Marketers and online store owners all around the world are currently learning how to sell more through the use of online marketing. We are happy to share with you a case study of one of our business partners, which shows that one can become successful in e-commerce in just a few years. Currently our biggest client, an online store selling toys, came to us in 2012 with a proposal for an e-commerce solution and an online marketing strategy.
It was a company with focus on B2B (business-to-business) which had a good inventory but a really small amount of sales in B2C (business-to-consumer). We decided that it would be very important to shift from B2B sales with a lower income margin to B2C sales with a higher income margin. We could only make this change online because the company had no retail stores.
Another, albeit only small, issue was that our client had a low budget for marketing, consulting, analysis, and e-commerce systems – only a few hundred euros a month. This simply meant that the marketing efforts and budget spending had to be very efficient. A low budget usually affects how fast we can move forward. With a low amount of working hours per project per month, certain important milestones can only be reached very slowly, even though they would normally be quick.
The starting line
As the first step, we decided to do a superficial (within the budget) website audit, in order to identify the client’s current problems. This would later help us reach higher sales, because we would be able to offer a suitable e-commerce solution. In 2012, the client’s website didn’t meet any customer expectations and SEO or web standards. The site had a really slow loading speed and a conversion rate far below 1%. There were no product texts, no optimization for users or for search engines, and many other weak points. It was a bad overall e-commerce solution.
We have analyzed the websites of our competitors in the same segment and found that their e-commerce solutions were a lot better. However, this analysis also allowed us to identify important weaknesses of these sites, which could help us beat them on certain channels, such as social media or organic search results.
Of course, we didn’t have a proper budget back then, so we decided to swap to an open source platform, PrestaShop, for a while. We knew that this definitely isn’t an ideal solution, but we didn’t have many options at the time. This change allowed us to properly manage e-commerce and begin working on some important fixes. A very important thing we always keep in mind is that doing any marketing activities without a properly functioning website is a highway to hell.
„The most important decisions should always be made based on competitors, SWOT analysis, and website audit.“
An important part of our strategy was to build a structure for our client’s website. The structure we planned took inspiration from the SEO efforts and strategy of the market leaders – the sites that were currently dominating the market. In order to be successful, we needed to do a research of keywords. These were all the important steps we took in order to have a good start. At the time, we were not a market leader and we had budget limitations, so we decided to only focus on the most important categories of the store in the startup phase.
„If you don’t have a proper e-commerce solution, the initial cost of investment into marketing will be higher and without great returns on marketing investments.“
After the migration to our new e-commerce solution, we started with the execution of a marketing strategy. Our main focus was on SEO, social media visibility, and the base content of the website – products, categories, static pages, a blog and more.
It took a year for all of our efforts to bring more sales but once we got to that point, we were finally able to use the revenue from marketing to build a custom online store for our client. We ended the year with turnover of 176 000 €. This allowed us to think about marketing activities via other channels.
We had two main sources of income. Organic traffic from Google which brought in customers who bought more expensive products and referral traffic from price comparators which brought in customers who bought cheaper products (below 30 € on average). This information was very important and helped us make another key decision. We wanted to get as few sales through price comparators as possible and more from other channels which would generate more income. In this year, over 70% of sales came through this channel.
„In order to get more sales, we decided to invest into SEO, paid search, content marketing, social media, brand awareness, and customers that bought more expensive products. This helped us promote the brand, which can be the key to get more returning visitors and brand traffic.“
Shift from single-channel to multi-channel marketing
For branding purposes, it’s very important to be visible in organic search results for branding keywords, as well as in local search results and on social media. Our client, however, didn’t like social media at all, which was our weakness at the time and we had to get through it.
Around that time, we made a very important step. Based on the initial analysis of our competitors, we decided to invest only around 10% of our budget into paid search due to lower returns on marketing investments. We have, however, invested more into organic search – we focused on continuous brand and content marketing by means of creating and optimizing our content in order to get higher conversion rates. We also tried to gain a larger presence in local and brand search results.
Throughout 2014, we focused mainly on search result optimization and on building a small marketing team that would focus solely on this project. At the end of the year, after a successful social media campaign on Facebook which lasted for three months, we finally had a higher budget for social media marketing.
Thanks to the positive outcome of our efforts in marketing, we were able to build our own custom-made e-commerce solution, based on the Midasto E-commerce Platform. We were also able to think about a real strategy for the year 2015. We expected to start seeing higher conversion rates because we implemented a better technical solution – new UX / UI design changes, continous on-page and off-page SEO optimization, a faster website, and better content of products.
Results from 2014
Year 2014 was successful and we succeeded with low profile promotion of categories, SEO, product texts, content blog strategy and social media autumn winter campaign. We did a lot of technical to support SEO efforts and UI / UX changes in e-commerce site. Thi helped us to get more traffic on site and also get higher conversion rates. This is also very important to get to the new markets that was our next year’s goal.
Traffic from SEO grew up from 2960 in 2013 (99% brand based traffic) to 43909 in 2014. Conversion rate of sale channel grow up from 0.59% 2013 to 4,08% in 2014. This are the data only from our client’s slovak e-commerce site.
The traffic from Google organic search grew (influenced by your SEO efforts) – from 2,960 clicks in 2013 (99% of which was brand based traffic) to 43,909 clicks in 2014. The conversion rate of the sale channel grew, too – from 0.59% in 2013 to 3.58% in 2014. This data was gathered only from our client’s Slovak e-commerce website.
An expansion to new markets
Based on our initial analysis of the competition, we have made another important decision in our global strategy. We decided to move to new markets – not only with our domain but also with our content, social media, and marketing. We targeted the markets in other countries near Slovakia, where our competitors were really weak. In 2014, our client invested a lot into the expansion onto these new markets. For example compared to Hungary we got lower prices and we were able to get a lot of customers from paid traffic in comparators.
We needed a more complex strategy and new people on our team – translators for base content such as products, categories, and static pages. Having quality texts with the right content to accompany the website’s categories and products helped our website get higher conversion rates and more organic traffic. With translators onboard, our first goal was to build a localized version of the website in the language of the audience we wanted to expand towards. We also focused on localized social media awareness.
Entering a new market for e-commerce purposes isn’t cheap. Because of this, we had to slowly start adding countries to our marketing strategy. The most important asset of our multi-language product and copywriting team is that they are able to handle quality product content creation. The content reflects both customer needs and also common SEO practices, which helps the growth of conversion rates.
„Entering a new market for e-commerce purposes isn’t cheap but, in the long run, it can bring a higher return on investments.“
A Proper Marketing Strategy
As the new year started, we focused on pursuing social media awareness, SEO, new blog content, microsites and an outreach strategy. As part of our strategy, we prepared topics which would be related to both our client’s products and the upcoming spring season. We created a landing page for each of the top categories. This was an easy way to gain cheap organic traffic which then generated sales continuously throughout the whole year.
Our newly-gained budget, allocated solely for analytics, was another important change for us. It allowed us to implement basic reports from data-mining across e-commerce channels and sources of income. In 2014, it would have been a waste to invest into this because, at the time, our budget was lower than 1,000 € per month and we needed to focus on important technical aspects of our strategy. We didn’t have the resources to focus on analytics at the time.
Strategic initiatives in 2015
In 2015, we had two main goals – to build a proper marketing team and also to expand to the Romanian market for our client.
Strategic initiatives in 2015
In 2015, we had two main goals – to build a proper marketing team and also to expand to the Romanian market for our client.
SEO, UX / UI and CRO
The challenge for 2015 was to get as much as we can from organic channels and also to help other channels with their conversion rates. We decided to promote store, brands and products with key topics that are relevant with top categories. We used outreach and landing page strategy for helping SEO and get more sales. This can influence result on every channel and in every part of the online marketing strategy – it’s the backbone of the entire strategy.
In order to be successful with our social media campaign, we had to create relevant content and create a communication plan which could also be applied to potential new markets.
Paid search and advertising
As we grew, we were also able to afford to put a bigger budget into Google Adwords and Heureka (a Slovak price comparator), as a main paid search. We focused mainly on expanding the ad groups and lowering the leave rate. For new markets, we had to explore in order to find new channels for paid search and advertising.
Content marketing and outreach
Topic relevant blogs and articles were able to target new audiences and bring them in through search results and social media. Signals and mentions from other channels are very important when building a brand.
We have already tried some email campaigns in 2014. In 2015, our goal was to get more subscribers onto our emailing lists and also to get more sales through this channel.
Landing pages for top products got a really high return on marketing investment ratios and our goal here was to have a stable microsite strategy across three markets.
The results of executing a multi-channel online marketing strategy
In 2013, we decided to expand to new markets – the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Romania. Throughout the first year, we had almost no revenue. The costs were covered partially by paid online marketing. The situation changed slightly in 2014 when we received something over 7,000 orders from these new markets. The big breakthrough came in 2015, when we fully executed a complete marketing strategy and received some pretty impressive results. We reached over 28,000 conversions in 2015 – over 11,000 in Slovakia and over 17,000 in other markets. In Slovakia alone, we reached 6,392 orders in 2014 and almost doubled this amount in 2015 with 11,333 orders. Let’s compare this results with when we first started – in 2012, we were able to deliver 1,097 orders while in 2015, it was 28,000.
In the year 2015 in Slovakia, we had growth of over 200% in organic search, over 300% in social media and paid search, over 500% using microsites, and over 2,800% in email marketing. We failed our efforts in content marketing and in building an outreach strategy because we were unable to build a good team around them. We also missed many opportunities when it comes to social media, advanced marketing, and retargeting. This was mainly caused by a lack of resources – a low budget and too few people on the team.
Here, we focused mainly on landing pages – updated WordPress twice and added 24 new products. All of this required low overall investment but brought a high return.
Expanding to new markets really doesn’t have to cost a lot. Even with a lower budget, you can achieve impressive results.
The year 2016 – growth isn’t everything
In 2016, we focused mainly on improving our e-commerce solution. We wanted to make it faster, more user-friendly, and optimized for mobile devices. We also identified the weak spots in our marketing strategy. We had to completely rebuild our content marketing and social media team, in order to improve our results from blogs and landing pages and to ensure higher revenues from our marketing efforts. Then, last but not least, we made rebranding one of our key priorities for 2016. Our eshop got a completely new and modern design, as well as a new mascot.
Higher revenues meant that we had a higher budget for marketing, which allowed us to invest more funds into paid advertising. We started with conversion rate optimization and focused on retargeting (top brands and categories). We were also able to improve marketing in other markets (mainly the Czech Republic and Hungary).
Although we believed in our strategy, we knew that following it blindly and without proper evaluation would be foolish. We care about returns on ad spend and marketing investment. That’s how we were able to deliver a ROI that went up from 300% to 3,000%.
The challenges of 2016
- Overall and monthly reports
- Return of investments and ad spent reports
- Funnel reporting
- Path to conversion optimization
- Maintaining and improving brand search and top categories topics
- Display campaigns
- Conversion rate optimization
- Blog content production
- Blog SEO and social media improvements
- Post sharing and outreach
- Blog analytics
- Blog editorial
- Blog content promotion
- Update e-commerce content across the home market and new markets
- Content creation process for new products
- Helpful content for customers
- Video and blog content across e-commerce and microsites
- Content improvements
- Social media management
- Social media editorial calendar
- Social media monitoring
- Social media analytics
- Advertising and retargeting
- Social media reputation and support across online channels
- Build microsites around the brand to support brand organic traffic and sales
- Content for landing pages
- Updates for branding landing pages
- Website redesign
- New mascot
- Design kit and rules
- Translations of product pages and e-commerce static pages
- Email marketing
- Execution of a stable multichannel marketing strategy
We achieved most of these goals, though it wasn’t a single flaw. We were unable to find skilled social media specialists who would be able to execute an advanced social media strategy. We didn’t move forward with email marketing either, due to technical problems and a lack of human resources.
On the other hand, we now have a great marketing team. Within a year, we created a new content marketing department with skilled and experienced writers. We also worked with great professionals – in our team, as well as with external freelance specialists. All these people are responsible for the growth we saw in the past years. Our collaboration resulted in 2,9 million euros of turnover via e-commerce across SK, CZ, HU and RO markets.
Overall performance and results
Overally we achieved even more impressive results. Total commerce turnover in 2016 for all markets (Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania) reached almost 3 million €.
There is still a long way to go. Results we achieved over past four years are a proof, that implemented longterm online marketing strategy works.