Right now, many brands are struggling to get decent results from advertising on social media and I’m seeing many give it up as an expensive lost cause.
In some cases, that’s the right move.
But for most of us, stopping altogether is a disaster!
Because, without TRAFFIC to our online store? Nothing else matters.
And if you’re serious about growing your business – you need to pay for it.
Of course, you also need to know you’ll get profitable returns on your advertising dollars, right?
And so the chicken and the egg scenario begins…
So, let me help you avoid flushing your advertising dollars down the toilet!
In this article, I’m going to bust some myths and also share the right strategy for succeeding with paid advertising on social media.
Even now, in late 2022, one of the most effective ways to grow eCommerce sales is through Meta advertising (that means ads on Facebook and Instagram).
Which, for the sake of simplicity in this article I will refer to as ‘Facebook ads’.
There are many elements in a high converting Facebook ad strategy, which you can read about here.
But when it comes to sending paid traffic to your eCommerce website, you REALLY want to make sure:
(a) your brand is at the right stage of growth, and
(b) your website is ready for it.
If your website is NOT set up, ready to receive that paid traffic, you’re likely to find your ad results are expensive, or worse, just don’t work.
Is your brand at the right stage of growth for Facebook ads?
Recently, I heard a number of eCommerce brand owners discussing the topic of giving up Facebook ads because they’d heard how hard it is to get a profitable ROI.
They had been given this idea by a large, well-known Aussie skincare brand who had publicly stated they had stopped all paid advertising and not noticed any difference.
(This was a few months ago from the date of writing this article so I don’t know if that brand is still not noticing any difference…)
However – not all eCommerce brands are at the same stage in their business growth journey to make the same decision and still enjoy great results.
Here are the 3 key things to consider when deciding to pay for advertising (or not)
1. Are you a well-known brand or the world’s best kept secret?
The first consideration must be about your level of brand awareness and the size of your existing audience.
If your business is at a fairly early stage in its journey, chances are not many people will know about you yet.
And with no existing audience, you have no-one to sell to.
The fact of the matter is – without traffic coming to your website, nothing else matters.
It won’t matter how fabulous your products are or how attentive your customer service is.
If no-one knows about you, they ain’t buyin’!
Whereas, if you are a mature brand, you probably already have high volumes organic search traffic and a large email database, meaning you enjoy lots of free website visitors, repeat sales and word-of-mouth advertising.
What’s the best ad platforms for brand awareness vs traffic & sales?
You have multiple options here:
For brand awareness: Facebook/Instagram and TikTok.
For converting traffic and sales: Facebook/Instagram and Google.
2. Do you have a built-in replenishment strategy?
When you are a mature brand, you are likely to have a solid replenishment sales strategy in place.
Meaning – when a new customer buys from you the first time, you know they are likely to remain a customer for several years and purchase numerous times over that period.
Obviously this requires you to have a consumable product that needs to be re-purchased on a regular basis (like skincare), OR complementary products that prompt regular repeat purchases (like fashion).
It requires you to have built a large database of customers that you can use to drive sales using email marketing.
And it ALSO requires you to really thoroughly know your numbers.
You need to have clear visibility over your customer lifetime value: how long a customer stays with you and how many times they repeat purchase.
Usually, an early stage brand’s sales are not self-generating in this way. Because in the early stages, you need to acquire the new customers and email subscribers first.
Which means you need consistent traffic coming to your website.
Here are the top 5 things you MUST have addressed before you start sending paid traffic to your website!
1. Install your Facebook Pixel and setup Conversion API
I would hope this step goes without saying, but for the sake of stating the obvious, you really MUST have your Facebook Pixel installed on your website and you MUST have set up your Conversion API (CAPI is the way your website communicates tracking data back to Facebook ads).
Every Facebook ad account comes with one unique pixel, which is essentially a bit of tracking code that gets pasted into your website’s source code.
That may sound tricky, but is actually pretty simple on most websites. (Follow this Facebook pixel set-up guide, or this one, or just Google for a video tutorial if you’re not sure how to do it!)
You also want to make sure you’ve set up and prioritised Standard Event tracking within your Facebook ad account.
Basically all this means is, you’re asking Facebook to track not just clicks to your website, but also things like viewing products, add to cart, checkouts and more.
By tracking these events, you’ll be able to get very smart with your Facebook ads, and show specific messages to people who have viewed your product pages but not completed a purchase (for instance).
2. Excellent on mobile
When you start sending lots of traffic to your website from paid Facebook ads, you should expect the vast majority of those visitors will be using their mobile to browse your site.
That means, it is IMPERATIVE that your website works really well on mobile!
As business owners, we’re usually looking at our own websites on our desktop computers or laptops.
And quite often, we don’t go all the way through the shopping cart checkout on mobile.
But you need to do these things – look critically at your site on mobile and test how easy it is to navigate and to shop on a mobile.
One of the best examples of an eCommerce website that is very well designed for the mobile experience is Birdsnest. I would even argue, this website works better on mobile than desktop! They have absolutely nailed a mobile-first web design.
3. Check your website’s bounce rate
A ‘bounce rate’ simply means, the proportion of your website’s visitors who immediately click away after landing on your site.
A high bounce rate is really bad – it means your website visitors aren’t sticking around for more than a split second.
So logically, it would be very wasteful to spend lots of money on Facebook advertising, if a really large portion of those paid visitors are just going to bounce off.
An average bounce rate for eCommerce is about 40%.
To find out what your website bounce rate is, check your analytics. (Some platforms have great inbuilt analytics, otherwise check Google Analytics.)
If your bounce rate is average or below, you have my blessing to start paid advertising.
If your bounce rate is above average, then you need to do some work first.
Often, one of the biggest culprits that causes a high bounce rate, is a very slow page load speed (especially on mobile).
You want to aim for a page load speed of 5 seconds or less.
To test yours, use a free tool like Pingdom or Google Page Speed Tools.
4. Check your website’s cart abandonment rate
Ever heard of the term, ‘shopping cart abandonment’?
It’s a pesky situation that is very common for eCommerce websites, and what it means is shoppers who have added product to their cart and begun the checkout process, but then they jump ship before handing over their cashola.
So, it goes without saying, having a really high cart abandonment rate is bad.
(Actually, it’s not ALL bad – it does mean that you have people who are interested in buying from you. But you gotta work out what’s stopping them from sealing the deal!)
The average cart abandonment rate for eCommerce websites is actually quite high at 68%.
You can find your abandoned cart rate by looking at your analytics, either within your website platform or Google Analytics.
If your abandoned cart rate is average or below, you’re good to go with your paid advertising.
But, if your abandoned cart rate is higher than average, you’ve got some work to do.
There’s no point spending money on ads if the vast majority aren’t gonna check out!
The number one reason shoppers abandon their carts is reaching the checkout and being slugged unexpected (or expensive) shipping costs. (I would also argue – slow shipping.)
And the second most common reason shoppers abandon their carts is being forced to create a new user account.
Both those factors are fairly easy to remedy – make sure you do before you start sending paid traffic to your site.
5. Great user experience (UX)
It still surprises me when I review eCommerce websites, to find there are quite a number whose website design and navigation is really confusing.
As business owners, we are very familiar with our own websites and our own products. We know exactly what we sell and where to find it.
I want you to take off your business owner hat for a moment, and take a look at your website (on desktop AND mobile!) from the perspective of a brand new customer.
When coming to your website for the first time, is it immediately clear what you sell?
Is the design clear and uncluttered?
Do your images show this clearly and are they inviting to look at?
What about your navigation, is that simple, uncluttered and easy to follow? Your top navigation should be all about shopping. Put things like your blog and about pages down in the footer navigation.
Do you have things like customer reviews to show how awesome your products are?
What are your product pages like? Do you have multiple product images? Is your add-to-cart button easy to spot? (Preferably in a contrasting color, and high-up the page – don’t make people scroll to figure out how to buy!)
Include trust symbols, such as secure payment badges, trusted payment methods and guarantees (if you offer one). For more info about trust symbols, click here.
Great examples of eCommerce stores that have an excellent user experience, include The Iconic and Birdsnest.
Need some help implementing an effective Facebook Ad strategy?
Facebook Ads is one of the most powerful tools currently available. Get it right and you put your business in front of potentially thousands of new customers.
Get it wrong and you’ll not only waste your advertising dollars, you’ll also lose sales.
If you’re unsure how to get it right, don’t spend months trying to figure it all out for yourself!
Would you love to start seeing sales growth in your business right now? I’d love to help you achieve your goals sooner and grow your business faster.
Updated: October 2022.