I am sure you are eager to learn the
ecommerce growth hacks of eBay, Amazon, Wish
and other successful companies.
This is the second part of the article titled:
71 Powerful Growth Hacking Examples & Techniques
You will observe that in this post,
I have talked mostly about growth hacking for ecommerce businesses.
Because these companies have shown tremendous growth;
and have dominated the global e-commerce business.
And that is why I felt it would be apt to put them together in a separate post.
Without further ado, let us dive into some awesome
examples of growth hacking for ecommerce?
Did you know that when eBay was created,
it was called AuctionWeb?
Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, wanted to call the site “EchoBay”;
but settled for eBay because the former domain name was not available.
Revenues started coming in just seven months of launch.
Till date, the most expensive thing to be sold on eBay
has been a 405-foot yacht. It fetched $168 million.
The reason I like eBay’s growth hack is that
it one of the few Internet businesses that have
registered profits nearly every quarter since its launch in 1995.
Darn, it even survived the Dot Com Bubble in 2001.
What was the secret strategy?
It’s unique proposition. The first mover advantage.
Individuals and businesses could list
new or old items for auction for a low fee.
This was a new concept back in those days.
And what did eBay sell first? A broken laser pointer.
Yes, it was listed as “broken”.
The ecommerce store expanded further by
capturing the toy collector market.
Users could find rare toys on eBay.
This gave eBay the traction to grow.
Since eBay’s core business was built around online auctions,
it did away with the need for inventory headaches-
the customers supply the product.
This also meant almost no warehousing and fulfillment costs-
Awesome growth hacking technique; isnt it?
The company hired non-technical executives
to get new ideas and insights.
Jeff Nelson has written an awesome post on eBay.
Learning from failure
In the online business world, uptime is critical.
eBay learned this the hard way when in 1999
its website was down for 22 hours due to system failures.
As expected, the company lost millions in transaction fees
and billions in market value.
eBay and the entire industry learned valuable lessons from this incident.
Today, the average unscheduled downtime is a few seconds per month.
Amazon.com: eCommerce growth hacking
Amazon is a household name today.
If you look up “Amazon’ on Google,
you would get over 2.3 BILLION results!
The company has annual revenue in excess of
$60 Million and has over 97,000 employees worldwide.
According to Morgan Stanley analyst Brian Nowak,
Amazon might hit the $1 Trillion mark within the next 5 years.
Two decades back (the year 1994), that was not the case,
as the 30-year old Bezos borrowed money from
his parents and started the e-bookstore from their garage.
He wanted the company to be called “Cadaver” or “Relentless”.
Thankfully, he settled for “Amazon”.
What’s the secret to Bezos’s (and Amazon.com’s) success?
The e-commerce store focuses on meeting the user needs.
And it achieves this through experimentation.
Bezos is a major driver of this mindset at Amazon.
Unlike most companies, Amazon encourages
small teams to experiment with new ideas.
Timothy B. Lee quotes Eric Ries in his post,
I know examples where a random Amazon engineer mentions ‘Hey I read about an idea in a blog post, we should do that… The next thing he knows, the engineer is being asked to pitch it to the executive committee. Jeff Bezos decides on the spot.
Talking about Amazon’s third-party seller business,
We are stubborn on vision.
We are flexible on details….If you’re not stubborn,
you’ll give up on experiments too soon.
And if you’re not flexible, you’ll pound your head
against the wall and you won’t see a different solution
to a problem you’re trying to solve.
Unlike other large corporations, Amazon does not fear failure.
In fact, in their 2015 annual report,
Bezos observes that a company cannot be innovative
if it is not willing to fail.
One area where I think we are especially distinctive is failure. I believe we are the best place in the world to fail (we have plenty of practice!), and failure and invention are inseparable twins….To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment.
Most large organizations embrace the idea of invention,
but are not willing to suffer the string of failed experiments necessary to get there.
The business tycoon and visionary has also established
the “work every day like it’s your first day” concept at Amazon.
Don’t fear failure; experiment.
Take calculated risks.
Give your users what they want before they know they want it.
Amazon Prime is an excellent example to understand this strategy.
While Jeff Besos started Amazon out of his garage,
Jack Ma grew Alibaba from his apartment.
Talking about growth hacks for B2B ecommerce,
Alibaba cannot be sidelined.
Unique Business Offering
Alibaba’s core business is targeted towards
small businesses and consumers.
This allows the ecommerce portal to transact
in a large variety of goods.
For example, Alibaba observed transactions
worth $340 million in 2014.
Unique profit model
Alibaba does not charge for admission
unlike eBay China that has a fee for platform transactions;
instead, it makes money providing
marketing and technical support.
This has attracted a huge pool of loyal customers.
Ads and keyword bidding together
account for 57% of total profits.
Annual orders on Alibaba have grown past 11 billion.
Trustworthy Credit Model
Sellers on Alibaba have to
verify their identity via an online certification test.
This reduces illegal transactions on the platform.
It also records every transaction,
so both the seller and buyer can trace it back.
Suppose you buy a product on Alibaba.
Interestingly, this payment would first go to Alipay;
and will be released to the seller only
when you confirm the receipt of the item.
The ecommerce company rewards customers for their
online feedback, in form of discount coupons.
The convenient buying experience and
exceptional customer experience has led to
high user engagement on Alibaba.
Here is a graph showing the number of active consumers
across Alibaba’s online shopping properties
from Q2 2012 to Q3 2017 (in millions).
I recommend that you watch this video titled “Crocodile in the Yangtze..” video:
e-Commerce App Wish
Peter Szulczewski, a former Googler,
founded the mobile-friendly shopping app Wish in 2010.
While the app gained popularity,
it failed it generate revenue because its desktop-based
affiliate model did not work on mobile so well.
The company also realized that low-priced goods were more desirable to “value” shoppers.
This led Wish to approach no-name merchants,
especially those based in China.
What made the merchants work with Wish?
The mobile-friendly shopping app convinced the merchants
that since shoppers are adding thousands of their products on the
wish-list app, selling through the app would bring them more business.
In fact, this strategy of populating Chinese merchants
without even setting foot in China landed Wish a $19 million investment in 2014.
Wish App is second only to Amazon in online mobile retail.
It has raised over $1 billion in venture funding to date.
Wish’s target audience is consumers looking for low-price
goods such as clothes, shoes and more.
And the consumers are willing to wait for two or more weeks
for the products.
How did the mobile shopping app Wish grow so big that it started being compared to Amazon?
Aggressive Social Media Marketing
Wish spends huge amounts of money on Facebook ads.
$100 million a year.
In fact, in Q2 2017, it was the second biggest app advertiser
Facebook stats for Wish: More than 22 Million likes; 22 Million followers.
It was also the sixth-top advertiser on Google and
fourth-top advertiser on Pinterest.
There have been reports that Amazon had extended a
$10 billion all-cash offer to purchase Wish.
Launched in 2008, the daily deals website Groupon
raked in $2.84 billion in revenue last year (2017).
In 2008, they generated a mere 0.01 million USD in revenue.
What growth strategy did the coupon site implement
to achieve such tremendous growth?
When you make a Groupon purchase, you can tweet,
like or share the offer.
I know it is a simple sharing hack,
but Groupon perfected this in multiple ways.
For example, it rolled out the “refer a friend” program
using which a user can earn Groupon bucks.
Daily emails with latest bargains meant
more engagement and conversions for Groupon.
When I opened the Groupon app on my phone,
I saw this (based on my location and preferences):
Check out the social sharing icons on the top right-
favorite, social sharing, and add to cart.
Using the social sharing button,
I can share that particular Groupon via
multiple platforms such as Facebook,
Twitter, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Gmail, messaging and more.
Groupon also uses “urgency” strategy- see the timer image below:
By showing the number of reviews, the original price
and slashed price; the number of people who bought that item;
and the clever positioning of the “Buy” CTA,
Groupon continues to grow.
Takeaway: Engage your audience across different platforms;
use CRO strategies to increase conversions.
Dollar Shave Club
Remember this video back in 2012?
Dollar Shave Club (DSC) took a rather boring topic of
shaving and grooming and made it extremely successful with their marketing strategy.
To date, this video has generated more than 25 million views
Here is a graph showing the revenue of DSC from 2012-2015.
In 2016, Unilever acquired Dollar Shave Club for $1 billion
in an all-cash agreement.
What was the growth hack?
DSC had a unique value proposition–
affordable razor for men.
While name-brand razors are expensive,
DSC hips quality generic alternatives to your door for as
little as $3/month.
Throw in the “No contracts, no hidden fees, and no BS”
approach, and you have a billion dollar company.
I have talked to several people and asked them
what is it about monthly subscription products such as
the Dollar Shave Club or Ipsy Bag
that they continue being a loyal customer.
And in most cases, they say that it is the “delight of waiting
for a gift” that comes along with a good quality product.
My female friends are excited to check their mail,
when it is time for their Ipsy Bag to arrive.
And remember it is not a free gift; they pay for it every month.
Dollar Shave Club’s digital presence
and media strategy are amazing as well.
It is a playful brand that resonates with the average male.
In a recent interview with CNBC, Michael Dubin said that
“50,000 people a month refer a friend to the club”.
Dollar Shave Club is a young, smart, and stylish brand.
When you join the club, you’re not just signing up
for low-cost razors and blades,
you’re investing in the monthly “delight” that comes along with it.
As a member, you get to belong to an exclusive community.
Skyscanner Growth Hack
I love this name; it is apt and catchy.
The Scottish travel fare aggregator website Skyscanner was founded in 2001.
It is interesting how personal frustration
can lead to amazing innovations (as in the case of Shopify).
Skyscanner was born out of Garreth William’s frustration
to find out comparison information about the cost and schedule of flights.
I couldn’t find just one resource to tell me who flies where and for how much,
that had both scheduled traditional carriers and emerging low-cost airlines.
This promoted the computer programmer and ardent traveler
to launch a search engine that would compare not only flights but also hotels and car rentals across the globe.
Unlike the complicated algorithms used by airline companies,
Skyscanner offering is simple and yet powerful.
Initially, the company focused on Western Europe.
But seeing the growing number of bookings from Russia,
Skyscanner built a new website to cater to the Russian travelers- in Russian.
The website is not just a translation of the English site;
it is customized for the Russian audience.
The company also realized that mobile advertising is not quite effective in Russia.
Hence, it started focusing on
VK and the Yandex Advertising Network to generate the buzz.
In fact, Yandex.Direct has proven to be the most effective tool for Skyscanner in Russia.
Skyscanner keeps innovating to handle competition.
For example, it allows the user to search for the cheapest flights
out of a city without having to put in a destination.
As of 2017, Skyscanner is present in 49 countries
with over 1 million users per year; generating over 2 million flight booking a month.
Traveling and TripAdvisor is often used in the same sentence.
Founded in 2000,
TripAdvisor was a directory of travel-related information;
a guide for flight booking and vacation rentals; and a forum for user-generated reviews.
After the tragic 9/11,
TripAdvisor was reeling with the problem of getting website traffic.
What was TripAdvisor’s growth hack?
CPC or cost per click!
TripAdvisor would charge the hotel when a user
would click on a hotel (on their site) and booked a room.
Fast forward 90 days, and it was generating more than $70k per month.
The travel & booking website has also mastered
the art of email marketing to generate a loyal user base.
Jimmy Daly’s post chalks out the different emails TripAdvisor sends without being labeled a spammer.
Booking.com lists over 1.5 million properties
in 226 countries and books 1.2 million room nights per day.
The website is available in 43 languages.
It is owned by the US-based Priceline Group.
The Group spent over $1.8 billion on digital advertising.
That explains why over 52% of their search traffic is from paid ads.
You might question this paid media strategy.
But the travel fare aggregator website is using this strategy
to expand their users and increase brand loyalty.
The company used ingenious Behavioral Targeting techniques
to engage users on their platform.
When I went to the website, I saw this engaging message on the top right:
I searched for Amsterdam hotels (don’t judge me.
It remains my favorite place I have visited so far) and here is what I got:
I have highlighted the important CTAs to help you understand how Booking.com uses
CRO tactics to engage users on their site. Some of these are:
● relevant, timely info about the destination city
● the sense of urgency and scarcity: “See our last available rooms”; and the top section that says “75% reserved”.
These strategies help Booking.com boost repeat customers.
Everyone likes to save money on their flight tickets.
Ryan Air is perhaps one of the
most popular low-cost airlines in the world.
In fact, it is part of several business courses in Europe.
When I was studying in Madrid (Spain), we had a paper on it!
The Ryan family started Ryanair with a share capital
of £1 and 25 employees in 1985.
It was a 15-seater Bandeirante aircraft.
Fun fact: The cabin crew had to be less than 5ft. 2ins. tall
to serve the passengers in the tiny cabin.
By 1987, they had three more aircraft;
and they carried 322k passengers in that year.
The “low cost” face of Ryanair began to take shape
when they eliminated their Business Class product and the Frequent Flyer Club.
Thus Europe’s first low fares airline was born- fares as low as £59.
While the company faced issues 1991 and 1992,
it managed to ramp up to 1 million passengers in 1993.
The airline company launched
Europe’s largest booking website in January 2001.
In less than 3 months,
the website was enjoying more than 50k booking a week.
That is a classic example of first-mover advantage growth hack.
By end of 2000,
Ryanair grew into 1,262 employees and over 7 million passengers (in that year).
This number reached 30 million at the end of 2005,
thus overtaking the British Airways for the first time.
Ryanair sends a clear message to its customers-
This is a cheap airline, expect nothing else.
Passengers seem to sideline the not-so-good customer service and excess fees.
They tend to focus on the cheap fares instead.
Their Facebook page has only a 2.3-star review,
yet it has 2.8 million likes.
Let us look at the company’s growth from to 1997 to 2017:
That’s a 2900% growth from 1997.
Last year, Southwest Airlines announced that it will share
$586 million through its ProfitSharing Plan with its Employees for 2016.
This means a 13.2% average bonus for each employee
or the equivalent of six weeks’ pay.
Rollin King and Herb Kelleher founded Air Southwest Co. in 1967
to start a low-cost airline between San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston in Texas.
They were soon faced with legal suits from the established players.
Nevertheless, they won the lawsuit and a new generation of low-cost airline services was born.
Innovation Even When You Are Not Profitable
Southwest generated profits for the first time in 1973.
But they had to suffer many debacles.
For example, once they had to fly an empty plane
back to Dallas for weekend servicing.
Ingenious Hack: they started selling flight tickets for $10.
Yup, that’s cheaper than a taxi ride.
Result: The flight was booked for the next several weeks.
And this did not call for an extensive marketing campaign; word of mouth did the job.
Soon they increased their regular fares from $26 from $20,
and the $10 ticket from $13. Other airlines followed suit.
SouthWest then introduced free liquor to users choosing the regular fare.
This simple tactic resulted in about 75% passengers
availing the regular fare to get free liquor onboard.
Let’s look at their net income for the period 2012-2017 (in million dollars).
That’s a 659 % growth in seven years!
When you go to their website,
you will see the message in bold “low fares. we have nothing to hide”.
They have found a clever conversion optimization technique
to differentiate themselves, while also creating attracting users.
The “fee or fake” link takes you to a
section where users can play an eight-question game.
This is fun for the user, and at the same time,
it established SouthWest as a leader in the budget airlines domain.
See the clever way in which SouthWest uses
fun questions to show the user how they are cheaper than the competition,
thus justifying their “transfarency” tagline.
SouthWest believes and implements a people-first approach.
CEO Gary Kelly says
Our people work incredibly hard and deserve to share in Southwest’s success.
The company is known for its engaged workforce.
In 1973, Southwest became the first major airline to introduce
profit-sharing to its employees.
After raising $4 million for Funbug (a web startup),
and losing all that money in two years,
Nick Woodman decided to travel the world in 2002.
He began experimenting with taking selfies while
surfing using a 35mm camera attached to his wrist by a rubber band.
This idea inspired him to transform the rubberband camera
into a professional product for the surfers- the GoPro.
But he did not chase investors.
Instead, he, along with his wife and some family member, funded the GoPro venture.
He would sell the 35mm cameras out of his van to local surf shops.
While at the racetrack, he observed that it cost $100 to a rental camera for 30 minutes.
He tried mounting the GoPro on the car’s roll bar, and guess what, it worked.
Fellow drivers were inspired and amazed.
It was time for GoPro to dominate the world beyond the confines of surfers.
GoPro grew into a $2.25 billion company by 2012.
It sold 2.3 million cameras and grossed $521 million.
Quite interesting to know that instead of being frustrated
and heartbroken by his first failure, he decided to go surfing around the world.
That’s entrepreneurship and positivity for you.
When Jim McCann started working
a side job at a florist on New York’s Upper East Side,
little did he know that one day he would become the king of a floral empire?
Yes, I am talking about America’s favorite floral shop-
Well, one day when I forgot
our first anniversary (of meeting her for the first time),
my lady was angry as hell.
And she went full ammo on me, saying
if not, you could have just ordered flowers from 1-800-flowers.
The floral shop has become a household name.
How did this growth happen?
Back in 1976, McCann had a decent job, sans a great pay.
This encouraged him to find a side job.
One day, he saw a young man selling his flower shop First Avenue (New York).
He started working there part-time on weekends.
Enjoying working in the floral space, he ended up buying that shop for $10k.
And he became a millionaire overnight?
For the next 10 years,
he kept his full-time job at St. John’s and ran his flower shops on the side.
He continued buying more flower shops;
and took the shop from $50k in sales to $300k within a year.
When he added a third shop to his floral business
in 1977, the company had hit the $1 million mark.
A Texas-based company called 800-FLOWERS
approached McCann to fulfill their orders for New York City.
Next thing you know, he bought that company,
and the 800-FLOWERS brand was born.
Against everyone’s advice (no one believed that people would order over the phone),
he changed the name to 1-800-FLOWERS in 1986.
The business started booming.
But McCann was not satisfied yet;
he was looking for the next disruptive technology to fuel growth.
In 1991, he launched the website 1-800-FLOWERS.com.
Here is how the website looked during its early days.
Mind you, at that time, there was no Google!
Browsers didn’t exist at that time.
Come 1997, and the company was sure that Internet was the way to grow.
1-800-FLOWERS’ three stages of growth:
● Acquiring retails stores
● 1-800 number
● launching their website
The company leveraged social media
to connect with their customers and expand further.
Its Facebook page, for example, has over 977k likes.
This shows their strength at social media marketing.
Here is a breakdown of their traffic from social media platforms:
They are present on the Google Play and the App Store as well.
Finally, you made it to the end of this post.
How about a teeny tiny comment maybe?
Hop on to the comments section below, and let me know
which of these is your favorite ecommerce growth hacks?