“...Spend Money To Make Money”
Offer More Targeted And Relevant Discounts:
Discounts can work in your favour to renew interest, move old stock and boost sales with little to no effort. Review your stock, your shop’s analytics and what your competitors are doing. Then make a plan and market it everywhere.
If you have customer history information, use that to send targeted emails to them with relevant discounts based on their purchase history.
Paid Traffic (PPC, SM Ads, Google Shopping, YT Ads, etc.):
Organic traffic is golden where as paid traffic is a necessary evil. Your shop is 1 amongst millions of websites, many of whom will receive less than 100 organic visits per month. Boosting traffic with targeted pay per click (coupled with an SEO strategy) is a necessary part of doing business online.
There are hundreds of agencies and consultants who can set up PPC ads for you if want to outsource this task out. Alternatively, there are various courses from Google and others about how to get the best from pay-per click adverts. Running a business is tough and there’s a lot to learn. Spending some time learning about PPC in general is always a good idea for eCommerce owners as it’s inherent within the industry.
Prepare & Implement Promotions In Good Time For Holidays:
Don’t leave promotions to the last minute. In fact, most large retailers plan their campaigns a year ahead. Look at what promotions may be suitable for your niche over the next 18 months and spend a day or two planning out what you could do to bring customers to you instead of your well organised competitor or Amazon.
Once you have a plan in place, start building the content out whether this is ad copy, new banners, new product pictures or whatever you need. Giving yourself a lot of time before the day itself means you can spend more time on ensuring there’s enough stock for the projected sales. That you are spreading the word about your awesome promotion and answering any questions that may come up. It also gives you time to adjust the promotion if you need to compensate for a competitor or lack of stock, etc. Plan ahead and make tomorrow that much easier.
Improve/Expand/Discount Your Shipping Offering:
Shoppers are more savvy, more demanding and more discriminating than ever. Your shipping costs, times and courier choices are the final encouragement to getting a customer’s checkout over the line. If your shipping methods take too long, cost too much or are provided by couriers with bad reputations then you’re conversions are sure to fall short.
Fortunately, there are a lot of companies out there who can and will do deals with you depending upon how much you regularly ship out. It could well be worth giving them a call and doing a deal. If it saves your customer £1.00 on delivery costs how much will that increase your conversion rate from cart to checkout? If it gets to your customer 1 day quicker how much will that increase your conversion rate from cart to checkout?
“It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It”
Or At Least Show It...
Display Icons That Show Your Site Is Trustworthy:
Some Icons are a given such as a Visa or MasterCard logo or an ABTA logo on travel sites. They inherently imply to customers that your site is safe to use and reassures them that you are in fact a legitimate merchant.
Again, look at what your competitors are doing. Is there a relevant association, club or agency that you can join to enhance your offering? If so, then work out if the Return on Investment is positive and get that logo up ASAP.
As we’ve mentioned before having pictures of people who are obviously from a stock website is a big no-no. If you can, use genuine pictures of genuine customers. Even better, link to their Insta or Twitter account (if they’re happy for you to do so!). Show you’re a real merchant dealing with real people.
Utilise User-Generated Content:
Do you get tagged on Insta or Twitter or Facebook by customers? If yes, then use it. Integrate a feed into your website under Customer Testimonials or Reviews page or better yet on a product page. If not, then start asking. It never hurts to reach out to happy customers and ask for a review. Either way, check with your customers if they’re happy for you to use it.
Showcase Your Top Selling Items:
Look at your shop analytics and see which of your items are selling best, if they have a good margin on them then even better. Promote these ones as Featured products and put them on your homepage above the fold. Push them out on social media and sell the benefits to the customer.
Create A Sense Of Scarcity or Urgency:
FOMO or Fear of Missing Out is a very real thing. For better or worse. People don’t like to miss out on a deal or the latest ‘hot thing’. An easy way around this is to use “Limited Edition” or “Only x Left”. Encourage people to add the product to their basket and checkout before they’re too late.
Urgency is another method. We’ve all seen the unavoidable count-down timer. The difference between a well-thought out gift and a Lynx Gift set or socks. “Order in the next xx hours to receive your item before Christmas” or some such variation is a cliche but it certainly is effective.
Focus On Product Benefits, Not Features:
Nike, ASOS and Apple are experts at selling benefits rather than features. It’s not about a product, it’s about how that product is going to improve your life, how it will enable you to run x times faster, impress your colleagues at the next work party or reduce time spent on mundane tasks.
“The More Advocates You Have, The Fewer Ads You Have To Buy…”
Use Email Marketing:
If you’re not emailing your registered customers then you are missing a big trick. If you have the consent to contact them via email then even a quarterly update could help increase conversions and bring customers back to your shop to check out your latest products.
Using Mailchimp, Hubspot, Zoho or similar makes life a little easier to manage. Each have free plans for smaller lists that will save you a lot of time, effort and frustration. Spend time crafting the best email Subject line you can and keep the email copy clear and to the point with 1 great call to action.
Re-engage Previous Customers:
As well as emailing previous customers about new items in stock or upcoming promos you could always reach out in other ways. Hubspot has 17 tricks to re-engage old customers, albeit more B2B than B2C but, they’re a great place to start. We especially like the handwritten note, a novelty in the Social Media age.
Keep Customers In The Know; Shipping, Sales, After Care, Warranties, Promos:
Keeping customers informed at each stage of their purchase is part and parcel of a great Customer Experience (also known as CX). Think about how you would like to be kept in the know if you were a customer, then act on it. This can be time consuming at each stage but is a really valuable ‘self-audit’ of your business and it’s processes. Stop being too transactional and start becoming relational.
Look at everything from the point of purchase to shipping information, after care of items and check backs, requesting reviews to help improve your CX and products with follow-ups, to mailers on future promos and sales that may be of interest to them. Building a long-term relationship with customers cements you as a brand into their mind. It builds trust. It builds loyalty. Ultimately, it builds repeat customers.
Reduce And Save Abandoned Carts:
With an average abandoned cart rate of nearly 70% can you really afford not to have an abandoned cart process in place? That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be optimising your cart to ensure the best checkout process possible. However, if you’re not sending a follow-up email to a customer if they abandon their order then you are missing a trick.
Even a simple email sent up to 24 hours later with an “Oops, you left xx in the basket” is enough to nudge some customers to come back to complete their transaction. For others the process may take longer or be a lost cause entirely. But, if you don’t ask then you don’t get. So start asking...
Reward Loyal Customers:
Customers who come back to your shop, for whatever reason, are your greatest marketing avenue. The word of mouth referrals they can generate on top of the repeat sales they’re giving you is not something to be taken for granted. Utilise some type of reward for these repeat and/or loyal customers to ensure they continue buying from you.
Ken Blanchard’s Raving Fans book explains how to turn customers into Raving Fans of your brand. Written in an admittedly Americanised way the salient points are a great starting point to building a loyal following worthy of Apple Inc.
Ask Customers What They Want From You
Further to rewarding customers, building a rapport with them and actually asking them about their experience and expectations brings the Customer Experience and buy-in to the next level. If a brand you love reached out to you specifically and asked how they could improve and then actioned your comments how would you feel?
Outside of the buying experience, you could ask your customers or followers what they want from you content-wise. This is two-pronged; firstly you learn what your followers would like to see more of, which helps you build a content strategy going forward. Secondly your followers feel valued and heard, both of which are both great for building customer loyalty. This may work really well for some businesses and not so great for others, if you’re struggling to get responses back then think about offering a voucher or discount code in exchange for completing a quick survey.
“Dripping Water Hollows Out Stone...Through Persistence.”
Accept Different Payment Options
We all know the phrase about putting all of your eggs in one basket and yet when it comes down to it we still do it. Allowing customers to your shop different payment options is important not only to reduce cart abandonment (average of 6% uplift) but also is a great contingency plan. What if, on the run up to Christmas your primary payment provider goes down. That means lost sales, annoyed customers, more support calls and chats plus any reputational impact.
And of course, if a customer is able to choose a payment method that they can simply login to (PayPal, AmazonPay, etc.) then they’re likely to have a quicker checkout experience; all with the added benefit of not entering a bunch of personal information.
Optimise Your Product Pages
Optimising your product page can be anything from improving the product description, improving product imagery to optimising the SEO aspects e.g. titles, meta descriptions, keywords, etc.
Remember that if you don’t have a brick and mortar shop then your product page needs to inform the customer of the benefits and ultimately to get the customer to add the item to their cart.
Use Video Demonstrations
Video is the new hotness and it’s unlikely that it’s going to diminish anytime soon. Investing in video for your products aids everything else on your product page and can be as simple or as complicated as you (or your budget) can manage.
Alternatively, you could add a video review that an influencer or customer has done for you. Utilise any relevant source material that helps you sell the product to your customer. Make the video clear, concise and all about the benefits. This blog from Vimeo about Creating Killer Product Videos is a great place to start.
Add Live Chat/Support Lines
“A study from ATG into Global Consumer Trends found that 90% of customers said the “Live Chat” button gives them confidence” - SuperOffice
Any effort to inspire confidence in your brand and offering is a boon to any serious ecommerce owner. Live chat is a super simple way to do just that. And, it doesn’t need to cost that much, if anything. With Facebook Chat and 3rd party apps like SmartsUpp in the mix, you can add some code to your site and be good to go in a matter of minutes.
Ask For Reviews
Not only can Reviews increase loyalty from existing customers, it can also act as a method to inspire trust in your brand and therefore your online shop. On top of that it has benefits (when correctly setup) to your shop’s SEO as well. That’s a win-win-win all around.
ECN has a great article on the wider benefits and some interesting stats on their Benefits of Reviews in eCommerce post.
Implement Cross Sell And Upsells
You’re standing in a line waiting to pay for your awesome new top, new headphones or maybe just your lunch. Around you are low cost items like hair bands, batteries or chocolate bars. These up-sells are there for the impulse buyer. In essence, the shop owner is hinting that the chocolate bar in front of you would go really nice with that sandwich in your hand. Nudge nudge.
You can do the same with your online shop. Adding related items on product pages and upsell products at checkout gives an opportunity to increase the average spend without too much effort. Just ensure that the items you add are in fact related or compliment the item being purchased.
“…If You Really Look Closely, Most Overnight Successes Took A Long Time.”
Focus On Your Value Proposition
It’s a horrendous cliche but what are you offering that sets you apart from your competitors? The go-to response is better service, more personalised service or some such. But it pays to look deeper. Is your product offering better, are the benefits wider, is your shipping quicker, do you have more useful content?
If you can add value to your potential customers in some way then they’re more likely to convert over to you than your competitor. Of course, you then need to tell people why and how you’re different, ideally in a way that’s not disparaging your competitor.
Build Brand Awareness
Building a brand for your business is a big step and a lot of work, it takes time, planning and a fair amount of luck. Companies like Gymshark, Chubbies and Chilly’s Bottles amongst others are the new breed of brands who are building an engaged, eager and energetic customer base.
The success factors behind building a great brand are deep audience research and pushing quality content when and where it’s needed most. Definitely a long-term goal rather than a quick win here.
Embrace Omnichannel Selling
Logically omni-channel selling i.e. selling products in different places and on different platforms makes a lot of sense. You reach a different audience and in the case of marketplaces don’t have to pay for extra marketing on top of their fees or subscription. An ideal customer-centric approach to allow new and existing customers to check out your products when and where they want to.
In practice, omnichannel selling can be time consuming and if you’re not careful quite expensive. There are a multitude of 3rd party apps, SaaS products and integrations that will help the process but it’s definitely worth investigating if you’ll see a good Return on Investment before jumping on the latest marketplace bandwagon for the sake of it.
Veeqo has a brilliant article about Omnichannel selling which is definitely worth the read.
Start A Content Marketing Program
Content has been and will continue to be King. Whether this is Instagram posts, YouTube videos, blogs, news articles, podcasts, books or smoke signals. If you’re targeted and strategic in building and distributing your content to your (well-researched) audience then organic growth is yours for the taking.
A Hubspot survey suggested that brands should aim for 11+ blogs per month for the best return on investment. That’s a high target for sure but even if you’re blogging once a month with the target to grow that to 11+ then you’re on the right track. Just remember a content marketing strategy is a mid- to long-term target for growth. Put in the time and produce quality content and the impressions, clicks, and views will come.
Take A Local Approach
Even if you’re selling purely online, taking a local approach can be beneficial. This could be as simple as putting up a Google My Business profile with a local address or could include taking out an advert in a local paper.
If you want to take it up a gear then how about selling your products at a local weekend market or school fair. Local networking meetings can also be a good source of contacts and potential word of mouth sales. Expanding outside of the conventional realms of ‘ecommerce’ can be risky but can also lead to some all important sales and brand awareness.
Embrace & Track Search Engine Optimisation
SEO is a central part of doing anything online, if you want to be found that is! Embracing this at least to some degree is a valuable use of time that may save you not only a fair chunk of change but also some missteps in the future.
There are, for better or worse, hundreds if not thousands of resources about SEO and how to improve it; most of which are less than useful. But, some of them are worth their weight in gold.
A few resources we highly recommend are Ahrefs' YouTube Channel, Search Engine Land and of course the famous Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz and general SEO guru.
“To Do Two Things At Once Is To Do Neither.”
Always Be Testing -
Social Media Copy, etc.
In Marketing circles, the phrase Always Be Testing is inherently drummed in to everything we do or plan. The reasoning is that we can always do something slightly better next time, the whole ‘marginal gains’ theory.
Does changing the ‘Add to basket’ button colour from red to green actually increase conversion? Surprisingly, sometimes it does. That comes down more to the choice of the colour palette of your site and the button visibility as a whole rather than the colour of the button itself. However, it’s something else that can be changed and tested to eke out an extra percentage point towards conversion. Similarly, changing the page copy or any copy (product description, headline, etc.) can be used to improve conversion by making it speak to your audience.
The reasoning behind any changes you make should be either based on solid data, audience research, buyer personas or strong educated guesses. Each change should be made in isolation and should include a control i.e. some customers see the change whilst others see the original. Then using the data from both the ‘winner’ should be implemented across the board.
A/B testing can be as little or vast as you want it to be. It should also come with a caveat, not everything can be solved by changing button colours. Some things can only be effected by a wider marketing strategy.
Set SMART KPIs
Key Performance Indicators are quantifiable goals used to check how your business is performing. As the saying goes: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” KPIs for eCommerce stores could be:
Sales, Profit Margin, Average Order Values,
Unique Visits, Click-through Rates, Time On Site, Bounce Rates, Conversion Rates, Abandoned Cart Percentages,
Returning Vs New Customers, etc.
Setting, and tracking, KPIs is useful as long as you can pull some actionable insights from them and then use them to plan for the next test or update. Carve some time out of your week to set some S.M.A.R.T. KPIs and start tracking them early to build a good set of data.
Use Good Data & Review it Often
Garbage In, Garbage Out is a central tenet of all things IT. Namely, if you’re putting rubbish data or code into a system then it’s likely that you’re going to rubbish data or results out again. Using good data that has been collected for a representative period of time from a suitable source is absolutely key to testing any hypothesis you may have to improve your online shop. Of course, you could blindly make changes but can you guarantee that it improved your metrics? Probably not.
Data, however, can be overwhelming. Due to the systems we use a lot of data is collected without us even thinking about it. So, again, take some time to narrow down what you want to concentrate on for the next week, fortnight, month, year. That focus will allow you to disregard other data that isn’t currently contributing toward your goals and targets. Set a schedule (and a calendar reminder if needed) to review the data regularly. Look at ‘if’ and - if possible - ‘why’ it’s improved or worsened.
Keep, Adjust, Or Roll-Back Changes
Once you’ve tested your hypothesis to improve your SMART KPI, collected and reviewed the data you can then decide on next steps. Whether to roll the change out to everyone, adjust it and try again, or completely roll-back to how it was before. There’s no harm in any of the options. Sometimes a test just doesn’t work. That’s not to say it never will and it may be worth adding it to a “try again later” list and moving on to something else.
eCommerce as with any business is all about the grind to keep improving step by step or if you’re lucky leap by leap. The excitement of hitting or exceeding your KPIs for a period, or successfully rolling out a new feature or just receiving great customer reviews about your products feels great.
This list could easily have been 50 or 100 tactics to improve sales. But using some or all of these tactics will go someway to helping you on your journey to bring in more customers and hopefully more money. Use these a spring-board for the next idea, the next improvement and the next marketing plan.
Over to you.