At some point after your launch, this question will come round; how can I get more sales from my online shop? For better or worse, there is no definitive answer. A quick Google search will provide a wide range of ideas, suggestions, top 7 and top 10 ‘Must read’ checklists. All of which will take longer to read through than implementing their suggestions. So we’ve collated the main points for you.
Here’s a compiled list of ways to improve the chances of bringing in more sales from your online shop:
Today’s shoppers are a much more savvy, security conscious and discerning bunch. They want to see your brand reflected in the design, layout, security and product choice of your website. If it looks like it was designed in the 90’s and not updated since then you can count on them going elsewhere.
We’ve established that the site needs to be aesthetically pleasing; no-one wants to see garish high contrast colours or flashing banners everywhere they look. Nor do they want to see lots of pop-ups and in-your-face calls to action. Moderating your design and ensuring that it truly reflects you, your business and the values you stand for is going to work wonders for decreasing your bounce rate.
Font choice is also going to be a factor. We all know that one person with terrible handwriting. The same can be said for websites. With such a vast array of font styles (over 800 in Google Fonts alone) there are always going to be some questionable choices. Restricting font styles and colours to something that’s legible will ease the visitors flow toward the checkout. So please no white fonts on yellow backgrounds or navy blue fonts on black backgrounds.
Always have a friend check it for you and see if they can read it without struggling. Also bear in mind the case you are using for sentences. Camel-case (capitalising every word) is fine for blog posts but is unnecessary for body text. Similarly, all caps for body text is hard on the eyes and difficult to read. Sentence case is the best way forward and allows visitors to skim read or read in depth as they prefer.
A sure fire way to lose visitors is to be too subtle about what it is that you actually do. Hopefully your business name and logo give some clarity but your website content should too. Navigation menus can provide that information to a visitor quickly and efficiently. For more on Navigation Menus check out our Help document.
In the meantime, the example below is a good example of a clear and concise navigation menu from English Accent.
If you’re selling clothes you could add a navigation menu for ‘Dresses’ or ‘Formal Suits’. Alternatively, using brand names can provide a quick sense of familiarity and subconsciously persuade potential customers to keep browsing.
Adding product images in to your header or as a ‘hero’ image is also beneficial. Make sure that these are above ‘the fold’ of your site, this will ensure you’re keeping the right people. Heat mapping products like HotJar and Crazy Egg will help you visualise the ‘fold’ or the key content area of your site. For more information on the Fold check out this article from Optimizely which has some great points.
Chrome browsers are now openly (and clearly) telling their users when a site is Not Secure. This means that having an SSL certificate is an absolute must. Online shoppers in the main are more aware of the risks of credit card fraud and risks of using insecure sites. With good SSL certificates starting from £8 for the year it’s a worthwhile addition.
Product Descriptions & Imagery
Being unable to physically feel a product means that your product descriptions need to be that much more convincing. Using exciting and persuasive language to inform potential customers about a product will do wonders for your conversion rates. A huge point here is not to just copy a manufacturer’s product description. Not only does this work against your site in respect of SEO, it also leaves out any sense of personality. People want to buy from people regardless of whether they’re online or in a brick and mortar shop. Adding your own twist to a description allows them to get a real sense of the people behind your brand.
Couple this with great product imagery. Pictures that are well lit and on a consistent, clean looking background will help your customer to click that ‘Add to Basket’ button. If you can add in some images from real customers then all the better. There’s nothing more enticing than seeing someone else wearing or using the product they’re looking to purchase. This easy social proof goes a long way and is used widely in the eCommerce industry.
This sounds super obvious but if your prices are too high then people won’t buy. It rhymes, therefore it must be true! But in the same way, if your prices are too low then people will become suspicious and unwilling to risk a purchase. Getting your product pricing right takes some time and a lot of research. Check out what your competitors are selling similar products at and you’ll be able to see the going rate. If you can undercut them and still make a margin then that’s a bonus. If not, then adding value in other ways, like cheaper or free shipping or an easier returns policy will set you apart. Remember either way to tell your customers why your different and why they should buy from you rather than your competition.
Everyone has their own preference of payment. That may be via Paypal, credit card, by finance for larger purchases or even cash on delivery or bank transfer. Clearly providing the various payment options you provide covers these scenarios. If you are unable to accept cash on delivery then make sure that you justify this, even if the answer is just in your FAQ section.
There have been many studies on the increased need for instant gratification amongst the wider millennial population. This is something that online shopping struggles to provide due to its very nature. However, since around 2014 more people have switched on to the idea of delayed or deferred gratification. Shopping online, contrary to some opinions, does give instant gratification, just in a smaller initial dose when purchasing. The deferred gratification comes when the product arrives. That’s a double whammy of good feels.
To aid in this you need to set clear expectations about delivery. If you know that your shipping company takes 3 days on a standard delivery then tell the customer that. If free shipping takes longer then let them know. If you have a set time when next day delivery finishes then add in a ticking clock. Honesty, transparency and clear communication for any online purchase really does go a long way to building customer confidence.
Sometimes, and normally through no fault, customers want to return a product. Not only is this right enshrined in law under the Distance Selling Regulation it’s also good business sense to offer this. A smooth return and refund following a purchase may mean that the customer comes back to you again in the future. Similarly, if a return turns sour for whatever reason, your purchaser is more than likely to tell all of their friends, family, and social media followers about their bad experience with you and your company.
Outlining your returns policy and process, again clearly and honestly assuages any worry on the customer’s part in case they do need to send it back. If a product has a guarantee from you or the manufacturer then definitely add this in to the product description. Otherwise, your returns policy can be an easily accessible but separate page on your site.
It should go without saying but always try and stick to your own policy. If for any reason you need to deviate from it then just let the customer know and if possible the reason. They’ll appreciate the communication and will likely understand. Managing expectations when things go wrong is just as important as setting expectations when things go right.
In order to be found in the first place people have to know you’re there. The internet is a vast web of websites all trying to nudge their way in front of their target audience. So to bring people in you’ll need to utilise any and all channels to raise awareness of your shop. There are a variety of marketing techniques, tips and hints, not all of these will work for you and not all of them should. If your product is within a small niche then you need to make the most of that. If you are targeting a wider audience then spread your wings wider.
The key to effective marketing is knowing your customer (KYC). Building an outline of your ideal customers is a good starting point to KYC. Open a notebook or a spreadsheet and map out their potential interests, social media usage, websites visited, magazines they read, shows or festivals they attend. Narrow them down in to 2, 3 or 4 different people (personas) and build those out individually. This exercise can be quite lengthy but it really is a very useful one. It allows you to personalise each persona and market to them on an individual basis. We would all love to be able to market our product to everyone in the world but it’s just to diverse and vast of an audience. Niching down into specific ideal customers will help give your marketing plan direction and purpose. This lengthy but worthwhile read from Buffer App goes into much greater detail on building out personas.
As we mentioned above, the internet is vast. There are so many different people and companies trying to appeal to their audience that it’s very easy to get lost in the press. A great way to counter this is to be as many places as you possibly can be. Getting a Facebook page and Shop setup, a Google Shopping feed to show up in search results or an Amazon account will allow you access to a wider audience relatively easily. Some considerations that you will need to be aware of include keeping an eye on your stock levels; there’s nothing worse than paying for a customer to come to your site and finding out you have no stock to send them. Marketplace commission rates and fees vary but you will need to factor these in to your profit and loss calculations. Also, unless you have a Shopping Feed setup or some Multi-channel software working then you’ll need to ensure your product details including prices, keywords and descriptions are up to date.
This should go without saying but we’ll say it louder for those in the back. SEO matters! Spend some time looking into search engine optimisation. In most cases it likely won’t have an immediate impact on visits or sales but mid- to long-term it certainly will.
Time invested in getting your meta-tags, keywords, unique content and some good backlinks to your online shop will be time well spent. There are some great paid-for tools out there that can help with this including AhRefs, SEMRush, SEOQuake, etc. In addition to a wealth of resources on how to improve your SEO. Look initially for quick wins such as keyword targeting and unique product descriptions, then head into more detail afterwards. This YouTube channel from AhRefs has some great SEO Hacks that will definitely be helpful.
Peter Drucker stated that “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”. If you’re not checking out your Google Analytics and/or your eCommerce platforms analytics then how do you know if you’re improving? Keeping on top of and understanding the various reports available to you is absolutely crucial in working out if what you’re doing is actually having an effect.
Testing out different different designs on your online shop is an integral part of eCommerce. You need to not only keep your shop fresh and up-to-date but also strive to improve the customer’s experience whilst shopping. Even small amendments such as changing the button colours on your call to action can have an effect. Similarly, moving your featured product panel or changing your header can increase or decrease your conversion rates. At every stage you will need to note any variations after each small change.
It’s also worth split testing your changes, also known as A/B Testing. This is where a percentage of your site visitors see a different version of your page. For example, 50% may see the current version whilst the other 50% may see a different hero image or different body copy. After a 2-3 week period you will need to use the data collected from your analytics to see which has been the most effective for you.
Mark Twain said that “there’s no such thing as originality, just authenticity” and this could not be a truer sentiment considering the internet’s love of content. Every business worth their salt is blogging about their products, industry, or within their sphere of knowledge. So many people are aiming to become a ‘thought leader’ or influencer in their specific niche. This aspiration to write content, regardless of its usefulness, is for better or worse another necessary part of being noticed online.
The chances of writing something on your blog, and then being featured on the first page of search engines is regrettably slim. But that’s not to say that it isn’t worthwhile. Having up-to-date, relevant and useful content on your site, that relates to your target audience lends authenticity to your business. It shows your customers that you do in fact care about them and the products or services that you’re offering. It also, hopefully, adds value to whatever it is you are selling. That’s not even accounting for the SEO benefits of putting out the coveted unique content which Google and alike crave so much.
As with anything on the internet now, quantity is good but quality is better. If you’re writing mere filler of 300 words and calling it a blog then you’re doing yourself and your business a disservice. However, writing about what you know, to specific keywords, in a well thought-out, structured and enticing way is only ever going to help.
Of course not everyone is a writer. It takes time, patience and research as well as a bit of luck. If you don’t have 2 of those 4 then you can outsource this to a freelance copywriter. Fortunately, these are a dime a dozen. Be sure that whomever you hire is worth the investment. Ensure that they know about your specific niche and ask for either previous blogs or ask them to provide an excerpt on a topic you think your audience would like. It’s also a good idea to provide them with keywords you would like to target and anything specific that you would like included, for example an upcoming promotion or new product. The more information you can provide to them about you, your brand, your desired outcome and your company’s tone of voice will help them make better content for you.
We mentioned earlier the need to know your customers. This research, hopefully told you where your customers are on the social media front as well. Which means that you also need to be there. Whether this is setting up a Facebook page (and shop) or setting up an Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn account. It’s an avenue where you can push your blog content, new promotions, new products and services and relevant information that will help your customers.
There are various schools of thought on what you should post about. The majority of these suggest mixing your content/self promotion in with content that will be of interest to your target audience. No-one likes people who talk solely about themselves – we’re aware of the irony of that when talking about social media.
If you have multiple accounts tools such as Zoho Social, Buffer or HootSuite are a blessing. They allow you to post to and monitor multiple accounts meaning less time faffing around on each medium individually. Also, you can schedule posts ahead of time. So if you know you have a couple of hours free on a Monday afternoon then use this time to set up posts for the week ahead. Then during the week you can monitor and reply to any interactions.
As we’ve mentioned throughout this post, modern customers are more savvy than ever. And as 20% of customers check a brand’s social media before purchasing it’s worth remaining authentic. So, don’t buy followers from shady spam accounts or repost someone else’s content with crediting. Also, don’t use your personal account as your business account, it’s super quick now to setup a new account. And let’s be honest, your customers are unlikely to care about your cousin’s holiday to Greece or the meme that made you laugh whilst eating breakfast yesterday.
Pay-per-click is another necessary evil. It can cost a fortune if you jump in with both feet without doing your research. Yep, more research. But if you’re careful and targeted, the return on investment can be the difference between making a profit this month or giving it up entirely due to low traffic.
Taking the time to make good ad copy, checking the cost per click on keywords you want to target and continually checking the results will pay dividends. Adjust each aspect individually and leave it for 3 weeks then check the results. If it worked, great! If not, adjust a different part and set it running for another 3 weeks. Give each adjustment time to have an effect on your site’s traffic then adjust as needed and keep one eye on your Return on Advertising Spend figures.
For Google specific advertising check out their support page and Academy courses. They’re free and definitely worth the time investment to help improve the returns on your investment.
Giveaways & Competitions
Giveaways and competitions may not be suitable for every business. However, if you’re creative then these can have a really good impact. The end result of course will vary depending on your competition but could be an increase in your social media followers, an increased click through rate to your site or more sales.
The more innovative and encompassing the giveaway or competition the better. Appeal to your target audience and go where they are to promote it. This is another marketing campaign that will only give back what you put in. It’s a time investment as much as a monetary one so make it worthy of both.
Influencers & Affiliates
We can’t talk about social media with mentioning Influencers and Affiliates. These modern day brand advocates can be extremely useful to help grow brand awareness for you and provide potential leads and site traffic. As with anything though you need to do your research (do we sound like a broken record yet?). Public service announcement: Not every influencer is genuine. As with ‘real life’ there are some scammers out there who will over-promise and under-deliver or straight up take your money for no returns. Yes, an influencer campaign is risky but the potential rewards are great.
Working with influencers is a likely a new concept to most of us and comes with its own issues. Luckily there are a lot of agencies who can help with this if you have the money to outsource it. If not, then this blog from influencer Lucy Moon gives a peek behind the curtain from an influencer point of view.
Another point worth mentioning is not to discount so called ‘micro-influencers’, these people have a smaller following but may have a higher engagement rate. And that’s what we’re ultimately looking for here. Engagement from their audience is critical. It suggests a higher level of interest, trust and (here’s that word again) authenticity. If an influencer agrees to promote your product or service their audience are more likely to click through and check it out if they’re more engaged. Do remember as well that simply offering a free product or ‘exposure’ is not sufficient payment for the majority of influencers.
Affiliates are similarly a new concept for most and is again afflicted by occasional scammers. As affiliates are an ongoing investment of time and money it’s highly suggested that you use a specific affiliate tracking system such as Tapfiliate or OmniStar. This allows you to keep an eye on the affiliate’s successes and means any payout calculations are streamlined. This ultimately saves you time, money and a lot of hassle.
So we’ve covered some paid-for marketing ideas, how about a free one? This idea is being favoured by an increasing amount of entrepreneurs; Complementary networks. With the growth of independent retailers, both online and off, it’s becoming much easier to join or start one. The idea is that a group of businesses who sell products (or services) that complement each other then cross-promote their network to their own customers. So a bridal shop may cross-promote a local hairdresser or makeup artist for example. Or an antique furniture seller may cross-promote a local artist. Obviously this type of cross-promotion has been occurring for generations but is now being formalised.
These networks depend only on your own ability to get out there and talk to your neighbours or local businesses. Find people in your area who are selling complementary products and services and offer to buy them a coffee to talk about it. It’s unlikely that you’ll have many people say no to this.
You can then easily setup a local Slack group, Facebook group or basic forum to keep the information flowing between members of the network. Letting your neighbours know about any promotions that you’re running or local events that may come up.
If you’re business is currently Online only, another idea to raise some brand awareness is by selling In Real Life. This one is pretty self-explanatory. Attending and setting up a stall at a local market, industry event or festival is a quick way to get your name out there. The foot traffic may not be huge for more niche or local events but it puts you on the map and your name in people’s heads. As we’ve mentioned before, people buy from people and what better way than to actually get out there and meet said people. The costs of this one depend entirely on where, when and what you’re selling. And, of course it does take some time and effort to get everything ready. But for the sake of a weekend out of each month, the increased likelihood of sales may well be the boost your business needs.
Local councils generally advertise markets and events on their websites and other resources such as MeetUp or VisitEngland can help too. Why not send it out to your complementary network and spread the cost?
Over To You
Ultimately, these marketing tips and techniques all require some investment from you, whether that’s time, money or effort. They will only be as successful as you make them and no-one ever said it was going to be easy. Running a business and making it profitable is difficult but the outcome once your doing it is totally worth it.
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