As a growing number of countries and states issue shelter-in-place orders to slow the spread of COVID-19, the in-store shopping experience has temporarily become a thing of the past. In its place, eCommerce has taken on a whole new level of importance.
Whether your business is new to offering an online store, has always been eCommerce only, or previously had both brick-and-mortar and delivery options, the eCommerce side of your website will now be taking center stage.
And as many businesses struggle just to keep the (metaphorical) doors open, figuring out how to boost your eCommerce sales now could be the deciding factor in how well your business weathers the current storm.
And just as importantly, in a time when people are feeling anxiety and seeing shortages of items they want and need all around them, if you can provide them with items that in some way increase their comfort, provide entertainment, or help them cope with the challenges of each day, you’ll be offering real value to your audience.
10 Quick Wins to Boost eCommerce Sales
If you need more sales sooner rather than later to keep your business viable, there are a few eCommerce sales strategies that can provide quick, short-term results.
1. Change your shipping options.
According to data from Statista, shipping issues play a role in two of the top reasons people give for shopping cart abandonment:
- 63% of people have abandoned a cart because the shipping cost too much
- 36% because the shipping time was too slow
Shipping speed and cost are a common impediment to purchase. Making the options more attractive for the coming days or weeks is a practical way to encourage more of your visitors that want to buy to take that final step.
Consider offering free shipping for a limited time. If you can’t afford to cover the full cost, think about other ways to make shipping feel like a better deal for customers:
- Provide free shipping for orders that meet a certain minimum (e.g. free shipping for all orders over $50)
- Provide a low flat rate for all ground shipping options
- Offer multiple shipping speed options, for those that value speed over cost
If you only plan to make the changes available temporarily, make that clear. People will be quicker to buy if they know they have a limited time to take advantage of the deal.
2. Offer a short-term discount.
Discounts are an effective way to drive new eCommerce business to your store. Research from RetailMeNot found that two-thirds of all consumers have decided to make a purchase they wouldn’t have otherwise based on a discount offer. And 80% are more likely to buy from a new brand based on a compelling discount.
Discounts do mean a cut into your profits, but when you’re looking for a boost in sales, the increase in customers can make the smaller profit margins per sale worth it.
3. Increase your ad spending budget.
Online advertising is a good way to reach more people fast. PPC (pay-per-click) platforms like Google Ads and social advertising channels can get information about your eCommerce store and products in front of people who have never heard of you before—a necessary first step before they can consider making a purchase. And they offer targeting options that increase the odds of reaching the potential customers who already want your products.
If you haven’t started advertising online, now’s a good time to launch your first campaigns. If you already have marketing campaigns going, increase your ad budget for the next few weeks. Check your analytics first and focus the extra spending on the campaigns that are driving the most conversions.
Higher ad budgets will mean more people see your ads, which leads to more visitors. And if your website does its job, more visitors will mean more customers.
4. Use retargeting.
Have you ever clicked on the product page for something you liked, but stopped short of purchasing because you knew it wasn’t really a need, or you figured you should wait until after payday?
Retargeting is how you stay top of mind for the people who have shown an interest in your products and increase the likelihood they’ll come back and make a purchase.
You can set up retargeted ads to focus on the specific product a visitor looked at. And they’re also a good opportunity to feature any discounts or shipping deals you’re offering, as those could be the tipping factor for someone on the fence.
5. Update your product descriptions.
How recent are your product descriptions? If it’s been a while since you’ve refreshed them, devote some time to it now.
To write product descriptions that appeal directly to what your audience cares about, look over your reviews and any feedback you’ve received from loyal customers. Pay attention to any specific features or benefits they mention and the language they use, and incorporate that into the descriptions you write.
While you’re working on this, also use the opportunity to make sure each product page is optimized for search engines. Figure out the best keyword to target for each page, and include it in the title tag, meta description, image file name, and image alt tag. And if you have any especially good customer reviews or testimonials for each product, put them right there on the page to show social proof.
6. Update your product photography.
For physical products, the photography on your website is an important component in showing people what they’ll get. A high-quality photo that shows the product in the best possible light can go a long way to helping people make the decision to buy.
If your current product photos look great, you may be able to skip this step. But if you revisit them and it’s clear they can benefit from an update, then spend some time taking new photos to load to your site.
7. Look for upsell opportunities.
Getting a customer to make a purchase is hard. Getting someone who’s already decided to be your customer to buy more is generally much easier.
Upsell offers are a useful way to increase eCommerce profits while doing less work. When a visitor starts the checkout process, you can set your eCommerce website up to suggest extra add-ons to their order before they complete the purchase.
The suggested items can be directly related to what they’re purchasing—for someone buying a litter box, you might suggest they add kitty litter as well. It can be an upgrade of the item itself, e.g. “Only $2 more to upgrade to a large.” Or it can be a reminder of how much to add to the cart to get free shipping. A compelling offer when they’re already on the path to purchase will often persuade customers to spend more.
8. Add relevant product recommendations to pages.
Another way to increase order size is to show customers recommended products as they browse based on items similar to the page they’re on, or to other pages they’ve viewed.
You can invest in a recommendation engine or other eCommerce software that automates this process by collecting data on the buying habits of customers in order to provide increasingly accurate recommendations. If customers that buy your rose-scented soap product also tend to invest in a candle of the same scent, the engine will ensure future visitors who view one of those items will get a nudge to check out the other.
9. Add new case studies and testimonials to your site.
Consumers trust other people like them more than they trust brands. Telling them why you think your products are awesome is part of the marketing game, but ultimately worth less than if you can make the case via your customers’ words.
Check with current customers to see if they’re willing to provide a testimonial or be the subject of a case study. You can identify the most enthusiastic customers by checking your reviews, or sending surveys to gather feedback. Once you’ve found some people who seem happy with your products, reach out to ask if they’re willing to share more about their experience and be featured on your site.
10. Make checkout easier.
While shipping issues are often the main reason behind cart abandonment, sometimes any little thing that makes checkout more difficult can hinder sales.
If visitors have to create an account before they checkout, it can make the purchase feel like too much work, so offering a guest checkout option can be a quick way to increase sales. If they learn at the last moment that you don’t accept their preferred payment option, they may abandon the purchase, so offer as many payment options as you can.
Analyze your checkout process to identify anything that could make it slower or more difficult to complete now than it needs to be. Some simple tweaks to how checkout works can potentially make a big difference in how many visitors take a purchase through to the end.
8 Long-Term Strategies to Generate Sales Online
All of those strategies are relatively small projects that can start boosting your online sales fast. But to build a more sustainable eCommerce business that gets strong results long term, there are a few additional eCommerce marketing strategies to include in your efforts.
1. Check your analytics to review what’s working now.
If your eCommerce site has been up for a little while already, then you can learn a lot about what works well for your audience by looking at your own analytics. Check Google Analytics to see:
- What traffic sources are sending the most visitors to your site
- Which sources send the highest-converting visitors
- Which send the visitors with the biggest order sizes, or those that become repeat customers
- What pages people visit the most
- Which pages most consistently lead to sales
- Which pages lead people to stick around and visit other pages
- Which lead to other types of conversions such as content downloads or email signups
Google Analytics is full of data that helps you understand how your customers learn about you, which of your marketing efforts increase eCommerce sales, and which customers are the most valuable to your business. That information will help you shape a more successful long-term marketing strategy designed to attract the right visitors.
2. Do a website audit.
A website audit is a big project, but it will help you suss out which parts of your website are effectively doing their job, and which aren’t. Many eCommerce sites have pages that get very little traffic, or fail to get visitors to take any meaningful action. And sometimes, the structure or design of your website can make it harder for visitors to find what they’re looking for.
With a thorough website audit, you’ll identify opportunities to improve your website by dropping low-performing pages, combining them with other related pages, and optimizing successful pages to perform even better.
In addition to tightening up and improving what’s already there on your website, a website audit leads to a deeper understanding of what your audience likes and how they behave—insights you can then apply to your strategy moving forward.
3. Do customer UX testing.
You’ll never quite be able to see your website the way a customer does. You’re just too close to it. The only way to find out if your eCommerce store is intuitive and easy to use for customers is to give them the chance to test it out directly. Enlist some customers to help you out with UX (user experience) testing.
Have them try out different actions, seek out specific products, and go through the checkout process. Ask them for feedback on the overall experience, and to take note of anything about it that was inconvenient or difficult. Then put that information to use by making updates to the website to improve the customer experience.
4. Improve your on-site SEO.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a strategy for increasing the chances of your website showing up on the first page of search results in Google and other search engines. eCommerce SEO is a long-term project. It takes time to start showing results. But once you manage to claim some of those top spots, it will send relevant traffic your way for weeks, months, or years to come.
The easiest part of SEO is on-site SEO. It includes a few main steps:
- Performing keyword research and picking a target keyword for each page on your site
- Optimizing each page for your target keyword by incorporating it naturally into the copy and headings on the page, as well as the relevant meta tags
- Making sure your website has a fast loading time
- Creating a mobile friendly website, if you haven’t already
- Investing in an SSL certificate for greater security (and because Google likes secure websites)
For most eCommerce sites, on-site SEO won’t be enough on its own to start ranking. But it’s a good basis to build the rest of your SEO strategy on.
5. Invest in building your social following.
Social media gives you a way to connect directly with your potential audience. But your social posts won’t even be seen unless you manage to build a following. Determine which social platforms make the most sense for you to prioritize based on where your audience spends their time. For example, does your target audience spend the most time viewing Instagram ads, or do they prefer Facebook? Decide, then develop a strategy to start actively posting and interacting with relevant accounts in your space.
Consider joining Twitter chats, or jumping into conversations you see happening on LinkedIn, and creating a Facebook group. To speed up the process of gaining followers, invest in social advertising. It’s the easiest way to reach people that don’t follow you yet.
6. Increase your content marketing efforts.
Content marketing is another important strategy for SEO, as well as a way to build relationships with the people in your target audience. By creating high-quality content on topics they care about, you:
- Prove your value and knowledge to your audience
- Ensure your website will show up for more relevant searches in Google, increasing awareness of your online store and the number of visitors
- Give visitors a reason to sign up for your email list, to see more of your content
- Build trust in visitors who will then be more likely to choose you when they need one of your products
Content marketing takes time to do well, but it can be a powerful strategy for differentiating your brand from competitors in your space, driving more traffic to your website, and gaining more trust from your audience. To get the best results, make sure all your content is optimized for search.
7. Try out different content formats.
Most content marketing efforts start with a blog but consider if your audience will appreciate other content formats as well. Experiment with video, audio, or long-form pieces like ebooks. You may be able to gain a larger following and reach new people by choosing a format a certain segment of your audience is more likely to consume.
For each new format you try, collect data on how well it’s working so you know if it’s worth the investment to continue.
8. Focus on customer retention, not just acquisition.
Gaining a new customer is hard. Keeping one is comparatively easy. In your strategy to increase eCommerce sales, consider how to encourage repeat purchases. How do you give customers every reason to come back and choose you again?
Part of that is making sure your products are high quality. Part of it’s providing exceptional customer service any time a customer has a problem or question. And part is being proactive about reminding them you exist.
Send emails checking in and offering special deals. Consider starting a loyalty program to reward them for spending more with you. And make it clear every step of the way that you value them.
Gain and Keep eCommerce Customers
Running an eCommerce business is challenging in the best of times. In the midst of a global crisis, you face some unique challenges. But if you invest in marketing and ensure you’re providing a strong customer experience from their first contact with your website to beyond that first purchase, you’ll build a sustainable eCommerce business that lasts well into the future.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.