Proven Tactics to Grow Your E-Commerce Business

rstreamConsumers are now buying more things online than they do in brick-and-mortar stores. According to a survey by UPS and comScore, consumers make 51% of their purchases online, up from 48% in 2015 and 47% in 2014.

That’s great news for e-commerce store owners.

But every e-commerce store has the opportunity to grow their revenue. There’s no ceiling preventing the acquisition of new customers, and nothing is stopping you from reducing customer churn so you can lift the lifetime value of a customer. It all comes down to your budget, time, and available resources.

We’ve put together a comprehensive list of tactics you can execute to start seeing gains in revenue almost immediately.

Audience Above All Else

Before you attempt any kind of tactic or build any kind of strategy, it’s absolutely critical that you take the time to understand your audience. Even if you’ve done audience research in the past, revisit your audience segments to give you the most accurate targeting with your copy, ads, and promotions.

Here’s why getting the audience right matters:

If you know…

  1. how their life improves with your product, then you’ll know which benefits to highlight in product copy
  2. what they want, then you’ll know how to craft an amazing value proposition
  3. how they comparison shop, then you can improve how your products are displayed and featured
  4. how they think about the products they need, then you can word your content to match their internal dialogue
  5. who they are, then you’ll know how to get your brand and products in front of them

If you’re working without data, then start with assumptions. At the very least, you have an idea of audience demographics and some basic information (age, gender, geographic region, needs).

Creating a target audience won’t be difficult if you’ve been running your store for some time. That means you’ve got data. You can pull that consumer info from a variety of sources, including:

  1. Google Analytics (who they are, where they come from, the content and products they prefer)
  2. Social insights (who they are, with fairly detailed demographics)
  3. Your e-commerce platforms (merchandising and customer data showing geographic regions, best products, worst products, types of returning customers)
  4. Customer surveys (find out anything you want when you poll your customers)

Review and combine the data to help paint a picture of your ideal customer. This will provide direction for many of your campaigns and tactics moving forward. And don’t worry about audience size. As Neil Patel of Quicksprout says, “It’s better to have a much smaller audience that is targeted than a larger one that doesn’t convert.”

Now it’s time to get to work.

In-Store/Cart Conversion Factors

A lot of what you can do to improve revenue will happen within the customer-facing areas of your site. There’s really no code experience needed, especially if you’re running a software (SaaS) e-commerce platform like BigCommerce or Shopify. Most of these are simple content tweaks that can be easily deployed.

Better Visualization

Visitors to your store are at a disadvantage when shopping. They can’t physically touch your products or examine them. They have to rely on product descriptions and images to make a decision, so providing a strong visual experience makes the buying decision that much easier.

Every product should feature high-quality images from a variety of angles. It’s also recommended that you use images which contain people using the product, and be sure to get faces into the pictures. Images with faces are proven to capture more attention and engagement in social media.

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You can take it a step further by adding product videos. Showcase how a product is used and highlight the main benefits to pique interest. Shoppers who view video are nearly 2x as likely to make a purchase.

“E-commerce is uniquely positioned for great video content,” says Spencer Dunfee, E-commerce Inbound Marketing Specialist at HubSpot. “Show the people what they’re buying! A particularly good way to do that is through video how-to’s or tutorials of how to use a product.”

Write Killer Product Descriptions

A lot of retailers make the mistake of using the generic descriptions provided by manufacturers. You’re missing out on an opportunity to convert the customer based on the benefits of the product alone. Spice up your descriptions using language that appeals to your target audience.

Focus on the keywords they use to find your products, highlight the benefits in bullet points, and emphasize the value that comes from owning the product.

Don’t try to sell the features of the product; customers don’t care about the product. They care about why they need the product (their problem) and finding a solution for their problem. Well-written descriptions communicate the benefits and position your products as the solution.

Product Upsells

Product upsells help improve the average order value in your store by recommending products that mesh with whatever the customer has in their cart. According to one study from econsultancy, upselling is 20x more effective than cross selling products online.

There are a few different ways to present product upsells:

  1. At checkout – This is a last-ditch effort to present the customer with one or more complementary products or unique offers. This is usually presented as a pop-up.
  2. In cart (before checkout) – Show complementary products while the customer reviews their cart.
  3. On product pages – Present the customer with complementary products while they’re reviewing the product they’re interested in. This is a tactic used by Amazon.

There are apps that make this easy. If you have an e-commerce platform like Magento, WooCommerce or Shopify, check the app marketplace for upsell integrations you can customize and test out.

Perform UX Testing

It’s a common mistake to neglect the user experience when building a website. Focusing only on the design and aesthetics can lead to a frustrating experience for consumers. To ensure your site and cart are streamlined for conversions as well as the mobile experience, have your site tested.

“UX influences everything else – SEO, loyalty, conversion rate, sharing, etc. – and is the most important thing you need to get right with a new site,” says Moz founder Rand Fishkin.

UserTesting.com offers user experience testing, providing a complete report on how real people react to using your website, right down to their recorded comments and expressions while shopping. This is a terrific way to uncover leaks in your funnel where customers are bailing out of frustration, and reduce your cart abandonment.

Exit-Intent and Pop-Up Offers

Have you looked at your conversion rates lately? If you’re somewhere in the range of 3%-10% conversion, then 90-97% of your visitors are leaving without buying. Even with a 20% conversion, you’re losing 80% of your customers.

An exit-intent pop-up can help steer some of them back. This pop-up triggers when it detects the intent to leave the site, such as moving the mouse toward the back button, address bar, or outside of the browser window.

Add an exit-intent pop-up with a special offer, promotion, or strong value statement to get users to stay a little longer. An app like Picreel can be used to quickly generate engaging pop-ups.

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You might also consider using pop-up offers at different points in the shopping experience, such as on site arrival, on product pages, or within your blog.

Show Social Proof

There’s hard evidence that consumers trust the opinions of their peers over any form of brand statement or advertising. In fact, over 90% of consumers trust peers over brands. You can make that work in your favor by incorporating social proof into your online store.

Social proof is any element that shows a prospective customer you can be trusted because of the words or actions of their peers. Adding social proof to your site is easy:

  1. Feature reviews on your product pages with Yotpo
  2. Add user-generated content (images and video) to testimonial pages and product pages
  3. Trigger notifications of products being purchased by other customers with Fomo

Fit Little Bride regularly features user-generated content on its Instagram pages, and you can see they get a ton of engagement from that activity. These are perfect examples of the kind of images you want to utilize on your site and other social channels.

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Promotional Planning

Your historical merchandising and sales reports can provide a lot of information as you create this calendar, including which holidays to target, when sales tend to dip, your peak sales times, and when seasonal discounts might be most appropriate.

It’s a good habit to set up a campaign calendar for 12-15 months. Use this calendar to track holidays and special promotions. This way you don’t miss any promotional opportunities, and you’ll have plenty of time to prepare email notifications, digital assets, and social posts to coincide with the special promotion.

Rewards Programs

Delighting your customers is an important part of increasing the lifetime value of your customers and getting them to come back. One of the best ways to show your appreciation is to create rewards programs for loyal customers. There are two ways you can approach this:

  1. Loyalty Programs – Track the sales of your returning customers and reward them with points for their purchases. Those points can be used for discounts and free products down the road.
  2. Referral Rewards Create a rewards program that pays back your loyal customers for referring friends and family and sending new customers your way. This has the added benefit of also bringing you new customers that tend to be more valuable long-term for your brand.

Improve Trust Signals

Winning the trust of the consumer is important; you’re asking them to turn over personal and financial information to a complete stranger. To make your prospective customers more comfortable, you should add trust signals to your website. The most common trust signals are:

  1. Verification badges
  2. Award, affiliation, or certification badges for consumer or trade groups
  3. Security badges for encrypted transactions, and an HTTPS connection
  4. Contact information on your website (phone, address, email, etc.)
  5. Peer reviews (see social proof above)
  6. Reputable payment options
  7. Affiliations with known manufacturers or suppliers (logos visible on your site)
  8. Public shipping, privacy, and return policies

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Get Personal with Email

If all you’re doing with email is sending promotional blasts to customers, or you’re not using email at all, here are some tips you can use to see immediate improvements in revenue.

Cart Abandonment Campaigns

On any given day, about 68% of your prospective customers will abandon their cart and walk away. Even if you improve on-page elements to boost conversions, you’ll always have some measure of cart abandonment.

Create a cart abandonment campaign to send emails to those customers and try to win them back. The most common and effective method is to send an email immediately after a cart is abandoned. Follow that up with another email a few hours later, and then a third and final email within the next 24 hours.

The first email should show them the products they abandoned, and prompt them to return. The second email should feature the products and ask them if they need help completing the purchase. For the final email, you might consider a special offer (10% off, free shipping, etc.) to entice them to return.

Peak Design, a manufacturer of rugged outdoor gear for creatives, was able to maintain a consistent month-over-month recovery of 12% of abandoned carts using a strategy similar to the one above.

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Promote an Email List

An email list is an effective way to let current and prospective customers know about new products, special promotions, news, and more. One email can generate a large influx of orders, and it costs very little to maintain, providing you with tremendous ROI. Combine this with your promotional calendar to create emails that go out automatically when your promotions start.

One way to start building your list is to add an opt-in form on your site or use pop-ups that prompt them to join. You can also use a pre-checked box during checkout that automatically adds customers to your list unless they opt out.

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You can also use your list to send personalized emails that make customers feel more valued. This includes things like:

  1. Wishlist reminders
  2. Birthday emails
  3. Thank you notes for recent purchases or being a longtime customer
  4. Custom outreach to bring back at-risk customers who haven’t ordered in 60+ days

Integrating an email service like MailChimp with your CRM or e-commerce platform can help you segment your email list for accurate targeting and developing custom email campaigns.

Automated Post-Purchase Funnel

After the purchase has been made, you can continue to engage your customers to build on your relationship. Email is one of the best platforms for this, and you can trigger automated emails post-purchase by:

  1. Sending upsell emails with new products based on shipping history
  2. Requesting feedback and reviews after they receive their purchase
  3. Sending educational or informational emails that provide value to customers (non-transactional emails)

Social Media

The focus of social media should be on consumer engagement, but there’s plenty of opportunity for promotion of your products and brand. You just have to be careful not to over-promote. Maintaining a ratio of 80% value-based content against 20% promotional content is the standard to aim for.

Try these tactics as you plan out your engagement and promotional strategy in social.

Carousel Ads on Instagram

Instagram almost feels like it was built for selling products, with its emphasis on images and video. With Instagram carousel ads, you can build an ad around multiple images users can scroll through. Rather than using a static image or a series of random pictures, build your carousel ads so the pictures tell a progressive story.

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Remember to try and include people while showing their faces. This is a great opportunity to let the carousel tell a story that highlights the benefits of your product.

Instagram has recently added video carousels to the ad platform, giving brands even more creative flexibility with telling stories through ads.

“Since we introduced carousel ads last year, businesses have been using the format to tell their stories in unique and compelling ways – and have seen solid results,” says Amy Cole, head of brand development, EMEA at Instagram. “In the last six months we’ve seen video consumption [on] Instagram increase by 40%.”

Improve Targeting on Facebook/Instagram with Power Editor

Facebook is sitting on one of the largest detail-rich consumer data sets, and it’s shared between Facebook and Instagram. You can leverage that with strategic targeting for your ads.

The more you know about your audience, the more you can refine the targeting layers of your ads. As you narrow the field, you’ll greatly reduce the reach of your ads but the people you target will be far more likely to click through.

One of the greatest benefits of increased click-through (aside from more conversions) is the reduction in your cost-per-click. Get the audience targeting right, and you’ll be paying less for more customers.

Use Video in Ads

Remember above where we mentioned consumers who watch video are twice as likely to make a purchase? Here’s another opportunity to use video to help convert more customers. Rather than rely on static images to tell a story, use video to stop users in their tracks while they’re scrolling through their social feed. Buffer wrote a great guide on how to take advantage of video for your business. This is especially useful since videos autoplay on many social platforms like Facebook.

Audience Remarketing on Facebook and Instagram

Aside from building custom audiences on Facebook, you can also generate custom audiences to help you go after missed opportunities, abandoned carts, or anyone that visited your site. The two ways to do this are:

  1. Creating a Facebook pixel – Place a pixel on your site to track the actions of your visitors. Then build a custom remarketing audience for ads against specific behaviors, like only showing ads to those who didn’t complete a checkout, or who visited a specific page.
  2. Uploading details – You can create a custom remarketing audience by uploading the contact details to Facebook. This will only show your ad to people who match the details you upload.

If you don’t want to constantly load emails into your Facebook audience editor, try Audience Push. The app automatically updates your custom audience by syncing contact info with the ad editor.

Curate Awesome Content

Your audience research should turn up some great insights, like where your customers spend their time and the types of content they like. Use that information to go out and curate content that your audience will love. This can be anything from entertaining and informative videos or images, to educational articles and information on industry advocacy.

The main benefit to curating content is the trust it builds. Your customers feel like you care enough to find things of value for them, and that you’re not just engaging them to get them to open their wallets. Curating content also gives you a break from having to constantly generate new content from your own brand, streamlining your social workflow.

Here are some ways to source content for your followers:

  1. Find the influencers in your industry and follow them, watching for great shareable content.
  2. Check AllTop for sites within your industry; set up a custom feed to make it easy to watch your favorites or subscribe to those individual sites.
  3. Use Quuu and Buffer together to automatically source and push targeted content to your social channels.

Sometimes the awesome content comes from within. Target and its Rapid Accelerated Development team (yup, you read it right: RAD) deployed a site that took a cue from Pinterest and integrates social into the shopping experience. The Awesome Shop from Target curates and showcases only products with top reviews, or new reviews but with trending interest. It may not be content-specific, but it’s a smart way to curate things customers want to see.

Contests

Your followers love free stuff – everyone does, really. A contest will almost always generate a massive spike in engagement. As more followers engage with your contest posts, your reach will grow and get your post in front of prospective customers.

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You can give away anything you like, although the most effective contests will feature your current products or something you plan to launch soon. Another approach is to partner with a brand that shares your audience but isn’t necessarily a competitor. That can lead to cross-promotion among followers and even greater visibility.

Use apps like Woobox, Rafflecopter, or Wishpond to make running promotions easy and to capture the contact information of social followers.

Target the Right Channels

Don’t waste time marketing on social channels if your customer doesn’t spend their time there. Facebook is a given, and you should use your audience research to find and target only the channels where you know a good percentage of your customers spend their time.

Don’t just jump on the Snapchat or Periscope bandwagon or blindly market to users on Reddit. Spend that energy in the right places to have a greater impact on your sales.

Boost the Value

You’ll see a variety of reactions from your audience when you’re sharing content to your social channels. For the posts that get a lot of engagement and really resonate with your audience, give them a boost. Turn those posts into a paid promotion with a modest budget to expand their reach to a few thousand more people. Even a $15 boost to a Facebook post could lead to a number of new followers and customers.

Don’t be afraid to boost posts about product offers and promotions. With the right targeted message and audience targeting you can get that boosted post in front of thousands of people for less than the cost of taking someone to dinner.

Operations

Growing your revenue might require a shift in how you do business and how you monitor the activity of your customers. Here are few behind-the-scenes tactics to streamline your operations and provide a better customer experience.

Monitor Analytics for Funnel Leaks

Earlier we mentioned having user testing done on your site to check for barriers in your shopping cart. That UX testing can be helpful, but it won’t reveal every issue.

You should have Google Analytics installed on your site, and regularly review the data at least once a week. By tracking visitor flow through your site as well as the top exit pages, you can find the trouble areas that are causing leaks in your funnel, leading to lost sales.

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“The more you know about who is visiting your website, how they’re getting there, and what they are doing when they get there – all things Google Analytics can show you – the better you will be able to improve the website as you go,” says marketer Zach Heller.

Choose a Better E-commerce Platform

Not all e-commerce platforms are created equal. There’s no shortage of pre-built e-commerce systems to choose from, and you want one that offers the greatest value for the cost. Most importantly, if you’re not using a custom cart, you should have a hosted store with extensive native features and a wide selection of third-party apps.

The more that you have available, the more you can create a custom experience to delight your customers and easily scale up as your business grows.

BigCommerce and Shopify are two leading names in feature-packed hosted e-commerce, offering an expansive app marketplace. Compare apples to apples and make sure your platform has what you need to grow, streamline your customer shopping experience, and make managing your store easier.

Improve Integration

A lot of e-commerce platforms provide the necessary native features to take orders, process them, and get them shipped. When you can improve any aspect of the order and customer engagement process, you’re likely to have a positive impact and leave the customer with a pleasant experience.

There are a number of applications that can improve ordering and fulfillment as well as customer service. Experiment with shipping integrations to speed up fulfillment, CRM apps to improve campaign targeting, and customer service apps to reduce the turnaround time on customer cases.

Shipping Costs

Adjusting your position on shipping costs could greatly increase your average order value and volume of orders. 93% of consumers say they would purchase more products if free shipping were available. Brands are becoming more aware of that consumer opinion, which is why more than 50% of online retailers offer some kind of free shipping.

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There are a few approaches to adjusting your shipping fees which can have a positive impact on conversions and revenue:

  1. 100% free, unconditional shipping
  2. Reduced shipping with coupon codes for subscribers, return customers, or abandoned carts
  3. Free or reduced shipping once the dollar value of the cart hits a certain threshold
  4. Free shipping membership programs (like Amazon Prime)

NuFace, a manufacturer and retailer of skincare products, tested a free shipping model. After a series of split tests, it found a consistent and marked increase across the board. Order volume rose by 90%, and the average order value increased by 7.32%.

Customer Service

Customer service is a critical part of growing an e-commerce business and improving revenue. For many businesses, the bulk of the revenue generated by your average customer comes from repeat sales after the first purchase.

You can grow that lifetime value by building your business model around amazing service. Here are a few ways you can do that and delight your customers.

Improve case handling

If your customer service is managed with phones, sticky notes, and email submissions, then it’s time for an improvement. The last thing you want is to forget to make a call back or follow up on an issue, which can often happen with channels that don’t provide historic reporting, tracking, or that rely on various methods for reminders.

The best approach is to implement a customer service system that uses adaptive case management and some kind of automatic process management to track case progress.

Zendesk and Desk.com are two platforms designed specifically for this kind of case management. You can also use tools like TallyFy to create approval processes, ensuring that when tickets change hands in-house there’s accountability for next steps in the chain.

To target customers in real time try using a ChatBot tool like Drift or Intercom. In Buyapowa’s case, our chat plays a big role in helping our customers and as a lead acquisition tool.

Allow Autonomy

The simplest and most effective way to delight your customers is to allow for the deviation of set guidelines in how cases are handled. Rather than giving customer service a script on how to handle individual customer issues, let them have more autonomy.

Autonomy allows your team to find a fitting resolution specific to the customer. There are no delays in passing an issue up through leadership, and the customer feels valued. Just as importantly, your team will be happier because they’re regularly responsible for the happiness of your customers, and they can enjoy that sense of ownership of the solution.

Plus, happy employees have proven to lead to happier customers.

Freebies

Delighting your customers doesn’t have to be limited to your customer service team. Marketing and even your fulfillment center can get involved by providing freebies.

Marketing can develop and acquire various promotional goods to be added to orders, including stickers, magnets, and even special product samples. Your fulfillment team can be given autonomy to decide how those promotional items and freebies are distributed among customer orders.

O’Neills Irish International Sports took freebies to the next level, turning them into a customer delight experience. When a representative discovered a manufacturing defect in the track suits ordered by one American club, they immediately notified the group. Rather than waiting for a customer complaint, they proactively sent the flawed garments for free, while notifying the customer and ensuring them that they would send an additional order without defects.

rstream12That is a perfect example of using freebies to elevate the customer experience.

Thank You Notes

With the way everything has gone digital, a little old-school charm is sometimes all you need to “wow” and create a customer for life. Sending hand-written notes (real handwriting, not the fake printed ones) has such a huge impact because the customer knows someone took the time to think of them, sit down, and manually write a letter.

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Thank you notes are becoming a lost art and one that very few online retailers utilize. In a crowded market, it can be one of the easiest methods to make yourself stand out from competitors. Actions like this, and freebies, often get shared to social media. Not only have you delighted your customers, but the shares put you in front of a new audience that may choose to order from you based on your customer service alone.

Customers are Waiting

By no means should you feel it necessary to execute every recommendation on this list – at least not all at once. While each tactic has the possibility of increasing revenue in some form, nothing is guaranteed. Anything you choose to do should be tested to ensure that it’s working with your audience and having a positive impact on your bottom line.

We recommend prioritizing the tactics that seem most favorable to you based on what’s easiest to deploy and what would have the greatest immediate impact. That will help you generate a roll-out plan that includes testing your changes as you progress and grow your revenue.

Have you tried any of the tactics on our list? Share your results with us in the comments below.

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