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Now more than ever before, entrepreneurs and small business owners are realizing the power of e-commerce compared to traditional brick-and-mortar stores. With a web-based business, your virtual doors are open to the whole world, and your customer doesn’t even need to leave his or her house.
However, e-commerce has a few disadvantages, as well. For example, the fact that you are not simply competing with the store across the street – you’re competing with a whole universe of stores that are all available at the click of a button.
When it comes to learning how to sell online, keep in mind the following tactics that have proven effective for online stores.
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Launch Google Shopping ads
When it comes to online advertising, there are lots of options to choose from; but I’ve seen one type of advertising drive e-commerce revenue more effectively than any other across dozens of e-commerce stores: Google Shopping Ads.
Google Shopping Ads are part of the Google Ads service. Google Shopping ads function as a shopping platform within the Google search engine, showing images, prices and reviews rather than a block of text.
In the example above, you can see that the ads above are more visual, engaging and easier to navigate than text-based Google Ads. And as you might guess, data shows that they’re more effective than text or image ads—the Digital Marketing Report from Merkle found that Google Shopping Ads achieve a 30 percent higher conversion rate on desktops and 21 percent higher conversion rate on mobile than text ads.
Here are two tips to maximize the effectiveness of your Google Shopping ads campaign:
- Get your product feed right: With Shopping Ads, your ads are automatically created and targeted based on your product feed. Be sure you’re using highly specific product names and descriptions, and that you’ve got as much accurate product data as possible in your feed.
- Block irrelevant searches: Google Shopping will automatically match your products to users’ searches, but you still have some control. Monitor your search terms report carefully and use negative keywords to block any you don’t think are relevant.
Don’t force users to create an account
You want to deliver a seamless user experience that is so simple, your customers can’t help but hit the “confirm purchase” button. If you’re currently asking users to create an account prior to making a purchase, you may want to reconsider.
A study from Baymard Institute found that 31 percent of users abandon their cart during the checkout process because they don’t want to go through the process of creating an account.
Weigh the value of why you want customers to create an account versus potentially improving sales by eliminating the process entirely. One great way to handle this is to offer users the option to checkout as a guest or create an account.
Reduce your shipping costs and prices
We’ve all been at the point where we’re ready to check out with our online purchase, until we see the cost of our order plus taxes, shipping and other fees. Suddenly, the order doesn’t look like such a great deal.
A study from Baymard Institute found that 53 percent of abandonments during the checkout stage are due to high costs such with shipping, taxes and other fees. And it’s only getting worse, because consumers increasingly expect free shipping thanks to the popularity of services such as Amazon Prime.
How to lower your shipping prices
- If you can lower your company’s shipping cost, then you should be able to offer lower shipping fees or none at all to customers. Shipping companies commonly base their pricing schedules on volume, but there’s room for negotiation. If you can showcase that your volume is steadily growing, that gives you more leverage when negotiating.
- You can also consider offering reduced or free shipping and bank on your conversion rate rising and ultimately increasing profits. Red Door did an A/B test for NuFACE that showed “when customers were given the free shipping incentive, orders increased by 90 percent with a 96 percent confidence level. In addition to this, the company’s Average Order Value (AOV) also rose by 7.32 percent.” Results will vary depending on your products and audience, but this is a proven tactic that works very well in many cases.
Help shoppers experience your product digitally
For all the pros of online shopping, namely convenience and more options, there is a downside. One of the biggest hurdles for online shoppers is not being able to see, touch and try on products they’re interested in.
A study done by ReliaSite found that two top frustrations include being unsure about product quality and getting the proper size. To combat this, you want to help users digitally experience your product as if they had it right there in their hands.
A few ways to do this include:
- Detailed product photos: Ensure that users can actually see the product, and from multiple angles. Clear, professional photos covering the product at different angles will help bring the online shopping experience to life.
- Photo zoom: Allow customers to zoom in to examine the product, which will help them get a good feel for the quality of the product you’re offering.
- Videos: There is nothing more lifelike than a video. This gives the user a chance to see the product in motion. Videos could include product testing, testimonials and story-based commercials.
- 3D viewers: Put the control in the user’s hands by allowing them to view your product in a 3D viewing experience.
- Sizing charts: You want users to easily be able to identify what sizes you offer, including measurements that correlate to your sizes.
If you’re running an e-commerce business, I’d say SEO is probably the single most important tactic for you to implement.
We analyzed traffic data on the top 100 e-commerce sites and found that, outside of direct traffic, organic search was by far the most effective way to drive traffic. Organic search is responsible for 40 percent of traffic, while referrals, social media and display combined for only 11 percent.
Here are a few SEO tactics that I’ve found consistently boost performance for e-commerce websites:
- Carefully plan and optimize your category pages to target your most important keywords. Many e-commerce websites focus on their product pages only, forgetting that their category pages are the best match for many higher volume searches.
- Create content around “how to” keywords. People always turn to Google for info on how to do something. Research keywords where popular queries present an easy tie-in to your product.
- Make every one of your webpages HTTPS. Google gives a small ranking boost for this, plus there’s the obvious benefits of communicating to your customers that your website is secure.
- Optimizing your images is an excellent way to increase e-commerce sales. Many shoppers use Google Image Search for visual online shopping. To optimize your images, include your target keywords in the filename, alt tag and text around the image.
- Highlight any discounts and notable brands in your page title to get more people to click to your website. For example, “35 Percent Off New Balance Shoes” is likely to attract more users than “Shop for Shoes.”
- Publish long-form content on your website. Long-form content can benefit SEO efforts in many ways, including building an audience, boosting shares on social media, and a higher domain authority, all resulting in better rankings and more search traffic.
Remove fields from your checkout process
Going back to the idea that you want to make things as easy and seamless as possible for users at checkout, it’s wise to keep the number of form fields as low as possible. I like to take an “only if needed” approach—any fields we don’t need get removed. The previously mentioned study from Baymard Institute found that 23 percent of shoppers abandon carts during the checkout stage due to finding the checkout process too long or complicated.
The study also looked at how many form elements are displayed to users during the checkout process. After conducting a large-scale checkout usability test, the study concluded the ideal checkout flow can be as short as 12 to 14 form elements.
Rearrange your pricing
Sometimes the smallest changes make the biggest difference. Typically, e-commerce websites list their prices from lowest to highest. Well, it might be worth doing a small test to see if rearranging them will improve your conversion rate. NBA team the Portland Trailblazers reconfigured their pricing scheme so the lowest ticket price was closest to the call-to-action button, while the highest price was listed first. This led to a 51 percent increase in revenue-per-visitor for the franchise.
Don’t forget email marketing
Search engines may be the most effective way to draw customers’ attention, but email marketing is the most effective way to keep them coming back.
Here are a few types of emails I’ve found especially effective for e-commerce websites:
- Promos and coupons. Sending our special offers and limited-time coupon codes are a great way to drive sales. The key is to send out coupon codes that trigger people to buy something from you they wouldn’t have otherwise—if they were planning to buy it from you anyway, then you’ve just lost out on money by offering an extra discount.
- Cart abandonment emails. This can be a great way to snatch sales back from the brink of failure. If a customer adds a product to his or her cart but doesn’t complete the purchase, send them an email reminder, and consider following up with a coupon code.
- Newsletters. While regular newsletters can drive sales directly, what they’re really good at is building a relationship with your customers. Keep your brand front of mind and offer your customers useful tips and content.
Offer help via live chat
In the e-commerce world, you have a small window to convert a potential lead into a customer. If you don’t give them what they want, they’ll click to another site to find it. That’s why it’s important to have customer service available to users at the tip of their fingers.
When it comes to the type of customer service that customers prefer, chat is the leader: live chat has the highest satisfaction levels for any customer service channel with 73 percent. Email is the runner up at 61 percent.
Of those who prefer live chat, 79 percent cite getting their questions answered immediately as the reason why they like it.
Use scarcity to trigger action
“There are only two tickets left at this price.”
Using scarcity skillfully on your platform can create urgency for customers, while boosting your revenue. Award-winning entrepreneur Marcus Taylor says that he increased sales by 332 percent by creating “a sense of urgency.”
There are two main ways to create scarcity:
- You can communicate that your products are limited in stock. This tactic is used in many industries, but one way you’ve probably seen it used is for travel reservations.
- Another other way is to put a time limit on your offer. A countdown ticker or fixed time on your product communicating that your discount is available for a limited time only would suffice.
There are a few common themes that you may notice from the above list of tactics. In order to capture more e-commerce sales, create a seamless and easy user experience with as few obstacles as possible. Offer a digital experience that feels no different than shopping in a physical store, or better yet, create an improved experience over in-store shopping!
Get creative, keeping added fees and shipping prices as low as possible. Test different ideas and see what works. Keep your promotion efforts centered around the tactics that you find work best, and you’ll see your e-commerce store thrive.