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Scaling up digital sales using peoples’ existing friendships

I’ve got a lot of growth to hack in my startup, but luckily, there’s some low-hanging fruit in my eBook store that I can harvest. My profit margin is highest on digital products — and I don’t have to do any extra work when one is purchased — so it only makes sense to try to scale up these sales numbers first.

Currently people are buying them one at a time, for themselves. Talk about a 1x multiplier!

Today we’re going to implement a system where customers can send books as gifts to their friends. As a proof-of-concept, I’m going to set it up so every time someone buys a book, they get an extra copy that they can freely gift.

Stage 1: Sending books to others

A digital quail

You'll need a computer for this next part.

First I’m going to have to change how my eBook store works in terms of product ownership. Luckily, I coded it myself, so I know exactly what needs doing for the upgrade.

Unfortunately, that was two years ago! The code is, well, not garbage per se, but it wasn’t built with this kind of scaling in mind. (ScaleQuail didn’t exist yet)

Well, it took a few database migrations, a third-party library and a new interface to actually do it, but it wasn’t too much trouble. If you’re following along at home, and you have a developer for all the technical stuff, just tell them to get it done and give them an arbitrary deadline. They prefer that.

The upgraded store

The exciting new ability to do multiple things with a product.

In terms of scaling, though, the best I can rate this is a 2x multiplier. Each book purchase gets a second book out into the world, and it could create a new fan, but it doesn’t directly increase revenue. And that is one of the mandates of ScaleQuail.

But now that the application has a gifting mechanic, I can package multiple gifts together and sell those! And if you got the book for free and enjoyed it, maybe you’ll buy a discounted pack of five to send to your own friends. Please do this.

Stage 2: Buying packs of giftable books

To start, I have to upgrade the front-end shopping cart system. I wrote this a while ago as well, but this time, the code actually is garbage! But, again, if you have a dev working for you, just ask them to layer in the new feature. It shouldn’t be too hard for them.

With some more database modifications, a cart redesign, a store interface overhaul, changes to the receipts, and some extra automated tests to make sure everything’s still working, this feature is done:

An improved cart

The cart, now capable of holding multiple types of the same product. It’s the future.

With all this in the bag, I’m going to rate this as a 5x scale. Rest assured I’m going to be pushing this feature when holiday-time comes around.

But we can’t go to sleep just yet — we need a place for the auto-mailer.

Stage 3: The gift nudger

If someone has a gift sitting around in their account that they haven’t given to anyone, they need to be reminded. Luckily, I’ve got an existing auto-mailer in the app, and with the addition of a daily cron job that checks which gifts are getting stale, a gift nudger is easy for your programmer to implement. If they complain, just give them a hoodie with your logo on it.

How often should you nudge your customers? Ideally, you don’t want to annoy your customers until they’re at least most of the way through one of your books. I’m doing it just once, a week after the initial purchase.

Now that we’ve scaled digital distribution a bit, let’s move onto physical. I’ve got boxes of books in my office that are taking up space, and I need to liquidate them. NEXT →

Posted in: Scaling up

Scaling in progress!

Come back soon to see how the next plan hatched.