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Saje's $15 Million Secret to Digital Wellness

September 1, 2020
Evan Knight
in
Digital Strategy

How Saje Natural Wellness used marketing intelligence to shape strategy, 2x site traffic, 1.4x conversion and 3x Commerce sales – all in under a year.

What would you do if the CEO walked into your office and told you to double your brand’s eCommerce sales in a year?

For most marketers, that would be a terrifying prospect, but that’s exactly what the marketing team at Saje Natural Wellness was tasked with and made significant progress over 10 months from August 2019 to April 2020.

How is that possible? Well, eCommerce sales are based on a simple formula: 

Traffic x Conversion Rate x AOV = Sales $$$

By using marketing intelligence to generate data-backed insights to narrow their focus, the Saje team was able to generate truly great performance:

So, how did they do it? Before we get there, let me explain why I’m talking about Saje Natural Wellness in the first place.

I run a marketing intelligence firm called RightMetric. You may not have heard of us — we aren’t a marketing agency, and don’t run flashy million-dollar ad campaigns or compete for Cannes Lions awards — but I can almost guarantee that you’ve interacted with a consumer brand that’s powered by our insights. 

Marketing Intelligence isn’t a common term yet, but it means accessing digital performance data outside the usual first-party data that most brands have access to — their Google Analytics, Social Media Analytics, and so on — and using that information to make smarter marketing decisions. It’s essentially ‘looking over the fence’ to see how other brands are doing and (more importantly) what they’re doing to make themselves successful in the digital world. What ads do they run? Which ones perform best? Who’s creating content that the audience is loving, and what about it do they love? How are brands engaging people and driving conversions, loyalty, and lifetime value (LTV)?

Marketing Intelligence looks across the entire digital landscape — what’s happening outside your own four walls — in a holistic way to answer one question that every marketer is always asking: ‘How can we improve our performance?’

In the summer of 2019, Saje approached us with that very question. After seeing a quick demo of what we could show them, they hired us to help them lay the foundation for their digital strategy in the coming year by providing deep insights into their audience, industry, and digital brand performance.

Ten months later, they’d doubled website traffic, increased conversion rates, tripled content performance, and are well on their way towards doubling their eCommerce sales.

Here’s a peek into how we helped them do it.

Determining where to focus

I was talking to a CMO recently whom I admire, and he said something that struck me:

‘Many eCommerce organizations use last-click attribution, which keeps their teams focused on the bottom-of-funnel channels like search. That said, digital marketers also know that if they stop investing in their digital brand, that last click—that eCommerce sale—will continue to get more and more expensive.’

That pretty much sums up why we look across the entire digital landscape when doing marketing intelligence work.

One channel or tactic can’t carry a brand’s digital performance forever. And determining the right channel mix is a massive challenge for marketing leaders since attribution models only paint part of the picture.

We helped Saje determine the right digital channel mix by doing three things:

  1. Assess Saje’s current channel mix: Which channels are generating results for Saje?
  2. Assess competitors’ and industry leaders’ channel mix: Which channels are generating results for them?
  3. Identify opportunities: by finding whitespace between 1 & 2.

From that analysis, we identified a few big opportunities.

  • Combining influencers, platform best practices, and great content to win on social
  • Taking advantage of an SEO goldmine
  • Running paid search like the pros
  • Earning the ‘last click’ with site CRO

Combining all the elements to win on social

Many brands struggle with social media. Knowing what message to send is hard. Avoiding PR pitfalls is hard. Deciding on the right platforms is hard. Creating the right content can feel like guessing. Tying social investment to sales & ROI is a universal challenge.

During our preliminary analysis for Saje, we identified several competitors & industry leaders that were consistently growing on social as well as translating that social success into quantifiable gains to site traffic and email acquisition. We dug deeper into the tactics being used — including contests, influencer partnerships, content, and platform best practices — by brands with consistently strong follower growth, engagement, video views, and social traffic. We identified a series of best practices being used by the top-performing cohort of competitor brands and compared that against Saje’s current approach to inform our recommendations. Here are a few of them.

  • Combine education, events, & influencers to resonate with the audience: These three elements came up again and again amongst top-performing brands. However, we determined that combining all three would be a relatively white space. Saje had been running educational events for years in stores but hadn’t done so on the digital side of their business. The content was always delivered by a Saje educator or influencer partner, and the focus was on tackling wellness challenges and educating on the products. Distribution was focused on Facebook (see next bullet). Over the 10 months, Saje was able to increase the number of people watching their videos by over 300%.
  • Focus on Facebook platform best practices: Facebook isn’t dead yet! But it’s all about how you use it. Saje’s educational videos masterfully leveraged audience interests, social proof, and Saje’s authentic brand; while combining it with some unique features of the Facebook platform: events and video distribution.

When we started working with Saje in August of 2019, they faced all of the common challenges of social media. But within 10 months, they had increased their social following by 20% and increased the number of people watching Saje’s videos on social by 300%. Middle-of-funnel metrics affected by social have also seen very significant gains:

By combining different elements, Saje was able to see a significant improvement in their social media metrics, which spiralled up to their website traffic. From there, we saw another opportunity for growth: SEO.

An SEO goldmine

After performing our analysis, we realized that Saje was sitting on an organic search goldmine. A lot of their most important SEO metrics were… moderate, but not great, including keyword-to-traffic ratio, referring domains-to-traffic ratio, and backlink profile. Of all these metrics, the key thing we noticed—that had the potential to be the lynchpin of their strategy moving forward—was a strong domain authority that was being severely underutilized. We knew that if we provided them with the right insights and recommendations, Saje had the potential to make massive gains in the amount of high intent organic traffic that they were generating.

The best brands in the vertical are deceptively sophisticated - something we learned after analyzing the on and off-page SEO strategies of some of the strongest brands in the competitive space. This kind of analysis includes all the technical elements of an on-page SEO audit as well as a deeper exploration into competitors’ off-page strategy by following ‘backlink trails’ to see where, when, and how backlinks are being generated.

Digging into the top-performing brands’ SEO approaches generated quite a few recommendations including:

  • Create keyword-rich written site content to start leveraging existing domain authority
  • Focus that written content equally on branded and non-branded keywords
  • Create a backlink building program by forging editorial partnerships with publications that are giving other brands in the industry tons of high-quality backlinks
  • Automate review generation
  • Fix broken redirects

Saje’s pre-existing high domain authority combined with the implementation of 10+ high impact recommendations from RightMetric’s insights resulted in monthly organic traffic being doubled in the 10 months between August 2019 to April 2020.

By taking a deep dive into competitors’ SEO strategies, we were able to identify top-performing tactics that Saje could utilize to accelerate growth and take advantage of their organic search goldmine. We doubled down on this approach as we took a look at Saje’s paid search strategy.

Running Paid Search like the pros

Prior to working with RightMetric, Saje was already running Google Search Ads, but as usual, it’s all about the approach. We gave them some insight into how exactly the top beauty brands are using search ads, and the results were impressive.

Our team observed the paid search strategy of dozens of beauty and wellness brands, with the aim of identifying ones that truly excelled in the channel. We used a number of criteria to identify ‘top-performing’ brands, including the amount of traffic they’re generating using paid search, how much budget is being allocated, the number & types of ads being run, the quality of landing pages linked to the ads, the ‘position’ of ads on the SERP relative to competitors, how consistently those positions are held over time, and more.

Once we identified our top-performing cohort of beauty brands, we were able to dig into exactly what they were doing to be so successful with this particular channel and share recommendations with Saje, including:

  • Greatly increase the number of keywords being bid on (naturally focusing on low competition and high search volume keywords).
  • Focus bidding on non-branded keywords related to shopper’s problems, questions, interests, and affinities.
  • Don’t just drive to product pages. Drive traffic to high quality written content that educates & entertains. This traffic can later be re-targeted with a product & conversion-oriented ad.
  • Start using Google Shopping ads to power conversions.
  • Bring Saje’s unique brand voice to the ad copy.

Understanding the level of investment being devoted to the paid search channel by top-performing brands helped Saje’s marketing leadership determine the appropriate allocation of budget & focus; while concrete recommendations provided a roadmap to deploy successfully. Between August 2019 to April 2020 Saje’s paid search traffic grew by 250%, while also becoming more effective, contributing to their increase in eCommerce sales during that time.

With these results, one could say that Saje's efforts definitely "paid off." Though, there was one more area that we thought Saje could take their strategy to the next level by looking at best practices from top performers in their industry. That area, of course, was CRO.

Earning the ‘last click’ with site CRO 

Saje had a healthy conversion rate when we started working together, but during our preliminary analysis, we identified a number of competitors & industry leaders that were consistently converting site visitors into customers more efficiently. So we dug deeper into the tactics being used—across the homepage, product pages, collection pages, campaign landing pages, cart, and the checkout process—by brands with particularly high site conversion rates.

We identified a list of site CRO best practices being used by the top-performing cohort of beauty brands and compared that against Saje’s then-current site to inform our recommendations:

  • Build a multi-step approach to conversion: ‘Warm-up’ shoppers before they make their first purchase. This process typically includes driving paid traffic to a blog page or lead magnet, retargeting with a campaign to drive email acquisition, and a robust email marketing program to nurture, convert, re-engage, and increase the LTV of the customer.
  • Automate review generation: Setup an automated email sequence to follow up on purchases. This sequence should perform a few functions including making sure that the customer is happy and feels cared for, collecting product feedback, and generating on-site reviews that provide social proof for other customers – all of which aim to increase the conversion rate.
  • Objection handling at every step: There are a few key blockers that cause most eCommerce transaction abandonments including ambiguity about shipping, warranty, product guarantees, return policies, company ethics, and product feature concerns (is it ethically sourced, vegan ingredients, etc.). Building in ‘objection handling’ at every later step of the eCommerce workflow (PDPs > Cart > All checkout stages > Post-purchase communication) can greatly increase conversion rate and decrease return rates.

Combining CRO optimizations with Saje’s already-strong eCommerce merchandising and product mix led to a 2x increase in conversions over the 10 month period, which played a huge part in the ultimate 2x increase in eCommerce revenue.

Bringing it all together

Improving performance is an ongoing, and oftentimes, difficult process. Marketers are trying to quantify the ROI of their digital efforts, see where they are falling short, and attempting to improve – yet rarely succeed. The reason for this is because many marketers hamstring themselves by only viewing the digital landscape through the lens of their own data. By looking outside their own four walls, marketers are able to gain valuable insights and narrow their focus, which produces a competitive advantage and stimulates growth.

At the end of the day, insights & recommendations are one thing, but they’re only valuable if they’re put into action by a talented team. We’re proud to have helped the team at Saje lay the strategic foundation for a year of big challenges and even bigger growth.

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Evan Knight

Evan is the COO at RightMetric. You can follow him on Twitter @knightmetric.

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