How to turn one-time buyers into repeaters with Facebook Ads

On average, 60% of e-commerce customers buy once, only to vanish and never buy again.

— This number is too big to be ignored.

This is what David & Sara from Maquillalia thought.

Maquillalia is one of the largest beauty e-retailers in Europe. They have a large inventory of makeup and skincare brands that sell to 15 different EU countries.

In this article, I’m going to explain you how Maquillalia tackled their “one-time buyers’ problem”. I hope you can learn from their success.

But before getting started, and to whet your appetite, let me give you some of the results that Maquillalia obtained:

  • +96% increase in conversions from one-time to two-time buyers
  • +168% increase in revenues from one-time to two-time buyers

In the context of the overall Maquillalia’s revenue, these achievements alone have generated an annualized growth of 6%.

What’s the secret sauce here? Most brands rely on email marketing to connect with their past buyers. They used Facebook Ads.

Why Facebook Ads instead of Email Marketing?

Email marketing is awesome! It’s free, universal, and it just works.

In fact, Maquillalia already has a well-oiled email automation platform. They use it to engage with customers based on their stage in the lifecycle and send their bi-weekly newsletters.

The problem is that only 41% of Maquillalia’s customers accept marketing emails. And Kudos for them, as it’s way above the industry average.

Then, amongst those who do receive emails, only 20% end up reading them.

So, how many customers is Maquillalia actually reaching with email marketing?

Well, it’s simple math:

For every 100 users in the database
x 41% accepting emails
x 20% opening emails
= 8.2% of users

For every 100 users in the database, 8 end up reading marketing emails. 92 do not.

Facebook Ads as an alternative to email

It turns out that Facebook has a feature named Custom Audiences from Email Lists. This feature allows you to upload a list of emails and then run Ads against the people on that list.

It is, therefore, a substitute for email marketing. And definitely one you should experiment with.

Think about the engagement and emotion you can express with an Instagram story or with a Facebook post. On Facebook and Instagram you have images, videos, carousels, and other formats at your disposal to tell stories about your brand in a way that it’s just not possible with email.

But most importantly, Custom Audiences from Email Lists lets you talk to all those customers you are not reaching via email.

In fact, Custom Audience Email Lists help you reach about 75% of the people on the list.

Compared to the 8% to 12% reach of email, it’s quite an uplift!

Engaging with one-time buyers via Facebook Ads.

There’s a big difference between Email and Facebook Ads. Email is free, ads are not.

On email, you send the same newsletter to all customers and call it a day.

On Facebook Ads, this is prohibitively expensive and totally ineffective.

So, how did Maquillalia approach their using via Facebook Ads? They built a personalized storyline for each customer type.

To do so, they segmented their customers basing themselves on a simple, time-tested premise: If customers buy something from a specific category or brand, they are likely to buy again products in the same category or brand.

It makes sense. Think about someone who buys an anti-aging cream from La Prairie, suitable for oily skin. This customer is more likely to buy more anti-aging products, more products around her oily skin concern, and more products from La Prairie brand.

How to segment your customers

Let’s look at Maquillalia for inspiration: Using their internal company data and know-how, they identified 2 macro segments with 4 subsegments each.

The macro-segments they identified were:

  • Buyers of iconic brands
  • Buyers of products in a key category

Brands and categories have been changed for example purposes. The actual segments are not shown to preserve confidentiality.

For example, it made sense for Maquillalia to group people buying iconic brands like “The Ordinary”. Many of these customers would land on their site when Googleing for terms like “Buy the ordinary serum”.

After grouping these people together, they created an ad campaign and educated them to buy “The Ordinary” on their site.

To create the segments, they used the Relevanzz Custom Audiences builder. Here’s a snapshot of the segment The Ordinary buyers:

Segmentation - The Ordinary

Preventing customers from belonging to multiple segments

Some customers belong into multiple segments. That can be a problem as you run into the risk of saturating them with too many messages.

Also, having customers in multiple campaigns makes it harder to read results, as some people might convert because they have received more impacts than others.

To avoid this issue, you have to prioritize segments.

Then, when a customer belongs to a segment higher in the priority list, he should be excluded from segments with less priority.

Here’s how Maquillalia ranked their segments by priority:

For example, segment #4 should exclude customers from segments  #1, #2 or #3.

And here’s how you exclude customers using Relevanzz Segment Exclusions:

How to narrow segments to one-time buyers

The first step is obvious: you just have to select people who ever placed an order once.

But then, you might want to narrow your audience further, as you don’t want to engage in the same way with someone who bought from you last month vs. someone who did a year ago.

In the case of Maquillalia they narrowed their audience to recent buyers only. Specifically to someone who had bought in the last 4 months.

Additionally, they discarded customers who purchased in the last 15 days, as they would clearly not be ready to buy again.

Here’s how they created the segments using Relevanzz:

Narrowing the segment conditions to one-time buyers

Narrowing the segment conditions to one-time buyers

Narrowing further to buyers in the last 4 months, and excluding buyers from the last 15 days

That’s all for building the segments. Time to move into creating the ad campaigns.

Ad Sequences to maximize results and avoid fatigue

If you are in the Paid Social space, I’m sure you’ve heard about funnel strategies where you progressively warm up prospects into the sale.

Here you want to do the same.

I mean, put in the customer’s shoes: He hasn’t heard from you for some time. If the first message you engage with is an offer, he might not be ready to buy and just ignore you.

You need to warm him up. Wake up his inner desires and lure him into the sale.

This is the 8-step sequence we built for Maquillalia’s campaigns:

  1. Branding ad
  2. Product showcase 1
  3. Product showcase 2 + branding
  4. Product showcase 3 + branding
  5. Teaser announcing a big promotion
  6. Launch of the promotion
  7. Reminder of the promotion
  8. Promotion FOMO (only 2 days left)

How to create Ad sequences

If you are looking for an ad sequences builder on the Facebook Ads Manager, you won’t find it. You have to create the sequence manually.

Worry not. It’s a quite straight forward process:

First, you create an Adset for each step in the sequence. Then you set a start and end date for each Adset, so that each step runs consecutively. For example:

  • September 1st – September 3d: Adset 1, corresponding to step 1
  • September 4th: Pause
  • September 5th – September 10th: Adset 2, corresponding to step 2
  • September 6th-9th: Pause
  • September 10th – September 11th: Adset 3, corresponding to step 3

Facebook Ads multiple steps

Choosing the right campaign objective

In traditional Facebook prospecting or retargeting campaigns, you usually select Website visits or Conversions objectives to drive traffic and sales. You then let Facebook decide who, when and which ad creatives to display. This is because the algorithm knows best who’s likely to engage and respond to our Ad.

In this scenario, however, you want to make sure that everyone on the list sees the ad. For this reason, we generally recommend you to use the Reach objective.

One additional upside of the Reach objective is that you can control the display frequency of your ads. For example, you can define a certain step to be seen 1 time every 2 days.

Upload of Custom Audience Email Lists to Facebook

If you have followed the steps above and have used Relevanzz to segment the customers, synchronization with Facebook is automatic:

Alternatively, if you have segmented your customers manually, you can upload the customer lists to Facebook from the Business Manager.

Facebook Custom Audiences upload

To upload the customer’s list, go to Ads Manager > Audiences > Create a Custom Audience. Then select Customer list as the source.

Here’s the detailed documentation by Facebook on how to upload your lists.

+96% in conversions from one-time to two-time buyers

There you go. One properly orchestrated Facebook Ads campaign and Maquillalia nearly doubled the number of customers who make a second purchase. Specifically, they grew their first-to-second purchase rate by 96%.

As a totally unexpected side effect, customers participating in the campaign ended up spending more than non-participating customers. In fact, people who saw the ads spent 40% more.

And what about campaign profitability? The campaign had a ROAS (Return On Ad Spend) of 3.5.

These results have been calculated using incremental conversions, not total conversions. Some customers would have made a second purchase anyway, regardless of whether they saw the ads. For this reason, the best way to measure the campaign performance is either doing an A/B test or use the run rate as a base and then calculate the uplift.

And that’s it. Now it’s your turn.

If you need help or have further doubts about implementing this strategy on your e-commerce, feel free to send me an email at [email protected].