A successful eCommerce launch can mean heightened business possibilities - in the shorter run, to have more people know about you, and in the longer, have them become loyalists (who could also become potential brand advocates).
In this guide, our aim is to cover all the three crucial stages - pre-launch, launch and post-launch - of an eCommerce product and or/brand launch, while defining checklists you need to refer to.
We’ll also bring in brand examples we admire to give you a ready look into what others out there have done - and done so well!
Without further delay, here we go.
Stage 1 - Pre-Launch
This is what we at ConvertCart call the what-why-who stage. When you find yourself in the pre-launch stage of your brand or product launch, you’re essentially trying to determine three things -
What - What kind of campaign strategy you need to work with so that the highest number of conversions can happen. This “what” will be clearly defined once you know “what” people are looking for.
Why - Why is it that people would want to engage with your brand or product?
Who - Who will comprise the crux of your target audience - the ones who would engage and more importantly, buy?
The following is a list of pointers that MUST ABSOLUTELY HAVE YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION at the pre-launch stage.
1) Check the finer details on your website
It doesn’t matter that your brand and website have been around for a while. For a new product or brand launch, you’ll have to re-look at your eCommerce website through a fresh pair of eyes. Here’s a checklist of questions you can ask yourself to mobilize the website designing process.
Are next steps always clear to your users, across your site? If not, then it’s a red flag. The copy on your website can be creative after it has served its primary purpose - to help the user understand and act.
Does your homepage have a loading speed of less than 2 seconds? Less than 2 seconds is what is considered ideal for an eCommerce site. According to some 2019 research by Portent, where they had studied 100 million page views, it was found that the first five seconds play the most crucial role in conversions.
Is the value proposition easy even for your grandma to understand? When we say easy, we mean easy. Even if it’s not clever, even if it’s totally straightforward.
Here’s how Away does it for their new flex range on their homepage, above-the-fold.
How well do the images reflect your brand and products? Are they high-quality, highly relevant, shot in a way that the user immediately gets a sense of real-time experience?
Have you made your content relevant for search engine crawlers? Remember Google looks at how well your content reads with respect to your audience’s search intent, the use of title tags, meta descriptions as well as alt text.
How well is your information and visual hierarchy working? How well are size, color, contrast, negative space, content layouts and images working with each other?It may be valuable to address what you want your users to notice right away, and how you want them to act.
Is your sitewide search returning relevant results? And is your search function otherwise effective with predictable placement, auto-filling capabilities and sticky especially if your website is content heavy?
How detailed and relevant are your category and landing pages? Are your category pages showing relevant filters, simple words to describe categories and easily understandable category descriptions? Are your product pages featuring optimized images, text descriptions, social proof and customer support to ease overall customer experience?
How optimized is your mobile experience? Have you optimized page loading speed to make it a faster experience? Is your mobile experience offering more personalized offers and choices?
How easy is the checkout process? Are users clearly able to understand CTAs displayed on the checkout page? Does the page have a clean, clutter-free design? Does it feature necessary badges and seals to create greater assurance for the customer?
Here’s a look at how Fairway & Greene, a golf apparel brand, has maximized the opportunity to feature a line of products in line with the 2022 U.S. Open Golf National Championship. They’re clear with their communication, have well-rounded images across all color selections, feature the “quick view” option on their category pages, display social proof by using a label that describes how many people have bought a certain product and use copywriting that’s clear, crisp and economical.
2) Dig deeper to know your target audience
What’s the use of an eCommerce launch if you don’t have a clear idea about who you are doing it for?
According to CB insights, 42% startups fail because there isn’t a real need for them or their offerings in the market.
This is why at the pre-launch stage, you need to go the extra mile to research and understand your target audience. The following is a checklist of questions you need to ask yourself in this matter, if you want to create a brand or products that will eventually be loved (and bought)!
Do you understand the needs, wants and desires of your target audience? Their hopes, their dreams, the work they do, the life they aspire to live, their lifestyle etc. can all be points of information for you to define your brand and products.
Have you created relevant buyer personas? Arriving at relevant buyer personas can become the starting point to doing much more - in creating a robust marketing strategy.
Do you understand which features and functionalities will best serve your target audience? This is a question that’s closely tied to the pain points of your target audience and what about your offering can help resolve some of them.
Which part of your existing customer database can you leverage to understand customer mindset and needs even better? Look at actively segmenting the information you find from your existing customer database. This will help you create your buyer personas as well.
What insights can you gather from existing customer data, industry statistics and by conducting new surveys? Preferences, time spent browsing, bounce rate etc. can all be discovered systematically when you choose to analyze customer data for insights.
Are there products or brands out there fulfilling the needs in exactly the same way your product or brand is seeking to? If there are, what are they communicating and promising, what kind of target audience have they got, whether they are more premium or not etc. are all areas that you may need to look into.
What parts of customer expectations are those products or brands not fulfilling? Studying the gaps in customer expectations can invariably reveal aspects that you can bring to your new brand or product additionally as improvement.
3) Ace your competitor analysis
In this day and age, every product and brand has to compete with hundreds of other products and brands in the same as well as other categories. In fact, according to a Statista 2020 survey conducted across Europe and North America, 40% eCommerce companies thought of their market competition as being “very tough”.
So, a big part of why you need to analyze your competition is because you need to be able to stand out from them. Competitor analysis typically involve the study of the growth of a competitor, along with the products they have developed. Alongside, their go-to-market strategy also becomes a point of assessment.
Here are some relevant questions to make a part of your competitor analysis checklist.
How deeply do you know your toughest competition? A competitor analysis will reveal who your most immediate competitors are, what they are doing well, what gaps they aren’t yet addressing etc.
Have you considered competition across categories and perhaps even in other industries? It’s essential to know your indirect competitors because while they may be selling different products, they are selling to the same audience as you. If not anything else, indirect competition analysis is a way to know your target audience and their choices a little better.
What seems to be working for them and what isn’t in terms of marketing strategy? Which channel are they focusing on more? What is the audience response to their marketing efforts across channels? Are their personalization efforts successful?
Which of their products are doing well and which aren’t? Are you able to cull out some patterns given the data you’ve got? Typically, in-depth analysis of competitor products reveal cultural and socio-economic patterns around consumer behavior. These could be vital in informing you how to develop your own product and how to reach it to the right audience.
Are there gaps in customer expectations that your competition hasn’t covered? Can you already see obvious gaps? Are there nuances that you could incorporate into your offering to provide a more wholesome experience? Primary research, customer feedback and third party data can all come in handy for you to start seeing the patterns.
What similarities and differences exist between a competitor brand and yours? When you are developing a new product or brand and the strategies that will support its launch and continuing existence, you’ll have to look into this point. It can assist you to arrive at an angle for your launch, provide context in the way you communicate about your products and also contribute to product development in the future.
Have you performed a competitor SWOT analysis yet? Developing a view of your competition through their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats could be crucial for you to have a peek into your own possibilities and risks as a business. When you’re launching a new eCommerce product or brand, this could introduce the pathway to build better products, and finetune your communication with customers.
4) Revisit your brand and messaging
When you invest in the pre-launch stage of a new brand or product, it’s important that you revisit the larger brand into which either will be eventually integrated. The spirit of the original brand needs to somehow seep into the messaging around the new product or brand. And this can happen only when you consider your larger brand profile.
Your brand profile outlines a narrative that makes it visible and understood, highlights its offerings and sets it apart.
By revisiting your brand’s original profiling, it becomes possible to attract the right kind of customers while clarifying why its offerings can make a crucial difference.
Here’s a checklist of questions you need to ask when you’re trying to ensure the new product or brand is on-brand.
What values does my brand stand for? Your purpose, proposition and the reasons for which your brand or product will soon exist.
What kind of personality does it carry? Is it inspiring? Funny? Dramatic? Matter of fact? Imagine people without personality. Not possible right? It’s the same with a well-defined brand.
What kind of emotions should it inspire or instigate in the target audience? Volvo inspires trust. Coca-Cola generates joy. Budweiser promotes friendship and belonging. Many iconic brands taught us that good branding is all about generating an emotional response in the target audience.
What kind of positioning statement would you use if you had to describe your brand in a single sentence? A positioning statement encapsulates what your brand stands for. By doing this, it acts as a guiding force to all the marketing and promotional assets you’ll ever create for your brand and products. Walt Disney’s “Where dreams come true”? That’s the positioning statement that has shaped the brand as it stands today.
What factor sets your brand apart (essentially USP) from competition? Like Canva says, “empowering the world to design”. Your USP is essentially your superpower as a brand but also what and how you will enable customers. In that sense, it must be customer-centric.
The following questions can help you define and refine your own understanding about what you’re about to serve up to the world.
What kind of experience would you want your new brand or product to create for its audience?
What kind of story should your brand tell to the world out there?
What tone of voice should you use to tell your brand’s story?
How congruent is your brand’s personality, voice and communication across multiple platforms and channels?
What are your brand’s vision, mission and goals? Are those reflecting the way your team is creating the brand story and the communication around it?
Have you taken a realistic bottom-up approach (where the influence of the brand on day-to-day operations is taken into consideration) to convey your brand narrative?
One brand we admire for creating an impactful profile is Michael Kors. Over a period of time it has been able to convey that at the heart of it lies “the ease of luxury”. The brand constantly personalizes through its language, creates comfort through its visuals and communicates a sense of timelessness in the process.
5) Launch/Relaunch planning
As you knock more points off your checklist and launch date comes closer, there are a number of specific areas that you’ll need to focus your attention on. Here’s a list.
How should you decide on running costs? This will need some efficient real-time calculations because every business is different. You’ll need to look at inventory, licenses and permits, technology, marketing and design help, photography, paying internal employees, hiring a warehouse etc. A suitable approach may be to begin with what you can’t absolutely avoid and then scale up as you sell more.
Are you looking to explore financing options? Explore commonly available options like term loans, business credit card loans, SBA loans and line of credit to see what works for your unique business context.
Can you allocate a fund for contingency situations (anything from vendor issues to post-launch problems)? Actually, what would work better is to try and create a business contingency plan that’ll include financial risks. Such a plan would also make room for other kinds of risks around the technical, legal, staffing and inventory aspects of your business.
Exclusivity, popularity and hype
Would it make sense to declare “only on pre-order” or to open up orders? It’ll depend on so much. Are you launching a product that will play on the sentiment “I’m special” or “with this, I’m in the elite club”? These launch instances make the ideal playground for pre-orders. However, reconsider pre-orders if you’re selling only on a large third party aggregator website because you’ll not have control over how orders are processed.
Would a referral program be helpful in creating a buzz? It would certainly make sense if you already have a database of loyal users - especially if you’re re-launching or launching a new product. In case you’re a freshly minted ecommerce brand, then such a program might not make as much sense, simply because you haven’t earned enough trust. In this case, promotional offers and discounts in a share-worthy format will be more relevant.
Should you work with influencers to spread the word across social media? You’ll have to consider whether to work exclusively with micro-influencers, macro-influencers or a mix of both.
Do you have an existing customer service team that can help you for the launch? Nothing like having your own team pre-launch but as the scale of business grows you may have to outsource the service. At any point in time, it’s essential that your customer support team has the tools of collaboration, organization and collision detection.
Does it need to become more robust to handle increasing order, product or brand related queries? Businesses tend to grow and with growth, the need for more large-scale support also increases. This would require a growing knowledge base, better tools as well as fine-tuning existing processes.
How can you make your customer service team more informed about the launch and what it entails? Have the support team understand touchpoints and their interactions, help them with customer personas, tastes and preferences, increase automation and train the staff on it etc.
What kind of self-help resources should you create for customers to resolve some of the most basic questions? To start with, a thorough FAQ page that lays out terms, conditions, shipping charges, return policy, legalities etc. If you have a live chat option, consider incorporating canned responses and multiple choice standard answers.
By when should you have gathered all your current customer-base validated data? There’s no one true answer to this unfortunately but it might become easier to back-calculate when you have the following points to cover - define product metrics, use a framework to understand launch day success, put advanced analytics in place to measure the success, create a funnel tracking plan, test what you’ve tracked before launch day.
How long will it take your brand or product(s) to be taken to the market? Work backwards by paying attention to technological upgrades, marketing efforts, financing issues and needs etc.
Is there a particular time of the year that the launch or relaunch would make better commercial sense? For example, high fashion can be very season-specific. Launching a line of luxury sweaters in summer would be a no-no, right?
If it’s a completely new product or brand, how much time would you need for your pre-launch campaigns to run? Depending on which industry you’re in, your launch campaign can last anywhere between a month and a year. What you’re trying to achieve from the launch can be a good indicator of how you want to strategize your pre-launch campaign.
6) Focus on a distinctive voice
The pre-launch stage is the right time to figure out how trustworthy your new brand or product is beginning to look. Given that you can still make course corrections at this stage, you’ll have to focus on what users will find believable. The words, the visuals, the messaging and the announcements will after all play up to make your audience have a certain perception about your brand or products.
Here’s a checklist of questions to ponder over in this context.
Have you created a human identity around your brand and products? Remember, you’re speaking to humans who’d be interested to know it’s not all tech and not all commercial.
Are you using warm, reassuring language to communicate? Language that conveys a believable narrative and also speaks of how you can be of support.
Are you promising more than you can realistically deliver? Avoid superlatives and false promises - eCommerce standards have really grown and most users instinctively know when something is sounding too good to be true.
The following are some quick tips that’ll help you earn trust gradually.
Take extra care to use relevant, human-centric language. Remember that your users are at different awareness levels as your brand or product goes through varied launch phases. Plan to create trust at the pre-launch stage, social proof at the hype stage, solution-focused, inspiring content at the launch stage followed by further social proof (including reviews and publication features) and benefit-driven (supported by real benefits like discounts and referral rewards) communication post-launch.
Partner with a complementary brand. Partnering with a brand that’s already out there and has earned trust, can be a great start. While you create your promotions, this collaboration can slowly and surely bring your brand and products into better view.
Show up across virtual events and discussion forums. Figure where your target audience hangs out and head there. When you’re creating assurance, it’s essential you do so in a way that heightens meaningful connection and co-creation.
One of our favorite go-to launch examples is of the Dollar Shave Club, a brand that started in 2012 with 250, 000 twin razors to be sold. And then, one video changed everything. It set the tone that the brand has since been known for - no-nonsense, fun and relevant!
7) Plan your inventory
Planning and managing your inventory for the launch and post-launch phases can be crucial. Too little or too much can directly impact the way you satisfy customer expectations or lead to warehouse excesses. Here are some questions to consider.
How much stock would you need for the launch? An ABC analysis can give you a better understanding of how to stock up on products in the A, B and C categories
Would you need to scale up your inventory for the post-launch stage? Anticipate how fast your launch inventory is likely to run out. This can be unpredictable in the beginning because it’ll likely depend on a number of factors including marketing efforts, quality of site navigation and how desirable the product and its price is.
Is your inventory likely to be affected by cash flow restrictions? This is quite cyclical because cash flow problems typically occur because of improper inventory management. The more you invest in creating effective inventories, the less likely you’ll have foreseeable cash flow issues.
Would it be relevant for you to account for seasonal peaks and drops? If you have products that target specific seasons, then yes. You can prepare for effective seasonal inventory planning by understanding demand forecasting, using predictive analysis, anticipating what would be slow to sell etc.
Would it make sense to use a third-party logistics (3PL) inventory management system? In our experience, it’s ideal for small to medium businesses to outsource their inventory management and opt for 3PL. This reduces investment costs around equipment handling, staff management and vehicle maintenance.
What kind of inventory control system (manual, periodic or perpetual) would best suit your business context? Perpetual inventory control is the most desired state considering it allows you to take stock in real-time by automatic means. This method can make calculation adjustments as changes happen to products and their prices.
How high or low do you anticipate your fulfillment costs (which includes labor costs, packaging and shipping) to be? Keeping a window of time to do your calculations is always a good idea. How long after the launch do you want to account for? 6 months? A year? It’ll also depend on how you want to do your order fulfillment. If it’s in-house to start with, costs might be low, but you may want to factor in larger orders if you’re planning to grow aggressively.
How well do you know your inventory KPIs? From days-on-hand to average inventory to holding stocks to stock out, an understanding about key inventory KPIs can make it easier to plan for your upcoming launch and post-launch phases.
8) Make your content SEO-worthy
Glitzy content that looks and feels good isn’t necessarily what will get your target audience to get up, take notice and then want to buy from you. Apart from real people, search engines too have to love what you are going to put out there. According to Wolfgang Digital, 43% of eCommerce traffic comes through organic traffic from Google search.
So what questions do you need to ask to ensure a content strategy that generates excitement and also eventually helps people convert?
Do you know who your target audience is? Considering you already have a brand out there, it might be a good idea to relook at your current customers. Send out surveys and actively seek feedback. On the more technical side, analyze your website sessions for average session duration, page views, bounce rate etc. If you’re just starting out, make note of what your competitors are doing and what kind of demographic they are targeting.
How will you address their pain points? To start with, get to understand what the common pain points of your website visitors are. Also study the pain points of visitors on competitor sites. Typically the most common ones are a complex checkout process, lack of adequate payment options, lack of timely support and poor navigation.
What channels will you use to communicate the launch? Given the plethora of paid and non-paid channels that you could use to communicate, you need to be selective. A relevant way of going about it is to know which channels are being used the most by your target audience and which would have the highest ROI.
How would you optimize your keyword research? By understanding what your target audience is searching for on Google and competitor sites. Culling keyword suggestions from eCommerce majors like Amazon may also be helpful. Also take a look at the categories and subcategories being used by competitors to arrive at most used keywords aligning with those.
What keywords should you target? Doing a background check on certain key metrics such as keyword intent, search volume and keyword difficulty can bring you closer to the keywords you need to target.
Is your content able to fulfill the user’s primary search intent? Understanding this is often an ongoing exercise as you try to analyze search intent data with the keywords being most searched for. Search intent data also reveals demographics, goals and buying behavior of users.
How would you fill the content gaps in the customer journey? By understanding the customer journey through the analysis of current customers and/or competitor reports. The trick is to see if you have a tendency to give predominance to only one aspect of the customer journey. Many businesses, for example, get hyper-focused on the top of the funnel where potential customers are still getting to know about the brand or product.
What kind of content should you feature to come across as an authority? Stay on top of Google’s E-A-T ranking factor to generate the most relevant content. E for Expertise, A for Authoritativeness and T for Trustworthiness - apply these to the way you create content aligned with your objectives and priorities during the launch and post-launch.
In the SEO department, one eCommerce brand that has made a splash right from the start is Etsy. Apart from an excellent circular in-site linking strategy, the brand has its own forum where sellers get together to discuss and resolve, adding to their larger SEO relevance. In the recent past, their blog also has made a dent because of daily updations and interesting content.
9) Add value through a tech spin
It’s because of technological innovation that eCommerce exists in its current form today. And with sharpened tech-based tools and interventions, eCommerce experiences can further grow to make the customer’s life convenient. So what tech-based interventions could you look at to make your launch and post-launch phases commercially successful?
Applying the rules of an effectively played game to the eCommerce journey, gamification offers reasons to users to engage more. This can be a handy inclusion in your eCommerce launch strategy. You could gamify the announcement of new products by introducing a multi-choice guessing game and offering price mark-downs on the original to whoever answers correctly. Similarly, for a brand launch a spin-the-wheel could be introduced where you could gamify the awareness process by having visitors spin the wheel. Let’s say, when the wheel stops at your brand’s tagline, a visitor wins some extra goodies with their purchase.
Make product recommendations come alive during your launch with an AI intervention. This is the era of personalized recommendation, and if your audience finds you to be a brand that’s able to focus on their specific personal choices, then nothing like it. It’ll mean a greater likelihood that they’ll shop with you again.
Additionally, you could empower your launch by having an AI-backed chatbot service to take queries from and resolve the problems of the first customers and beyond. Makes for a great first impression, doesn’t it?
In the absence of an actual store launch experience, you can bring in VR to recreate at least some of it for your online shoppers. VR aims to bring in a dash of reality to an otherwise online experience. Wondering how you could use VR for your launch? Try-and-buy VR experiences have picked up pace and could be a great addition to your brand or product launch. During pre-launch, a sneak-peek into such an experience cut short by a launching-soon message could work well.
On the other hand, if you’re launching a complex product, doing interactive learning sessions through VR on your homepage could be a great tool to create a captive audience.
10) Strengthen your social proof
In the simplest terms, social proof points to the complex psychological phenomenon where people look to the choices of other people, to make their own. What makes social proof so powerful is that it is backed by numbers, talks of real-time experience of real-time users and creates general assurance in a brand and its offerings. What could strengthen social proof for you at the pre-launch phase?
How does one show social proof without having launched? There are several ways of going about it. One way is to have your existing customers vouch for you by articulating their experiences on your website. Creating an exclusive landing page for the launch could help mobilize such recommendations. And if you don’t have such users to talk about your brand or product, the next point can be of help.
What kind of social proof works well at the pre-launch phase? The usual ways of gathering and displaying social proof (read user reviews and ratings) may not work at this stage. So you may have to take another direction of hiring experts to offer their views and advice. In the absence of popular usage, expert recommendations or endorsements create greater assurance.
Here’s a quick look at how Fitbit drives attention to their new product Charge 5 by having actor Will Smith endorse it.
Can campaigns help in building social proof? They can as long as you create content using social proof. For example, you may be a lesser-known brand but you may have been tested by some big brands. These endorsements can be turned into campaign content, which in turn can drive further social proof and audience confidence. You can then float these through your social media handles or landing page and even make creatives for paid ads.
The following example shows one of Fender’s landing pages that was trying to get people to sign up for guitar lessons. In this section, viewers will see that bigger brands have endorsed Fender.
11) Develop a foolproof email strategy
A strong pre-launch email strategy will ensure your communication converts multiple people from your email list. An effective email strategy ensures you promote your brand voice, spread the word at little extra cost and make the most of your captive audience’s attention. Pre-launch email strategies typically consist of three phases - 1) the preparation, 2) the clue-giving and 3) the reveal.
Here are a few questions you may want to ponder over while creating an email strategy for your upcoming brand or product:
What would you need to include in your email strategy? Pre-launch email strategies typically consist of three phases - 1) the preparation, 2) the clue-giving and 3) the reveal. So you’ll have to create emails for each phase so that you can create email lists, gather feedback, position your brand or product etc.
What kind of content should your pre-launch email(s) contain? A simple, action driven and inspiring tonality should guide the content of your pre-launch emails. Since their task is to prepare your audience for the launch, they need to build anticipation and excitement, while leading users to next steps.
How should you set up your email list? A dedicated landing page preempting the launch is perhaps the best way to create a dedicated email list. The landing page will perform the task of generating interest and then your email signup form will ensure the addresses of those who have shown interest are recorded. This way you’ll have a pre-validated email list set up to send your emails to.
What’s the best time to send out pre-launch emails? This would entirely depend on which phase of the pre-launch you’re at. Send the first anticipatory email two weeks before the launch, make the announcement a week before the launch and then finally send out an email on launch day.
Would you need to create waitlist emails? This would depend on your larger marketing and inventory strategy. If scarcity is what you want to convey, in turn conveying exclusivity, then a waitlist email is ideal. Waitlist emails also work if you’re still trying to gauge how much demand there will be for your new product or brand.
We love what Boosted did with their pre-launch email, building anticipation and throwing in the need to explore the newness.
12) Power up your eCommerce toolbox
As the eCommerce universe has evolved and exploded with possibility, so has the innovation around eCommerce tools. While prepping for a product or brand launch, you may have to rethink what is needed in your toolbox and consider fresh options. As long as your tools have complementary functionalities, it’s great. You may have to watch out for overlaps and signing up for too many unnecessary tools though.
Here are a few questions to toy around with while you decide.
What kind of website tools would you need? If you’re looking to opt for tools that are going to support you for the launch and beyond, you may want to opt for those that help you access an already hosted store and build your website at low cost.
What kind of business tools would you need? Look for tools that make daily operations easier - right from managing inventories to tracking financials. Once you’ve launched, business complexity would naturally increase.
What kind of marketing tools would you need? Essentially, you would need tools that help you track your campaigns, make marketing automation a cakewalk, eases customer relationship management and helps you with landing page building and email sequencing.
What kind of analytics tools would you need? Given that analytics backs all forms of eCommerce growth, you’ll have to find tools that ease your understanding of customer behavior. Find tools that will help you grow across aspects - from improving how customers interact with your site pages and products to tracking how keywords are ranking for your site and for competitor sites.
What kind of research tools would you need? The right research tools will offer you a deep look into what consumers are doing - where they hang out digitally, what content they are drawn to etc. Effective research tools will also offer you a peek into market potential and sales possibilities.
What kind of social media management tools would you need? Tools that make scheduling, curating and marketing easy, are what you need to look for. Also consider aspects like content creation and repurposing while deciding on social media management tools.
13) Incorporate online-offline marketing integrations
An omnichannel approach is the only way your eCommerce launch will make a real difference. If the launch isn’t cohesively experienced across online and offline touchpoints, you may not see an increase in sales and consumer interest in the post-launch phase. Here are a few questions to consider when you’re planning on integrations.
What touchpoints would you need to account for? In the omnichannel context, you’ll have to look at both offline and online touchpoints. While offline can be about stores, communities, offline advertising channels such as print, TV and radio, online channels would include social media, website, emails, online ads etc.
How can you optimize the customer journey across touchpoints? To begin with, stop looking at the touchpoints as individual points along the customer’s journey. Once you’ve mapped what your ideal customer is likely to be drawn by pre-launch and then behave during the launch and afterwards, you’ll be able to bring the offline and online touchpoints together to form one integrated map.
How can you get better customer understanding in this context? Combining offline and online data to create more accurate user personas can help.
How can you make the touchpoints work for each other? Have them promote each other. Cross promotions across offline and online touchpoints can also intensify the way your audience sees brand connect. For example, use your social media handles to promote an offline event.
What can you do to improve funnel optimization? Create more and more personalization across the funnel, apply conversion rate optimization and increase brand awareness through continued engagement.
What can you do to offer more fulfillment options? Introduce more payment options, ease the checkout process, shorten the time an order needs to get shopped etc.
For example, sustainable clothing brand Allbirds ensures that if a customer walks into any of their stores for a product and does not find it, the brand manages to source it from any one of its 20+ locations and ship it directly to the customer.
Stage 2 - During the launch
This is the phase a new product or brand is officially released for public viewing, consumption and/or experiencing. It’s a crucial time - whether you’re allocating a few weeks or a month to it - to gauge audience reaction, assess the frequency of the first purchases etc. Besides, this is also the time to look into a few other vital aspects that we’ve listed below.
1) Tap into micro-influencers
Gone are the days when eCommerce brands would look to one big name to promote an event or launch. With the emergence of micro-influencer marketing, it has become possible for brands to create a map of influence globally.
The reason is simple - each micro-influencer in turn taps into their own network and makes it possible for a much larger audience to get to know about your brand or product launch.
But how should you go about working with micro-influencers? Here’s a checklist.
What’s the best way to sign up micro-influencers? The step we recommend is to look no further than your current customer database initially. Why? Because these are the people who already have a sense of what your brand is about or may have sampled your products and offerings. Getting them to vouch for you authentically is easier than getting strangers to promote your products.
Can micro-influencers be involved before the launch? Ideally, they should be. Offering micro-influencers a peek into your testing and feedback process during pre-launch creates better ground for them to articulate their experiences during the launch phase.
How would you know which ones would work for your launch? There are several ways of finding this out. First, analyze the kind of following they have. Does their audience reflect who you want as part of your audience? Also assess the kind of brand and product partnerships they’ve already done.
What kind of content do you need to put out through micro-influencers? Visual-based social media content works really well when it comes to micro-influencers. Along with visuals that are a reminder of your brand and product, they bring along their expert and experiential views. Alongside, you could also explore having them write pieces for your blog or featuring them in a podcast to talk about your brand or product.
What kind of content do influencer marketing audiences typically like to see? To cut to the chase, any content that directly impacts the real lives of your audience. For example, if you’re launching a make-up brand, your influencer marketing audiences would most likely want to see products in use, how they can be applied and combined with other products, understand how much to use etc.
What products should you have the micro-influencers promote? The answer to this would be - it depends. If you’ve figured out a bestseller of a product during your initial testing phase, then it could well reach further ground through your micro-influencers. You could also use their help to market some unique products, something you think your audiences would not take to immediately. If they can generate curiosity or discussions around such products, then this can be a great idea too.
How can you have micro-influencers add to your personalization strategies? You could feature a micro-influencer’s recommendations as part of your product pages. You could highlight their reviews and comments on your website and then link those back to your social media handles.
Should you completely leave out macro-influencers from your strategy mix? Not necessarily, especially if you have the budget. Considering relevant macro-influencers have gained a following through their own efforts on the internet, leveraging their presence could be crucial to your launch success. Typically, a mix of micro and macro influencers work well.
OTBT Shoes, a women’s shoe brand, famously depends on micro-influencers to style different looks and bring chosen products to the attention of a global audience.
2) Optimize critical touchpoints
Now that you’ve already attained some cohesion between online and offline at the pre-launch phase, it’s time to optimize your critical touchpoints even better. Too many brands see misses more than hits during the launch because they fail to deepen their interaction with customers across key touchpoints. How do you work around this problem? Here’s a checklist of questions to contemplate about.
What touchpoints are usually not prioritized? Some touchpoints like billing, renewal and customer support are not given priority, and it’s usually a bad idea. While these touchpoints may not immediately seem like they matter a lot, the inability to address problems with them can add to your churn rate.
What are some key interventions to take to make your touchpoints seamless at this stage? During the launch phase, customer onboarding becomes a key intervention. The launch is the time when many users will try out your brand or products for the first time. If they don’t experience a smooth initiation in terms of what steps to take next or in the form of educational awareness, they might abandon attempts to purchase again. The other key intervention is to enable customers with self-service resources. This ties back into resolving onboarding issues and can in fact position your brand or product as more dependable and trustworthy.
How can you figure which touchpoints are most important to the customer? The ideal way to do this is to get into the customer’s shoes and simulate the journey that a typical customer would take. Where are they likely to face issues with how your new brand or product is set up? Where could they do with more support?
What should you do after identifying critical touchpoints? Once you’ve satisfactorily identified, say, the five most critical touchpoints, you’ll have to set time out to create actionable tasks for each of them. For example, if the first touchpoint is where the customer uses the product for the first time, then tasks have to be set around the question, “What would make the first time use seamless?”. To that you might find that the actionable tasks come down to creating a content strategy, hiring a team of good content writers etc.
Is automating touchpoints a good idea? Always. Especially if you can back it up with the right kind of communication. For any touchpoint to work seamlessly, it goes without saying that you’ll need a mix of human and tech intervention. For example, to retain customers you would need a strong content strategy that can be devised by your team of marketing folks. However, alongside you may have to automate sending out product recommendations and abandoned cart emails.
3) Leverage your social proof further
Garnering and displaying social proof at the launch phase is crucial. This is because those who haven’t yet experienced your brand or product, will essentially be inspired to do so when they read trustworthy accounts. So what can you do to leverage social proof for better conversions at this stage?
What forms of social proof have you already gathered? Have you received customer testimonials through text and images? Have you had well-known clients already try out your product or experience your brand? The launch phase is a good time to round-up all the different kinds of social proof you may have received.
Through what channels can you display the collected social proof more effectively? There are just so many possibilities in this context. During a launch, there’s ample scope for you to hype up your social proof further. Create social media posts or stories from customer testimonials, send emails on “how customers are loving a product” soon after launch with a testimonial or two thrown in for good measure, have your website run social proof as quotes and client logos at strategic places…you get the drift.
Are social proof notifications a good idea? At a time, when you need to get the attention of your audience in the most non-intrusive ways, the answer is YES. Social proof notifications appear as live testimonials across pages on your website, offering a ready view on how existing customers are experiencing your offerings to potential customers.
Is there a way to make social proof more relevant? Through audience segmentation, you can figure more precise ways of appealing to different groups of your audience database. If you had to request a testimonial, this approach helps because it would help you ask the right questions.
Fabletics, a brand that creates fashionable, high-performance active wear often joins hands with public figures to launch their products. Here’s an example.
4) Channel your marketing automation efforts
With the launch comes the next inevitable point in the journey - to train your focus on revenue and growth. With marketing automation, your possibilities to earn more widen. But what aspects of marketing automation are most relevant at the launch stage? Here are a few pointers.
What tasks can you enable through marketing automation? There are several tasks you can accomplish at the launch stage. Like sending out post-purchase emails rich with educational content. Or gently sending email and chat messenger reminders to those who may have added products to their cart but somehow haven’t proceeded to checkout.
Can old leads be retargeted through such efforts? Re-engage those who had once bought from you - this is especially relevant for relaunches and new product launches - but haven’t purchased in a while. Use automation to send out promotional codes and discounts with dynamic expiration dates.
Can new leads be nurtured through such efforts? Yes, absolutely. Use exit-intent popups and relevant quizzes on your homepage to draw potential customers in.
Can you improve personalization through automation? Totally. Marketing automation can help you collect data around consumer demographics and buying behavior. This data can, in turn, help you create personalized recommendations, offer cross-sell and upsell suggestions etc.
How can you use marketing automation to contextualize customer support? Incorporate features like live chat and WhatsApp integration to offer timely support to customers buying from you at the time of launch. This sets the right precedent for turning these one-time buyers into repeat buyers post-launch.
5) Make your marketing strategy sharper
No matter what kind of marketing strategy you may apply in other contexts, during a launch it’ll need special tailoring. A marketing strategy centered around a launch must do two things quite clearly - build awareness and drive demand. The following are questions you may want to ask while you plan.
What strategies can you specifically use to build awareness? Awareness building at this stage can be a bit tricky, given that customers don’t tend to believe a brand that’s trying to promote itself. Hence, bringing in influencer marketing into your strategy mix can be valuable. Alongside, promote UGC and especially highlight exceptional guest content across channels - the more based on real experience they are, the more the content is likely to inform potential customers about what they can expect from your brand and/or products.
What strategies can you implement to drive demand? In case you’re more leaning towards direct marketing efforts, bring in product trials or attractive bundle discounts that’ll make people readily buy what you have on offer. You could also look at paid marketing to generate relevant content across chosen channels - so that audiences who fall under the demographic and preference of your brand or product, get to see this content.
What of your existing marketing assets would you need to change/redesign? While many businesses ask this question at the launch stage, it’s ideal that you think about this during the pre-launch. A sudden change to marketing assets might impact the way your brand and products are perceived. If at all changing and redesigning are on the cards, ensure you first make that launch internally, so that during any course corrections can be made during the launch.
Can leveraging organic visibility be rewarding at this stage? If yes, what ways can you choose? Your organic visibility HAS TO BE powerful at the launch stage. To do this, there’s nothing quite like a powerful SEO strategy that is aligned with your marketing strategy. Focus on making keywords, meta descriptions and content blurbs in line with your launch and why your offering can make a difference. Always think through the shoes of a new user, because you’ll be attracting many of them through your launch.
Is your strategy aligning with your launch goals? It’s a good idea to see your marketing strategy as work-in-progress. That’ll allow you to make changes to how you’ve set your campaigns up, what you are saying in them, how you are conveying your differentiation etc. Notice what your existing customer feedback is saying and if those using your brand have their overall journey mapping with the customer journey you’ve created.
How can you redefine your marketing strategy after the initial launch? Think of the initial launch as just the starting point. The rest of the journey for your brand lies ahead. It’ll depend on how present you are to customer pain points and how you go about resolving them. Track points of friction especially along the user’s journey.
6) Increase efforts in content marketing
Author and marketoonist Tom Fishburne is known to have said, “The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing.”
We tend to lean towards this simple but profound statement because even the statistics seem to point in this direction.
According to the 2022 B2B content marketing research by the Content Marketing Institute, 62% of the top performers have a documented content marketing strategy. On the other hand, 78% successfully use content marketing to establish connection and engagement with existing customers.
So what can you do to ensure your content marketing works really well for your product or brand launch? Here’s a checklist of questions.
What kinds of content would work well during a launch? To put it simply, any kind of content that improves visibility, drives audience understanding about your brand and products and helps spread the word about offers and discounts, would be valuable. Long form pieces like blogs and articles could be used to answer FAQs and improve perception. Short form content like social media posts and comments on community platforms like Quora could be used to drive engagement.
Is user generated content a good idea at this stage? The answer to that is a big YES. We’ve mentioned social proof before and come to think of it, UGC promotes just that. All you need to do is figure out how you’ll display such content for it to have maximum effect. You could introduce a quick section on the homepage itself during the launch period. Similarly, all your Instagram stories could be about the UGC you receive.
How important is content distribution? It’s one of the most important actions that you need to perform well during a launch. The better your content distribution, which is a mix of publishing, sharing and promoting your content, the better the chances that more people will come to know about your brand and products. Make your launch landing page work harder, offer valuable downloads, ensure your videos and infographics are shared and promoted through the right channels etc.
How can you keep track of what’s working and what’s not? This is a question you need to start asking before the launch. This is the question that will help you set goals for your content marketing performance. It’s impossible that every piece of content you put out there will fare well. To track your content more effectively, make sure you’re on top of the criteria you’re measuring the results by - do you want to build your brand reputation? Do you want to drive more traffic to your website? Or do you simply want to ensure more people buy from you? Keep tracking and keep refining as the launch stage evolves and gives way to post-launch.
An example we love in this context? Well, here’s a snapshot of a new launch from the Starbucks homepage. You can clearly see how their content informs and also clearly tells users how to access the range when they actually walk into a Starbucks cafe.
7) Reward loyal customers
In eCommerce, customer loyalty is a win-win situation. You win because your brand and products get repeated buyership and viewership. Customers win because they figure you have their best interests at heart and will stop their search for a solution. And to add to this is the fact that a brand or product launch can become the right opportunity to drive loyalty as well as rewards that would keep it going. Wondering what to take into consideration while planning to reward loyal customers?
What would drive loyalty and ensure repeatability in the future? Customers need to be reminded AND SHOWN that you will be able to offer them what they are looking for. At the launch phase, it’s important to convey to your customers that they can be your allies and even gain from it. So, to promote loyalty, you’ll first have to be very sure about how satisfied your customers are on the spectrum of ‘not satisfied at all’ to ‘very satisfied’.
Is an omnichannel reward system the way to go? Most definitely yes, because your marketing strategy is omnichannel too, isn’t it? Unifying customer data from across channels by mining their profiles can be a great first step. Your omnichannel reward strategy may also only work when you engage real-time with customers and have a view of what works for them, what doesn’t, what they actively seek out etc.
What will ensure you have a loyalty program that’s effective? At the launch phase, when you announce a loyalty program, it’s a new parameter for you to track and observe the results of. Subsequently, you’ll have to notice if the users who are under your loyalty program are driving more ROI than non-members. The success of your loyalty program also depends on how many people are eager to sign up for it and how many are willing to spread the word in their own networks. The more you track, measure and seek feedback, the clearer it’ll become.
What can you do to make your loyalty program reach more people? This will depend on how much real estate you offer to your loyalty program in your marketing strategy. How you convey about the reward program and system, will decide how many people are likely to take note of it. For example, highlighting its benefits on your homepage will certainly grab more attention than talking about it through an email, which can go unopened by many.
What do you need to avoid while launching a loyalty program or reward system? While there are quite a few pointers to watch out for, the following will ensure you’re off to a good start. Try not overwhelming your audience with too many options, even if you’ve tested multiple choices internally. Don’t set them up to major challenges to win some simple rewards. This can seem like complex and interesting gamification to you, but they might be instantly put off. Avoid overcomplicating the sign-up process by asking too many questions. This can especially backfire at the launch stage because the audience hasn’t yet established a trusting, long relationship with you.
Very few brands get their reward systems as right as Sephora does. They’ve wonderfully tied their reward program to their Beauty Insider community inspiring people to try out new products and in turn, alluring them by showcasing their photos and through offers.
8) Amp up your PR Strategy
Your brand or product launch can be made or broken by how effectively you put a PR strategy in place. The reason behind this is simpler than you think. Effective PR means greater amplification across the board during a launch - ensuring your target buyer audience will flock to your web store, potential investors will take notice and respected publications will consider offering you more press mileage. Here’s a checklist if you don’t know how to start thinking about this.
How can you win the trust of journalists and leading publications/channels? This needs to be work-in-progress and much concerted effort needs to go into this. Figure out social media channels where journalists from your business area hang out, share, exchange, comment etc. Once you develop a connection with them, it’s easier to request them for a feature. Similarly, have your content posted across niche blogs that are followed by other publications and their journalists. This can earn their attention, and eventually the interest to feature your business or products.
How should you decide if a piece of content is newsworthy? Figure the narrative approach you’re going to take, why you are trying to promote what you’re promoting, why would the audience care and what you would like them to take away after they’ve read the piece. If you have reasonably defined answers for these questions, then it’s a good place to begin.
How can you leverage an angle and channel to maximize your strategy? The angle of your PR piece would be the theme that’ll help audiences feel convinced by what they’ve read. If you can clearly define this, nothing like it. To maximize the potency of the angle you’re taking, identify channels that'll work for you. Remember, PR is always better through earned channels than owned channels. For example, having a leading digital magazine highlight your store can seem more authentic to audiences than you waxing eloquent about your products on your company blog.
Which PR channels would be the most effective for your launch? This is a question that can again be best answered if you know what you want your launch goals to be. If you want the eCommerce community to take note, partnering with a complementary brand could be a good idea. In this case, they could speak about your collaboration and in turn make some noise about your launch. If your intent is to have more people like your current customer base take notice, have micro-influencers share stories or updates about you across their handles or post about your brand on private social media groups.
Does it make sense to invest in PR outreach tools? Great PR is all about outreach and reaching out to hundreds of PR professionals becomes easier when you use PR outreach tools. While many businesses may see this as an additional cost, whether you need one also becomes clear when you align with your post-launch goals.
Stage 3 - Post-Launch
This is the phase when a new brand or product moves from being completely novel to being useful to the target audience. This is essentially the growth phase when, with the right strategies, tools and techniques, you’ll be able to increase sales and also look at making necessary developments to the product or brand.
1) Send only relevant emails - the right time!
It’s not enough for your email strategy to last you till launch date or month. It needs to go beyond and ensure users keep engaging with you and eventually turn into repeat customers. So what questions would you need to ask to create a more wholesome email strategy? Here’s a quick list of some of the important ones.
What does your email communication need to revolve around? This will depend on what aspects you want to focus on when it comes to customer engagement. Do you want to tell them about a new sitewide discount? Do you want to ask them to fill in a survey to tell you what their launch experience was like? As long as you can strike a balance between business agendas and customer needs, a variety of different communications can be sent out to your current user base.
Does it make sense to keep building on your email list? Absolutely, yes. Keep driving your paid advertising efforts and creating more relevant landing pages that visitors can know your brand and products through. Create compelling, brand-led emails that users will want to share with potential users. Remember, there will be people who may have missed the launch. But with some fine-tuned strategy, you can wheel them in and make them part of your current user base.
Can segmenting your audience help in a more robust email strategy? It can and will help. Audience segmentation makes it easier for you to send out more personalized communication. Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all phenomenon in reality. By narrowing down the scope of your audience, you’ll be able to ensure better click-through rates.
Is there a way to plan emails and follow-ups? There sure is. Focus on a task you want your users to achieve and then think of an email strategy that will help them accomplish it. When you plan emails and follow-ups around an anchor point, it becomes easier to create a series, which in turn can be more relevant and relatable for your audience as well.
MVMT Watches decided what would work for them is a segmented email strategy that took into context customer preferences. Their emails hence feature interesting content, deals or something to do with a new product launch.
2) Boost sales through a powerful retargeting strategy
Remarketing ensures you are able to communicate to existing and new users who have already interacted with your brand or products. The post-launch phase is a critical time to do this because it could help you significantly establish contact with those who may have browsed through your website but didn’t buy or may have only created a wishlist. If it’s of any consolation, 25% of eCommerce audiences actually enjoy being remarketed to because it reminds them of products they were viewing at some point.
How do you zero in on the audience that you can retarget? It completely depends on what audience you are segmenting for retargeting purposes. Do you want to reach out to those who cursorily viewed your homepage but didn’t go beyond? Or are you looking to re-engage those who browsed through several product pages and even added some to their cart only to abandon the whole process? Your end goal can tell you which audience you need to retarget.
Is remarketing the same as retargeting? Though they are used synonymously, retargeting and remarketing are different. While retargeting can help clinch potential customers who are absolutely new or surfatially interacted with your brand, remarketing engages with old inactive customers or those who may have recently bought something from you.
How helpful is dynamic retargeting? Quite. Because what it essentially does is send retargeted ads around products that your users may have been viewing most recently. This form of retargeting plays on the captive attention of the user to drive reminders.
What kind of retargeting campaigns work best? Mostly those that cast out unnecessary impressions and aim at users who are most likely to convert. The other kind of campaign that could work post-launch is an unhurried one - where a series of ads gently nudges the user to move towards an action.
Is there a way to retrieve abandoned carts through a retargeting strategy? There is, but only as long as your users perceive some reward waiting out there for them to complete the action. This is why incorporating offers and discounts may be a good idea when you’re trying to retarget to reduce the abandoned cart phenomenon.
Fable Street ensures you are shown content that you have either searched for on other sites - or on the brand site itself. Customer preferences are kept visibly prevalent in their retargeting efforts.
3) Drive curiosity and intent through psychological triggers
When you are planning and strategizing hard as a business to make users act in alignment with your goals, you’ll have to remember a simple thing. Your audience comprises feeling, emotional people who will take to an action only if it has some meaning for them. This is what psychological triggers can help you achieve. They track customer behavior and capitalize on certain intent. By using psychological triggers wisely, you can hope to clock more conversions eventually.
What psychological triggers are most likely to work on your audience? Triggers like novelty, scarcity, FOMO, curiosity and incentivizing have been proven to work rather well on eCommerce audiences. However, you may have to tailor the use of a trigger or a few of them based on what your overall marketing strategy is and what you hope to achieve through it.
How can you use psychological triggers without being obvious? The two ways we’ve seen work consistently across various clients is storytelling and building an authentic narrative. Combined, the two can create compelling reasons for people to feel a host of emotions, triggering them to make a purchase or at least, keep engaging with your brand.
Post-launch, what kind of user behavior are you trying to create a hook for? While using emotional triggers, you’re basically trying to latch on to specific user behaviors. Post-launch, if you’re targeting who may have just missed your launch, you might want to play on FOMO. Similarly, you may want to create a special limited edit for those who may have already purchased during the launch, but giving a scarcity spin to it.
4) Enhance overall experience through customer support
Offering robust customer support may seem like a one-way process. But in reality, happy customers mean repeat customers. And you wouldn’t want to lose out on this opportunity. Here are a few questions you may want to reflect on while planning for post-launch customer service.
Are you aware of what kind of support your users may need post-launch? In other words, to help customers resolve FAQs, you need to be aware of the questions customers may want to ask post-launch. Typically, they might still be getting acquainted with your brand and/or products, and may have reasonable doubts around shipping costs, return policy, discounts and offers alongside direct questions about how to use a product, how frequently it needs to be used etc.
Should you specifically highlight that you have customer support? Given how common eCommerce customer support has become, you may think the answer is no. But highlighting that you do have a team of support professionals (even if it’s just an icon on your homepage) can create an extra bit of assurance. This is the kind of assurance customers rely on while deciding if they want to buy from you again.
How important is it to drive self-service? Short answer - very. The longer is the route for customers to seek support on FAQs, the more likely it will be for them to not convert. This is the reason many effective eCommerce brands answer many simple questions that could be on a user’s mind on their product pages. This also allows your customer support team to attend to more critical tasks and cases.
What can you do to track customer experience insights? There are a number of metrics that you can mine to find the answers. More implicit metrics like product review ratings and mystery shopping scores can be valuable. For more explicit metrics, refer to purchase frequency, average order value, churn rate, use across multiple channels etc.
How can you create a feedback loop to enhance customer satisfaction? Collecting information and data on how your customer experience is faring, will give you more material to make your customer support work better. Incorporate short slider surveys that ask crisp, relevant questions. Track user sessions and customer behavior while those sessions are on. Request email feedback and make it clear what’s in it for them.
5) Test EVERYTHING!
A/B test your way around emails, product pages, UX design, copywriting and a host of other elements to know what’s working. From your marketing efforts to touchpoints that get easily missed, testing will ensure you have a real-time view into how your assets are performing across the board. Also make sure to test the most important pages on your site - home, product, cart and checkout.
For a deeper analysis, you can always sign up for a free audit with us to figure how you can retain old loyalists and convert fresh potentials.