Starting an ecommerce store is one thing but getting sales is another. That is why I created this post, to give you some ideas as to how you can increase the amount of sales you get on your website.
Now I do want to warn you that this is a long post as I have included a lot of information.
- 1. Niche it Down!
- 2. Refine your Product Range
- 3. Nurture your Existing Audience
- 4. Get More Good Quality Traffic
- 5. Get Creative With Your Business!
- 6. Enhance Your Customers Experience
- 7. Optimise Your Checkout Process
- 8. Re-Target Potential Customers
- 9. Build an Email List
- 10. Build Customer Trust
- 11. Build an Affiliate Network
1. Niche it Down!
In an increasingly competitive online marketplace, the companies that are seeing the most growth are the smaller, niche websites. Yes, the behemoths like Amazon sell everything but as a small business, there is no way you can do this.
Instead you want to Niche it down! Just choosing a general niche such as jewellery or electronics is still too broad, instead you want to go for a niche within an niche or possibly even more specialised.
I will use jewellery for this example (as it is what I sold!), going for something such as men’s 18ct gold jewellery is far more focused than just a general jewellery retailer.
By doing this you can achieve a few things, first is that it can be easier to get your site ranked in search engines as it is easier for them to understand what the focus of your website is and you will only be going up against the competition in your chosen niche, not the whole industry.
The second is that it is easier to become an authority in that niche. This is because you can spend your time learning everything that you need to know about your range of products and you can then communicate this via your website and marketing.
The third things follows on from the last point and that is that by being an authority in your niche, you can build a dedicated audience and following. This is GREAT for your business as it will result in two things that every business wants, repeat customers and word of mouth recommendation.
2. Refine your Product Range
This very much follows on from the point above. By niching down, you can really refine your product range so that it fits your niche and will really appeal to your audience. And they will soon let you know if you have got the right kind of products because if they like it, they will buy it and if they don’t, they won’t!
The 80/20 Rule
Once you have been selling online for a while, you will have some data that you can analyse and you will probably find that 80% of your sales are coming from 20% of your products. This is very common in ecommerce and something that happened in my business.
You can then use this data to establish what are your businesses core products that you can almost rely on to sell well. This is great information to have when you want to start expanding your product range as you want to start stocking products that compliment your core products.
You can also engage with your audience, to ask them what kind of products they would like you to sell. This kind of information directly from the horses mouth, is they best market research you can ever do.
One thing I see lots of ecommerce businesses do is to try and expand into new markets that aren’t directly related to their niche, mainly because they see that they can make a good profit from it. This can be dangerous as A) you are trying to sell to a new audience who have no idea who you are and B) you run the risk of alienating your existing audience.
The result of this can be that if it goes well, they have a split business and are trying to keep two audiences happy or they can’t sell the new products and their existing audience has gone elsewhere. For me, it is always better to grow your business within the niche that you found your initial success.
3. Nurture your Existing Audience
I have talked about this a lot already in this post but you never want to ignore, take for granted or overlook your current audience. It has been the downfall of many online businesses as they are just focused on bringing in new customers.
Even if your current audience is small, you can still do a lot with it. Sometimes something simple as a thank you post on your social media or a special offer for people on your mailing list can have a huge impact on your business as people like to feel appreciated.
I mentioned word of mouth above and this is BY FAR the best form of marketing you can ever get. People will only ever recommend somewhere to friends and family if they have had a great experience with the business.
If someone comes to you from a word of mouth recommendation and they also have a great experience, then they will be even more likely to recommend you to their friends and family.
4. Get More Good Quality Traffic
I know that this is easier said than done but as the average conversion rate for ecommerce stores is between 1 and 2 percent and the simple fact is that ecommerce is all about getting good quality traffic. But what do I mean by good quality traffic?
Good quality traffic are visitors who are actively looking for the products that you are selling. There is no point having a million visitors a month if they aren’t clicking through and buying from you.
To make sure that you are getting the right type of traffic to your site, you want to develop a good online marketing strategy. You also want to be continually tweaking this so that you are maximising the chances of getting more traffic.
Below, I am going to discuss two free ways of getting good quality traffic to your ecommerce website.
Improve your Websites SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
If you have read anything about online marketing, then you are bound to have come across the term SEO. That is because, when done right, the organic traffic you get from search engines is some of the best you can get. Simply because it generally converts better than any other traffic source.
SEO is definitely not a quick fix, as. it’s not unusual to see no benefit from SEO for anything up to 2 years after implementing an SEO strategy. Obviously, time periods vary between websites and niches. But how do you improve your websites SEO?
Well there are two main elements when it comes to SEO, onsite and offsite. You have far more control over your onsite SEO as mainly focuses on keyword research, optimisation and internal linking.
Offsite SEO is mainly about getting good quality backlinks from other websites as this tells search engines that your content is good and worth displaying in search results.
Keyword Research and Optimisation
It all starts with keyword research, followed by keyword optimisation. This is where you do research to develop a list of keywords that fit your products and possibly blog posts (if you decide to add a blog to your ecommerce site). There is a fine line you want to balance when deciding which keywords to try and rank for.
You want there to be enough search volume for the search term so that it is worth while going for but you also don’t want there to be so much competition that it is going to be difficult for you to rank for it.
From my experience, it is better to go for long tail keywords such as 18ct White Gold Sapphire and Diamond Cluster Pendant instead of short search terms such as Sapphire Pendant. The reason is that the long tail search term is much more focused and there is a higher chance that they will become a buyer.
Once you have your list of keywords, you want to optimise your site for them. Now you don’t want to just stuff them in everywhere and anywhere as Google will punish you for this. Instead you want to them to be in logical places throughout your product, information and blog pages.
Doing this properly does take time and practise, so don’t be put off if your first few attempts don’t work very well but remember that it can take a while to see any results from this work.
Internal and External Links
Another important aspect of SEO is linking, this is both internal and external.
Internal linking is something that you have control over as it is where you link from one of your websites pages to another. This is where having a blog on your site can come in really useful as it is not easy to link products together but linking to a product from a blog page is easy to do.
You just want to make sure that your internal links make sense and are in the right place. Linking to a pair of earrings from a post all about engagement rings, isn’t going to make much sense and search engines will pick up on this. Instead if you linked to earrings from a post about the best jewellery to wear on your wedding day, it is a much more logical link.
The second type of link is an external link from another website, more commonly known as a backlink. These are links you have far less control over but just like internal links, you want them to come from the right sources.
A link to a gaming website from a gardening blog isn’t great as the content of both sites is completely different and search engines will pick up on this. Instead, a link from a reputable gaming blog will do your website a lot of good as the content of both sites match up and the link makes sense.
Focus your Social Media Marketing Efforts
There really isn’t any getting away from it, social media is one of the best forms of marketing out there and it allows you to connect directly with your audience but you want to make sure you are focusing your efforts on the right platforms.
When it comes to finding out what platforms are best for your business, you need to do some research and a good method that I came up with is to sign up to all the major social media platforms such and Facebook (create a business page), Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and any other platform you think may work for your website.
Then for a 4-6 week period, post the same content on the same day at pretty much the same time across all the platforms. At the end of this period, you will have some good data to process, that will show you which platforms:
- Drove the most visitors to your site
- Audience grew the most
- Had the most audience engagement
- Delivered the best conversion rates
- Had the highest transaction value
Once you have analysed this data, you will have a clear idea of the top 1-3 platforms that work best for your business and you can then focus or marketing energy on these. You want to revisit this around every 12 months or so as you may find that your audience has moved to another platform.
5. Get Creative With Your Business!
As I have already said, ecommerce is now an incredibly competitive industry, even with smaller niches. So you need to get creative and stand out from the crowd but in a good way!
Take a look at what your competition is doing on their website, on social media and any other form marketing they do. In the majority of niches, you will see that many businesses are doing the same things and this means that you can easily differentiate yourself from them just by doing something different.
Sometimes, something as simple as starting a YouTube channel or doing live videos on Facebook or Instagram can be enough to make your business stand out. Don’t be afraid of trying new things, the worst that can happen is they don’t work!
Being a generic is going to be the downfall of many smaller online businesses over the next few years as they aren’t going to stand out from the crowd and worse than that, they are forgettable! So get out there and try different things, you never know what might work.
6. Enhance Your Customers Experience
It doesn’t matter how good your online marketing is, if the customer has a poor experience on your website, then they simply won’t buy.
There are quite a few different ways you can enhance your customers experience but not all of them will work for every industry. So I am going to list a couple, that will work with any niche.
Make Sure Your Site is Fast
Nobody likes waiting for a slow website and it is one of the biggest killers when it comes to your conversion rate. Ideally, you want your site to load in less than 2 seconds as anything over this and people will click off and go somewhere else.
If you want to check how fast your site loads, then you can use tools like Pingdom, GTMetrix and Google PageSpeed Insights. These will not only tell you how quickly your site loads but also what is causing any issues, this allows you to work towards fixing them.
When you are checking your site speed, don’t just check the homepage. This is a trap that many people fall into but the majority of visitors to your site will go to either your product, blog or information pages, so make sure you check a few of these.
Remove Annoying Distractions
For me, this is generally pop-ups and ads that appear when I click on a site. While you may think that this is helping to grow your email list or promoting a special offer or sale you may have. The reality is that you are putting another barrier between your customer and your product.
If these pop ups or ads are also slowing your site down, which they often do, then you are only compounding your visitors frustration. You want to remove as many barriers and obstacles between your potential customer and your products.
Make Your Page The Best It Can Be
Your product page is your sales pitch, everything that you put on that page is either going to convince your customer to click the buy button or click off and go elsewhere.
On your product page, you generally have three main sections that you can use to sell your product. By using all of them to the fullest, you will increase the chances of your visitor becoming a customer.
This is what has probably convinced your visitor to click on your page. If you have convinced someone to do that, like I got you to do with this post, then you are doing something right.
But, you want to title to tie in properly with the rest of the page. If the title doesn’t really match the product, then your visitor is likely to go elsewhere.
This is where you get to show the product off to your potential customer and as the majority of people respond far more to visual stimulation than any other, this can often be what sells the product.
So you want to maximise your images by having a good selection of high quality images, that show the product off from many different angles. What you want your images to do, is to help the person visualise it as if they were holding it.
If you have variations of the product, then include images of all the variations.
This is where you list all the important information about the product. One of the most common mistakes I see on ecommerce websites is that they put one very brief, one line description, that is basically the same as the title or even worse, no description at all.
The best format that I used on my ecommerce site was a short paragraph, no longer than three lines which gave a brief but concise description, followed by a list of bullet points which contains all the important information in an easy to read format.
You can also add another paragraph below the list, if there is more you want to say but you want to keep it easy to read. Using big blocks of text won’t help as the majority of people won’t read it to find the information.
7. Optimise Your Checkout Process
You want your checkout process to be as simple as possible for your customer so that there is less chance of them abandoning their cart. I don’t like using this term but you want your checkout process to act as a sales funnel to take a visitor from clicking on your product page to completing the checkout process.
Remove Unnecessary Steps or Pages
You want your checkout process to be a smooth as possible and reduce the amount of steps your customer needs to take from clicking the buy button to getting to the order confirmation page.
There is a reason why the likes of Amazon have introduced one click checkout as it increases conversion rates. On smaller sites, one click checkout isn’t the easiest thing to do but you still want to streamline the process as much as possible.
Lots of videos and blogs promote putting up sale pages into your checkout process to try and increase the order value. For me, I prefer the opposite route of keeping the customer focused on the task at hand of completing the purchase.
From my experience, the best flow I had was:
Basket Page → Checkout Page → Payment Page → Order Confirmation
I also try and remove as many distractions as I can from my pages. So no products you may like or special offers, just make it easy for the buyer to move from one stage of the process to the next.
Offer Different Payment Options
You could be seriously impacting the amount of sales you are getting, if you are only offering a single payment gateway. This used to be an issue when for small businesses, the only real option was PayPal but fortunately, things have changed over the past few years.
The minimum you want to offer your customers is PayPal and a credit/debit card option. If you don’t want to sign up to an expensive, long term contract to take credit card payments, then you should consider Stripe. They offer pretty much everything that the ‘main’ processors do but on a pay as you go basis, which is great for small businesses.
If you want to offer more than just the minimum, then you may want to take a look at Klarna who offer a range of flexible payments options and also offer retail finance. This is great, especially if you are selling products that are a little bit more expensive.
8. Re-Target Potential Customers
I am not the biggest fan of paid advertising, especially if you are going after cold traffic but re-targeting is a little bit different.
With re-targeting, you are showing your adverts to people who have already visited your site. While this doesn’t always work, it is always better in my opinion to target warm traffic than cold.
You can choose to do this via Google, Facebook or pretty much any platform that does paid adverts and it may just be enough to encourage the visitor to take another look at your website. Especially if your adverts show some of the other products that you sell, along with what they looked at.
Abandoned Cart Emails
This only works with people who have an account with your site or entered their email at some point during the checkout process. But what this essentially does is send the person who abandoned the cart an email to remind them that they can still come back and complete the transaction.
While this will annoy some people who know that they have decided not to buy from you but if someone didn’t complete the checkout because of a phone call, someone at the door or any number of life’s distractions, it can be enough to make them come back and finalise their order.
9. Build an Email List
You have probably read this a lot but it is still one of the best ways to not only increase sales but increase repeat sales.
Even though they do have a decent sign up rate, I don’t advise having an email sign up for pop up as soon as someone lands on your site as I mentioned above but have a sign up form in your websites sidebar or footer can still garner good results.
One of the best ways to build an email list is to get them to sign up to your newsletter when they are completing the checkout process. Especially if you make it sound appealing but offering something or potentially offering something such as discounts or special offers.
This makes people more likely to sign up as they are already invested in your business as they have decided to buy from you and you are tempting them with potential offers further down the line.
Lots of online marketers recommend running an online competition to build out your email list and while it does usually work, the problem is that many of the people who sign up have only done so to get something for free and only a small number are interested in your business. If this represents good ROI for your business, then it is definitely worth a shot but be aware that is may not be that fruitful.
10. Build Customer Trust
The majority of the visitors that you will get to your site, will never have visited it before and they don’t know and trust your business. That is where you need build trust with your customer and as you can’t speak to every one of your visitors, you need your site to do it for you.
Have Clear Policies
One of the most popular pages on my ecommerce website was my returns page and it is not surprising as people want to know where they stand if they buy something and don’t like it when they receive it.
The same goes for things such as shipping and payment information, they like to do a little bit of research on your before they hand over their hard earned money.
Many online stores make the mistake of burying everything in their terms and conditions, this really isn’t good for building customer confidence as it looks like you are trying to hide things. Instead, create separate pages for your policies and link to them in your navigation bar and/or footer.
By doing this, you are showing your customer that your business and website are clear and transparent and for many, this can be the reason why they decide to buy from you.
Display Contact Information
Another pitfall I see many ecommerce sites fall into is only having a contact form on their website. This is not an encouraging sign for many buyers, instead you want to display all the ways that a customer can contact you.
Really, the minimum that you want is a contact form, a contact email address and a phone number. Many customers will never use any of these as hopefully, they will never have a reason to contact you. But for some, just having the reassurance of knowing that they can easily contact you if they need to is enough to comfort them.
One of the excuses I often hear for not displaying their contact details is that they only have a gmail/yahoo/outlook email address and a mobile phone number. I can see the reasoning behind this as they don’t look very professional but they are better than nothing.
If you do want to have professional contact info, then there are plenty of services that you can choose from and they don’t cost a fortune. The basic G Suite and Outlook 365 packages allow you to use a domain linked email address and start from less than £5 a month.
For your contact phone number, you can use VoIP software which turns your smartphone into a business phone. As with the email, this will cost you less than £5 for a basic package. So really, there is no excuse for this as you can have both for less than £10 a month.
11. Build an Affiliate Network
This is something that most people would never think of doing but it can be a great way to grow your business as you effectively have a team of sales agents out there promoting your product to their audience.
As affiliate marketers are pretty business savvy (If I do say so myself!), they will only promote products that they think will fit with their audience. Going back to my earlier reference a gardening blog isn’t likely to be promoting gaming products as it doesn’t fit their audience but they would be happy to promote good quality gardening related products.
You might need to send out a few freebies in order to build an affiliate network as most marketers like to try and test the product before they promote it, it is their reputation on the line after all! You may also have to reach out to these people first and explain who you are, what you sell and what your affiliate network is all about.
For me it speaks volumes that nearly all of the massive online retailers such as Amazon have their own affiliate program. This is because they know it is worth giving away a percentage of their profits in order to generate more sales.
I know there is a lot of information in this list but it is all stuff that works and most of it, I have implemented on my own ecommerce business or have known people that have done it with great success.
Now I am not saying that you need to do everything on this list but it is worth trying new things here and there to see what works for your business and sometimes the smallest of tweaks can make a big difference.