Running a deal or promotion isn’t always guaranteed to boost online sales, nor is depending exclusively on the various holidays to get your profits into the black. With thousands of internet merchants vying for consumers’ attention, you need to stay on top of your sales year-round.
The products you sell will dictate most of your demand, but, in this highly competitive, cutthroat world of e-commerce, there are a variety of tactics available to business owners to lure customers your way. Discounts and sales will be a big driver of traffic, for example. Tweaks to the online shopping experience and improvements in customer service will go a long way in boosting an online seller’s reputation and sales.
With that in mind, here’s a look at four ways to sell more online.
1. Secure and Simplify the Shopper’s Experience
One of the frustrating aspects of being a merchant is failing to close the sale. According to research firm eMarketer, 74% of U.S. shoppers abandon their purchase at checkout. The reasons why are plentiful: for unknown online sellers, it’s a question of trust. For others, it’s the numerous steps needed to make the purchase, or added costs such as shipping.
This is one of the reasons why Amazon.com has been so successful: it has owned the patent on one-click shopping for a decade, which helped it become what it is today. It’s easy to impulse buy if all you have to do is click once, especially when consumers also cite vague shipping dates and cumbersome checkout processes as reasons to give up on their purchase.
Combating this part of the process for online sellers can be easy. With data breaches being a common occurrence, consumers are more wary of who they do business with online—even though they don’t understand everything about it, consumers are aware that their web activity is often tracked. That is why merchants need to prove that they’re protecting consumers’ personal data by showcasing their security chops. That’s where trust logos come into play. These are third-party certificates that assure consumers that the website is safe to shop. Letting consumers know your website and payment system have passed the muster of leading security firms will build trust with shoppers. Display these logos prominently on the homepage to provide peace of mind to safety-minded consumers.
Limiting the amount of data you need from the consumer when checking out and being specific about delivery schedules can also help close the deal. Other snafus that lead to cart abandonment include only accepting one payment method or not offering the ability to check out as a guest. The easier it is to make the purchase the better your online sales will be.
2. Discount Your Way to Big Dollars
In this cutthroat retail world, consumers no longer expect to pay full price for anything. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Amazon Prime Day and other shopping events have conditioned consumers to hunt for the cheapest price. Without discounts and deals, especially during the holidays, you’ll probably see traffic dissipate, but playing the deal game can also be dangerous. Offer too much and you’ll lose money, don’t do enough and you’ll lose business. A balancing act indeed, but one that is achievable.
One of the more popular discounts for e-commerce is free, expedited shipping. Without it, you’ll quickly lose business to Amazon or other online sellers. To cushion some of the blow, tie the free shipping to a minimum purchase amount to boost the total sale. There are also percentages and dollar-off coupons, flash sales where products are deeply discounted for a period of time, and free gifts with select purchases. All will build goodwill and, hopefully, close the deal.
Incorporating a little bit of everything and making it thematic into your special promotions—like a Valentine’s Day, or Saint Patrick’s Day, or Mother’s Day special, etc.—will keep your customers engaged and ideally generate buzz on social media on a regular basis. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and anywhere else consumers hang out online can’t be ignored. Your promotions are only as good as the number of people who know about them, so make sure to get the word out.
3. Engage Influencers to Boost Traffic
If social media did nothing else, it gave voice to millions of people. Whether you sell tech gadgets or widgets, the odds are that there is someone, somewhere on the Internet commenting on your product or industry. They might even have a big following that hangs on to their every recommendation.
Those are the people you want in your corner. They’re also the reason why courting online influencers should be included in any marketing plan you might devise. It doesn’t just have to be a blogger with a huge following. It can be a mom who has a lot of friends on Facebook or a beat reporter that covers your industry. If they write about your product or website or share your content, it’s a surefire way to boost online sales.
Hitting a popular blog writer up with a request to share your content isn’t going to fly with the big ones. You’ll need to first build a relationship, which will take time and commitment. To do that, you’ll need to follow them on social media, share their content on your own website and engage them with comments on blog posts. Creating exclusive content and guest posts can boost your status quickly, and can be anything from an infographic to a video.
The more familiar your brand or e-commerce site becomes, the greater the chance of getting mentioned by an influencer. It’s only after you’ve interacted for a few months with the influencer that you should request them to link back to your site. If they do, then you’ve hit the holy grail of influencer marketing.
4. Pamper Them with Customer Service Perks
Nothing will boost online sales more than repeat customers(read ShippingEasy’s free guide on that here). The only way to get that is to offer competitive prices and superb customer service. Also, in this instant gratification society, this is where speedy shipping comes in. To compete and stay ahead of smaller rivals, lots of merchants will offer two-day shipping and free returns. Providing transparency when it comes to shipping schedules can also increase sales. If consumers know exactly how long it takes to receive their package, they’ll be more likely to do business with you.
The interaction your customer has with the website and customer service can make or break the relationship on the spot. Providing top-level service won’t go unnoticed. In fact, online sellers are increasingly turning to bots to do the digital customer service work for them. These artificial intelligence-powered chatbots simulate human conversations.
Online sellers use chatbots online to answer questions, enhance customer engagement, and leave them feeling empowered. After all, both the company and the user can see the history of the entire interaction, removing any ambiguity about who said what. They’re also cost savers for small merchants who may not have the cash to increase the number of customer service reps around the holidays. These chatbots can work around the clock (and don’t need a lunch break). The last thing you want to happen is to leave a customer unsatisfied during one of the most stressful times of the year.
E-commerce has created a ton of business opportunities for all sorts of merchants, but it also creates headaches and hardships for online merchants who aren’t prepared. Seeing a big uptick in sales outside of the busy seasons can be rare and challenging to grow into. It requires a little bit of promotion and lot of excellent customer service to stand out from the countless online sellers vying for their consumers’ dollars at all times.
Make sure you have attractive discounts and shipping delivery schedules, boost customer service, and secure and simplify the checkout process of your website. These will all go a long way towards helping boost online sales and traffic throughout the year.
Harry Freeman is a marketing strategist who consults with big companies, small businesses, and individuals who are working on promoting a socially-minded project, from local grass roots movements to large-scale cooperatives.