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E-Commerce Evolved Book Summary – Tanner Larsson

What you will learn from reading E-commerce Evolved:

– The best practices for E-commerce websites from a seasoned professional. 

– Tactics, strategies and ideas to skyrocket your current e-commerce efforts.

– An appreciation for how hard running a successful e-commerce business can be.

E-Commerce Evolved Book Summary:

E-commerce evolved book summary covers everything you will ever need to know in creating a profitable and sustainable E-commerce store. From creating your USP to creating digital subscriptions the scope of this book is fantastic. 

If you have an e-commerce store or are looking to set one up this is the book for you. Read on.


Sort out your messaging and brand first

Focus on building a message or movement that your customer can align with. (Appeal to identity). Successful e-commerce businesses have branding and market messaging that fits their target market.


The downside of using third party platforms (amazon):

For example with most third parties you are legally not allowed to use the data AND you have no control over how the sales flow works. Any upsells or cross-sells are suggested by the platform, not you.

So think of big e-commerce platforms like Amazon as just a sales channel for use within a business.


Avoid competing on price:

Competing on price is a race to the bottom. It means racing your competitor to lower prices until everyone is out of business and the product is basically free.

Competing on price turns your product into a commodity, and it’s hard for an ecom business or startup to thrive on a commoditized product.

When you sell a cheap product, you also end up attracting the worst kind of customers. Therefore, you need to focus your efforts on a narrow and specific niche market that sells a specific subset of products.


Don’t underestimate Paid Traffic:

The free traffic mentality also causes business owners to turn a blind eye to paid traffic.

One rule of thumb when it comes to spending is to be willing to spend up to your customer lifetime value (LTV) to acquire a customer.


Use Multiple Sales Channels:

Multiple sales channels generate more money. They help you make more sales and improve your economies of scale.

Tanner recommends the two-channel approach in most cases: Your e-commerce store and Amazon FBA.


12 Laws of E-Commerce

1. Your Business Is Not Unique 

2. You Are in the Business of Marketing 

3. Brand Centric, Not Product Centric 

4. You Must Control the Order Process 

5. Don’t Compete on Price 

6. Don’t Be Walmart. Niche down. 

7. There’s No Such Thing as Free Traffic 

8. Business Costs Money 

9. If You Aren’t Mobile, You’re Out 

10. The One Who Can Spend the Most to Acquire a Customer Wins 

11. Sell in Multiple Channels 

12. There Are Only Three Ways to Grow a Business


Acquisiton strategies:

You should never spend any customer acquisition marketing efforts or dollars on sending visitors to your online store. – Send to a sales funnel?

It’s because sales funnels capitalize on the buyer’s high, a dopamine rush customers get when they purchase something.


Front End:

This is the landing page where you send traffic. These pages are most often configured as a sales letter or review page. 

I call these pages Buy, Bookmark, or Leave (BBL) pages, as they are a dedicated offer page designed to sell just ONE of your core products.

-On a front-end landing page, people only have three choices: buy the item, bookmark the page, or leave. 

This is why dedicated front-end landing pages that bypass your standard product page can boost your sales conversions by 5 to 10 percent.


The order bump:

Is a special offer designed to increase the average order value BEFORE the customer checks out and is shown any upsells or one-time offers. 

The product offered during this stage is similar to whatever product the customer is buying. It can be a bundle of digital products (such as videos and guides), a lifetime warranty, or a physical product that complements the main purchase.

The perfect example of an upsell we’re all familiar with is, “Would you like fries with that?”

Note – Make sure they don’t have to re-do any payment details. This is vital because forcing customers to re-enter their payment details during the upsell sequence reduces the upsell conversion rate by as much as 30 percent.


Related Products:

Offer a different product entirely. Instead of the yoga mat carrier, offer yoga mat cleaning solution. Offer free shipping.

If you have a wide product line, it’s hard to find related products. The more focused your product line is, the better funnels will work for you.


Use Funnels where appropriate:

The stand-alone funnel is a way to get people to really focus. It’s a collection of web pages that usher the customer through a structured sales process without directing them to your storefront. It bypasses your store completely.

Key Point – You should always direct all of your external marketing efforts into a stand-alone sales funnel.

Once a customer purchases through the stand-alone sales funnel, you can send them to your storefront via email for repeat purchases. 

A storefront also gives your business some added credibility.


Recurring Revenue and Subscriptions: 

Recurring income is revenue earned on a residual or automated basis after the first sale.

Consumable Subscriptions This is by far the most common type of recurring income.

If any of the products you sell or plan to sell in your store have a consumable nature, then offering them an auto-ship subscription plan is a no brainer. People love convenience and anything that makes their life easier.

With a subscription box, customers pay a flat fee for great value, convenience, and the fun of getting something in the mail every month. 

While subscription boxes are growing in popularity, they’ve been around for decades; anything that ends with “of the Month” (Wine of the Month, Cheese of the Month) qualifies as a subscription box.


Digital Subscriptions:

Digital memberships are typically information based.

Any business can sell a newsletter, but I’ve found that newsletters work best in passion-based niches.

A buyer’s club is an elite customer level that someone can join for a monthly, quarterly, or annual fee in exchange for perks such as free shipping or a flat-rate discount. The best example of an ecommerce buyer’s club is Amazon Prime: Prime members get free two-day shipping, free movies, ebooks, and access to exclusive sales.

For example, you can combine a buyer’s club with a subscription box so that each time a customer joins your subscription box, they also get perks like free shipping or a 10 percent discount on every order.

No matter what product customers purchase in your store, the first or second upsell (depending on how your funnel path flows) should be your Recurring Income Core.

Subscription revenue should be the focal point of your business, so it should be your default upsell offer and it should be built into your stand-alone sales funnels the same way.

It’s kind of like being in a relationship. You have obligations to fulfill to your customer–delivering product, content, access on a regular basis, whatever it is you promised in exchange for regular payments.

Before adding recurring revenue to your business, make sure you have the technology in place to handle it. Your technology needs to automatically handle recurring billing, trial offers, upgrades, cancellations, pausing, restarting, and fulfillment management.


Provide as much Value as possible:

Always provide ten times the perceived value of what you charge. This has become the standard in the information marketing space, but is often overlooked in the physical product world. If you can provide 10 times the perceived value for whatever your customers are paying, you’ll have a much happier customer base and a more successful continuity program


Optimisation and Analysis Drop off points:

A drop-off point is basically a billing period in your RIC where an abnormally high number of people cancel.

Use Retention Boosters at every drop-off point you find in your business to dramatically increase both the Average Subscription Revenue Per Customer (ASRC) and your overall Lifetime Customer Value (LTV).

Diagnosing Problems:

Is it because the product is the same every month? Is there no value? Whatever the problem is, you NEED to fix it.

I know you are busy, but you must have a thought process behind everything you do.

Tanners’ basic rule of thumb is to mark it up at least three times its production value.


Product Selection Methodology:

1. Niche specific. Niche down and sell to a specific market (Principle 5). Your product needs to specifically fit and cater to the niche market you’ve chosen to target. If it doesn’t, then it’s not the right product. 

2. Durable. The more fragile your product is, the more likely it is to break, and broken products cannot be sold. It could break during shipping, either from your manufacturer to you or from you to your customer. It could also break in your warehouse or when the customer uses it for the first time.

3. Moderate to high quality. The higher the quality of your product, the higher your customer satisfaction and the higher the price you can charge for it. I don’t sell junk, and I do not recommend you sell junk. Anything marketed well enough can sell, but if you start with a moderate to highquality product, you’ll do a lot better with a lot less customer support headaches. 

4. In-demand. Do people actually want the product? Maybe you saw it once in a movie and you thought it would be awesome to sell, but do people actually want it? This requires market research, and market research is worth its weight in gold. I would much rather know if people in my niche will buy my product before I spend $20,000 on inventory, wouldn’t you? 

5. Retails for at least $25. I won’t touch a product that sells for less than $25. Anything sold for less has too low of a gross profit dollar amount, which will make it hard to operate and scale your business. A $10 product with a 50 percent gross margin means $5 in gross profit. This doesn’t give you much money to work with and it requires you to sell a large volume of the product on a continual basis to generate any sizable profit that you could live on. 

6. Solid margins. Your margins have to fit the type of business you run. Are you a high-end retailer or a bargain seller? If your product sells for at least $25, does it have solid margins that will provide you with enough operating profit to grow your business? In my case, my minimum acceptable gross margin (60 percent) dictates the amount I can afford to pay for a product. If the numbers don’t work I move on.

7. Lightweight. If you already have the capacity to ship bulky or heavy products affordably, then congratulations, this point doesn’t apply to you. But if not, ask yourself if it might be too expensive to ship your product. Remember, not only do you have to ship it from your manufacturer to your location; you have to ship to the customer and either you or the customer pays for that expense.

8. Unique. For all of the reasons we’ve already discussed, you want to sell a unique product. You should also consider complementary products and opportunities for spinoffs or related items that can help you build your product line.


Manufacturer Criteria: 

1. High capacity. Is your manufacturer really a manufacturer, or are they a trading company? What’s their capacity? Many companies have a limited production capacity and can only produce a certain number of units a year. If you start selling 1,000 units a week or a month, can they keep up? It’s good to know your manufacturer’s capacity before you invest a lot of time creating and designing a product with them. 

2. Raw materials. Supply chain issues are one of the biggest things that ecommerce companies run into as they grow, and the more you can get it mapped out beforehand, the better. What if your manufacturer cannot get aluminum to make your flashlight body or the circuit board they need to make the button switch? You need to unearth those potential pitfalls with your manufacturer in advance and make sure their supply chain is solid.


The Anatomy of the Perfect Product Display

Headline — The headline introduces your product and grabs your prospect’s interest. 

Pictures — A variety of pictures of the product go below the headline, with the “buy” button on the right. Below that, add more details on the product interspersed with pictures of the product.

Features and benefits — Every feature should have a matching benefit that explains why the feature is important. If the product is lightweight, for instance, the benefit could be that the customer may be able to carry it in their purse or pocket. List five to ten of these benefits, from most important to least, on the left side of the page (see image below for proper placement). 

Product reviews — If your product is already on Amazon, pull your reviews from Amazon. If not, model your reviews after Amazon’s reviews. Choose product reviews that praise specific aspects of your product, and put them on the right side of the page so they mirror the features and benefits on the left. 

Purchase incentives — Offer a discount, a free shipping offer, or a bundle discount. Display these offers prominently wherever you have a “buy” button.

Retargeting pixels — Retargeting has a dramatic impact on sales, and your landing page is the first crucial chance to snag sales. Drop pixels (retargeting code snippets) from multiple retargeting platforms on your landing page so that when someone visits the page, but does not buy, they are automatically retargeted with ads.

Exit-intent email grab —  This is a window that pops up when a visitor tries to leave your page without buying. At that point you’ve already lost the potential sale as they have decided to leave without making a purchase, but if you get their email address, you can follow up with them and potentially get them to purchase at a later time.

You can also include a nice ‘thank you’ card to let your customers know you value them and their patronage.


Use Affiliates where possible:

Tanner: I do this all the time–I find a complimentary product that I feel good about supporting and sharing with my customers, and if my customers buy the product through the link in the insert, I get paid. It’s basically free money.


Market Research Ideas (Questions to answer):

Leisure activities — What do they do for fun? What are their hobbies? 

Sites frequented — What kinds of sites do they frequent? 

Five favorite niche influencers — Who are the top five niche influencers your customers follow?

Favorite podcasts — Which podcasts in your market do they listen to? What topics do they focus on? 

Preferred social networks — What social networks and forums do they frequent? 

Technology proficiency — Are they computer literate, or do they struggle?

Online shopping frequency — How frequently do they shop online, and when they do shop online, how do they search for products?


Competitor Research: 

If you ignore everything else in this section, don’t ignore SimilarWeb. Plug all of your competitor sites and other sites your niche frequents into it, and it returns a massive amount of data on what the market is doing, who they are,

You could easily double the size of your company if you learn just one thing from your competitors. 


Questions about your competition (yes this is long):

  • What’s working for businesses like yours?
  • Where are they running their ads?
  • How are they doing their campaigns?
  • Is there an area they are neglecting that you can scoop up traffic from?
  • What does their branding say about them? Look at their brand and infer its message.
  • How do they communicate their value proposition?
  • What angles do they use to position their products?
  • Are the products made in the U.S.? Handcrafted? Military grade? Luxury?
  • What hooks–emotional pulls–do they use to pique your interest in the product?
  • What are their prices like? Are they a premium-price, middle ground, or bargain competitor? How do they present their prices?
  • How do they present their products? Do they have a bestseller list or a “feature products” list on their product page?
  • What kind of photos do they use?
  • How do they handle shipping? Are their shipping rates higher or lower than yours?
  • Is their sales pitch aggressive or passive? Does it feel like you’re being sold heavily or does it feel friendly and laid back? Or alternatively, does it feel like they’re not asking for the sale strongly enough?
  • What kind of call to action do they use? How are they asking for the sale? If they use buttons, what color and type are the buttons? Are they “add to cart” or “buy now” buttons?
  • Do they have any default promotions or incentives? You may notice that some sites do promotions like “buy two get one free” indefinitely. 
  • What’s their social media presence like? Do they use Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or Pinterest? Do they interact with their fans and customers?
  • Do they do any content marketing? Do they have a blog where they write articles or post videos? Do they link to content relevant to their products?
  • Ordering a competitor’s product also gives you a chance to see their actual product. Is it labeled a specific way? What is their packaging like? Is their product better, worse, or comparable to yours? 


Using Customer Avatars:

There’s no breakage in my brand message because everything–my ads, site design, the landing page, the upsells, and the checkout process—is designed specifically for my customer avatar.

Use the avatar whenever you’re working on branding, composing newsletters, designing products, writing sales copy, creating ads, posting on social media, or crafting marketing campaigns. Do everything with your customer avatar in mind, and your business will transform just like mine did.


Questions for Customer Avatar:

A. What are they thinking and feeling? 

B. What are they being told about your products and market? 

C. What are they being told in the marketplace?

D. As a consumer, what do they see when they look at your niche? 

E. What can they gain from your market? 

F. What are their fears about the market and niche? 

G. What do they want to achieve within this market, and why is it important to them?

H. What roadblocks in life brought them to this market or made them more receptive to it?

It’s only when you speak one person that you connect. You’ll speak to your target market once you have a customer avatar. If you look at the customer avatar as a way to connect with your customers, you’ll be ten times more successful.

Sales Data You Need to Know: Most consistently selling products Best-selling categories Items that are most frequently added to carts Average cart value

Consider this: if your profitable business only has one marketing channel, opening up another marketing channel could double or triple the size of your business almost overnight.

So, why do multiple channels have such a huge effect on sales? First, they help with perception. The more places you show up, the more professional, relevant, and legitimate you look.


Two Types of Traffic:

Owned Traffic (Email List):

This is by far the best traffic out there. The goal is to own as much of the traffic as you can because the ROI on traffic you own is the highest you will ever have. It’s the most on-demand, and it’s usually free or cheap to use.


Traffic You Control

This is where 90 percent of your prospect and customer acquisition happens. No matter what people say, the bulk of your traffic generation and customer acquisition efforts should be spent here. 

Traffic you control requires active management, time, effort, and capital investment. This is not set-and-forget, but it can be accessed when you need it, so you can use paid traffic to grow and scale your business.

“The ability to grow a business and produce income comes down to being able to use paid traffic to break even or better.”


Treating Customers Differently (Buyers and Prospects):

Depending on your business, you may retarget them straight to an offer or take them to an opt-in form to get their email before taking them through the rest of the sales cycle.

Cart abandonment promotions are for visitors who add a product to their cart, but don’t complete the checkout. The fact that they added a product to their cart shows they have a high interest in actually buying it. These are people with the highest likelihood of purchasing that product.

Often cart abandonment promotions are sequenced with discounts or escalating incentives the longer the item has been in that person’s cart.

The second a prospect or visitor becomes a customer, they’re taken off the prospect list and added to a customer list

Make sure to add an automation rule to remove them from the prospect list the second they become a customer; that way, people only receive prospect emails for as long as they are prospects.


Introduction Email Chain:

Email 1 : A basic welcome email that greets the prospect and tells them about the company. It may have a link to a short video or something like that. 

Email 2 (sent a day later): An in-depth look at my brand and what I represent, including the names of any charities or special interest projects we support. 

Email 3 (one day after): An engaging, niche-specific content piece that engages and provides value to my prospects. This could be a content piece that’s on my website, blog, or store. It’s content that’s tailored to further the story I’m trying to tell about my company.


Sales Email:

Email 1 : A special announcement to introduce the product. Use your best hook or angle on what the product does for the prospect and give them a link to the purchase page. If you’re doing some kind of discount or special offer (such as free shipping), announce that in this email as well. 

Email 2 : I call this the “what people are saying” or social proof email. People want to know that they’re not the only ones buying the product, so put reviews or testimonials for your product in the email and say, “Look what Mary said when she got the product!”

Email 3 : The last chance email. Throw in some scarcity. Tell your prospect that the special price or free shipping expires tonight, you’re running out of stock, or whatever type of scarcity you are using. When I do a promotion, I offer the discount with a time limit of around 72 hours. At the end of that time limit, the discount link expires and the price goes back to normal. When I send an email to a prospect and say, “Hey! This offer expires in 72 hours!”


Create a Promotion Vault:

A promotion vault is a collection of default promotions that run at least once a month during specific times of the year. 

1. Holiday-Based Promotions Holiday-based promotions can be for Christmas, News Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween, Easter, St. Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, President’s Day, you name it.

2. Commercial Date Promotions Commercial date promotions include Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Super Bowl, and Back to School. They are commercially-created shopping dates, and they can be very lucrative for your business because your customers are already looking to spend on these dates.

3. Brand-Related Promotions These promotions tie into your brand. The one that all brands can pull off is the anniversary promotion (for the anniversary of your company and store). A lot of companies make a big deal out of this; in the brick-and-mortar world, a store can offer free food, music, and other amenities. You can do something similar online–make a big hype about it and offer a huge blowout promotion with special incentives only seen during your anniversary sale.

4. Charity or Cause Promotion Charity or cause promotions can be generic; you may want to do a promotion tied to World Cancer Day and donate a percentage.

5. Niche-specific Commemorative Day Promotions Nowadays, there’s a day for almost anything. There’s an International Yoga Day, World Sleep Day, Geek Pride Day, and so on.

You should build complete promotional campaigns for each of these default promotions. For example, each promotion needs a themed landing page. Figure out your product specials and discounts. Will you bundle products? What are the special offers for this promotion?


Break down your sales efforts into campaigns:

1. New Customer Campaign During the new customer campaign, your job is to welcome the customer to the family and create that sense of belonging. These customers have just paid, you’re shipping them a product, and you want them to keep buying from you. You have to build a relationship and a rapport with them.

2. Targeted Offer Campaigns

3. VIP Campaigns.

The aim with VIP campaigns is to build loyalty so they keep buying. Make these people feel special, but think rewards, not discounts.

Give them perks, like loyalty points and upgrades on their shipping Send them special gifts such as a mug or company tshirt Develop a special access 1-800 VIP number for them to call in and get their own rep to take their orders.

Tanner highly recommends the ‘elite member’ tactic. Set up different levels of VIP status based on the amount spent. Each time a customer ascends to the next level of spending, kick off another automated VIP campaign. If someone exceeds your highest level, make a new level.

Create Elements of surprise:

If they don’t know that it’ll happen, they feel even more special.

Rewards programs do a fantastic job of turning your best customers into product evangelists and brand ambassadors.

30 days no purchase: 15 percent off their next order 45 days no purchase: 25 percent off their next order 60 days no purchase: 35 percent off their next order 90 days no purchase: 60 percent off their next order

The receipt email gives the customer an overview of their purchase. It has a ridiculously high open rate (in excess of 70 percent on average in my businesses) because people check their receipts. They open it, and they may even file it or print it.

It’s the perfect place to insert an offer or a coupon to persuade them to purchase again. This can be either a new customer offer or a dynamic offer based on their purchase.

Those kinds of open rates make the shipping notification a great place for yet another subtle offer. This could be a dynamic offer based on what they purchased or an offer tied to shipping, such as free shipping for orders over a certain amount.