Working in the e-commerce industry I spend a lot of time in forums and industry chat groups reading content from entrepreneurs and watching out for new e-commerce trends.
Reading the discussions on Reddit, Quora, and in a few Facebook and Linkedin groups lately, I’ve started seeing some trending ideas that I think should be pointed out and discussed.
I decided not to include screenshots of the comments because I don’t want to personally attack anyone who shares advice or to spread bad vibes. Most people are just trying to be helpful and I don’t want to single people out.
I just want to share a few moderating comments to counter 3 oversimplified ideas I’ve seen frequently trending in e-commerce communities.
1. “E-commerce has had its day, if you didn’t establish yourself 5 years ago, it’s too late for ads to save you now.”
As with many popular ideas, the above is based on truth. E-commerce is not the same ecosystem it was a few years ago. It was a whole different ball game for early adopters.
A lot of online courses or consultancy services promote courses for overnight (for $999.99). And these gurus are obviously inflating expectations and taking advantage.
But despite the increased competition in the ecosystem and the gurus, opportunities in e-commerce continue to grow. Consumers love that it’s easy and accessible. In 2019, e-commerce represented 13.7% of the $25.038 trillion retail market (a cool $3.43 trillion). And yes, it’s projected to keep growing.
There are still lots of opportunities for high-quality stores. It’s definitely not easy for anyone (including the gurus, despite what they may say). But the shift of consumer preferences towards online purchasing is not slowing down.
The average Click-Through Rates for Facebook e-commerce ads has tripled in the last 3 years. And all this means that new high-quality stores CAN definitely still become profitable businesses. Especially if they communicate their value and differentiate.
2. “If you’re a small business, you have to advertise for the sale. Promoting content or “soft-selling” is only for BIG companies with money to spare.”
With the tight budgets of small businesses, it’s understandable e-commerce stores worry about wasting money on vanity marketing and advertising. Gratuitous “Branding” is definitely not what anyone needs when they’re still at the stage where every purchase is crucial for offsetting their overhead costs.
But avoiding vanity spending doesn’t mean they should go directly for the sale. Most small stores need branding more than ever, in order to build trust and demonstrate their value.
If you are a brand that’s never been heard of before and you don’t sell super impulsive/trendy items, you have to build a connection that differentiates your store from the competition.
This means it’s not always cost-effective to create advertising campaigns that go directly for the sale. Retargeted visitors (i.e. people shown ads after they’ve expressed interest in your store) are 70% more likely to convert, and retargeting ads have 10x higher click through rates.
To get the best ROAS for your campaigns it’s increasingly important to merge Performance and Branding. There are new apps and store plugins that make this a lot easier now.
3. “Getting advertising to work ALWAYS takes a lot of time and investment, so if you can’t handle losses, you should get out while you can.”
I often see people ask for advice on how much they need to invest to test ads. And the response is often: “get used to heartbreak, e-commerce is hard”.
And sure, maybe some people need to hear this in order to lower their expectations. Because it can take months/years for stores to become profitable.
But no one should suggest that worrying about performance means you aren’t “tough enough” to handle e-commerce. It just spreads negativity.
Although it is obviously true that “success takes time”, the condescending comments in these forums emphasize “waiting”. Which takes the focus off doing proactive problem-solving.
But for anyone who knows Facebook advertising, it’s not just waiting that improves a store’s results. Success comes from gathering information, trying new things, changing strategies, and learning what works.
I’ve been shocked by how long some businesses were running terribly performing ad campaigns. Success takes time but that doesn’t mean you should leave a terrible campaign running for a year.
After a period of learning its critical to review campaigns to check their profitability and optimize to improve performance. If you’re spending more than you’re making with your ads, analyze what’s working and what’s not. And then be ready to make changes.
If you’ve been sucked in by bad advice or felt the same negativity reading these recent e-commerce trends in online communities, I hope my observations were at least a bit of comfort. I wrote an article on how to check the profitability of your ads and made a free online calculator to help people new to e-commerce avoid falling for bad info or guessing. They can help store owners keep track of their campaign profitability and avoid wasting money.
The bottom line: you shouldn’t believe ad “gurus” who are trying to make things look easier than they are, but don’t let the frustrated entrepreneurs get you down either. Selling on Facebook takes work, but it’s still possible for brands to have success.