Ecommerce Marketing Technique: Skyrocket Your Conversion Rate With Product Bonuses

Posted By Devesh Khanal | 14 Comments

ecommerce marketing product bonus

I’ve noticed that so many ecommerce websites are just sitting on gold mines of potential sales that they’re not capturing.

And I’m not talking about simple A/B testing (although yes, that too). I’m talking about much bigger things like doing a poor job on their email drip campaigns, or not even using email – just tweeting out a sale here or there.

But it’s cool.

I have a lot of respect for ecommerce business owners. It’s hard to grow a business, especially a product business, and they’re doing 15 things at once just keeping everything afloat.

They can’t run their company and keep up on all marketing best practices. I get it.

That’s where posts like this come in.

There is a technique that savvy bloggers have started using that is absolutely blowing up their email opt-in conversion rates.

It’s simple, it’s cheap, and it doesn’t take that long to set up. And I noticed that many ecommerce sites can do the same thing (without a blog), to boost sales and capture a lot more customers for life.

Let’s dig in and see how.

Free Bonus: I’ve made a checklist that summarizes this post and shows you how to put together your own product bonus. It’s a PDF you can quickly refer to later. Get the bonus here.

What savvy bloggers have figured out about email list building

The really clever technique that select bloggers are using to absolutely crush it with email opt-ins is called the content upgrade.

It works like this: for every (or any) blog post, you create a unique piece of bonus content that is ultra-specific to the subject of that post, and you give it away, totally free, in exchange for an email.

That’s it.

For example, see that little yellow box above on this post? That’s my content upgrade for this post.

You can have all sorts of different content upgrades: a checklist that summarizes a long how-to post, screencasts showing how to do something you explain, additional links, key charts and resources, you name it.

The idea is that someone reading your post (and liking it) will want more info, and you’re giving them exactly that.

Check out the results Brian Dean of Backlinko got after implementing a content upgrade retroactively on an old post:

content upgrade example

785% improvement!

Good luck doing that by A/B testing your button color.

I tested those results myself.

A couple months ago I implemented a couple content upgrades for a client, Eric Siu, on on old post on his blog GrowthEverywhere.com. Look at what happened to that post’s conversion rate:

content upgrade example

500% improvement!

Why the content upgrade works so well

It’s ultra-specific, that’s why.

It’s not the generic “Get my free e-book on blah blah” in the sidebar. Or worse yet, “Subscribe to my newsletter.” It’s something that someone reading that exact post would want.

Let’s take my GrowthEverywhere example from above. That post was a how-to on waking up early. For its content upgrade, I made a checklist of the strategies in the post so someone could save it to their computer or print it out and put it by their bed:

That’s it.

It’s not complicated, but it’s super-specific. People reading the post want to wake up earlier, so a bonus on the exact subject of the post is, of course, going to convert well.

How Ecommerce Companies Can Apply This To Product Pages

Now, I want to show you how an ecommerce store can apply this same idea to convert more visitors on their product pages.

I’m not talking about just a regular content upgrade on your ecommerce store’s blog. You can do that too of course, but most ecommerce blogs get horrendously low traffic — most of the traffic (after the home page) goes to your product pages.

And that’s exactly where we need to apply this strategy: on the product page.

“How the hell does a content upgrade apply to a product page?”

Here’s how: create a nice little piece of advice, instruction, or know-how directly related to your product and give that away on the product page in exchange for an email.

They key is that it can’t be a generic giveaway. It has to be ultra-specific to the product or product category, just like the content upgrade.

Let’s look at some examples:

Ecommerce Product Bonus Example: How Tennis Express Could Sell More Racquets

Say I’m interested in a new tennis racquet, and I stumble upon this page on tennisexpress.com:

tennis express example

I can get tennis racquets at a million different places, so maybe I check out their price, then decide to check prices on a bunch of other sites, and also go to a store near my house to see how the racquet feels.

No big deal right?

Well, if you’re Tennis Express…yes, that’s a big deal!

Because once I close that browser tab, who knows when I’m coming back. And that’s a shame, because I didn’t just land on their home page. I clicked all the way through to a specific product! It’s safe to assume that a huge fraction of people looking at a page for a specific tennis racquet are…

hold your breath…

looking to buy a tennis racquet!

Talk about a hot lead.

So to lose me is a big deal.

Such a big deal in fact, that Google and Facebook, who made over $57 billion in revenue last year, will let you pay them to show ads to people who have visited your site.

And people spend serious coin doing this.

But what if Tennis Express could capture the email address of some percentage of the people who saw this racquet on their site? They could build a relationship with these highly targeted leads, over email, a channel that has engagement rates that blow other channels (like Facebook) out of the water.

And they can…with a product-specific bonus.

The fact that I’m visiting a product page for a tennis racquet means you know a lot about me.

I’m probably interested in things like:

  • How to re-string a tennis racquet
  • How to find the perfect tennis racquet
  • How quality, speed, and durability of tennis racquets change with price

Or even things like:

  • How to improve my serve, or backhand, or forehand
  • How to test for perfect tennis shoe fit

I could go on and on.

All tennisexpress needs to do is put together a pdf or video on one of these subjects and give it away on the tennis racquet product pages in exchange for an email. Some fraction of visitors will download it and they will have a growing list of people who Tennis Express knows are already interested in tennis racquets.

In fact, once they get this up and running, Tennis Express could do sophisticated things like segment the list into people interested in different racquets, people who bought vs. didn’t buy, people who bought other related items vs. just the racquet, and send highly targeted and relevant information to each group.

But even a single list would be extremely useful.

Once they have that list, all they have to do is build an email autoresponder and boom, they’ll be converting a lot more customers.

And the best part? Unlike web visitors, once someone is on your email list, you can keep engaging them. If they do a good job with the email campaign (see the email autoresponder link above), they’ll have customers for life.

Ecommerce Marketing Example: How Wine.com Could Get Many More Recurring Customers

What about non-sports websites? They work also.

Maybe I’m interested in some wine and I stumble upon this lovely bordeaux on wine.com:

wine.com example

I could buy now, shop for other wines, or I could leave. Those are my options.

But what does wine.com know about me when I visit their page? They know that I’m pretty damn interested in buying wine! I’m more interested in buying wine than someone who searches for “Wine”, because I’ve actually made it all the way to a product page.

Can you make a product-specific bonus to give away for something like wine? Hell yes you can.

Here are some ideas:

  • How to choose a wine pairing with any meal
  • The ultimate guide to every major wine type
  • The ultimate guide to tasting wine like a pro
  • 15 recipes that are perfect with a bordeaux

You get the idea. There are a ton of things that people who are into wine would want to read about or learn about. All you have to do is give them that information and they will happily get on your email list.

Cost-Benefit Analysis of Product Bonuses for Ecommerce

In case it wasn’t abundantly obvious already, I want to make this contrast really apparent.

Benefits:

  • You build an email list of people that are very interested in your product
  • You can build a relationship with them through a medium that has an engagement rate that blows Twitter and Facebook out of the water
  • The email autoresponders you send them after they download your bonus are…auto-responders, so they take no effort after initial setup.
  • Sending emails is a fraction of the cost of Google or Facebook remarketing

Cost:

  • 30 min – 2 hrs to make the bonus, or a couple hundred dollars to outsource it

Note I put the cost of sending emails in the benefits section. For example, you can send unlimited emails to 5000 subscribers with Mailchimp (don’t worry, they’re not paying me to say this, you can use any ESP you want) for $50/month.

$50…a month!

How much did you spend on paid ads this month?

And you’ll likely get a 15% – 40% open rate if your email campaign is not horrible.

What percent of your ad impressions get opened?

As usual, I’ve put together a bonus for folks interested in this technique. Check it out below, but also, I’m curious to hear what you think.

Have you tried something like this before?

If you have an online store, what’s stopping you from trying this?

Let me know in the comments! I read every comment and (for now) respond to every one.

Free Bonus: I’ve made a checklist of how to put together your own product bonus (from start to finish), so you can save it or send it to your tech team. Get the bonus here.
Image credit: flickr.com/springwools
  • Chris Von Wilpert

    Love it! I never thought of a product-specific bonus before… your a genius Devesh. Do you have any ideas or examples for an e-Commerce store selling mens swimwear and underwear?

    • Chris, sorry for the massive delay in reply here…I don’t know how this comment slid past me. 🙂

      Swimwear is a gold mine for product specific giveaways. Here are some titles of giveaways off the top of my head:
      – How a real man picks swimwear to look like a boss
      – Every type of Men’s swimwear explained: How to find the perfect trunks
      – The no nonsense introduction to the top 10 swim strokes – impress your friends and the ladies

      Underwear is a little more tricky (will anyone download a “guide” when shopping for underwear? 🙂 I don’t know, but maybe… depending on your audience:

      – Boxers or briefs? The 5 question checklist so you know.
      – Is fancy underwear really cooler for you? We explain it with photos!

      Hope that helps!

  • Gary Elley

    Love it Devesh. Had any luck with outsourcing such product bonuses where the writer is tasked with generating the guide topic? I have a client that makes staff ID name badges and like Chris, I’m struggling to come up with ideas.

    • I don’t normally outsource the idea. That’s a key component. But I’m sure it could be done if you found someone creative.

      Are the name badges all they sell? Who is their target customer? What problems does that customer have? Outside of needing badges.

      • Gary Elley

        Name badges are not the only product. Other products and services include custom labels, signs and engraving (tough gig!). A common theme is everything is customized to client specs. Name badge customers are medium sized companies with 50-500 usually frontline (public facing) staff. Major competitor offers online design and ordering, whereas this client does not. Find them at http://goo.gl/JgnqFO

        • I’d think carefully about what problems those customers have and consider making a bonus or ebook out of it:

          – keeping employees happy
          – team building activities
          – customizing various office things
          – saving money on office supplies/uniforms, etc.

          Obviously I don’t know the details of these customers, but that gives an example of the thought process. It’s not always easy!

          • Gary Elley

            That’s what I meant about this one being a tough gig 😉 Thx so much for taking the time. Useful to hear your approach.

  • Smart. Very smart.

  • Awesome guide, Devesh.

    Do you think this is a more effective strategy than simply having a pop-up appear on the product page that offers the buyer a 10% discount?

    The upside is that for the e-commerce store owner, he gets BOTH the e-mail address and the sale.

    The downside, of course, is that he had to give 10% off.

    I imagine a content upgrade wouldn’t cost as much, but it probably wouldn’t convert as well either, and you’re not guaranteed a sale.

    Of course, you could try both options, but just curious to hear your thoughts.

    Great post.

    • Mike, good question. I’ve very rarely seen ecommerce stores make a pop up that advertises a discount BUT only sends the code when you optin. 99% of them just show the code somewhere on the site (like a stripe bar up top).

      In some early tests I’ve run with sites promoting a code that you have to optin to get, conversions increase significantly. Stripe bars go from 0.2% to 1.x%.

      But this technique approaches it in a different way. Having GOOD content (like the tennis serve or how to restring a racquet example) will get even the casual browsers on your list, not just those that are on the cusp of buying.

      • Thanks for the insanely fast reply.

        Yeah, I was thinking of a store like Banana Republic, where you get 25% off when you “sign up for e-mail” — see attached image.

        Now, that offer is right when you hit the home page, and is not product-specific.

        I’m a huge believer in the content upgrade. Use it on my own blog and it converts incredibly well.

        • Yeah offers like that work well. Most don’t do it.

          I consider content upgrades just another, different, way to get opt ins.

          Like a blogger that also has a pop up up or homepage gate in addition to content upgrades.

  • Great Post Devesh! Highly underrated technique. Would love to hear if you have any new case studies on using CU’s for E-comm.