The ecommerce industry is competitive. It can be difficult for a new ecommerce business to find an identity and following. There are plenty of several less savory tactics that new ecommerce websites can employ to attract potential buyers. Still, those strategies generally won't work long-term for reasons discussed below and can, in fact, harm online retailers. There are also several ethical but more expensive marketing strategies, like running digital ads that are effective but can be costly for small eCommerce stores. This post is for eCommerce newbies who have a long-term eye on the health of their brand and who want to grow their business organically.
What does it mean to increase eCommerce sales ethically?
In marketing terms, increasing eCommerce sales means increasing conversions, aka getting people to buy your product. Additionally, there are ethical best practice marketing strategies and more dubious tactics that can boost sales. If you're just beginning to establish your eCommerce site, it's crucial you understand the difference. But first, let's go over a little eCommerce marketing 101.
What is a marketing funnel?
A marketing funnel is a simplified representation of all the sales stages your prospect has to travel through before they convert into a paying customer. It is typically visually represented as an inverted triangle. In the case of a basic ecommerce business, a marketing funnel could start at a Facebook ad, take a user to the website, through the checkout page, and even through the potential return process.
What is conversion rate optimization (CRO)?
Conversion rate optimization, or CRO, is a subcategory of marketing that focuses on improving the conversion rate at each stage in your marketing funnel. Understanding your conversion rate at each stage of your marketing funnel is critical for understanding where potential customers might be dropping off and which stages of your funnel work most efficiently. By analyzing these metrics, you can fix what's broken in your ecommerce experience and repeat what works best.
Where to Begin? With the End in Mind
Now that you understand the ethos of eCommerce marketing is to increase sales conversions, let's discuss how to set your eCommerce marketing strategy up for success. In order to design against failure, it's essential to think critically through the whole process with your goals in mind.
First impressions matter
It may seem obvious, but it's of paramount importance to make sure your potential buyer's first experience with your brand is positive. Online shoppers are continually inundated with competitive products everywhere they scroll. Having an eCommerce storefront that looks professional, is easy to navigate, and communicates an authentic-feeling message is critical to maintaining brand trust. A well-designed experience sets you apart from the competition. If consumer trust is broken in the first few moments, you have already lost your buyer.
Test your user experience end-to-end
Before investing resources in costly marketing activities like ads on Instagram, Twitter, or other social media channels, it's important to make sure your eCommerce website is converting. In the same way that pouring gallons of water into a bucket with a hole at the bottom is useless, so is bringing hordes of people to a broken eCommerce experience.
Diagnosing some conversion problems can be more complicated than others. For example, a low conversion rate due to poor ad copy is more difficult without first A/B testing it out in the "real world." However, it's entirely possible to eliminate more tangible sales blockers like technical problems in the checkout process through thorough testing. How many times have you tried to buy something online, only to be thwarted because you couldn't enter your credit card information due to a problem with the web browser or eCommerce platform?
That type of customer frustration is inexcusable because it is preventable. Whenever you implement a new process, it's critical to test your platform from end-to-end. Take the time to walk through each detail.
Mobile versus desktop
A quick note on mobile device usability: Most eCommerce platforms feature mobile-responsive or mobile-designed templates. However, it's still essential to make sure your mobile experience matches your desktop experience for the best possible brand cohesion—and to make sure everything is displaying correctly on both platforms.
Why ethics matter: the importance of brand trust
Although it's possible to boost sales through what's called "black-hat" marketing, doing so can harm your brand reputation in the long-term. Some examples of black-hat marketing are quick fixes like paying for social media followers or fake customer testimonials. Black-hat marketing erodes brand trust and customer loyalty, preventing returning customers. Therefore, a new eCommerce store that genuinely wants to build a brand that stands the test of time should only employ ethical marketing tactics.
A note about overpromising: Employing ethical marketing also includes making sure your product lives up to all of its promises. Your ad and product copy can never lie to shoppers because you will get caught.
Creating Awareness: Getting Visitors to Your eCommerce Store
Going back to the previously mentioned eCommerce marketing funnel, the top of the inverted triangle is appropriately called the top of the funnel. Several strategies can increase these top of funnel leads that do not require heavy capital investment. However, it's important to note that while these strategies are effective, each requires consistent effort and is slower to show dramatic results than other paid marketing types.
Organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search Engine Optimization is a subcategory of marketing that focuses on improving a website's rank on all search engines but most specifically, Google. Google itself even offers free tools for web developers to self-determine how to optimize their content to make it easier for Google to crawl that content and rank higher in the search results. Organic SEO investment is a very cost-effective way to bring more visitors to your site although it is time-intensive. There are pages of online resources that can help you get started.
Blogging and social media as a content marketing strategy
Writing quality, educational, informative, or aspirational blog or social media posts on topics related to your products' industry is a great way to increase top of funnel leads. Content marketing has the advantage of helping SEO and establishing you as a trusted expert in that field. For example, an artist who sells digital prints of their work online who also keeps a blog with high-quality digital art tutorials will draw a wider audience and invariably sell more work as their personal brand reputation grows.
Crucial tips for an effective content marketing strategy
Content marketing strategy is one of the most accessible strategies to the uninitiated marketer since blogging and social media are so universally familiar. However, for effective implementation, it's crucial to:
- Be patient. Content marketing is not a short-term strategy.
- Be consistent. Research shows that publishing content on a consistent schedule is incredibly important.
- Focus on educating and informing, not selling your products. Content marketing is not an advertisement for your products. Rather, it shows proof of your trustworthiness as a representative of your industry.
Engage your base on social media
For ecommerce businesses, meeting your customers on the social media platforms where they are is critical. Consistently engaging (in the right tone and voice) your followers will go miles in fostering good brand will and customer loyalty. Monitoring social media engagement is also an excellent soft metric to watch to make sure you have happy customers who are consistently engaging with your brand.
Creating Interest: Getting into the Shopping Cart
Once you have gotten a visitor to your site, the real work begins. Now you need to convince them to buy your product! This stage is where CRO becomes most important.
Know your customers' buyer personas
The key to optimizing ecommerce conversions lies in your marketing messaging. The copy you have on your product page needs to clearly and concisely explain your product's benefits, how it is different from and better than competitive products, and why it is worth the price. It's impossible to write this content without truly knowing your target buyer. Ensure your buyer persona research is accurate and as free from your preconceived notions as possible so that you can communicate value to your target buyer in their language.
At this point in the middle of the marketing funnel, email marketing is an effective channel to increase ecommerce sales. As long as you build your email list ethically (and you should NEVER purchase an email list), your list will contain high-quality prospects who have already expressed interest in your products. It's always easier to sell to people who have already purchased from your store or who have expressly given you their contact information. Cold emails rarely work.
Suppose you have done your work in fleshing out accurate buyer personas. In that case, you can segment your email list to effectively offer targeted product recommendations or discounts with high success. Email newsletters are also a fantastic way to build brand loyalty over time.
Influencer and Word-of-Mouth Marketing
In the world of D2C eCommerce, influencer marketing and word-of-mouth marketing can be beneficial channels as long as your brand operates from an authentic center. Choosing influencers who have a clear point-of-view that aligns with your brand is critical. Remember, influencer marketing flows both ways. A poorly chosen influencer has the potential to dilute your brand value.
Closing the Sale Again and Again
Your potential customer finally adds your product to their cart and then just sits there, taking no action. Now what? Next, we'll discuss how to deal with cart abandonment, streamlining the checkout flow, and maintaining a good customer experience at every sales touch.
Overcoming cart abandonment
In 2020, the average cart abandonment percentage is just shy of 70%, according to the Baynard Institute. How can we close the purchasing gap and reduce cart abandoners? Several online articles discuss how to improve your checkout flow. Here are some highlights:
Implement an exit-intent pop-up that triggers when the user is leaving the checkout page. You can use this pop-up to offer free shipping or a slightly reduced price as an immediate purchase incentive.
Having a live chat available on your site allows a real human to intervene and address any purchasing objections during the checkout process. During off-hours, most live chat applications still capture a potential buyer's contact information, so you can handle purchasing objections when you are back in the office.
Skip the mandatory account login
Instead of forcing users to create or log in to an account before they purchase, allow guest purchases, then offer to create an account after the checkout process completes.
Remove other customer friction
Think like your target customer. Walk through your entire purchase experience. Make sure everything runs smoothly and there are no unnecessary friction points that you can quickly eliminate. Does your search function work correctly? Are the product photos high-quality? Is your fabric composition listed in the product details? Have you taken the time to show swatches or details?
Developing customer loyalty
Any user experience and customer retention specialist will tell you measuring customer loyalty is a good way to monitor positive and negative changes in customer experience. Typically, customer loyalty is measured by a metric called Net Promoter Score (NPS). A high NPS directly correlates to lower customer churn, and your business can't grow without customer retention. For smaller e-commerce shops, measuring NPS may not be a practical venture with all the other priorities you're balancing, but you should still prioritize customer loyalty.
Customer service is queen
Mistakes will happen, whether they be technical glitches, or shipping delays, or user errors. No amount of planning or testing can allay every single problem. Having an efficient and friendly customer service experience is absolutely essential to ensure your customer experience never tarnishes. One bad experience can turn a customer away for life, and a great experience can make them lifelong.
Consider creating a loyalty program that awards purchase points, which can be redeemed for discount coupons or other products. Loyalty programs have been shown to dramatically promote customer retention.
Keeping customers satisfied is not only essential to gain repeat business, but happy customers will refer their friends and family to your business. There's no sales tool more effective than the social proof of a personal recommendation.
Customers check their shipment tracking an average of 4.6 times for each online purchase, illustrating the significant opportunity to drive more sales during the post-purchase stage. With ecommerce apps, you can create custom tracking page experiences that drive more sales.
There is a myriad of ethical ways to increase eCommerce sales for retailers on a budget. By consistently implementing a careful and targeted strategy over time, you can create brand awareness, optimize sales conversions, and grow customer loyalty to cultivate a healthy business and brand reputation.
Malomo helps you capture untapped revenue through beautiful, customized post-purchase experiences. Schedule a demo today.