Whether you start your online business as a passion project or a way to make some money, the end goal is to ultimately grow and maintain a steady growth in sales. Some stores start out strong, but once they hit a certain number, they stop focusing on gaining new customers. This stagnancy can eventually be the death of your store if a new competitor swoops into the market and whisks your existing customers away.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are a number of marketing tactics that can not only help you retain existing customers, but also bring in new ones.
The world is rapidly shifting towards a digitally dominated era and if you truly want your business to grow, you need to target your customers online. Your e-marketing strategies need to be able to do 3 things:
- Attract potential customers to your store
- Retain the potential customers once they’re actually on your website
- Ensure that they come back.
Below is a list of tips that can cause a significant growth in sales for your e-store. Not all of them may apply to your particular business, so pick and choose accordingly.
1. Make Your Store Universal
This isn’t exactly a marketing tactic, but it is one of the basics for having a successful online store. If you don’t have an app that can function on any phone or tablet, then forget about expanding your customer base. No one is going to sit down in front of their laptop just to go to your store. They need to be able to reach you whether they’re on the bus to work, waiting for someone at the airport, or scrolling through their phone during their lunch hour.
2. Make All Monetary Costs Transparent
Research indicates that nearly 70% of online shopping carts are left abandoned. It’s all good and fine when you’re loading items into your cart with a planned budget, but once customers reach the checkout point and are hit by an extra $5 of tax and another $40 for delivery charges, they don’t follow through.
Marketers deal with abandoned carts by sending reminder alerts to customers that their basket is ready and waiting. But if your customer can’t handle the delivery charges, your efforts may go unnoticed.
You will have noticed that many online stores market themselves based on their free delivery service. This, coupled with discounted items that would cost much more at another store, helps them attract and retain customers.
3. Send Reminder Emails
Most websites offer the option to add items you want to a wish list. This could be because your customer is waiting till they get their salary or they’re already purchasing other items so they need to wait a while. You need to make sure that they don’t forget to order that sweater they fell in love with, or the shoes that almost made it to their checkout basket.
Reminder alerts and emails on your customers’ phones creates a sense of urgency. Especially if items are quickly running out of stock. In fact, knowing that something is running out makes customers feel that this item is something they shouldn’t be missing out on and is a great way to boost sales.
4. Offer Instant Shopping Support
While your customer isn’t going to wait 2 days for you to respond to their query email, they will wait 5 seconds for you to respond to their instant chat. Perhaps they have questions about the size of a product, or a certain ingredient it may contain (for allergy purposes) or they may want to know about instant delivery. Having a live chat option will allow you to clear up any queries that will ultimately lead to a purchase.
5. Visuals are Important
No one will buy anything from your website if you don’t have pictures or videos of the products. That being said, it’s even worse if you use pictures that look nothing like what you’re selling! Not only will you not gain new customers, you’ll lose existing ones and receive bad reviews. With the online market being so competitive, it’s nearly impossible to come back from a bad review.
Make sure that the products look real, that you cover all aspects, and if required, provide video tutorials on how to use them. If they’re personal items, you can offer trial options. This is basically similar to what Sephora offers on its website. It allows you to upload a photo and try on the makeup item you’re interested in buying. If you’re satisfied with what you see, you won’t be skeptical about buying something online.
6. Be Personal
Research indicates that personalization can boost sales by nearly 10%! This can be addressed at a number of points through the consumer journey. While customers are surfing through your store, you can pick up the location and customize items such as the best sellers or the items in the “suggest for you” tab. For instance, someone in LA may see an ad for bathing suits whereas someone in Toronto may see winter coats on the display page.
For customers who frequent your website, you can store their user history, find out what they’re likely to shop for more and display those on top.
While it’s good news if your customer follows through with their purchase, the real deal is making sure that they come back. Personalized emails, special discounts and PROMO codes can help here. For instance, you may offer a 15% discount to a customer for successfully completing their 10th purchase. If your store offers a range of goods, you may have PROMO codes on different items and focus flash alerts to the relevant customers. If you’re selling home items and you’re aware of a customer who recently bought new bed linens, they should be the first to know that you have a promotional offer on cushion covers and duvets.
7. Buzz Marketing is Key
Beyond a company’s own marketing strategies, customers tend to trust their peers for recommendations and product reviews. A string of good reviews and a high rating displayed near the product on screen will boost your product’s image and is more likely to lead to an “add to cart”.
8. Sell in Bundles
It’s not enough to have your customers buy only what they need. It’s your job to remind them of all those other items that they just can’t do without. If they click on a carton of milk, ask them if they’d like to add eggs and bread to their cart too.
You can take this one step further by offering discounts on items bought in bundles. For instance, buying a complete dairy cart may give your customer 10% on their total purchase.
Based on your customers’ preferences, you can display other similar suggested items. If they just bought a blue shirt, you can display matching shoes or jeans to go with it. Adding some best-selling items to this list will likely arouse your customer’s interest and may even lead to a click-through. Even if they don’t buy it, they may add it to their wish list and purchase it later.
9. Holidays are Your Time to Shine
Here, you need to cater to two types of customers. Those who buy their presents months in advance and those who leave it to the last minute. Start sending out alerts when the holidays are near. Offer discounts on Christmas and Thanksgiving a few months in advance. As the holidays get nearer, appeal to your customers’ FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Whether we admit it or not, everyone secretly experiences some level of FOMO. Remind your customers that everyone’s already bought their presents and the good stuff is going.
Keep an eye on items that have gone out of stock and still been requested. That one item that everyone is after could be the source of YOUR Christmas bonus.
10. Make Your Sources Transparent
If you’re involved in in-house production or you’re off-shoring it, make sure your customers know. A store that displays its ethics is likely to attract customers who strongly feel about a particular cause. For instance, many makeup brands will focus on the fact that their products are vegan and cruelty-free.
Many businesses have suffered a downfall if news got out that they were exploiting workers, making them work in harsh conditions or using child labor. A virtual tour of your factories and testimonials from employees can raise your store’s image.
Asking your employees if they’d like the full meal or the burger on its own is the classic way to do this. Once your customer is ready for the full deal, the next step is to encourage them to upsize it and you can throw in a free sundae to seal the deal.
If you’re a grocery store and someone is buying detergent, offer a deal on a larger pack. Whether it’s a discount or a free bar of soap, customers will opt for the larger size if they feel it holds more value for them.
Make sure that you’re not crossing the bounds of overselling. If your customer has been looking at an Aldo watch, don’t try and force an Armani one onto them. If it falls too far out of their budget, they will end up not wanting the Aldo one and not being able to afford the Armani. In the end, they will leave their basket and you will have lost your purchase.
12. Make Your Promotional Activities Relevant
It’s important to know the type of customers your store is catering to. Are you dealing with budget-driven college students or recently rich millennials looking to splurge? While the college student will appreciate a good discount, your elite customers might lose interest in a product if it seems too commonplace. They may, however, be interested in looking at the gift set that offers them the matching leather belt with the shoes they really like.
In tandem with your promotional activities, your website needs to have the right look too. Not only should it look authentic, it should also provide all the necessary product information. No matter which SEC (Socio-economic Class) you’re targeting, everyone needs to know about what they’re buying before they finalize a purchase.
Keep an Eye on those Sales Charts
It is important to remember that the effect of any marketing strategy is slow to begin with, so you need to have a plan in mind. If you have a warehouse full of items close to expiration, you’ll need to have cut-throat strategies such as mega-discounts and sales. This, however, is only short-term.
Whichever strategy you end up choosing should increase your sales in the long run. With constantly changing consumer needs, you need to keep an eye out for what the new demands are, what your competition is doing to try to upstage you, and how you can stand out in the sea of e-commerce.