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Advertisers have seen a noticeable drop in impressions and increase in CPC with Facebook recently. It’s not surprising given the platform is pushing organic content from friends and family, and is facing tremendous amount of flack for providing a questionable level of user information to advertisers.

Naturally, advertisers are the first to get impacted by the backlash against Facebook. Even by Facebook’s own admission, referrals went down 15% in 2017. And that is before news of Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook profiling data to influence the U.S. elections broke news.

Anecdotal evidence from e-commerce firms indicate some companies have seen a 3X increase in CPC to keep their traffic constant. That is obviously not a sustainable strategy and could wipe out smaller stores that rely on Facebook traffic to attract users. If you are a store owner, the following need to be your immediate next steps to help tide through the crisis.

Move your traffic to app.

Android and iOS apps offer a lot of ways to segment, understand, and reach out to your customers. You can define paths to purchase, purchasing trends, and a host of other metrics to identify the message you wish to communicate. For instance, if you sell swanky mobile phone covers online, then let the OnePlus 5T owner know that new designs for his model has arrived (instead of telling him about the latest deals on iPhone covers).

There are a lot of tools that can help you segment customers on your app: personally, I prefer Clevertap to segment my customer base. Clevertap allows you to set up automated user notifications to onboard new users, as well as ways to determine how different cohorts are doing. It’s easy to get started, even if you do not have an in-house dev team.

Some key push notifications you should consider:

  • Onboarding series, how to use your app.
  • Haven’t seen you around for a while, here’s a coupon!
  • You bought X a month back, we think you’ll like Y!
  • It’s been 18 months since you bought your , time for an upgrade!
  • You left something in your cart, grab it now cos we’re running out!

[d style=”4″]![/d]Word of caution: Do not overuse user notifications. To be safe, use your notification tools to limit the number of user notifications–ideally one a day.

Collect emails.

If you’re using an app, you likely already have email addresses of users. If you don’t have an app, then focus on getting users to share their emails with you even if they have not purchased anything yet. Promise coupons and early-sales notifications to encourage sign-ups.

You own the user information when you collect emails on the website–so make sure you have a solid Privacy Policy. Most e-commerce entrepreneurs complain that the open-rates on emails are decreasing every year. That is mostly true–you can expect as much as 30% opens when you have less than 500 registered users, but expect them to drop below 10% by the time your base crosses 100k. Some industries have it better than others, so benchmark yourself against your own past performance to keep a sane mind.

Urban Ladder promises sale updates, ideas, and “inspiration” to encourages visitors to sign up.

As with app notifications, segmentations will help you keep audience engaged. If you are a fashion store and the user has identified as male, don’t send him emails for women’s jogging shorts. More on segmentations coming through in a future post.

[d style=”4″]![/d]Word of caution: Do not buy e-mails. No matter how enticing the price is, do not cross that line.

Use influencers.

Thanks to social media, school-kids, musicians, and tech geeks have earned themselves thousands (often, millions) of followers. If you can get them to talk about your product, you gain access to a good proportion of their followers.

Don’t be indiscriminate about using influencers. Keep these in mind:

  • Choose an influencer knowledgeable in your product categories. Use a respected tech reviewer to talk about your new headphone brand.
  • Set expectations up front with influencers. There is no guarantee that their retweet will suddenly get you thousands of new customers.
  • If you are using an external service such as BrandBacker or the Google-owned Famebit to reach out to influencers, set the right expectations with them too. Check potential influencers for their audience segments, responsiveness, as well as ratings on the portal.

[d style=”4″]![/d]Word of caution: Not all “influencers” have real followers. Use these steps to determine if your influencer has a lot of fake followers. I also recommend taking a look at Modash.

I have not talked about referral programs and other such steps that require a bit more work and thinking. If you already have a decent-sized customer base, then referral programs might work very well for you. Technologically, it is easier today to launch your own referral programs without much upfront investment. But a program too soon can render your program weak and lose your internal buy-in. More on that on another post.

In the end, there is really only one way to market to the right customer–owning the customer base. If you have to go back to Facebook (or other such social media platforms) to market to people who have already heard of you or have bought from you, you are only renting those customers. One day, the landlord will throw you out. So, do what you can to own the customer and the relationship, then engage the hell out of them.


Product and Marketing guy. Ex-founder of $10m re-commerce company, with extensive experience in B2B and B2C product design, revenue management, and sleepless nights.

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