6 simple but effective ways to increase eCommerce sales

by Jeremy Robinson
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Increase eCommerce Traffic and Conversions

Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, we didn’t put all of these strategies together over a weekend. It’s been a slow steady, incremental layering of tactics combined with a whole lot of trial and error. A marathon rather than a sprint. However, the combined effect of having these systems in place has helped us dramatically increase eCommerce traffic and conversions, which continue to grow upon themselves. In this article, I’ll lay out a complete playbook of strategies we use to promote our online store at www.soyoung.ca and increase eCommerce traffic and conversions.

I’ve grouped the strategies to increase eCommerce traffic and conversions in terms of where they fall in the marketing and sales funnel sequence. For those unfamiliar with the concept of “the funnel”, top funnel activities are designed to attract new visitors who are unfamiliar with our products to our website. Mid-funnel activities are designed to build a relationship with the user, who is still warming up to our brand. Bottom funnel activities are intended to convince people who have an interest in our products to actually make a purchase.

(Note that we use Shopify for our e-commerce store – which I recommend. All of the solutions mentioned below integrate easily with our Shopify store. )

Top Funnel Strategies to Increase eCommerce Traffic and Conversions 

While SEO is the best way to get traffic, it is generally only going to deliver substantial traffic when you are selling an extremely specialized product that has very little online competition. For everything else, you will need another strategy to increase eCommerce traffic and conversions. As the purveyors of lunch boxes, backpacks and diaper bags, there was no way we could compete for these valuable keywords in organic search, so here is what we do to get new visitors to discover our products:

Paid Blog Placements

Being featured on the blogs of influencers is a great way to generate traffic and build instant trust in your products. While we do a fair bit of PR and get free coverage on many sites, some of the biggest hits we’ve gotten have been paid placements with well established bloggers who align with our audience. While not cheap, in some cases we have seen our traffic temporarily increase by a multiple of 10 with a single mention on a blog. This can be a very effective way to drive traffic and reach a new audience.

Facebook and Google shopping ads

There are a lot of ways to do banner advertising online, however we have found that Facebook and Google Shopping are most effective for reaching people who have no awareness of our products. Facebook allows for very tight targeting allowing us to reach exactly the type of profile that we have found are most interested in our products – mainly mothers of children between the ages of 3 and 10 with some university education. The “lookalike audiences” feature in Facebook allows us to upload lists of our past customers so that Facebook can use its algorithm to find similar targets. It’s been a very cost effective way to generate valuable new traffic. Google Shopping is great because, given the visual appeal of our products, prospective customers see an image of our designs in response to a specific search query.

 

Mid Funnel Strategies

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to pay for traffic to your site, then fail to capture the opportunity to continue marketing to that visitor. Rarely will people purchase a product they have just stumbled upon, so you need strategies for keeping them in the loop once they’ve visited your site and have an idea of what your brand is about.

“Win this” email call to action

In order to capture email addresses, you need an opt in offer that is compelling enough for a first time visitor to fill out. While we have used coupon codes in the past, the most effective strategy we’ve used is a pop up offering the potential to win a substantial prize: 5 of our products valued at over $300 to anyone who subscribes . We use a third party service called OptinMonster to create pop-up with an “exit intent” trigger. This is a popup that appears as soon as the user’s mouse scrolls up to the top left corner of the screen (the movement that they would make before entering a new URL or hitting the back button – thus the term “exit-intent”). [ Try it out: go to www.soyoung.ca and spend a second on the home page. Then move your mouse up towards the back button in your browser – then see what happens next!]  It is extremely effective and has multiplied our opt-in rate for newsletters. Marketing the contest to our social media followers has also been a great way to convert those followers into newsletter subscribers.

>> Try Opt-In Monster here

Retargeting

You may find it annoying when you see ads for a website that you recently visited following you around the web, but I can tell you from first-hand experience that is an extremely effective form of advertising. If you have spent money to bring a visitor to your site, and they don’t fill out a subscriber form, you have essentially wasted your money unless you have a way to continue reaching out to them. Retargeting is great because it constantly reinforces your brand with previous visitors, but you only pay for actual clicks back to your website. This is by far the most effective way to keep non-subscribers in the loop, so that you can increase their relationship with your brand and products.

 

Bottom Funnel Strategies

Bottom funnel strategies are designed to “seal the deal” with visitors who have already visited your site and built a relationship with your brand, but have not yet made a purchase.

Subscriber and purchase Automation Sequences

We have two main email sequences that we send to subscribers. The first occurs as soon as they join our email list. They get a series of emails over 3 – 4 weeks including a welcome email with social media links, an email containing a list of testimonials from satisfied customers, an email with pictures of celebrities using our products, and an email with a list of our most popular products. These are very effective at getting people to come back to the site and consider purchasing our products.

The second email sequence is triggered by a purchase on our site. The buyer will receive a thank you email letting them know that we are here for them should they have any issue with the product and thanking them for the purchase. The second email encourages them to share a photo of their purchase on our Instagram account with an incentive for a discount off their next purchase. A third email requests a review of the product on our site. And finally they will also receive an email highlighting our most popular products should they choose to make another purchase.

Customized Cart abandonment Sequences

Finally, we have upped our game when it comes to shopping cart abandonment. Shopify has a basic responder built into the software, but the settings are limited and it is a simple plain-text email. Recently we decided to start sending two emails to anyone who submitted all their purchase information but did not complete the sale (also known as “cart abandonment”). The first arrives just 10 minutes after they leave the site with a full cart, and a second email arrives the next day. Both of these emails utilize the buyer’s first name in the copy, feature appealing hero images and include a personalized message from a member of our staff encouraging them to get in touch if they have any questions.

 

Conclusion

This has been a gradual process so it’s easy to overlook the dramatic changes from last year. When looking at the data however, our first month of 2016 saw traffic on our US site increase by 25% over the same period last year and sales increase by nearly 70%.

If you have any questions about the 6 strategies to increase eCommerce traffic and conversions, please leave a comment and I’ll be sure to answer!

 

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34 comments

TemplesandMarkets March 9, 2016 - 1:40 am

Thanks for sharing these invaluable tips Jeremy. Just visited your store and saw the “Win this 5” pop up. It’s incredibly striking. Can I ask what did you use to set this up – is it a Shopify App?

Jeremy March 9, 2016 - 1:35 pm

You’re welcome! Thanks for the feedback.

We use a tool called Opt-in monster for the popups (the design of the image/CTA is our own). At the premium level Opt-in Monster has a feature called “exit-intent” which tracks your mouse movement and triggers the popup when the user moves towards the address bar (ie. to leave the site). The opt-in rates we’ve seen have been extremely high – nearly 8%.

All the best, Jeremy

Adam Morgan April 19, 2016 - 10:27 pm

I’m going to test some of these suggestions. How do I go about sending emails to customers? We’re using Shopify for our website.

Jeremy April 19, 2016 - 10:35 pm

Hi Adam,

We use Mailchimp which has very good integration with Shopify. If you use Mailchimp’s shopify app you can start to segment your email list based on purchase activity, which Mailchimp will import and add to the user profile. The followup sequences are built using the Automation tool in Mailchimp.

Here’s a link to a post that outlines a specific sequence that we use

https://www.indiebrandbuilder.comthe-email-followup-sequence-that-drives-6-figures-in-sales/

Hope that helps!

Jeremy

Adam Morgan April 20, 2016 - 1:11 am

Jeremy,

You’re awesome. I just installed Mailchimp’s shopify add per your suggestion. That’s so cool, now when we our next customer, they’ll be added to our list! I’ll read that post you just gave me.

Jeremy April 20, 2016 - 1:14 am

Great!

Chris Seferyn April 30, 2016 - 11:14 pm

How did you upgrade your cart abandonment emails? did you use something outside shopify or an app purchased from the shopify app store?

Jeremy April 30, 2016 - 11:39 pm

Hi Chris, we use abandonment protector – which is an app in the Shopify App Store. We are quite happy with it but there are others that perform a similar function

Chris Seferyn May 1, 2016 - 3:52 am

OK I installed abandonment protector. looks pretty cool. I’m working on a strategy of sending people from the abandoned cart to a youtube video that answers a bunch of questions and concerns about our products (like how to use them properly). This is in the first email at 12 minutes. I only set up 2 total emails – the second at 5 hours with no youtube video. Should I activate the third abandoned cart email or is 2 ok with my strategy? your thoughts?

Jeremy May 1, 2016 - 7:03 pm

Hi Chris, love the YouTube video idea – send me a link when it’s set up!

I’ve only set up two emails and frankly, nearly every abandoned card that we recover comes from the first email.

That’s good to send it in the first 20 minutes, apparently that gives you a huge boost – though I haven’t A/B tested it

Chris Seferyn May 1, 2016 - 9:07 pm

it is set up but the abandonment protector isn’t working yet. its not sending emails. I’m waiting for support to fix it. I’m running customers to this youtube video (https://youtu.be/MdNIKNwwKnU) when they buy or abandon the cart. I figure it cross sells our other products and provides more authority for the purchase. plus google ranking, etc.

Jeremy May 2, 2016 - 2:06 pm

Hi Chris,

The video looks great! Only thing is that it’s quite long. You may want to test a shorter version that covers a single lash application, or break it up into smaller pieces. (I could be completely wrong about this…your audience may be quite willing to watch the whole thing)

We’re working on some new videos ourselves so I’m totally going to steal this idea when they’re done.

Thanks for reaching out and good luck!

Chris Seferyn May 2, 2016 - 9:49 pm

we’re cutting up the video to put it on Instagram. Youtube is the platform for longer videos (they actually watch them!).

Milosz_Krasinski June 1, 2016 - 1:43 pm

Interesting way of dividing digital tactics within the funnel. Makes me thinking. But what if your shoppers didn’t find what they have been looking for? An overwhelming selection is one of the most common reasons why shoppers decide not to purchase.What are your thoughts on this?

Jeremy Robinson June 1, 2016 - 3:25 pm

Hi Milosz,

Yes, user experience, and more specifically Information architecture, can have a big impact on conversion rates. While we don’t have an overwhelming number of products on our site, as a general rule I would advise store owners that do have a large selection to start by listing the different mental models or criteria customers might use to search and filter products. Common criteria include filtering by brand, product function, product category, user role (ie teacher vs student), colour or size.

While it’s not always possible to offer filtering for every criteria, the more options you can offer the better. Sites like Ebay and Amazon do a particularly good job of this. Also, most e-commerce platforms offer a search function, so you may want to add tags to products if the specific wording people might use to search it is not contained in the product title or description.

One other piece of advice I often give is to make you main navigation entirely product/purchase focussed. I would try to fit all of your initial products under 5-6 main headings. Obviously many products will be cross referenced according to the criteria people are using for search.

Milosz_Krasinski June 2, 2016 - 2:54 pm

Hi Jeremy,

All that is great advice but product filters are (not only?) great as long as you know what you looking for (no decision making requied?). It requires high search intent from the buyer but from UX perspective product filters are highly criticized by UX society. Amazon is a great example of paradox of choice: price, selection and convenience is not anymore ideal formula and yet they still using filters. High Sales does not equals high satisfaction and another new buzzword is customer experience but that requires separate subject. Guided Selling blog has it’s own point about it here

http://www.guided-selling.org/3-key-challenges-of-delivering-a-world-class-customer-experience/

I guess the conversation went into bit different direction and I might be wrong but it requires new post. How about guest post? The Power of UX: How Interactive Customer Questionnaires Influence Decision-making.
Any thoughts? I follow you on twitter already…

Jeremy Robinson June 2, 2016 - 3:19 pm

It’s true. We may be moving closer to a netflix model of curated shopping. Mary Meeker mentioned this in her Internet Trends address released yesterday.

http://www.kpcb.com/internet-trends

See slides 67 & 68

Milosz_Krasinski June 3, 2016 - 1:13 pm

Excellent presentation Jeremy thank you! After seeing this I decided to send this to my CEO:) Also here is the latest one from yesterday https://www.ometria.com/blog/guided-selling-examples-in-ecommerce

…”fun UX enables users to select a range of diverse product requirements, which is great, especially for a complex product range with a wide range of technological specifications. The selling guide provides context, putting the products into terms shoppers will understand”.

and here are first freemium E commerce Guided Selling solutions http://www.zuvoo.com recently released.

Jeremy Robinson June 2, 2016 - 3:21 pm

Oh – and as for Guest post, can I take a look at your blog and get back to you?

Milosz_Krasinski June 3, 2016 - 12:50 pm

http://www.guided-selling.org/ let me know your thoughts 🙂 sounds positive

Tom June 3, 2016 - 1:02 am

Jeremy, this is great stuff. I’m wading into digital marketing, and the top/mid/bottom funnel really helps me organize my action plans and tools to use. Much appreciated!

Jeremy Robinson June 3, 2016 - 2:33 am

Thanks for the feedback Tom – glad to be of help!

kylie June 20, 2016 - 10:39 am

Jeremy it sounds great. I would love your advice. I am selling products as an add on feature to a service industry. We have a house cleaning business and are now selling products to help keep the home smelling beautiful. I have just started the basic shopify, have a Facebook page, Instagram and a website. The website hasn’t been updated yet to products, only Facebook linked to shopify. How do I best get sales from Facebook connecting to my shopify? I have played around with ads but I don’t really know what I’m doing. I have sent our customer base of cleaning clients a newsletter connecting them to our shop, 1 abandoned cart. I look forward to hearing any advice. Thanks Kylie

Jeremy Robinson June 27, 2016 - 10:54 am

Hi Kylie,

I’m not sure I understand the current state of your website when you say:

“The website hasn’t been updated yet to products, only Facebook linked to Shopify”

It would be hard for me to comment on how to best use Facebook without understanding your entire business and how you position your products. My impression is that selling cleaning products would be tricky in an online marketing context (unless they represent some sort of technological breakthrough) since they are widely available and are mostly perceived as a generic product.

Selling them as a service add on sounds like a good idea, and is a great way to differentiate your service business.

kylie June 27, 2016 - 10:58 am

Hi Jeremy, the website currently doesn’t have the products loaded. We are only linking Facebook to shopify, and it’s not working as yet.
These cleaning products are actually hand washes and hand creams and lovely smelling things such as candles for the nice clean homes. We work in an upmarket location and our clients already have these products in their homes, we are trying to capture that market as well as a new online market. We are a small business and our website is not even looked at yet. Being in a labour intensive business, i’ve had minimal time to focus on marketing it with my little knowledge. Any advise, would be precious.

Jeremy Robinson June 27, 2016 - 11:13 am

Hi Kylie,

If the products are truly unique I would focus on marketing to your current customers to begin with, by getting a replenishment program in place, and possibly also a referral program.

You might also consider wholesaling through other cleaning companies or setting up a franchise model whereby independent cleaners can make extra money for themselves by adding your products to their services as well. This is something that would be appropriate to market on Facebook, since you have a well defined target market (house cleaners). Headline: MAKE EXTRA MONEY FOR YOUR CLEANING BUSINESS

As far as a Facebook store goes, we set one up using the Shopify app also and my impression is that we have seen next to no sales through that channel – though I may be mistaken in that the the sales are simply logged through our Shopify store without my awareness.

kylie June 28, 2016 - 6:35 am

Thanks Jeremy for the advise. The products are not unique or manufactured by us, we have bought wholesale. I will focus on the replenishment program and the referral program. Thank you. All the best, Kylie

Misty Sprague June 23, 2016 - 3:47 pm

Hi Jeremy,

Thanks for the great info! How did you find the right bloggers for your paid blogging?

Jeremy Robinson June 27, 2016 - 10:39 am

Thanks Misty!

Mostly we just do our own research, finding people on Instagram, the web and through conversations with other people in our industry. At this stage SoYoung also gets a fair number of inbound inquiries from bloggers and influencers which we review and vet in our weekly marketing meetings.

We’re selective about who we work with and are looking for good value, even if we’re just providing product in exchange for coverage. Generally this means looking at the number of followers someone has on various social media channels as well as engagement. We may also ask to speak with other brands that have worked with the blogger to see what kind of lift they got. We also will only work with people who have great photography (a must for us) and general alignment with our brand.

So, its not an insignificant amount of work – but it is one of the pillars of our marketing strategy!

One other tip: we haven’t used this service but there is a platform called https://famebit.com/ that is a marketplace for connecting with influencers.

All the best, Jeremy

Johann Van Schalkwyk November 4, 2016 - 5:54 am

Hi Jeremy
You’re a hero – thanks for this.
I’ve noticed the ‘ retargeting’ from some websites I’ve visited. Found it quite intriguing. Does Shopify have this facility, or do you use another app?

Jeremy Robinson November 6, 2016 - 2:33 pm

Hi Johann, You’re welcome!

Retargetting /remarketing is absolutely essential for closing the sales loop on people who visit your store and by far the most efficient use of marketing dollars. Google has a remarketing tool built into Adwords. You can also use services like Criteo and Adroll that make the setup a little more user friendly, though you do pay a premium for this. Hope that helps!

Johann Van Schalkwyk November 6, 2016 - 6:17 pm

Sure does – thanks.

Anna September 29, 2017 - 7:30 am

Retargeting, you mean remarketing in Adwords?

Jeremy Robinson September 29, 2017 - 11:44 am

Hi Anna, yes, Google named their retargeting product “Google Remarketing”. Many people use the terms interchangeably but traditionally remarketing referred more to the use of email (or even snail mail) to engage customers who had expressed interest in a product.

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