Congratulations on launching your online store. Getting orders online without a physical store opens up limitless opportunities for sales growth. But if there isn’t a focused effort to grow the website traffic, chances are you are struggling with very few visitors and single digit orders every week.
Is there a low cost route to rapidly growing sales online? Well, good news is that you are not alone. Great news is that you now have powerful insights from battle hardened practitioners!
At Leadwalnut, we have worked with over 200+ businesses helping them sell on marketplaces or set up their own e-commerce store. Having gone through the rough and tumble of growing the business online, we found that some methods worked while others didn’t. Here is a guide from the trenches.
First, let us capture key challenges faced by ecommerce stores:
1. Awareness : The thumb rule in ecommerce is that for every 1000 visitors, the number of orders will be between 2 – 5 orders (0.2% to 0.5%). So, traffic to website is critical and most e-commerce websites struggle with this, mainly due to lack of visibility. Nobody knows that you are out there…
2. Brand trust : Ecommerce usually has the attraction of better prices than offline stores. Begs the obvious question – What about quality? Is this a genuine brand, will they ship after taking payment and will they honour the returns promises? Can I trust this website?!
3. Lack of advertising budget: The whole premise of low price high quality online stores is based on minimal margins. Its no surprise that there is little room left for spending on advertising. No ad spend > no awareness > no traffic and > no sales. It does get into a self limiting trap. Doesn’t it.
Any online marketer will tell you that the goal of driving sales online is simply achieved in two stages.
1. A) Traffic generation: As they say, take care of driving traffic to the website and sales will take care of itself. So a key objective of online marketing is to grow visitors to the website.
2. B) Visitor conversion: Now that we have traffic, you need conversion. Engage visitors and give them a strong reason to convert into ‘customers’. While it is not easy to influence this online (at least not as much as an offline store where a good salesperson can convert footfall into purchases), there are some steps that are within your gift.
First, lets fix the need for traffic. Here are the top ten ways to generate traffic to your ecommerce website
1. ‘Search marketing’: Customers look for products on google (and other search engines). You have the opportunity to capture the customer’s attention through a few ways
1. Text ads on google using AdWords
2. Product listing Ads (PLA) showing product images. This is exclusively available for e-commerce stores.
1. Organic search ranking: Popularly known as search engine optimisation (SEO). A friend of mine runs a cashback and coupon site (www.paisawapas.com). They are a boot strapped startup and do not have budgets for costly paid ads. And their target market is college goers and young twenty somethings. They have come out with a blog series called ‘student stories’ (https://www.paisawapas.com/student-stories) where they feature interesting and exciting content created by and created for the student community. This is a huge pull to their store every week and some of them convert into buyers. Towering content with active distribution can get high search rankings and bring quality traffic.
2. Re-marketing through ‘Display advertising’
1. You’ve noticed banner ads showing up of products you had recently browsed for? Well that is targeted display advertising (also referred to as re-targeting). Done through the google ad network or any other similar publisher network like criteo (www.criteo.com)
3. Social media marketing:
1. Facebook paid advertising is growing in popularity. Until a year back FB was considered best fit for fashion, lifestyle or food items which have visual appeal. But the trend has changed and even several B2B companies are actively advertising on FB. Wondering how to leverage FB for your business? There are tonnes of tools out there, take a look at
And your target age group can be anywhere from 20 – 60. With over 900 million daily login, virtually everyone including your driver and maid is out there.
1. Further Instagram is a growing advertising medium also under the Facebook umbrella. If you want to engage with sub 30 years group, instagram stories is worth a try. Here is a good article if you are getting started. http://sproutsocial.com/insights/instagram-best-practices/
1. Twitter: While many claim that twitter is dying, our own experience is tl the contrary. It can be super effective in driving traffic if used right. We attended a twitter growth hack by Mapplinks (www.mapplinks.academy) and the founder Rishabh Dev astonished us with a live twitter contest on bollywood. Within minutes of setting up the contest, people were responding to it, retweeting, filling out a form on the website there was huge surge in traffic to the movie blog site that was being marketed. I don’t claim expertise but mastering twitter is on my priority list for driving traffic and promoting content. A colleague of mine is now setting up twitter contests around valentine’s day to drive traffic to the ecommerce store selling jewellery.
1. There are other channels such as pinterest, snapchat, tumblr and many more but we have not had a chance to explore these so can’t say much about their effectiveness. But there are free or low monthly rental tools that help you jumpstart your social media engagement.www.hootsuite.com is a favorite amongst digital marketers.
1. Video advertising: Youtube is the second largest search engine after google. And a great tool for running ads. At Leadwalnut, we needed to create awareness about a fireworks brand ahead of Diwali. While couple of years back making a video was a costly affair, now with many animation companies sprouting, cost of a professional animated videos is less than the cost of an iphone. We prepared a simple video on safety during diwali and that had over 50,000 views and lot of brand awareness.
Watch the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ol7T4n1A7Ug
Also you can make videos with zero budget using tools like www.animaker.com and free ‘ppt slides to video’ conversion tools.
1. Offline media: Often ignored as a costly alternative but a launch advertisement in offline media can give a jumpstart and this cost may need to be factored into launch budget. Print, PR, display banners, radio or local cable TV – all offline channels have a powerful influence. This ad spend is an investment in brand building and not an expense.
1. Influencer marketing: In every industry, influential personalities are emerging in the digital space. Either they have blogs that are hugely popular or they may have twitter followers, huge in numbers. A single post or email from them about your website can cause a definite spike in visitors.
1. Email: Always considered as an eternal marketing medium, especially when emails are sent to visitors who had subscribed to your mailing list. Growing the list of email subscribers is a leading indicator of the future sales potential. And with subscribed users, you can send early bird offers, privileged news on new product launches and special discounts rewarding them for their loyalty.
2. SMS: Equally popular is SMS. But you need to be sure that your website works great on a mobile device. Just mobile responsiveness is not enough as there are degrees of mobile usability. Being mobile first is a prerequisite for driving traffic through SMS.
1. Affiliate marketing: Online magazines, bloggers and discount websites provide links to your online store. And with a tracking code implemented on your site, you can actually measure the number of visitors and conversions from them and pay the affiliates a commission on sales.
If you have solved traffic problem, you are well on your way to sales. But great traffic can lead to negligible sales if you don’t pay careful attention to ‘conversion’. For example a website that looks great but has a poor performing checkout page will result in huge drop offs. “40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load”, that’s 40% of your sales gone out the door!
So what drives conversion?
The simple truth is brand experience. When you walk into a store and find clothes piled up haphazardly, what would do? Or if you find the sales person cares two hoots and you feel not wanted, what would you do? Well most people would simply walk away. Similarly, if you dont take care of your visitor’s experience, you will face similar results. Let us find out what makes an online experience gold class turning visitors into happy customers.
1. Website usability: Just as website performance has a huge impact on sales, web usability is equally critical. If the user cannot find the product they want or struggle to complete a checkout process, you are going to lose them to a more effortless experiences that your competitors offer. Measure the number of clicks it takes to complete the purchase, measure the time it takes to finish buying and look at ways to improve them.
Also, most ecommerce sites compromise on this fundamental conversion factor:Product images. Many stores simply upload images with poor resolution or dull background colours. A vibrant and sharp picture is the single biggest sales person on your website.
“Remember, every mistake a user makes is not because they’re stupid, but because your website sucks” Peep Laja, Founder, ConversionXL
Mobile readiness: This can be the single biggest game changer. In 2017 over 60% visitors are shopping from their mobile phone, if you have a store that is mobile responsive and high on performance, you can out beat your competition. And a poor speed on mobile can cause significant loss of orders. Check your mobile speed with google (https://goo.gl/gtk1o1)
1. Web chat: Online chat was once looked upon as a customer service tool, but that cannot be far from the truth. Web chat has become a huge catalyst to driving engagement and sales. It is the first interactive method in an otherwise static site. The questions and answers are personalised giving the visitor greater assurance to buy. Tools like tawk.to and Zendesk.com chat are popular. You don’t have to constantly monitor the website. These tools have a mobile app which you can download on your phone and every chat request is now like a phone call alert.
1. ‘Refer a friend’ offers: Turning your existing customers into brand ambassadors is the most effective and costs the least. Giving special offers to customers for referring a friend can be worth the cost as the trust factor is huge when a friend refers. (of course subject to the store experience being delightful)
“All companies that grow big do so in only one way. People recommend the product (or service) to other people.” Sam Latman, President Y combinator
1. Abandoned cart recovery: Cannot emphasise how useful this has been. When a customer adds to cart and does not complete the checkout process, its called an abandoned cart and almost all ecommerce platforms have a feature that will email that user details and cart situation to you. Contacting that potential customer within hours of knowing can give a huge spike in conversions. And many customers appreciate that we have called to help them so it goes to scoring well on customer service too.
1. Testimonials, Reviews and ratings:Users believe other users. So, reviews and other user’s experiences (even a small video from their phone) improves credibility and trust. And think about turning customer complaints into showing that you care: Customers curse on social media. That’s no surprise. The question is how well do you respond and how transparent you are. Your approach to complaint handling defines the brand character. Others reading it will form an opinion about you right here. So, treat the complaints with utmost care, need not give in always but show intent to resolve.
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning” Bill Gates, Founder Microsoft
1. Incentives to buy now: This doesn’t need elaboration as it is an age old technique across all channels. Offer ends today, offer valid during happy hours etc are common techniques that drive commitment to click the buy button
1. Multiple payment options: While credit cards based payment and cash on delivery are most popular, when customers order high value items, customers also look for EMI options. With payment wallets becoming popular, integration with multiple payment wallets is useful.
1. Ability to return / get money back: The biggest risk with online is that your customer has not felt or inspected the product. That creates huge barriers to click the buy button. De-risking him or her from making a wrong purchase is a fundamental assurance needed online. Offering ‘no questions asked’ returns, money back guarantees helps greatly. And most entrepreneurs get stuck with the worry of abuse. Yes, abuse is inevitable but so is bad debt in offline businesses. So, budget for a small percentage of orders losing money. And monitor actual loss against that budget.
- Regional language content: In a country like India, most online visitors started with reading news online in their local language. And very few e-commerce websites have walked this path. Create content in your TG’s regional language and that can endear your website closer to their heart./
All this can be overwhelming but look at it this way – you now have a cheat sheet of possible techniques and can plan to try them out over a period of 3 – 6 months.
Foundation of all decisions: Web Analytics
Analytics as a marketing weapon?! Well in the ecommerce world as opposed to offline, we receive tonnes of data on what pages users visited, what products they saw, how long they were on our website …all this data can become decision making aids if we can unlock the power of analytics. Start by getting answers to these questions:
- Do you know how many visitors came to your store?
- How long they stayed and which page are they dropping off from?
- Do you know your most popular products, and are you presenting them in the first page?
Analytics is how you get the answers and it is the third and critical pillar of online marketing.
Zooming out a bit from the trenches, fundamentally you need to consider how to DRIVE TRAFFIC and how to CONVERT VISITORS.
As always, there would be industry specific clever tactics that get lots of traffic and sales. In some cases, SMS is effective, in others blogger outreach is critical and maybe it is whatsapp-able regional language videos that would work.
The key thing that a marketer needs to embrace is that keenness to experiment with many different techniques. Some work, some don’t. But once you know what works, scale that up rapidly and growing the online store can be a fun and rewarding experience.
The author is Nattu, Co-founder at Leadwalnut.com