Can You Make a 7-Figure Shopify Store WITHOUT Ads?
Creating an eCommerce business requires a fair amount of startup capital. With inventory and fulfillment costs eating into your bottom line, it’s understandable that you’d want to keep your marketing budget as small as possible.
Paid ads can place a lot of strain on your budget, so they’re the first thing entrepreneurs tend to ditch when trying to cut marketing costs.
The main concern when opting for an ad-free approach is the effect it will have on your site traffic and your ability to scale and eventually sell your Shopify business.
Will saving money on paid ads hinder your ability to create a highly profitable business in the long run?
In this article, we explore the pros and cons of paid advertising and investigate whether paid ads are simply a “nice to have” or if they are vital to your Shopify success.
Is It Possible to Make Sales on Shopify without Ads?
Let’s jump straight into the heart of the matter. Can you build a 7-figure Shopify store without spending a penny on ads?
The answer is yes. If you have a great product offering and make good use of the resources available to you, you can absolutely build an ad-free million-dollar Shopify business.
But it won’t be easy. You have to assume that your competitors will be using paid advertising to drive your target audience to their stores. This means you’ll be on the back foot from day one.
The good news is, research shows that paid advertising for Shopify stores is 15%-20% less effective than it once was.
Shopify is used by more than five million stores globally. A large percentage of those are investing in paid advertising campaigns. This means target keywords have become highly competitive, difficult to rank for, and ultimately very expensive. So even if you were interested in investing your resources in ads, they may gain you little traffic.
So how do you take advantage of this and leave your competitors in the dust? By nailing the basics.
If you optimize the traffic you drive from non-paid traffic channels, and convert that traffic into sales, you can give yourself the best chance at success.
The Downsides of Investing in Paid Advertising
Paid advertising campaigns can be a fantastic driver of traffic but they’re not the be-all and end-all of marketing.
While paid ads have their advantages, there are some negatives to balance them out.
More and more people are recognizing the money to be made in eCommerce, and are gathering around their keyboards to see if they can strike gold.
This increase in competition has driven up the price of paid advertising, negatively affecting many businesses’ cost of acquisition (CAC). And as prices have risen, the return on ad spend has fallen.
New privacy laws, Apple iOS, and Google algorithm updates have limited marketers’ ability to gather consumer data and create effective targeted ads.
On top of that, consumers have become savvier, making better use of ad blockers and preferring authenticity over impersonal advertising. According to a recent study, 70-80% of consumers choose to view organic results over paid ads when given the choice.
To be really successful with paid ads, you have to invest a lot of time and money into your campaigns. This leaves little room to focus on other marketing strategies.
This leaves the door open for ad-free entrepreneurs to take advantage of a variety of traffic channels to build their brand authority.
The Advantages of Going Ad-Free
No ads? No problem! There are plenty of other ways to drive traffic to your Shopify store.
Scrapping paid ads frees up your budget and mental bandwidth to focus on things like SEO, email, social media, referral programs, conversion rate optimization, etc.
While content creation and SEO often take longer than paid ads to bring in results, they are far more sustainable in the long run, and they are also mostly free.
While paid ads are often seen as annoying spam, content marketing allows you to connect with your audience in a more authentic way. This helps to build trust with consumers, something that is becoming increasingly important.
Diversifying your traffic channels and fostering trust helps to build your brand authority. This can increase your customer lifetime value (LTV) and boost conversions.
It also ensures that you’re more protected than businesses that rely on a single traffic source like paid ads which can be volatile.
How to Make Sales on Shopify without Paying for Ads
If you’ve decided to steer clear of paid ads, going back to the basics can help you gain the upper hand over your competitors. Here are some of the fundamentals you should focus on to drive traffic to your site and convert that traffic into sales.
Use SEO to Save the Day
The single most effective thing you can do to drive more consumers to your Shopify store is to lean into search engine optimization.
Your competitors may be spending thousands of dollars on paid ads, but if you get your SEO right, you can still appear on the first page of Google. For free.
If you don’t know much about SEO, use some of the money you’re saving from paid ads and take an SEO course or hire a professional. It’s an investment that will pay for itself a hundred times over.
You can also find a wide variety of SEO optimization apps in the Shopify app store.
Use Email Marketing Campaigns
Some people think email marketing is past its prime, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Email outreach is still as powerful as ever. Research shows that for every $1 eCommerce stores spend on email marketing, they make a $45 return on investment.
Email provides you with a traffic source that is protected from algorithms and platform restrictions. Plus, it’s a traffic source that you own and can add to the value of your business when you decide to make an exit.
Of course, you can’t send email campaigns if you have no one to send them to, so your first point of call is to build up your email list. Requiring people to log in to your store using their email addresses before they can checkout is the easiest way to do this. You can also offer discount codes or vouchers to encourage people to register an account on your website.
From there, you should focus on segmenting your email list into different categories such as newly registered users, repeat customers, cart abandonment users, etc. This will help you personalize your email messages according to your customer preferences or where they are in your sales funnel.
Build up a Social Media Presence
Social media doesn’t have to be pay-to-play. Even without paid campaigns, it’s a great way to drive traffic to your Shopify store.
Around 78% of US consumers discover new products on Facebook, more than any other social media platform.
Similar to SEO, producing high-quality content and engaging with your audience can help you compete with businesses that use paid campaigns on the platform. You can also use shoppable posts to drive consumers straight to your store.
Social media platforms are a great place to build a community around your brand and gather vital consumer feedback that you can use to improve your product offering. This helps to build that all-important trust with your audience which will help you stand out from your competitors.
As we mentioned previously, it will take some extra time to build a healthy social media presence from scratch, but the time and effort are well worth the wait.
Write Copy That Converts
Driving consumers to your Shopify store is only half the battle. Traffic means nothing without conversions, which is where quality copywriting comes into play.
This may also be where your biggest advantage lies. You may be the underdog against businesses that use paid ads, but paid ads only help to drive traffic to your website.
Once consumers land on your respective sites, you are on even footing.
When it comes to writing convincing copy, Nancy Harhut suggests using neuromarketing to tap into consumers’ decision-making impulses. In fact, Nancy used neuromarketing techniques to create a 13% increase in purchase intent for one of her clients. Nancy elaborated on this technique when we interviewed her on The Opportunity podcast.
Buying an Existing Business Might Make Things Easier
If you find the idea of tackling an-free marketing strategy while navigating the complexities of starting a business from scratch daunting, you could always buy an existing Shopify business.
Buying an existing business means that the foundations, like sourcing suppliers and establishing product-market fit, have already been laid for you.
You’ll have an established customer base to feed off which will help you gain traction with your ad-free marketing campaigns.
This means you can focus more of your time and energy on driving traffic to your site instead of dealing with a lot of the grunt work associated with creating a new business.
Build Your Own 7-Figure Ad-Free Shopify Empire
Building a Shopify business that is an authority in its niche without the help of paid ads is challenging. But if there’s one thing that entrepreneurs seem to thrive on, it’s a challenge.
Paid advertising campaigns are a useful way to increase sales, but they can also be a money pit. With a little resourcefulness, you can rocket your sales on a $0 marketing budget.
If you’re ready to give ad-free marketing a try, but don’t want to start a business from scratch, browse through the high-quality Shopify businesses for sale on our marketplace.
If you’re on the fence and would like to know more about the process of buying an existing Shopify store from our marketplace, schedule a call with one of our expert business advisers.