If you own or manage an online store, you have a hundred things on your to-do list and need 48 hour days to get through them. You don’t have time to spend days researching the most effective ways to improve your online store. No matter how important you know it is.
If you search for ways to improve your online store, you will find posts with amazing titles like “536 Ways to Increase Your Online Sales”. The problem with these articles is that they never prioritize what is most important. For those with limited time, we need to know what major areas to improve and give us the highest return. A list of every idea under the sun won’t help.
Today I will cover the five essential ways to boost your online sales. Rather than a long list of to-dos, I want to address the concerns that are fundamental to online stores. If you update your online store to use these strategies, I guarantee it will have a significant impact.
Boost #1: Make your site mobile friendly
If your site is not optimized for mobile devices, make it your number one priority for this month. You are missing out on new customers and leaving money on the table. Since November 2014, Google penalizes sites that are not mobile-friendly. If you have seen a drop off in your sales since around that time this is the underlying reason.
You can check if your site is mobile-friendly with Google’s Mobile Friendly tool.
Furthermore, you may be losing sales due to a poor user experience for mobile users. Mobile e-commerce sales now make up 30% of all e-commerce in the United States. If your site is not mobile-friendly, you could be missing out on 30% or more of your potential. I’ve worked with clients that have over 50% of their sales coming from mobile users. You simply cannot neglect that amount of traffic.
Boost #2: Optimize your product pages for search engines (SEO)
You know the adage that the three most important factors for a business storefront are location, location, location? This rings true for e-commerce sites as well. But instead of physical location, we are talking about your online visibility. Who is seeing a link or advertisement to your online store? Where are they seeing it? The most effective way to improve your visibility is through the most popular platforms with billions of visitors each day: search engines.
In order to increase your rankings in search engines you need to optimize your site and content you are adding to it. There are two components to Search Engine Optimization: technical and content.
Technical SEO focuses on the underlying code of your site, the speed of your servers, and other factors that search engines grade. You likely won’t notice these factors other than its impact on traffic and sales. Generally, you can put these improvements in place once, and they will remain in effect forever.
A quick way to test the technical SEO of your site is a free tool, SEO Site Checkup. This will give you a quick glance at your site’s SEO from a technical perspective. I consider anything less than 90/100 a warning flag, especially if you have any “High Priority Fixes” listed. You can solve most of these issues without a large amount of effort while a few may be more involved. It depends on the platform you are using for your store.
Content SEO involves the actual words used on the pages of your site. For online retailers, this means the keywords you are using for your product pages, categories, and landing pages.
How do you improve Content SEO? First, you need to identify keywords that have a high volume of monthly searches that are relevant to your products, but also are not too broad. In fact the more niche the keyword the better. The best tool for doing this research Google’s Keyword Planner. This tool always seems to be open in my browser since I use it so often.
For example, let’s say you sell computer products, and you have a keyboard that caters to gamers. If you used “gaming keyboard” as your keyword you would be competing with every other computer retailer on the internet. If you are a small shop you stand no chance. Instead, the keyword “red and black keyboard” has a search volume of 480 searches per month, with low advertiser competition.
Most likely the people searching for this phrase are looking for that specific keyboard after seeing an image of it somewhere. If 5% of the people searching for that keyboard buy from you, that could be $3,120 more revenue simply from using a focused keyword. For popular products like this one, you can even set up dedicated landing pages to help guide the buyer and allow you to rank higher.
Boost #3: Follow up on abandoned carts
An average of 68% of online shopping carts are abandoned. If you are accepting that as a lost sale you are leaving money on the table. You need to have an automated system that follows up with customers after they have added a product to their cart and left the site.
The most common follow-up method is sending an email to customers that left during the checkout process. At a basic level, this may be an email saying “hey you left something in your cart come back!”. But a more effective email is one that considers the reason the customer left the site. The #1 reason for abandoned shopping carts is that shipping costs were more than expected. The second reason is because customers were doing a price comparison on other sites.
So how can you entice users to finish checking out based on those reasons? One possibility is to offer them free shipping or a discount code. You may have experienced emails like this yourself . After some time you receive an email that says:”We noticed you left some items in your cart! We appreciate your business and would like to offer you a 10% discount using this code if you order in the next 48 hours.”. The key is to be proactive in recapturing those sales. You will see a significant return on investment for setting up these follow-up emails.
Boost#4: Use email marketing to reach your customers
Email marketing is still one of most effective ways to reach customers, even in 2016. It is much different than it was ten years ago, but reading email is still the primary activity of mobile users.
By email marketing, I don’t mean sending “20% OFF SALE TODAY BUY NOW” emails every other day. Yes, time-sensitive sales emails are important and have a place for online retailers. What I am talking about are campaigns that have a goal of building a connection with your customers.
Customers have different motivations when they make a purchase. Sometimes the price is the primary factor, but for most customers, it is an emotional decision. A large segment will buy from you based on loyalty, trust, and their connection to your company. You can’t build brand loyalty by spamming your customers with daily sales emails. You need to be providing value to your customers without asking them to buy your products.
One of my favorite recent email campaigns is MailChimp’s online store, Freddie & Co. MailChimp opened a store to sell unique products and have been documenting the process . The emails are not only fun and informative, but they also create a connection with the reader. It gives you a sense of experiencing the journey with them. I haven’t even bought anything from them, yet I read every email when it hits my inbox.
If you want to build loyal customers, you need to be giving back to them. If you are an auto parts retailer, you could send them information on how to maintain their vehicle. Or you could send seasonal tips like planning a road trip during the summer. Be creative and think about what your customer’s day looks like. What are the pains and challenges they experience? The more you can do to help them, the more likely they will come back to your business when it is time to buy a product. Personalize these emails to cater to your customer’s preferences, behaviors, and needs.
Boost #5: Focus on improving exit rates
This requires a bit of research, but I felt it was necessary to cover as it can lead to a huge increase in conversions in your store. When a customer lands on your site for the first time, what do they do? Are they adding a product to their cart? Are they browsing around a bit and then adding an item to their cart? Or are they getting to the checkout page and leaving the site? These are questions you need to take the time to answer. It helps you understand what your visitors are experiencing, and how you can improve their experience.
You want to identify any pages where a high percentage of customers are leaving after arriving on that page. Product pages where customers arrive and leave immediately show a need for improvement. It could be that the page design is confusing. Or it may a hint that traffic arriving at your site is not your target demographic. If customers are about to check out but are leaving on the shipping page, this could mean your checkout process is cumbersome. Or it could mean your shipping prices are too high.
Identifying these problem pages is the first step so that you can focus on which pages to improve first. Monitoring exit and bounce rates should be a part of your regular activities, at least on a monthly basis.
To further improve exit rates, consider adding an Exit-Intent popup. Almost everyone immediately sneers at the idea of a popup because they are abused so often. But that is what I love about exit-intent popups — you are targeting visitors that are already planning on leaving. If they see the popup and decide to make a purchase, great! If not, then they were already leaving so who cares if they are annoyed!
How Are You Doing?
How many of these strategies are you currently implementing? You may find yourself acknowledging that you are aware of these problems, but haven’t taken action. Don’t worry, that is common. The most important thing is that you take small, consistent steps toward these improvements. Don’t wait until you are scrambling to recover lost revenue. Now is the best time to get started. Choose one and focus on adding it to your store, and be sure you are ready to track how it affects your sales. I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised. And if you don’t know where to start, or don’t have time to give it another thought, give me a shout and I’ll be happy to help out.