Online stores face increasing competition each year. Statista reports 2018 United States retail sales reached $501 billion, surpassing 2017 projections by $40 billion, and expected to end 2019 with $547 billion in sales. Small online store owners can benefit from this growing demand using special online selling tips to keep up with larger competitors.
1. Automate Low-value Business Tasks
Nowadays, it’s easy for anyone to start their own online store but keeping your business competitive and lucrative is another story. Anyone who wants to have long-term success should plan their business carefully from the beginning. This means designing a strong website and an efficient business process. Identify small or repetitive tasks like data entry and payroll practices that you can automate or outsource to save time and money.
“When it comes to running an online store, you need to build the proper foundation. Focus on systemizing the operation, doing away with low value activities. Any repetitive task that you are consistently doing, try to find a technology to replace it. If a technology can’t replace it, try outsourcing that so you can focus on growth and building an online brand. It takes some recalibration of how you run your ecommerce business but focus on high value activities that are going to make you the most money. For example, building a high-quality product pages with unique content, powerful photography with value propositions, or just building deeper relationships with your vendors and exploding your SKU [stock keeping unit] count.”
―Chad Rubin, Co-founder & CEO, Skubana
2. Offer Dropshipping Service
Using dropshipping, it’s now possible to grow your small online selling business without having to hold inventory. Merchandise from your online store can be delivered directly from the manufacturer so that you earn money without having to pay for overhead expenses.
Use Shopify for a quick and easy way to create an online store with beautiful, responsive website themes for your dropshipping business. You can choose from the many Shopify dropshipping apps like Oberlo to help you curate and add products automatically to your store. Try Shopify for free.
3. Personalize Your Marketing to Increase Online Sales
Personalized marketing activities are tailored to the individual visitor and can provide significant improvement to your overall online sales. Consumers are easier to motivate if they can relate and identify with your brand easily. To do this, you need strategies and tools that will allow you to create a message that speaks directly to each website visitor.
Some ways to personalize your marketing includes:
- Using branded smart links that showcase your brand name. Example: “youtube” instead of “https://youtube.com”
- Tailoring your calls-to-action (CTA) and product recommendations to the individual customer’s interests
- Personalizing your email campaigns
The best way to create a more personalized marketing strategy is by using the site’s visitor data. This helps you analyze your customers’ buying behavior as well as their location, devices, language, and time-zone settings to tailor your online content accordingly.
4. Offer More Delivery Options & Be Transparent
One of the top reasons for cart abandonment is hidden delivery costs at check out. Because shipping options are becoming a key factor for a buyer’s decision-making process, online stores should offer consumers the opportunity to choose their shipping preferences. You might think that you have to offer free delivery but, in reality, most consumers would pay a premium for same-day delivery.
In addition to focusing on how to deliver customer orders, you also should address a variety of logistic concerns that stop consumers from completing their purchase. For instance, consider adding a means to track packages while in transit. Some delivery companies have tools that monitor the progress of their vehicles in real-time. You should also offer to assist customers in case they would like to return their items. Some online stores are usually vague about this or make the details challenging to find.
5. Start a Blog to Complement Your Business
Most successful ecommerce businesses have a blog to support their online store. Aside from being effective at strengthening search engine optimization (SEO) and establishing your brand, content marketing―creating articles to target specific prospective customers―is also more cost-effective in comparison to pay-per-click (PPC) ads and social media campaigns. To make this work, you need a reliable website to host your blog.
DreamHost is a very low-cost web hosting service that offers managed WordPress hosting services and website builder features to get your blog going. It provides unlimited bandwidth, a domain name, and a one-click web apps installer to help you start your blog in no time for as little as $4.95 a month. Visit DreamHost today and take advantage of its discounts.
6. Gather Customer Feedback to Grow Your Business
You can improve build confidence in your products by getting customers to leave product reviews. Good product feedback can significantly increase your sales, so it’s important to provide this on your website. The kicker is that it’s not always easy to motivate customers to leave a review.
Most of them don’t see a reason to spend more time than they should on your website, so you will need to use strategies to make the process quick and easy. This includes providing incentives like discounts and vouchers as well as using emails to allow them to respond without having to go back to your store.
“Asking your customers the right questions is probably the most efficient strategy that can help you identify what your online store needs quickly and define a clear strategy. Stats show that approximately 71 percent of consumers do not mind leaving a review for a business when asked. So, keep it in mind—you should not hide yourself behind the bush silently waiting for your customers to share their thoughts with you. Gear yourself with a voice recorder and ask, ask, ask.”
—Helen Golubeva, Marketing Manager, Storyteller, X-Cart
7. Improve Your Business’ Off-page Visibility
You need to develop a strategy that will make your brand memorable, and this won’t happen if customers just spend a few minutes in your online store. Even when they’re not actively shopping, your customers need to be periodically reminded that your store exists. You can achieve this by implementing off-page SEO strategies for link building and reputation building.
Some off-page SEO strategies to consider are as follows:
- Connect with experts and influencers
- Write guest blogs
- Turn your brand mentions into links
- Boost your social media marketing strategies
- Update your company’s details in business directory listings
- Participate in expert forums
8. Create a Sense of Urgency
One of the first things you learn in sales, no matter where or what you are selling, is to create a sense of urgency. You can usually accomplish this by holding limited-time, storewide sales. It’s a good idea to offer these sales on dates that coincide with current events, or any occasion that highly motivates consumers to make purchases like Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, or back-to-school time.
The time limit of sales should depend on the average price of products. Items that are generally low priced are great for impulse buying so you can get good sales results after a week. For much more expensive products that you know people are going to have to think twice about, sales can last as long as a month for some stores.
“Have you noticed that most people won’t purchase from your online store on their first visit? Try offering a promo code as an incentive for new visitors to join your mailing list. The key is to make your promo code only valid for five to seven days. Have your email software send daily tips, ideas, and inspiration showing how your products can improve their lives in interesting ways. On the last day, send at least two emails reminding them about the deadline to use the promo code. You can expect to see a consistent increase in visitors joining your list and making a purchase within the first seven days of signing up.”
—Jack Born, Founder, Deadline Funnel
9. Improve Your Email Marketing Strategy
Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to increase conversion. Once you have built your email list, the critical next step is to set up an email marketing strategy that your subscribed customers will look out for in their inbox. Aside from building a relationship, you should provide your customers with opportunities that will keep them loyal to your brand.
Some email marketing campaigns to improve your online sales are:
- Abandoned cart emails: Sent to online store visitors who add items in the shopping cart but leave before purchasing
- Upsell and cross-sell emails: Emailed to online store visitors to suggest products that relate directly to items they previously bought in the shop
- Promotional offer emails: Sent to email subscribers to promote the latest products and announce sales events
- Customer loyalty emails: Emailed to customers who sign up for an online store’s loyalty program to offer exclusive deals
Remember that every email is an opportunity, so make sure that each one provides value to your customers. Even order confirmations can include incentives like a coupon or discount voucher to motivate them to revisit your site.
10. Make Sure Your Website Is Fully Responsive
If your ecommerce website isn’t easily accessible via mobile phones, chances are, you’re missing out on sales opportunities from customers who choose to use their mobile device. It’s not enough that you have an impressive homepage, you should also make sure that your customers can enjoy the same customer-friendly features that they enjoy on their desktop.
Here are some key features of a fully responsive website:
- Able to adapt to all types of devices like iOS and Android
- Compatible with most search engines
- Works well with SEO strategies like formatting and links
When your site is responsive, you provide your visitors with a seamless experience—visiting your website on all their devices while making your website easier to update. If you have limited technical skills, you can always hire an expert website designer on Fiverr for as little as $5.
11. Provide Excellent Customer Service
There are so many online shops that consumers can choose from, so give them an incentive to visit your business. Aside from building an impressive website, being able to provide a personal touch using customer service will make your brand memorable. If you have the budget to work with, customer service tools are a reasonable upfront investment. Otherwise, setting some standard customer service guidelines can go a long way.
“I draw custom-made and premade art. The most important thing we do is offer carefully planned customer service. In offering custom-made work, you must be very clear with customers about what they will and will not accept. Offering premade items that can be purchased with a viewing and description is very different then offering to create something that does not yet exist. The best way is to have a knowledgeable person speak on the phone with the customer. Keeping false expectations to a minimum leads to much better customer satisfaction, which is what we have achieved.”
—Jess Perna, Owner, Jess Perna Studio
12. Offer Alternative Financing & Payment Options
There are already many popular payment options on ecommerce websites, but offering retail financing can increase your sales even more. This strategy lets customers purchase your products now and pay for them later. Online sellers can display the financing option on various web pages, in marketing ads, and during checkout
Financing providers offer tools that integrate seamlessly with ecommerce platforms to provide shoppers an alternate payment option. Shoppers can apply, have their credit verified, set up, and approved during checkout without interrupting the flow. Once the sale is completed, you’re paid as usual.
Retail financing is quite similar to any other form of online payment, but the benefit of giving this option to your customers is that it allows them to purchase your products now and pay later when they have the funds. It’s essentially motivation for them to complete their purchase.
13. Hold Online Giveaways to Improve Customer Engagement
Everybody loves an excellent giveaway. Online businesses can do well by making it a regular event to offer giveaways to customers. It can be tricky, however, if your giveaway strategy is not exciting enough for your customers to want to participate. Make sure to plan your giveaways entirely from start to finish. Identify your goal, outline your winner selection process, and establish metrics to measure your event’s success.
“One of the best and most effective marketing tips for online services that I can give is to hold a free giveaway event on Facebook that offers freebies to participants. Giveaways are literally the best thing since sliced bread because they allow a company to gain followers and fans, and those people can later be converted into paying customers if done right. These contests not only help us gain exposure, but they also help sell our service. On average, each giveaway we hold gives us roughly 500 new social media followers and approximately 40 new customers.”
—Ian Aronovich, Co-founder & CEO, GovernmentAuctions.org
14. Optimize Your Website With Keyword Research
The best selling online tips won’t be complete without search engine optimization. Conducting keyword research is important for optimizing your online business. This means being able to build a web page based on related keywords that have significant monthly search volume. By doing so, business owners can know how users are searching and design their website to capitalize and work with optimized search strings.
While this can sound overwhelming to new online store owners, it’s important to start learning how to work on keyword research. There are free and paid tools such as Google Trends and Ads & SEO Keyword Permutation Generator to help you get started. Conducting proper keyword research will help businesses strategically organize their websites and ensure a long-term organic traffic strategy.
15. Manage Cart Abandonment
Customers abandon their online shopping carts an average of 69% of the time. This means that more than half of online shoppers discontinue the buying process before reaching the payment stage. Online sellers should then learn how to manage cart abandonment to increase their conversion rate significantly and lower the risk of losing customer sales. This means identifying issues that cause friction in the buying process and providing ready solutions.
Here are some strategies to manage cart abandonment:
- Include a process indicator on your checkout page
- Display security badges or logos prominently to establish customer trust
- Offer multiple payment options
- Offer delivery options and avoid hidden shipping charges
- Display thumbnail images of products in the cart while in the checkout stage
- Offer guest checkout options
- Use strong CTAs encouraging customers to buy on the checkout pages
Transparency is the overall theme you need to follow to gain your customer’s trust and convince them to complete their purchase. Follow the strategies listed above with a strong remarketing email campaign that’s designed to pull customers back to your website.
Once you have the right online business idea, it still takes strategy and persistence to keep up with the big ecommerce players, but small online shop owners shouldn’t let a limited budget stop them from creating a sustainable business. Try out some of these online selling tips and start getting a larger share of ecommerce sales.
Did we miss out on your favorite selling online tips and advice? Share it with us in the comments.