very quickly, rather than receiving only their name and email address.

[Note: Unific is a value-add reseller of HubSpot and includes form creation and placement as part of onboarding.]

Facebook & Instagram Lead Ads

Over time, HubSpot has developed ways to interact with customers without dragging them through a funnel you personally own. One example of this:  enabling Facebook and Instagram Lead ads in tandem with HubSpot to provide prospects with a more seamless and user-friendly experience. This feature is especially useful for mobile, where users don’t want to have to go to another website (or worse, another app) just to sign up for your service.

Most social ads are designed to get a customer to click through them and land on a page owned by the company, but lead ads are different. Clicking on them will produce a form in Facebook that the user can fill out to give their information. 

Our Recommendation: In general, customers that come in through lead campaigns are already far more interested than other consumers. Because HubSpot can trigger a workflow to occur as soon as the form is submitted, we recommend sending these customers an immediate offer or a more in-depth sales push. They need less “warming up” than regular folks, and not only are you likely to get a sale quicker, but you’re likely to keep these guys around longer.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is one of the most common uses for HubSpot and it is head and shoulders above the competition when it comes to two key features: segmentation and automation.

Put simply, there are few tools that let you divide your audience by as many metrics and data points as HubSpot (and with Unific there are even more ways to group your customers). And with their automation systems, you can create email chains to customers that are so personalized you’re sure to see an increase in sales.

Our Recommendation: One of the best practices we find helpful is to draft email content with other use cases in mind. Create your email so that you can break pieces out of it to use for social posts and blogs. So if you’re a clothing company and the email is advertising a dress to the customer, you should be able to break out a quote about the dress with an image for a social media post or expand on its features in a blog post. Thinking this way about your content can save you time and increase the value of everything you create.

Lists

HubSpot allows you to create Smart Lists based on Contact, Company, Deal/Order and Ticket information, along with engagement data. Smart Lists are invaluable for strengthening your lifecycle marketing and growing customer lifetime value.

When you connect your shopping cart and HubSpot to Unific, we’ll automatically create several Smart Lists that cover every aspect of your customer lifecycle. Those lists include:

  • Leads
  • Marketing Qualified Leads
  • New Customers
  • Customers
  • Engaged Customers
  • Disengaged Customers
  • Lost Customers
  • Repeat Buyers
  • Bought 2 Times
  • Bought 3 Times
  • Bought 4 or More Times
  • Best Customers
  • At-Risk Best Customers
  • Biggest Tickets
  • Abandoned Carts
  • Last Order Status as Paid

If want to know more about what those lists are and how they can improve your bottom line, see our post on HubSpot as an ecommerce CRM for more detail.

Blog & Content Creation

HubSpot includes a native blogging engine and that's important because a blog is one of the most important digital assets for your company and your inbound marketing campaigns. Companies that blog receive 97% more links to their website than those that don’t. A blog that provides useful information, is loaded with relevant keywords, is updated regularly, and leads to relevant calls-to-action will attract and engage customers. Companies that ignore their blogs do so at their own peril.

Creating unique, diverse content should be the backbone of your marketing strategy. Without useful articles, blogs, infographics, videos and more, you’ll be far more reliant on paid advertising, eating into your profits and keeping you dependent on someone else’s marketing platform for traffic.

Our Recommendation: HubSpot makes it incredibly easy to incorporate your blog into any funnel running through the system. But in order for it to work, you need to make sure your content is on point. Here are some basic tips for doing that, but for a more in-depth discussion, take a look.

  1. Make Sure Your Content is Useful: It’s amazing how many company blogs exist that provide no helpful information to a reader. Don’t be one of them. Think about the pain points that your product addresses for your customers, and tailor your posts around them. A simple example? If you sell liquor, create a list of great mixed drink recipes that people can make at home that pair perfectly with your spirits.
  2. Break Up Your Text: Formatting matters, and nothing turns people off like clicking into a wall of text. Break up paragraphs, use subtitles, and add photos to keep your blog easy-to-read. Grab the reader's attention with shorter, punchier headlines.
  3. Keywords are Key: The most important “under the hood” aspect of your blog are the keywords you embed in it. Keywords that your customers search for should be laced into your blogs naturally in the body, the meta description, title, and more. Many CMS platforms give you feedback on how well your post is situated for SEO, so make sure to pay attention to the tips they give you.
  4. Linking to Success: Links to other pages boost your SEO, and can be a great way to catapult a reader down a sales funnel. Make sure every post has a few that will bring people towards other content pieces.
  5. Analyze the Results: Pay attention to how your audience/customers respond to your blog. There may be posts that get far more reads than another, but the less-trafficked post is getting far more people to actually click into one of your sales funnels. Adjust your content streams as needed to better capture the audience you’re looking for.

SEO & Content Strategy

Speaking of analyzing, HubSpot has some of the best analytics around and you can use them to not only improve your SEO but also your content strategy.

We call this creating “smart content”, which is shaped around your user interactions and needs.

Using HubSpot Analytics, you can easily see what content drives the most engagement and what’s bringing people to that content. This is invaluable knowledge for your SEO efforts. If you have a long, link-filled piece of content that’s designed to help a customer resolve a pain point, and it’s getting very little traffic, it’s likely there is an issue with your SEO strategy.

Our Recommendation: To improve your SEO, perform the Google searches (in incognito mode) you think your customers would perform in order to see what articles come up. You can then use that information to craft more keywords to help improve your content SEO. You can also look into HubSpot’s analytics to find what searches led people to you, and insert words of a similar nature.

Social Media

You can use HubSpot as your default social media war room. Not only is it easy to access the analytics associated with your social media campaigns, but you can also see how customers travel through your social output and into your owned funnels. You can use this insight to identify what’s working, what needs to be changed, and where customers are dropping off. Whenever possible, make sure you publish your social through HubSpot so that you can access its rich data for all of your needs.

Our Recommendation: You should immediately start testing funnels with users that have to click a social media ad to get to your site, versus the Facebook/Instagram in-app lead-gen ads we mentioned above. In our experience, different business types have a much easier time with lead-gen ads than others, and it’s a good first test to get feedback.

Landing pages

HubSpot lets you quickly and easily build your own landing page from scratch. While many platforms offer the ability to create your own landing pages, HubSpot’s data collection allows for much higher customer personalization.

Your landing page can be programmed to show different content based on audience characteristics, including visitor location, where they are in your buying stage, and more. By personalizing your landing page to the individual visitor, you can greatly increase your sales. 

Our Recommendation: Landing pages tend to be very business specific for obvious reasons, but when it comes to tailoring content, we recommend your landing page change slightly depending on the customer’s location, or from where they found your company. For instance, you may want to offer different information for visitors who found the page through a social ad, versus a Google search. This takes time and testing, but an automated, ever-shifting landing page can do wonders for your sales.

Leadflows

Leadflows are custom pop-up forms you create in HubSpot that activate when a customer hits a certain trigger. You can control every aspect of the form, from how it looks to what makes them spawn. These need absolutely no coding to create, making them invaluable tools to your business.

Our Recommendation: Leadflows are a great tool for automating time-consuming processes. When done right, they can help to make your marketing organization more efficient and successful. Invest the time to assess your database, define the processes you want to automate, and what result you want to achieve. Once you’ve created the workflows, test, and re-test to ensure they are running correctly and you’re getting the data you want.

Analytics Dashboards

Once you have HubSpot, you no longer need Google Analytics.

We know, it’s a bold statement (that’s why we put it in boldface). And since it’s free, we know clients that still like to keep it implemented as a safety check. But the analytics dashboards available in HubSpot are just as deep and user-friendly, with the added benefit of being connected to all of your other marketing activity.

While you can take a deep dive into the information, HubSpot provides you with several out-of-the-box reports to easily gain basic insights from your data. And with the new HubSpot Enterprise release, this tool becomes even more powerful, because you can install HubSpot’s analytics into any platform your company uses, not just your website. That means that you can keep all of the platforms for multiple brands hooked into HubSpot, and it will automatically use this data to improve your marketing.

Our Recommendation: Analytics are critical to understanding how your online efforts are performing. With so many data sources available, it’s important to incorporate all of them into your reporting so that you are getting an accurate assessment of marketing performance. Map out all of your online tools that are providing analytics - social media, blogs, website, advertising - and make certain all of them are tracking all of that data in your online marketing reports.

ROI Attribution Reports

A close cousin to Analytics Dashboards are Attributions reports. These are an invaluable tool to help you see which step in your funnel caused someone to convert, or where there are gaps where people back out.

You can arrange these reports to solve for various problems, but in general, the first attribution report should be based around finding what source is driving the most conversions, and in particular, the most “first sales”. While much of our marketing is around identifying Top Customers, you can’t start with them if you’re not getting initial sales.

Our Recommendation: Set aside one day a week to create Attribution Reports for all your major funnel campaigns. That way you’re consistently getting data on what works/what doesn’t, and are changing things within a similar timeframe.

Marketing Automation

HubSpot offers plenty of ways to automate your marketing, but the vast majority of them start with a Workflow. A workflow is a series of directed emails and communications designed to get a customer to take a specific action. Different segments require different workflows, which often include custom content, scheduling, and more to most effectively work.

Our Recommendation: HubSpot allows you to create all of your own workflows, and while there are dozens that may be useful to your business, we recommend we start out with these.

  1. New Customer Workflow: This workflow is for turning your 1st-time paying customers into repeat buyers. Set it up to trigger when the customer makes their first purchase and have it deliver content over 3 weeks. For example, if your Top Customers typically are identified by making their second purchase within 30 days,  have this chain work against that period. 
  • New Lead Workflow: This one is used for capturing first-time site visitors with an offer (we recommend popup tools like Optimonk or Justuno) and automatically nurturing them with content to the point of sale. To create this workflow, create a coupon that generates whenever a new user comes to the site that they have to enter their email to receive, and then you can start marketing guided content to them to encourage the first purchase.
  • Abandoned Cart Workflow: 78 percent of customers drop out at the cart stage. This workflow is your line of defense to prevent that from happening. The goal of this workflow is to get customer information before they get to the cart so that if they don’t buy, you can target them with a workflow that encourages them to finally make that purchase.

A/B Testing

A/B testing is an important element in successful marketing campaigns, and HubSpot allows you to A/B test nearly everything you send, including emails, Facebook messenger texts, blog titles, and much more.

Our Recommendation: Most of HubSpot’s A/B testing tools are a cinch to use, but there are some best practices you should remember. First, always make sure you only A/B test one element at a time in your communication. Testing two emails with different visuals and subject lines would generally be useless because there is far too much difference for you to get an accurate idea of what is enticing readers, and what specific thing is converting them.

Always have a control version of the communication. The control is the version all others are weighed against to judge their effectiveness.

Video

HubSpot allows for video integration at every level of your marketing campaigns, and knowing how to utilize this effectively can help you supercharge your campaigns. 

One of the benefits of running your video through HubSpot is the analytics available from the platform. It’s much easier to determine how long it takes a user to watch a video before they sign up for your offer when all of the analytics are funneling into the same system, and even easier to start automation tailored to a customer’s interests.

Transactional Email

Transactional Email is exactly what it sounds like--emails whose sole purpose is to record a transaction. They’re different from most of the emails you’d send (which are marketing based) and usually include things like receipts, account updates, and anything that a user needs to know that could affect their experience. Many companies use a different provider for these types of emails, but with HubSpot, you also get the same in-depth analytics with these as you do on your regular emails.

Our Recommendation: Don’t treat your transactional emails as an afterthought. They are a great opportunity to connect with your customers and deepen the relationship. Think about your post-purchase goals and design transactional emails that help you achieve those goals.

In Conclusion

Getting noticed online is getting harder and harder. To stand out from your competition and attract customers, inbound marketing must be part of the solution. The best platform to manage your Inbound Marketing, while incorporating your full marketing and sales stack is HubSpot. No matter what level of your business, HubSpot helps you to unlock the value and potential of your store’s data.

And if you’re interested in seeing how Unific can help you have a more reliable, easy, fast, and deep experience, one that turns your data into insights, insights into action, and action into growth, contact us today.