People are always looking for tips to increase ecommerce sales. And that’s hardly surprising, considering the tremendous opportunities that exist in the ecommerce space.
For example, ecommerce sales in the US alone totaled to $517.36BN in 2018 (Source). Estimates for global sales vary, but they’re growing, beyond doubt. Now you know what a giant industry ecommerce has become.
Yet, the business model of eCommerce is relatively new – in fact, it’s one of the youngest, which is what makes it so attractive. As a matter of fact, few sectors, if any, have grown from nearly zero to such a gargantuan size.
And that’s what makes it both lucrative and challenging for marketers.
On the one hand, marketers know that all the proven ideas to grow ecommerce sales (no matter how often the ideas have been used) still carry a lot of potential. That’s because all the proven ideas are yet not fully exploited. So even if you were to simply copy the strategy of your competitors, chances are you’ll still meet with at least moderate success.
On the other hand, marketers know there’s a huge bunch of ideas out there, untouched, untested, not validated. Many strategies have not yet been adequately documented so there’s a lot of room for creativity. This makes ecommerce marketing (at least a part of it)a sort of blue ocean, uncharted and undiscovered.
Below, we discuss some of the top ecommerce marketing ideas. If implemented well, these tips to increase online sales will bring you increased traffic and revenue.
Tip #1: Improve your Data Quality and Collection
Data is the oil that fuels your sales. Without the right data, you’ll be shooting in the dark.
And the kind of traffic and customers you receive are unique to your store – no other store in the world has the exact same profile. Data has the power to retain customers to get repeat sales and it also can expose better strategies to convert visitors into customers.
So the data you generate is proprietary and unique too. That’s why we suggest focusing on data should be your #1 strategy.
What improved data quality means
Improved data quality means better using channels to collect every piece of reliable information that can be processed into meaningful data.
Data quality explained in brief
Apart from your own research, there are multiple touchpoints where your site visitors interact with your system. Every action they take (e.g. register for your newsletter) or do not take (e.g. browse but do not purchase) builds your data and tells you why they did what they did.
How to improve your data quality
In the eCommerce industry, there’s only one thing that’s more important than data, and that is relevant, high-quality data.
Here’s a three-step plan to improve your data collection and raise your data quality:
- Firstly, identify all the places you can collect data from. Some of the most commonly used sources include customer feedback, chat records, CRM, customer feedback, in-app analytics, purchase patterns, your marketing reports and so on.
- Secondly, evaluate if any of the information you collect is irrelevant – do you, for instance, need the date of birth of your newsletter subscribers? Asking for too much information can discourage at least a few people and keep them from signing up.
- Finally, look at your existing data architecture. It’s important to store data in a way that’s available at the right time and easier to make sense of. Money spent in getting the structure right goes a long way in ensuring high quality data.
Key strength of data quality
Better data quality makes your data statistically more actionable. If you have data on, say, only 14 out of the 850 visitors to your ecommerce site, it’s not reliable; if you have data on 400 of the 850 visitors, you’re onto something.
Bigger data helps you form dependable hypothesis, while better quality data validates the hypotheses.
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Tip #2: Improve Keyword Research
Keyword research should be driven by one single objective: identifying keywords that will bring relevant traffic that converts visitors to paying customers of your ecommerce store.
The focus, therefore, is not just on traffic. It’s on traffic that converts.
What keyword research means
Keyword research is the exercise undertaken to build a constantly updated database of terms customers and prospects use to search for the kind of products you offer.
Keyword explained in brief
Beginners often make the mistake of thinking their keyword is just the exact product they sell. For instance, if their online store sells whiteboard markers, they think the only search that’s relevant is “whiteboard markers”.
When they do this, they ignore and subsequently forego a very large market share that uses terms like “markers for whiteboard”, “red markers for whiteboard” and even discussions like “are the markers used for whiteboards safe?”.
How to carry out keyword research
It’s a good idea to begin your keyword research by asking this question: who buys from my online store?
Here’s what you should do next:
- Imagine your ideal buyer and build a buyer persona for every product category. Include key demographics in it.
- Use every opportunity to observe and record the terms used by others – your customers, friends, colleagues, family members – to search for similar products. Don’t ask them to do that directly, or else they’ll begin looking for your products, ruining your objective.
- Actually use keywords to search with Google or Bing. At the bottom of the search page results, you’ll see something called “People also search for”. Use that to expand your keyword list. A tool like Keywords Everywhere is a great help at this stage.
- List out all the keywords you can think of or observe. Include long-tail keywords (phrases with three or more words) as well. Remember, people tend to use different keywords at different stages of sales funnels.
- Now use a tool to validate all the keywords. You could either use paid tools like Ahrefs or Semrush, or use free tools like Ubersuggest or Google Keyword Planner. Most tools will show you the keywords your competitors are ranking for. If you sell only within a certain state or region, make sure you use appropriate filters.
- Next, use modifiers to build a better list of long-tail keywords. That means you should look for keywords using phrases like “what is the best”, “top ranking”, “how to” and so on. Go to step 5 and validate them as well.
- Finally, edit your list. You’ll want to remove keywords that are not really relevant and also spot low-hanging fruit – keywords with less competition but more traffic. They won’t come easy, but they’re worth the effort.
Key strength of keyword research
It brings better, more relevant traffic to your ecommerce website. It adds muscle to your SEO, gives you better returns on lowered costs and thus fetches you a better ROI.
Tip #3 Use CRM
Now you have enough data to tell you who buys from you and what keywords you should target to increase traffic to your online store. The next tip is about using a good CRM.
You don’t have to invest in expensive CRMs when you’re starting out; HubSpot, for instance, has a free version for small businesses.
New age CRMs help you collect and collate data, manage sales pipelines, serve customers better and avoid missing any opportunities. While the early CRMs were relatively expensive and complex, the newer CRMs are affordable, easy to use and more efficient.
We leveraged better insights in the app we built for Frank Green, Australia’s major ecommerce platform. It led to increasing their orders from 10,000 to 90,000 per week.
What CRM means
Customer Relationship Management software, mostly abbreviated to CRM, is a centralized, automated and strategic approach software that manages a company’s interaction with existing customers as well as with prospects.
CRM explained in brief
CRM improves the efficiency of your sales team by identifying leads, carrying asset libraries like email templates, analyzing data and generating reports. Ideally, it pools data from all your sources and improves conversion rates.
How to use a CRM
The usage of a CRM will partly depend on which CRM you opt for. However, the following is a good guide to using any CRM:
- Firstly, you’ll want to integrate all your online tools. That includes the queries visitors type in your search box, contacts, email client, reporting and analytics and everything else.
- Next, personalize the kind of reports you want to see. If your ecommerce store wants to sell more of products A or brand B this month, these reports should be on top of your dashboard.
- After this, add your marketing, sales, customer care and vendor support teams online. Without them on board, you’ll have a leaky bucket.
- Trace the journey of a visitor who begins by simply browsing and ends up as a paying customer. Identify what automated help your CRM can offer at every stage.
- Finally, train your teams to use the CRM and get their buy-ins for the CRM. A CRM can produce results only if teams use it whole-heartedly.
Key strength of CRM
Keeping track of and managing emails, leads, data, spreadsheets, transactions, pipelines, notes and learnings from the market and customers becomes pretty much impossible as your ecommerce business grows. CRM handles all this for you without hassles. Remember, CRMs have a massive 871% ROI. (Source)
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Tip #4 Upsell and Cross-Sell
Almost all lists of ecommerce marketing ideas carry this tip: upsell and cross-sell. Both these techniques involve offering a variety of options to a customer who has already made a decision to buy one or more products.
Neither of the two are unique to ecommerce; in-store salespeople have been doing it since ages. It’s just that ecommerce being technology-powered offers a deeper level of sophistication in this.
What upselling and cross-selling means
Upselling and cross-selling are two methods to encourage buyers to purchase a better product or a related product.
Upselling and cross-selling explained in brief
Upselling involves selling a superior, higher-priced version of an item the customer is about to buy. Cross-selling, on the other hand, involves selling products that could be complementary to the product the customer is buying.
How to use upselling and cross-selling
Selling ultimately is the process of solving the problem of your customers. That’s because customers aren’t really buying products, they’re trying to solve a problem. For instance, when a customer buys a book in a printed format, they do so to learn or entertain themselves. An e-book serves the same purpose, just in a different format.
Here’s how you can leverage upselling and cross-selling to quickly increase ecommerce sales:
- Understand that generating more revenue is not the motive of upselling or cross-selling. The first priority is to offer alternatives or additional products that will better solve the buyer’s problems.
- Your upsell must create better value. Let’s say a buyer is about to purchase a laptop with certain specifications. If you have a laptop in the same price band with better specifications, you must suggest that to the buyer. Upselling isn’t about suggesting more expensive alternatives, it’s about suggesting alternatives that are better.
- Give context to your suggestions. Show evidence why the buyer should consider brand B instead of the brand A they’ve zeroed down to.
- Don’t upsell or cross-sell too early otherwise it’ll act like a diversion. It’s a good idea to wait till the customer is at the checkout page. That’s also because customers who are at the checkout page have a much higher intent to buy because they’re more serious to solve a certain problem.
- Offer very limited alternatives. Showing too many alternatives can actually confuse the buyer and drive them away without making a purchase.
- Cross-sell items that are either easily forgotten (e.g. a camera-bag) or substantially improves the performance of the core product (e.g. a special filter lense). Remember “Often bought together” from Amazon?
- Consider bundling two or more products when you’re trying to cross-sell. When bought individually, accessories will involve more decision making efforts for customers – something that’s tiring for the customer. Your cross-selling should make their decision-making easier.
- Remind customers if their additional purchase will bring their total to an amount that qualifies for free shipping or something similar.
Key strength of upselling and cross-selling
Upselling and cross-selling enjoy twin benefits. They are a good solution to your search on how to increase ecommerce sales fast and they also make customers happy.
Tip #5 Manage Returns Better
Remember the saying a penny saved is a penny earned? Well, that applies to ecommerce very well.
For a number of reasons, returns at an online store are bigger than returns at a physical brick-and-mortar store. If you can find ways to manage returns better, you will be saving a lot of unwanted expenses, problems with accounting and a lot more.
What managing returns means
Managing returns is having a system in place to minimize returns and process credits quickly so as to maintain and improve customers’ trust in your ecommerce store.
Managing returns explained in brief
While this isn’t a direct method to increase online sales, it certainly keeps returns from eating into your revenues and increasing your logistics expenses.
In some cases, customers may even order excess so that they may qualify for free shipping (or an offer) and subsequently return the product.
How to manage returns
Look at the image below and you’ll see how a better description would have not only prevented a return but also preserved the reputation of the seller.
- Shopify quotes a study that suggests that 62% of customers would buy again from a brand offering free returns/exchanges (Source).
- Hence, think of your returns policy as a customer retention policy, rather than as a cost center.
- Begin by improving your dispatch systems. Any mistake on shipping the wrong items costs you both money and brand reputation. In some cases, it may even cause you artificial stock-outs; you shipped the last item to the wrong person and when a genuine buyer turns up, you’re out of stock.
- Make your returns policy very clear and transparent.
- Fine-tune your equation between price and returns. Customers expect a relatively flexible returns policy for a higher priced item because it has a higher perceived value. Low-priced items, on the other hand, can make do with a tighter or even no-returns policy.
- Fix a threshold beyond which returns may be red-flagged. Automate the system based on factors like history of the customer, prices of items, your supplier policy and so on.
- In extreme cases of a handful of customers who turn in an excessively high rate of return, you may consider banning these customers as a last resort, like Amazon did (Source).
Key strength of managing returns
A clear returns policy is a great way to establish trust in the minds of first time customers.
Recommended Reading for you: How to Build an App like Zomato?
Tip #6 Leverage Email Marketing
There can possibly be no ecommerce business that does not use email. That means it’s highly effective. But that also means you’ve got to do it better than the rest of them or your emails won’t ever be read.
Email marketing offers something special in that it provides you a direct communication channel where you can talk to your customers without any distractions.
That’s possible, of course, if you get them to open your emails, because the open rates of commercial emails are generally low.
What Email Marketing means
Email marketing is the action of sending commercial emails in bulk through an automated system to prospects and customers.
Email Marketing explained in brief
You may send promotional emails to those who’ve agreed to receive your emails. Recently, regulations like the European GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) have put some restrictions on cold emails. As a result, building your mailing list of people who’ve agreed to receive emails from you is the best way out.
How to use Email Marketing
Email marketing is a sort of science in itself. You can’t use your regular Gmail or Yahoo accounts when you send out emails in bulk. Specialized commercial email service providers (ESPs) like MailChimp, GetResponse, Amazon AWS, AWeber and others can help you with that.
Alternatively, you may build your own email infrastructure, though you must carefully weigh the pros and cons of building your own infrastructure as compared to using the services of ESPs.
This is how you could go about building an effective email marketing system to improve ecommerce sales:
- Build your own list. Encourage people to register and sign up. To get that done, you must make signing up desirable using one or more of your promotional techniques.
- Use the double opt-in method to verify email addresses when people sign up. That ensures you are getting deliverable addresses.
- Devise a proper email marketing strategy. Notify prospects and customers when you’re offering something on sale, when there’s a product launch or when there’s something special coming up. Subscribers must feel rewarded for having signed up, otherwise they’ll quickly unsubscribe.
- Pay special attention to abandoned carts. Devise a special strategy to win back customers who ditched the shopping cart and didn’t make a purchase. Understand why they didn’t make a purchase and send them appropriate emails. Abandoned cart emails have a higher email open rate, so leverage that.
- Periodically clean your mailing lists. Email addresses change over time so when you send emails to invalid addresses, they bounce back to you. If your emails bounce back too often, there’s a risk of your being labeled a spammer.
- Remember to differentiate between transactional email and marketing emails. Transactional emails, as the name suggests, are emails that inform recipients about a transaction. This is important because some countries have strict laws that say you can’t include promotional content inside transactional emails.
- Finally, don’t forget to segment your lists so that you can send out targeted emails to each segment. An unsegmented list means you’re forced to send emails that interest nobody in particular.
Key strength of Email Marketing
Email marketing has a staggering 4,400% ROI (Source), arguably the highest across all marketing channels. So getting it right can make a huge difference to your ecommerce sales.
Though ecommerce is getting increasingly competitive by the day, it’s promising and young enough for new players to make a dent and established players to up their game. Some might need a minor tweak in their strategy while others might need more comprehensive solutions.
We at EngineerBabu have been working successfully with entrepreneurs and startups for a long time. Our deeper understanding of how ecommerce works and our expertise at building solutions produce results.