6½ digital growth hacks you need to know for 2020!

Robert Ballantine Advisory Partner, PwC Switzerland 09 Mar 2020

Digital marketing will change in 2020, and what worked in the past won’t work anymore. So in the next few months I’ll be sharing my thoughts on what you need to change to be successful, in the form of 6½ tips. Here are my tips:

Digital Growth Hacking
Tip No. 1

Why content marketing is dead when it comes to generating traffic

Let’s be honest, whenever you search for a specific term online you get overwhelmed by bought ads. Not only that, but blogging has been so popular in the last couple of years that just about every topic has already been written about several times by multiple bloggers. That means it’s very hard to write new exciting content that hasn’t already been covered by other websites. Even if you’ve come up with a good article, you have to wait weeks or months to get a high rank on Google. And in addition to that, you’ll need to make a lot of noise on different online channels for your post.

The shift in Google searches

When I talk to other digital marketeers, they confirm that they see a drop in organic traffic and growth in paid traffic from Google. Of course this is precisely in the interests of Google.

For me, one huge argument for paid traffic is the costs of writing good content. Let’s assume you spend two or three days creating a well-structured blog post with nice graphics. The costs quickly add up to two or three thousand Swiss francs − money that could probably buy you ads for a couple of months for a specific niche.

This means that the only opportunity I see for content marketing for 2019 will be in long tail niches.

Digital Growth Hacking
Tip No. 2

Why competition is for losers and conversion optimisation is the only way to stay ahead.

More and more organisations are buying online ads on various digital channels:

2018 and beyond are projections.

Spending per channel (all amounts are stated in billions). 2018 and beyond are projections. Source

For obvious reasons: Online advert expenditures are completely transparent in terms of their impact, as you can target your audience better month by month thanks to further and more sophisticated targeting options along the customer journey of your potential customers. And you can immediately see the ROI results of your online campaign. There are, of course, many more advantages.

But for me, the biggest advantage of online ads is the fact that you can experiment with different versions of your ads (content, images, videos, ad formats, ad places) and you can directly measure what kind of advert will work best for your campaign and what drives your CTR (click-through rate).

All this creative freedom inevitably increases ad prices, we therefore need to find other ways of optimising our marketing efforts. In my opinion, the most important distinguishing factor these days is the on-site conversion rate.

The only way to stay ahead of your competitors is to optimise your conversion funnel. The more you optimise your landing pages and your conversions killers, the more funds you will save, funds that will help you to reach a much broader audience or retarget a visitor for a longer period of time across different channels.

Conversion optimisation will have a great impact on your CAC (customer acquisition costs). And as long as your CAC is in line with the CLV (customer lifetime value), not even the sky is the limit.

Here are my three ways to optimise your conversion:

  • Start always using A/B testing and set up multiple-nested A/B tests. You should run at least 10 to 20 tests at the same time in order to understand what type of content or funnel drives the highest conversion rate. The more data points you collect, the better you will understand your customer. Keep in mind, you need several thousand data points for a conclusive A/B test.
  • Start asking your visitors for more information. As long as you offer your customers an added value, they will be ready to share information about themselves. You could perhaps offer a voucher or offer a free digital e-paper download in return for an e-mail address.
  • Do not stop experimenting, exploit your ideas. Let me explain what I mean: I am often surprised that conversion improvements have come about by enhancements along the user journey that I did not think would impact the conversions at all. In other words: Every idea can work. Even the smallest of changes such as a switch in word order or button colour could have a positive impact.

This is what I mean by saying „competition is for losers“: Avoid expensive online ad placement battles and optimise your conversions instead.

Digital Growth Hacking
Tip No. 3

Why mobile speed bombs or boosts your business.

Have you ever browsed through an e-commerce site on your mobile and then quit, because the page would not load fast enough?

You are not alone. 53% of customers quit a website if it takes more than three seconds1 to load. In fact, just two seconds can increase the drop rate by 103%2. Here is why: Waiting in general makes you feel stressed, similar to when you watch a horror movie. An impressive 79% of your customers will not visit your page3 a second time if the slowness of it has caused them stress.

Do you need more facts that mobile speed is crucial for your business?

A lag of just one second may decrease your conversion rate by 20%4. Shorter loading times go hand in hand with higher revenues per session. The good news is: If experiencing slow mobile speed discourages shoppers, fast loading times can attract and keep them.

Let us take the German retailer Otto Group as an example. They created a better user experience and increased loading speed; as a result, the bounce rate has dropped, while the conversion rate has increased by up to 13%. With an annual e-commerce revenue of € 7.9 billion, these simple tweaks have had a significant impact on Otto Group’s e-commerce business5.

The effects of a fast mobile page may, on the other hand, not always be directly linked to monetisation. A mobile page should also represent the brand and offer the user a great brand experience especially with brands that sell products that customers are not (yet) inclined to buy online (e.g. cars).

Another example: BMW, for instance, have redesigned their mobile page. It is now based on AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) and PWA (Progressive Web Apps), which make it faster and more SEO-friendly. It is also in line with the brand’s philosophy: performance, usability and design. Improving the page’s customer experience resulted in 49% more visits from SEO and a 50% growth in mobile users. But, most importantly, the page tempts users to actually buy one of their vehicles. Traffic from BMW.com to the company’s sales page has increased from 8% to 30%6.

Albeit crucial for user experience – the importance of speed goes far beyond that. On Google, the speed of mobile pages has become a major ranking factor for mobile searches. Speed seems to affect everything, from awareness to traffic to conversion.

Here are our four tips how you can make your mobile page faster:

  1. Analyse
    Know your status quo. Analyse the loading speed of your mobile page and benchmark it to competitors. Understand what affects your loading speed and how it impacts your revenue.
  2. Decide
    Define a speed budget. Loading time should not exceed three seconds. Prioritise optimisation opportunities.
  3. Optimise
    Adapt your page for accessibility and usability. Test new technology such as AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) to increase speed.
  4. Measure
    Measure progress continuously and keep optimising. User expectation increases with positive experiences.

Digital Growth Hacking
Tip No. 4

Reimagine Customer Journeys for Growth

Companies are realising that there is no way around designing great customer journeys and superior user experiences. When customers feel appreciated, companies gain measurable benefits – not just financially. The payoffs for valued, great experiences are tangible: an up to 16% price premium on products and services, plus increased loyalty. However, the current, linear customer journey way of thinking, which I see a lot, will no longer do. Our lives are far more complex than the boxes and arrows we usually draw on slides to represent customer journeys. To keep up with life’s increased complexity and velocity, your customer journeys need to be backed with real transaction data and measured customer insights in nearly real time. Only this way will you be able to deliver the right message for the right customer, at the right time. 

Designing journeys for experience

Did you know that your customers perhaps value your services differently from what you might think? Efficiency, convenience, friendly and knowledgeable service, and up-to-date technology take the top ranks, miles ahead of aspects such as global presence, brand image and visual design. Many industries are leaving their customers wanting for more. More of what your customers value. The gap between what your customers want and what you might be offering can be a stretch as our research shows. The gap is most noticeable in industries such as airlines, healthcare, banking, investments, mobile/internet. In other industries such as media, sports and hotels, the gap between expectation and reality is considerably smaller. Regardless of the industry you are in, it is important that you are aware of your customers’ expectations. As much as we cannot not communicate, there is no «no UX design», just intended or unintended experiences. 

Your customer will be your brand and not the other way around

In our lives there are countless «interactions, small and big» where we connect or disconnect with brands and services. Each of these «interactions» can be a key moment in a person’s life. Therefore, we have to make sure that these interactions are designed for and tailored to the needs, the lifestyle and the expectations of a particular person. The fundamental forward shift is that this interaction will be tailored to you and the context you are in. What if we do not just sell a product or service, but actually design it for every single one of our customers instead? Our customers will become part of the brand itself.

With your customers as part of your brand, there is only one way to go: design moments that matter, focus on the details and provide a consistent experience at the same time. Design for each customer individually, but remain able to scale. Replace gut feeling with data and customer insights. I agree with Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown with what they wrote in their book «Hacking Growth»: you need a cross-functional, collaborative team to drive growth. However, I feel they were not explicit enough about how important it is to get someone on board your team with an experience design perspective so as to get your growth team up to speed with the help of customer experience specialists. Make this knowledge your own, and get ready for a new approach to customer journeys. 

Digital Growth Hacking
Tip No. 5

Fast learning is key – gather multiple insights 

Morgan Brown explains that one of the key success factors among the companies he looked into was the ability to learn quickly. “All of the companies, regardless of business model, learn faster than anyone and use that learning to grow faster.”

Given that insight, we should ask ourselves: how can we become faster learners? Obviously, the starting point is to improve the speed of your learning cycle. If you are able to double the amount of experiments in the same amount of time, your growth should actually double. But this is only true if the quality and the impact of your experiments stay the same. 

Everyone involved in growth hacking knows that the quality of hacks, and thus their impact, is dependent on the insights you have at hand. The sources and volume of your insights may vary depending on the size of your company, the processes you have in place to gather them, your team structure and much more. While you will be able to influence some of these parameters, some of them you will not be able to change. 

Even though the main source of your insights will come from your own efforts to gather information, I believe it is crucial to also get some external support to avoid operational blindness and get some other perspectives. I see multiple options on how to get these insights. Here are my three favourites. 

Partner with universities/schools

Partner with relevant schools in your area. They are often looking for partnerships with industry to expose their students to real challenges. You will have to invest some time in preparing a problem statement, gathering some data points and mentoring the students, but it will ultimately help you to gather some external insights.

Your applicant

When you are hiring for your growth or UX team you will be in contact with a lot of great people. Use this chance to ask them about where they see strengths and weaknesses in your sales funnel. Maybe even let them do a case study. This will help you to understand their analytical skill level as well as get you some new insights.

Hire a professional 

Probably the fastest way to get some external insights into your sales process is to hire an external consultancy. This could be in the form of, for example, an expert review, mystery shopping or process intelligence.  You will not only get a professional opinion on your business, but also a benchmark for where you stand compared to the industry.

Interested in having an UX review?

Get all the information here

Digital Growth Hacking
Tip No. 6

Don’t get lost in the search for the perfect tool 

There are tons of articles and blog posts out there about which tools are the best for growth hacking. I personally am often asked which tools I like the most or would recommend. And to be honest, I love to discuss new tools and different vendors as there are endless possibilities (just have a look at this Growth Tool Browser to see more then 800 possible solutions). But as much as I like exploring new tools and chatting about them, I believe we spend too much time and energy on it. 

I often see people get trapped in the wishful thinking that, if they only had the right tools, the expected results would come automatically. And to be frank, it is easy to believe so. The marketing messages from different vendors and the tons of success stories on blogs and YouTube suggest that you only need this tool or that tactic to unleash your full growth potential.

Do you know what you are looking for?

I am sorry to spoil the party, but it is not as simple as this and often, we start looking at the wrong end. No tool in the world will give you the right answer to a question you don’t even know. Looking for the right tool should be one of the last steps in your process, not the first one. If you cannot formulate the key questions you want to have answered by the tool as a growth team, how can you know if the tool you are looking at is the right one? 

I understand that we want everything at the same time. We want a tool that optimises the language and images of a visitor’s landing page based on the conversion rate of similar historical visitors, but we do not even know which LinkedIn campaign generates the best ROI. We want a tool that sends automated messages for churn prevention specific to user behavior, though we do not even understand the main reasons why we are losing customers. 

Don’t let others confuse you  

Before reading the next article on Medium about which tool will be the next big thing or listening to another podcast about which tactic will save you millions, make sure you take a step back. Do you know the questions you need answers to right now? Do you have an understanding of the current maturity of your growth set-up? Maybe you do not need another tool so much as a way to optimise the one you already have. Maybe getting a shared understanding within the team is more important than having more data available. 

And if you then realise that you need a CDP because your analytics and CRM data are not integrated deep enough, then this is a valid thing to do. But don’t jump to the tool before you understand the problem you want to solve. 

According to the Agile Manifesto, the people and their attitude are more important than processes and tools. Especially when starting your growth hacking journey, your toolset should always feel a little less powerful than your team behind the toolset. Once you understand which questions you need answers to, you can get the most efficient tool to obtain them. 

Digital Growth Hacking
Tip No. 6½

”Do. Or do not. There is not try”  

Keep it with Yoda and don’t try but start doing growth hacking. Nothing can substitute the hands-on experience gained from real interactions and experiments. Do not jump blindly into execution mode without thinking. Align your team, create the first backlog of potential hacks, prioritise them and then, start executing. A great start is the Growth Hacking Canvas you can download just below. It helps you to structure your overall strategy as well as individual help. Now do, don’t try!

I know that my ideas won’t apply to every business or niche. But I’d rather we have a discussion than get stuck in old habits.


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Contact us

Robert Ballantine

Robert Ballantine

Advisory Partner

Tel: +41 58 792 2241

Jörg Thews

Jörg Thews

Insurance Advisory Leader

Tel: +41 58 792 2635