The rise of e-commerce has made selling products online a highly competitive task for businesses. More and more shoppers are choosing to make their purchases online, and the number is growing rapidly every year.
Here are some strategic ways to improve engagement (and sales) for your e-commerce site, and some insight into why it’s so important to do so.
First of all, just how popular has e-commerce become?
The Rise of E-commerce
Oberlo has some intriguing statistics about e-commerce, which demonstrate just how much potential the platform has.
- There will be an estimated 1.92 billion digital shoppers around the world in 2019, rising to an estimated 2.14 billion people by 2021.
- E-commerce sales this year are expected to account for 13.7% of retail sales worldwide, rising to 17.5% of retail sales by 2021.
- Online shopping conducted on mobile devices is expected to account for 67.2% of digital sales in 2019.
- A massive 85% of shoppers will do research online before making their purchase online.
- Around 65% of shoppers will research price comparisons on their mobile devices, while they’re actually visiting a physical store.
- 81% of shoppers say they trust the recommendations of friends and family over those of businesses.
- Younger consumers (namely Millennials and Gen Xers) spend an average of 6 hours a week shopping online.
Challenges Facing E-commerce
E-commerce has undeniably become hugely popular among shoppers worldwide. However, e-commerce is not without its challenges. While more and more consumers are looking to online sources to do their shopping, Oberlo’s statistics also point to a surprisingly low rate of actual conversions.
- On average, only 2.86% (or 1 in every 34) of visits to e-commerce websites will actually result in a purchase.
- A whopping 69% of online shopping carts are abandoned. The leading reason for this is customers finding unexpected extra costs added to their total spending. Complicated checkout processes and onsite errors are also factors.
- Slow mobile load time also discourages sales, with bounce rate increasing by 32% if a page takes 1 to 3 seconds to load.
In order to address these challenges and differentiate yourself from other e-commerce stores, it’s essential to put your marketing efforts towards encouraging customer engagement. Increased engagement means an increase in repeat visits to your online store; more repeat visits lead to improved brand loyalty and customer retention; and naturally, this in turn leads to more sales, more leads and more earnings.
Conversion Rate Optimisation
Before we jump straight into the tips on improving the success of your e-commerce store, let’s discuss the bigger picture. The goal of e-commerce is to get as many conversions as possible, and this is where conversion rate optimisation (or CRO) comes in.
Conversion rate refers to the number of times a user completes a goal, divided by the number of visitors to your site (or site traffic).
Every time a user visits your website presents an opportunity for a conversion. Conversion rate optimisation is the process of increasing the number of visitors on your website who take the action you want them to take. This action is known as a conversion, which is another way of saying that a visitor has completed a site goal. Usually, a user will complete a number of smaller “micro-conversions” before completing a macro-conversion.
Some examples of micro-conversions:
- Signing up for an e-mail list
- Creating a user account
- Adding a product to the cart
Some examples of macro-conversions:
- Buying a product from your website
- Requesting a quote from you
- Subscribing to a service you provide
The conversion rate optimisation process involves understanding how users behave when they visit your site, and what could be preventing them from completing a site goal.
CRO can be a very beneficial part of an SEO strategy. It can benefit you in the following key ways:
Better Return on Investment:
Conversion rate optimisation improves your ROI. More conversions mean you are getting more from the resources you have in place, without having to bring in more potential customers.
Insights into Customer Behaviour:
CRO can give you a better understanding of how your audience behaves, and help you to find the best ways to market to them in a way that speaks to their needs.
When you run an e-commerce site, you expect your users to share some pretty valuable and sensitive information online – their credit card number, delivery address, and more. It’s important to build genuine trust among your users. CRO practices are geared towards making your site more trustworthy and professional.
Improved User Experience:
CRO helps to determine what works best for your site, and what gives shoppers the best user experience. Statistics show us that 80% of shoppers will stop purchasing from a business or brand after a poor customer experience. Furthermore, users will be 62% less likely to make a conversion in the future if they have a bad experience on a mobile e-commerce website. By implementing good CRO, you can give your users a smooth and satisfying e-commerce journey. This is also likely to turn them into ambassadors for your brand.
For successful conversion rate optimisation, you need to know what to optimise, and who to optimise for. If you make CRO part of your SEO strategy, your SEO agency can find and analyse the data that tells you where to focus your optimisation efforts.
Whether you choose to work with an agency or are looking to improve user engagement on your own, here are some tried-and-tested tips for bringing more qualified users to your e-commerce website.
1. Optimise Your Site for Mobile
Statistics tell us that more than half of all online shopping is expected to take place on mobile devices by 2021. It’s absolutely essential to make sure your website can be used on multiple mobile devices. Make sure your site design is responsive, and implemented with mobile visitors in mind at every stage of the user journey.
Here are some quick tips on optimising for mobile:
- Keep the layout simple and clean.
- Minimise distractions (like advertisements, animations, etc).
- Use good quality images that are optimised for the web.
- Make it as easy as possible for your users to scroll and zoom as needed.
- Place all essential scrollable elements within the “natural” reach of the user’s thumb; mobile shoppers will be using their thumbs to scroll and click.
- Make sure your “Add to Cart” button is large and easy for users to access.
- Pay special attention to your Shopping Cart page and make sure it’s very easy to navigate.
2. Optimise Your Product Pages
The page where a product appears is ultimately responsible for making the sale of that product. Here are the best ways to make sure each product page works as hard as it should:
- Include an engaging, descriptive title – this is one of the first things a user will see when browsing.
- As with all pages on your website, make sure your product pages have a speedy load time.
- Again, as with all pages on your website, ensure that your product pages are optimised for mobile use.
- Add a breadcrumb to each product page, to make it easier for users to keep track of where they are in your site, and navigate back if needed.
- Include some compelling copy that describes the key benefits of the product, and persuades the user to make the purchase.
- Include a strong, distinct call to action (CTA) like “Buy” or “Add to Cart”.
- Give customers a preview of their items in their cart whenever they need it.
- Include all pricing and shipping information (VAT, delivery and arrival times, express shipping costs etc), to show transparency and encourage user trust.
- Include information on your return policy, so your customers feel confident in committing to the purchase.
- Incorporate a currency convertor, so that users from different countries can easily see how much they will be spending.
- Use professional photographs that give users the best possible impression of your product, and display it in the most flattering way. Ensure that your images are optimised for web, to avoid slow load time.
- Allow customers to see all available variants of a single product, including different colours, sizes etc.
- Give customers the ability to zoom in or hover to get a closer look at the product image.
- Suggest related products based on what the user is viewing, to upsell and encourage future conversions.
- Give shoppers who buy a product the ability to leave a review and star rating, so that new shoppers can read about others’ experiences with the product.
- Keep the information on the page up to date, with the latest images, prices etc.
- Keep your design, layout and content consistent from one product page to the next.
- Be sure to incorporate fundamental SEO practices in all your product pages.
3. Optimise for Local Search
Local search doesn’t only apply to small local businesses with brick and mortar locations. Online retailers also have the opportunity to increase e-commerce engagement by harnessing the power of local search.
- You can use analytics tools to see where the largest concentrations of customers for your business are located. Identify these locations, and run promotions and special offers targeting these locations.
- Pay attention to which products those customers are buying, and use this behaviour to guide you in your promotions and special offers.
- Consider offering discounted or reduced shipping to shoppers in locations close to your warehouses.
4. Get Smart about E-mail Marketing
Shoppers will appreciate valuable, relevant updates, but they certainly won’t appreciate being spammed once you’ve captured their e-mail address. Think strategically about your e-mail marketing strategy, and be sure you are providing your target market with information that adds value.
Here are some tips for effective e-mail marketing:
- Send new customers a welcome e-mail when they create an account or make their first purchase.
- A special offer for first-time customers (such as “10% off your next purchase”) will also encourage future conversions.
- Provide customers on your mailing list with exclusive promo codes and free gifts, to create a sense of community and exclusivity.
- Send out newsletters that focus on exciting new products, new special offers, discounts and competitions; company news and industry news should be your secondary focus.
- Thank your customers for their support, with personalised notes.
- Focus your campaigns around special events and holidays, encouraging them to make more gifting purchases.
5. Offer Loyalty Programmes and Rewards
Give your customers an incentive to keep coming back to your site, by rewarding return customers with a loyalty programme. This might include offering discounts for referrals, free gifts and samples with repeat purchases, or gifts and specials coinciding with your customer’s birthday, or their anniversary as a user of your site.
- Higher customer retention and improved trust.
- Increased revenue (just 5% higher retention can grow your revenue by 25 to 95%).
- Better cost-efficiency (retaining current customers costs less than attracting new customers).
- A more personalised experience for customers.
- An opportunity to make your customers feel appreciated and rewarded.
- Allows you to communicate with customers in a direct way.
- Gives you a platform to promote sales and special events, or to showcase new products.
Loyalty programme data gives you the opportunity to track and analyse user behaviour, and gain new insights. This will help you to see how effective the loyalty programme is, and allow you to make adjustments to your offerings as needed.
6. Get Social with Instagram
Instagram is one of the most popular social networks in the world. This image-focused platform has also become a valuable tool for e-commerce websites.
Integrating Instagram into your e-commerce presence will help to boost engagement and sales.
- Create a strong profile page, with a quality profile pic that makes your brand easy to identify.
- Write an Instagram bio that gives your audience a clear description of your brand and what you sell.
- Use the URL section of your bio to add a clickable link to your e-commerce site, with a call to action.
- Use high quality photos in your Instagram posts, with a consistent visual aesthetic that suits your brand personality.
- Strike a balance between posting regularly to keep users interested, but not too often, to avoid users feeling like they’re being spammed.
- Engage with your followers in the comments. Answer their questions and thank them for their feedback.
- Run contests and special offers exclusive to your Instagram followers.
- Share a combination of original content (OC) and user-generated content (UGC) in your Instagram feed. Customers trust reviews from other customers, and want to see what their favourite online influencers are buying. If a follower posts a positive review with a good photo, be sure to repost it and thank them.
- Use Instagram Stories to share new product launches, “behind the scenes” footage, Q&A sessions and surveys.
- Use Stories Ads as well, to feature product advertisements that will appear to your followers in-between their friends’ Stories.
- Create shoppable posts, by tagging products in your photos so that customers can click on them and navigate straight to the relevant product page where they can make a purchase. (This feature is currently rolling out to approved businesses in the USA.)
If you’re not quite convinced that Instagram is right for your e-commerce business, the numbers speak for themselves:
- More than one eighth of the world’s population has an Instagram account.
- An amazing 1. 1 billion people use Instagram every month.
- 22% of all Instagram users check the site at least once a day, and 38% check it multiple times a day.
- 25% of smartphone owners use Instagram.
- Instagram users “like” a total of 4.2 billion posts every day.
- 500 million people use Instagram Stories every day.
- There are 25 million business profiles on Instagram.
- 80% of users follow at least one business.
- More than 200 million users visit at least one business profile on Instagram every day.
- 60% of users make use of Instagram to discover new products, and 75% of them take action like visiting a website after viewing a post.
7. Launch a Facebook Store
Facebook is another powerful social media platform that can serve as a complement to your e-commerce store. You can integrate your Facebook store directly with your Shopify store, which makes the process easy – no need to keep a separate inventory.
Paige Gerber, Head of Marketing at Vantage, says:
“The average return on investment from Facebook Ads in e-commerce is 152%, and it’s the largest social media referrer for e-commerce orders. Not advertising on this channel is a major missed opportunity for online brands.”
Benefits of a Facebook store:
- Increased exposure to potential customers. As of the first quarter of 2019, Facebook had 2.38 billion monthly active users. A Facebook store gives you so many opportunities to expand your reach.
- Lower marketing expenses. Starting a Facebook business page is free, and you can use existing product photos from your website to market your business. Unless you choose to pay for Facebook Ads and Sponsored Stories, your Facebook store won’t cost you anything extra.
- In-depth insights. You can use Facebook Insights to show you how your audience is responding to your Facebook business posts. They’re easy to understand, and useful for business owners looking to analyse user behaviour, and tell you more about the demographics of these users.
- Improved brand loyalty. Your customers can use Facebook not only to buy products, but also to engage with your brand. If your business page regularly provides users with informative, entertaining content, you’ll be able to build a strong Facebook following.
- Increased web traffic. You can use your Facebook page to drive traffic to your main e-commerce site. Link posts are a good way to do this, and Facebook now generates a full-width thumbnail image from your website, which attracts more attention and is more likely to encourage clicks. Note that Likes, comments and shares on link posts will be lower, but the goal here is to drive traffic rather than to generate Facebook engagement.
- Provides a mobile-ready experience for users. Most Facebook users will access the site using their mobile devices – many of them visit Facebook exclusively on their phones. Facebook does the “heavy lifting” for you when it comes to responsive design. Facebook pages are optimised for desktop use and mobile use.
8. Make Use of Personalisation
Ecommerce personalisation is the process of creating personal interactions and experiences for users on your e-commerce website. This might include showing your shoppers individualised special offers, product recommendations, and other content based on data like their previous actions and their demographics.
Why is personalised content beneficial? Statistics say that 48% of customers tend to spend more when they have a personalised experience. Meanwhile, 74% of shoppers get frustrated when content is generic and not relevant to them.
Marketers can use demographic data (the shopper’s age, gender, and geographic location) and customer intent (the shopper’s onsite behaviour and shopping history) to tell them more about how to personalise their content.
Here are some innovative examples of how existing e-commerce websites are using personalisation to appeal to customers:
- Sending personalised e-mails to users based on their previous browsing or purchasing behaviour.
- Recommending product categories to users based on their past browsing behaviour.
- Suggesting complementary products based on previous purchases (such as accessories to complement an item of clothing a user has purchased).
- Changing the site’s homepage and navigation based on a shopper’s interests. (For example, female shoppers returning to a fashion retail site might find that it automatically redirects to the women’s clothing section, because they have browsed that section before.)
- Geo-location targeting, redirecting visitors to the right store based on where they are in the world (for example, redirecting a UK-based user from Amazon.com to Amazon.co.uk).
- Reminding shoppers of their previous engagements and purchases.
- Displaying personalised special offers to returning visitors.
- Promotions based on the seasonal trends or weather in a shopper’s location.
9. Up-sell and Cross-sell
Up-selling to an existing customer can be more effective than acquiring a new customer. A shopper may not know that a superior, more suitable product is available to them, or they may need more information to help them understand why upgrading to a better product will meet their needs.
When upselling a product, consider the following:
- Are the products you’re upselling related to the original product?
- Does it fall within your customer’s anticipated price range?
- Do the suggested products fit the customer’s original needs?
Suggesting related, complementary products to go with a shopper’s previous purchases can also encourage more conversions.
10. Give Your Customers Excellent Service
Brick and mortar stores invariably find that customer service absolutely crucial for generating new business and customer loyalty. It’s no difference with e-commerce stores.
“Customer service is the new marketing for many successful brands. Many shoppers feel more satisfied when they’re able to chat to a staff member and are more likely to convert.”
– David Feng, Co-Founder and Head of Product, Re:amaze
Make sure you’re giving your shoppers the best possible sales experience, to make sure they conclude their purchase on a positive note. This will make them more likely to buy from you again, and also more likely to recommend you to others.
Offer Multiple Support Options:
A single source of customer support via phone isn’t enough anymore. Today’s shoppers need multi-channel customer support, so they can contact your business on their preferred channel, at a time of day that suits them. Phone, e-mail, live chat and text are all useful.
Live chat is a must-have communication tool for your website. They allow for speedy problem resolution, and offer added convenience to your customers.
Don’t only offer customer support on your main website, provide it on your social media platforms too. If you have set up some social media channels, you should expect customers to contact you through these channels with queries and comments. You can also use a customer service platform that integrates social channels, to make the process smoother.
Keep Your Response Time Short:
Customers don’t just want variety, they want speed. If they’re not getting the answers they need from your support channels, they’ll quickly move on to another e-commerce provider. Statistics show that 30% of consumers expect to get an e-mail response within an hour, and 50% expect a response to a direct message on Twitter within an hour.
Giving genuine, good quality responses to queries within a short time frame will keep customer satisfaction levels high.
Provide a Knowledge Base and FAQ Section:
This is a good way to address your shoppers’ frequently asked questions. This can also be useful for SEO, giving you the opportunity to target some long-tail keywords. Similarly, an onsite FAQ page can save you a lot of time, as more customers will use it as a resource to answer their easier questions.
Be Transparent about all Terms and Conditions:
Display your returns policy and other terms and conditions prominently on your website. Make sure they are easy for visitors to read and comprehend. A policy should be straightforward and not crammed with legal jargon.
Show Your Shoppers’ Order History:
Empower your customers to serve themselves. Give them direct access to the things they expect to be able to find easily online. Give returning customers access to their user account, their payment methods and details, their billing history and order status. This will prevent back-and-forth inquiries about invoices and order status, saving you and the customer a lot ot time and frustration.
Always Honour your Commitments:
If you have warranties or guarantees on any of your products, it is essential that you honour them. Offering a warranty can help to encourage a conversion, and honouring it will earn you a customer’s loyalty. Be sure to resolve any product issues quickly and fairly.
The same applies to deliveries. If you tell a customer to expect a delivery within a certain time frame, make sure it will arrive in that time frame. If any delays or issues occur, notify your customer in good time to manage their expectations and avoid unnecessary disappointment.
Ask for Feedback:
Your customers want to be heard, and to share their experiences. Ask your shoppers to leave reviews, ratings and testimonials which can be shared with others.
It’s not enough to ask for feedback – you need to respond to it accordingly. Positive feedback is great, and you can easily thank your shoppers for their kind words. However, you will inevitably also get negative comments and complaints, and it’s important to respond to these in the right way. Always be professional and courteous, and work to resolve the issue as soon as possible. This is especially important if the complaint happens on social media; your interactions with the customer will be in the public eye.
By handling a customer complaint correctly, you can turn a dissatisfied customer into a happy one, and even boost your reputation as a trustworthy, transparent provider among your wider audience.
As the popularity of e-commerce continues to grow, these tactics will help you to stay ahead of the curve, and encourage more shoppers to complete onsite conversions.