We’ve put our heads together here at The Alternative Agency and created what is sure to be the most comprehensive list of eCommerce strategies, tactics and tips!
Apply these tactics to get your sales and marketing juices flowing and sales figures growing!
So, if you want to find out how to boost eCommerce sales, let’s get onto the tips and tactics without any further ado…
(P.S. Don’t forget to check out our super-valuable bonus tip at the end!)
Email Marketing Tips
Don’t worry… Over time we will be adding links to each of these sections, to dig deep into each area.
1. Grow your email list
Email marketing is still the number one way to nurture your customers and generate more sales. The best way of growing your email list is by offering your website visitors something of value in exchange for their email address. This can be a relevant content piece or discounts, for example. You can’t beat email for getting direct contact with your customers.
Well, the first place to look is your marketing strategy. Are you doing things the right way or are you being your own worst marketing enemy?
2. Segmentation is what you need
Casting the net too wide with your messaging is a big mistake. Personalized communication is much better. You want to make sure that your marketing efforts are highly targeted.
The best way to achieve this is to narrow your audience down into segments – loyal customers, one-time buyers, non-buyers, people who abandoned the shopping cart, etc.
It’s not enough to just run an email series, see an increase, and be done with it. Run tests and check your analytics in detail. You should always be looking to refine your email marketing to get the best possible results. Open rates a bit low? Test some different subject lines. Click-throughs not too good? Revise your copy and CTAs. You get the picture.
4. Make it personal
Always sign off your email from a real person. People respond better to a real person than something that is obviously just a generic automated email, or a bland email from a [email protected] email address. You can also address people by their name in both the subject and body of your email – Pretty much any decent email software or marketing automation tool will allow you to personalize emails like this, using personalisation tokens/shortcodes. Also, make your email copy sound natural and conversational, whilst still being on-point for your brand’s voice.
5. Timing is key
The last thing you want is to send an email at a time when it’s just going to sit in an inbox unnoticed. If you’re not sure, try different times and use your analytics to identify the times that get the best open rates. With eCommerce, this will likely depend on what you sell, who your customer is, and more. See point 3… make sure you test sending times, too!
6. Make it easy to subscribe and unsubscribe
Yes, you want lots of people to sign up to your email, so make it as easy as possible. But you also need to make it easy for people to unsubscribe too. If you don’t offer a clear option to unsubscribe people may decide you’re too unscrupulous to buy from. Of course unsubscribe links are mandatory in law in most instances, plus a whole host of GDPR & privacy issues. So, best read-up on the rules and use decent software (that will insert many legal requirements for you!)… Or hire someone that knows their email marketing shizzle!
7. Send follow-up emails
Your visitor has just created an account on your website… Send them a welcome email! Your visitor has just signed up to your newsletter… Send them a thank you email! Someone added a product to their cart, but didn’t finish the purchase… Send them an email reminding them of their items!
Follow up emails are essential for customer activation, retention, and repeat business. Sending targeted follow-up communications after key actions your customers take is essential because it shows you’re listening and catering to their needs.
8. Not just a pretty picture… Optimise your website design for CRO & UX
Your website should be more than just pretty-looking. The design should be optimised for conversions (remember that conversions are not necessarily sales, other types of conversion such as newsletter sign up or account creation are great for moving your contacts down the sales funnel). This means the user experience must be good and flow smoothly. Pay particular attention to your checkouts as this is a commonplace for people to click away if they’re not impressed.
9. Add social proof – Let your customers do the talking
Social proof convinces people that you’re trustworthy and encourages people to buy from you. Display real testimonials and feedback on your homepage or product pages. If possible, include at least the first name of reviewers, and state if they are a verified purchaser or not. Be active on the likes of Trustpilot, Google My Business and others, and consider displaying your Trustpilot rating on your website… It helps!
10. Offer money-back guarantee (if possible)
Money-back guarantees are a good way to nudge people that are in two-minds towards a sale. They can effectively try your product out risk-free, which is a big incentive for undecided potential buyers.
11. Offer free delivery/shipping (if possible)
In the world of eCommerce, you need to stand out from your competitors. Offering free delivery is a good way to do this. It also creates trust, as the price the customer sees is what they pay without any nasty surprises at the checkout. In fact, if you want even a chance to compete with Amazon & their ‘Prime’ delivery service, do consider this!
12. Offer fast shipping for a premium price (if possible)
As more and more eCommerces continue to battle it out for market share, who wins the race? Whoever offers the best product… And convenience. After Amazon shocked the retail world by announcing its two-day shipping service, customers got used to fast shipping.
If you can, offer a fast shipping upgrade service or consider providing this for free, especially if you sell premium products. Be sure to display all delivery information clearly on your homepage and, ideally, on every category and product page, as well as a dedicated page for delivery info.
13. Generate urgency
Urgency and scarcity are two big motivators to get people to buy. You can do this by limiting your offer to a certain number of buyers, e.g. first 200 customers get 50% off.
Or you can do a flash sale with a countdown timer that ticks away on your homepage or the product page.
14. Reduce friction on your checkout page
The checkout page of your website needs to be quick, easy-to-navigate, and smooth, otherwise people will click away and abandon their cart.
In other words, make sure you don’t bombard people with tick boxes, entry forms, information, or (too many or unrelated) upsells. Remember, simplicity is the key.
15. Offer more payment options (if possible)
Multiple payment options simply makes things more convenient for the customer. Not everyone uses Paypal, so don’t assume that they do. Offer a range of payment processors and credit/debit card options.
That said, if you accept cards, still consider accepting Paypal… Many like to use this due to inferred trust Paypal payments can bring to an eCommerce site.
16. Make your copy and images on-point
Good, persuasive, but not too pushy copywriting and high quality, relevant images are the most important aspects of your website. Content should match the needs of your audience, discuss the pain points your product solves, and then help them to see the benefits of using both your product, and your eCom shop specifically… All without too much sales-speak!
Likewise, if your site looks shabby or has naff images – Or takes ages to load – or looks terrible on mobiles… your sales WILL likely suffer considerably!
17. Upsell and cross-sell
Okay… okay, so we mentioned NOT to overdo the upsells, we know. However… Upsells and cross-sells, when done right, can work really well in terms of both solving customers’ needs, and increasing your average basket value – A win/win, no?
Upsells are offers that you present to the customer either while browsing on your site or at the checkout.
An upsell could be offering a related item at the checkout as people are about to buy or after the sale. Cross-sells tend to be offered when people are looking at an item, and will recommend other items to complement it. These help to increase your average order value.
18. Include strong call to action statements
Using CTA buttons with persuasive (but not pushy) copy will help to drive up conversions. You should make it as easy as possible for customers to take action and convert or buy your products, and nothing helps with that more than a big colourful button with an action statement on it.
Make sure your CTAs show in a really clear way which action you want them to take. It’s surprising how many eCommerce sites FAIL MISERABLY at this!
19. Do A/B split testing
A/B tests involve changing a certain element of your website for a proportion of users and testing the results on performance. First you create a hypothesis, such as “I think changing the ‘Buy Now’ buttons from being a ‘ghost button’ (this means a button with no background, just an outline of a button with text inside) to being a button with a solid background will increase our conversions”
Next, you split-test this idea (you can use Google Optimise, Visual Website Optimiser, or if your website uses Hubspot, of course you can split test with Hubspot in numerous ways.
For instance, with a very basic split test, you may decide to change the colour of your CTA buttons and test it on 50% of visitors over the course of time. After the experiment, you are more empowered to make a well-informed decision.
Advertising (Paid Media) Tips (including Paid Social Media)
20. RETARGET AND REMARKET!!! OK? Got it? Good
This is such an important tip that we should be shouting it from the rooftops. The internet is perfect for retargeting customers. Cookies and data analytics allow you to automatically retarget existing customers or visitors that didn’t buy with relevant ads and offers.
Remarketing is much more effective than trying to reach “cold” customers and will give you a higher ROI. Facebook, for example, offers some amazing remarketing options, as do most other paid ad platforms.
There are Sooooooo many ways to do this, expect a blog post on how to use remarketing for your eCommerce business, soon.
21. Time your ads carefully
Use your analytics to identify the best times to run ads. In other words, find out when people are more likely to click and make a purchase from your ads.
You should then focus on displaying ads at these times, while also keeping a small percentage running during “off-peak” hours for comparison, as customer patterns may change – during holiday seasons for example.
22. Select long-tail keywords
Ad campaigns can be expensive, especially if you have to bid on very popular keywords. One way to save some money and pick up extra conversions is to identify good long-tail keywords and phrases. Your competitors are less likely to be bidding on them.
As they are less common search terms, your traffic may be slightly lower with long-tails, but your conversion rate should rise, more than compensating for this fact.
23. Running Google Ads? Narrow down with negative keywords
Negative keywords help you to exclude people that are unlikely to convert, which saves you money on PPC ads as you won’t pay for worthless clicks.
Use your analytics to highlight keywords that are attracting non-converting visitors and exclude those keywords.
24. Use creative display URLs
For Google or Bing ads, make sure you optimise the display URL. Many people don’t bother, but it is an opportunity to persuade people to use your brand.
You can also reinforce your keywords in the display URL for improved ad targeting.
25. Experiment with ads
Will changing the copy or images used in an ad make a difference to the number of clicks? There’s only one way to find out – experiment! Run different variations of ads and check out the analytics to see which perform better.
This way you can optimise your campaigns for the best results.
26. Apply AdWords Extensions
To maximise sales, you should use AdWords extensions, so that customers on mobile devices can contact you easily through calls or messages.
You should always try and make life easier for your customers, and being able to contact you with one tap might mean the difference between them choosing you or a competitor.
27. Use other ad tools
Another way to increase eCommerce sales is to use tools such as Semrush to see which ad keywords other businesses are using in the same industry as you.
If you identify some high-performing keywords, you can target them and try to outbid your competitors.
28. Run social media ads
Social media ads are highly targeted, as the platforms keep a lot of data on their users. As the ads are often so well-targeted, the cost per click is less than general PPC ads. Just make sure you segment your market carefully and set up your ads to focus on each segment separately.
29. Keep track of keyword performance
You need to use a tool such as SERPBook to monitor how well you are ranking for certain keywords in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
These tools will also track your ranking over a length of time, comparing your performance to competitors.
30. Focus mainly on Google, but don’t forget the others!
There’s no doubt that Google is the biggest and most important search engine to rank highly on. But Bing comes in as the second most popular search engine, and many people still use other engines such as Yahoo! It’s worth optimising separately for those too, so you don’t miss out on sales. There are tools you can use for both Bing and Yahoo! Such as Bing Webmaster Tools or Rankwatch.
31. Make a sitemap
If you don’t have a sitemap, you should make one ASAP. Sitemaps help the search engine to index your pages, making it easier for the algorithms to detect keywords. Once made, you should upload your sitemap to Bing Webmaster Tools and Google Search Console.
Good news if you use WordPress – you can get plugins to automatically generate a sitemap.
32. Stick with legit SEO strategies
SEO wizardry is often divided into two camps… white-hat (effective good practices which are favoured by the Google algorithm) and black-hat (bad practices that are banned by Google and may cause you problems in the long run).
However, be careful with such industry-speak… MANY MANY MANY MANY (sorry, but there are a LOT) of SEO freelancers, agencies, and ‘random gurus’ bang on and on about ‘white hat’ SEO. Then, cynically, they go on to publish guest posts that they have paid someone to publish, or take other actions which, technically, are paying to manipulate the search results.
It’s time for a grown-up discussion with your SEO agency.
Ask your agency what tactics they will use, explain you want 100% transparency on their tactics. You want them to explain to you the pros & cons of what they are planning, and what risks, if any, are involved. THEN, and only then, can you make an informed decision about their work.
If an agency simply says they will ‘do white hat link building’ don’t take them at their word… Dig deeper, as in – get examples. And make sure you’re open & frank with them – requesting that they do the same with you.
Content Marketing Tips
33. Create super-valuable content
You should aim to create content that is way better than your competitors, and offers readers lots of value. Always look for new topics, angles, or ways of presenting your content to outperform your competitors.
To increase eCommerce sales and score better with SEO make sure your content is highly readable and has a powerful call to action within the content.
Think about your buyer’s journey, their ‘path to purchase’. People don’t usually just land on a site knowing what they want! They come with a PROBLEM OR NEED, and BUY A SOLUTION, usually.
So, think about the eCommerce sales funnel, fire-up MS Excel or Google Sheets, and plan what content you could write, to help educate your visitors and guide them on their path to purchase.
Your eCommerce site’s content shouldn’t JUST be restricted to product descriptions! Use buyers guides and other valuable info to make your website content the ultimate sales assistant, educating the virtual shoppers and helping them get spot-on solutions to their needs.
As a side note, content marketing is not new. Brands have been telling stories to attract and retain customers for hundreds of years.
34. Get guest blogging spots
Guest posts are articles or blogs that you create and publish on other people’s websites. Ideally these will be high-authority sites with tons of readers or viewers.
You can include a backlink to your site or content to help with your SEO, but be wary of doing too much of this. Also avoid going for either low-end guest posting OR paid guest posting services… both can land you in hot water.
That said, guest posting CAN still be a valid tactic and, indeed, can drive relevant, engaged visitors to your website.
So, don’t so much think about guest posting from an SEO perspective… think of it like your guest post is a staff member from your company, giving a talk at an industry conference. In other words, it can raise your profile and improve branding.
35. Publish a mixture of short and long-form content
It’s often said that long-form content = better rankings. However, the truth is likely far more complex than that!
Google’s aim is to rank the most relevant, useful, and popular content for any given search phrases. Whilst some topics may need only a short amount of content to solve the searcher’s needs, it is true that many topics are more nuanced, requiring much more consideration, learning, and thus need more content.
So, with this in mind, when looking at creating user-focused content, be sure to create content that is as comprehensive as possible.
Gone are the days of SEOs creating multiple single pages all targeting slightly different long-tail keywords on the same topic! These days, Google is much better at understanding content (usually!). Because of this, covering a topic in more detail, comprehensively, can yield MUCH better results.
That being said – don’t be tempted to stretch out the content JUST to try to hit some artificial word-count just because an SEO report said longer content ranks more!
Simply cover a topic as best you can. Think of what questions the reader will have and answer them. Think about subtopics within the main topic, use subheadings, bullet lists, images, videos (if possible) and make the copy engaging.
But please, please… don’t create long-form copy where it’s not needed, all you’ll achieve is boring the socks off your visitors!* (Not really, they’ll likely just bugger off way before they get bored!)
36. Record entertaining videos
Having high quality written content on-site should definitely be a priority, but why not shake up things a bit? of customer engagement, videos are also highly important.
Video content can help with SEO, especially because they are more likely to keep visitors glued to your page.In addition, it’s totally possible to rank for a keyword with a video, try searching different queries starting with “How to” and chances are your first result will be a Youtube tutorial. Videos are also great for explaining how your product works and even capturing authentic customer testimonials, which helps you boost sales!
Social Media Tips
37. Aim to become a thought leader
The businesses and individuals that profit most from social media are those that position themselves as thought-leaders or influencers.
To do this, you need people to share your content, so make sure you offer unique perspectives, insights, and tips in your niche. For instance, if you offer a marketing service you can share a series of tips on “How to boost eCommerce sales” to create authority and brand awareness.
38. But first become an active listener
Social media isn’t JUST about you. Remember, the word ‘Social’ comes before the word ‘Media’. So, don’t be the muppet standing in the corner of the room either talking about themselves or banging-on about topic after topic just to prove ‘what an expert’ they are!
Instead, LISTEN FIRST AND FOREMOST!
Listen to complaints from customers – don’t act emotionally, take a breath, see their problem, and try to help. Be professional and friendly, but with boundaries! Listen to compliments, and say thanks! Listen to industry peeps, re-share their content, reply to their comments Listen to your brand mentions, get in on the conversation – have fun with it where possible, but stay on-brand Listen to the news – maybe there’s an opportunity for you to comment on it? Listen to your competitors – and if you want to be very sneaky… Listed to your competitor’s customers, maybe you can steer them to your brand if they are unhappy (be careful!)
39. Offer customer service through social networks
In this day and age, you should make it as easy as possible for people to contact you. That’s why many companies are setting up customer service portals on social media. It makes sense for people to send a quick message via social media, as it is quick and convenient to find you and they will get notified of any reply instantly on their mobile device.
General eCommerce Marketing Tips
40. Run “One-Off” Campaigns
Once you have a comprehensive strategy for each of the sections mentioned above – email marketing, paid ads, social media, etc. then you can think about adding some extra “one-off” campaigns. These types of campaigns can be very profitable, when done right.
There are 3 main types of one-off campaign:
Tripwire Offers – This kind of campaign has its own, unique landing page and sales funnel built specifically to entice people to buy the products in this offer. The sales funnel can include exit popups, upsells, downsells, 1-click order bumps.
Giveaways – Competitions and giveaways are a great way to build an eCommerce list and social media following FAST. You can use social share boosting tactics such as sweepstakes (enter with name and email for one entry to win a prize, then tweet the competition details for another ‘x’ amount of entries, share to Facebook for another ‘x’ entries, etc.) People will happily refer others if there’s something in it for them, which can boost your following quickly. Also, if you’re giving away one of your products as a prize, the fact that people are interested in winning it means they’re likely to be users of that product, and therefore close to your target audience. Happy days!
Seasonal Offers – Seasonal promotions generally run around holiday periods, or other times of increased consumer spending.
41. Run Seasonal Campaigns & Offers
There’s no better opportunity to increase sales and boost customer loyalty than holiday seasons.
To capitalize on events such as Halloween, Christmas, New Year, and Easter (plus others), then you need to plan your campaigns carefully and make sure your offers are solid and well promoted. Fortunately, we have an in-depth guide on holiday marketing, so you don’t have to stress about the finer details. Click here to check it out!
42. Run Flash Sales
A flash sale can be a great opportunity to shift excess stock, generate a buzz around your brand, and boost sales. You need to plan flash sales carefully though. Ideally, you want to create a sense of urgency around the sale using discount strategies that generate scarcity or exclusivity.
Consider running offers such as time-limited exclusive product drops, early access sales, VIP sales, time-sensitive discounts, etc.
43. Partner with Influencers
Try to partner with an internet influencer that is related to your brand. For instance, foodie brands can partner with YouTube chefs, Instagram foodies, or Facebook lifestyle influencers, by giving them your products to make recipes out of. You can use product placement, or ask the influencers to directly mention your brand.
You can also create a win-win situation, where you feature influencers on your blog, which gain coverage for them, and helps you to promote your brand and build trust. One note of caution – be sure to disclose any sponsorship and product placement, rather than being shady about it, as this can come back and bite you on the backside if you don’t!
44. Use Strong Digital PR Tactics
You can get your team together for a brainstorming session to come up with PR ideas, angles, and events. For instance, aligning yourself with a relevant cause or social movement can help to gain good PR. Cosmetic brand Dove ran a very successful PR campaign called #showus, that encouraged women to post selfies to create a collection of images of ‘real’ women, as a backlash against the unachievable ‘perfection’ of most cosmetic models.
Just be aware that it’s pretty hard to come up with PR angles that aren’t, well, a bit ‘naff’! Digital PR is something of an art-form and is best left to the professionals. That’s why you should consider hiring a PR specialist – they can really work wonders for promoting an eCommerce site.
We’ve saved this one until last as it is a longer tip and covers all the areas set out above…
BONUS: Find and fix funnel gaps (you do have a funnel… right?!)
The basic funnel and customer journey looks something like this:
The potential customer:
1. Sees an ad or searches for a product, then clicks on it if interested
2. Visits your website to view relevant products or services
3. Searches for the product or service on your site, then looks for the price
4. Likes the product and places an order or makes an inquiry for more details.
Along this journey, there are several places that the customer could drop off. These are known as funnel gaps.
For instance, maybe the call to action on your ad isn’t clear enough, which means they won’t get past stage one.
Or perhaps they can’t find the product they want on your site, meaning they’ll click away at stage three.
Funnel gaps will cause less traffic, lower conversions, and can negatively influence SEO as you may end up with a higher bounce rate as people click away.
It’s super-important that you use analytics to identify funnel gaps and plug them as quickly as possible by making the necessary changes.
So there we have it! If you’re taking your eCom business seriously, then marketing should be a priority. If sales are starting to slow down or get stagnant, it’s time for you to come up with some new and creative ways to market your products on your eCom site.
We hope you enjoyed our list of tactics. Now it’s your turn. Seriously, if you want to boost sales, make sure you’re implementing at least some of these into your strategy and get those sales figures of yours growing! If you need a hand with that, let us know!