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E-Commerce is estimated to reach £243.7 billion by 2022 (source: Retail Gazette).
This is partly driven by proven e-commerce platforms such as Shopify, Etsy and Amazon Marketplace, which means it has never been easier to set up an online business.
Irrespective of whether you have a website or rely solely on a third-party e-commerce platform, you must be proactive at marketing and ensure the online shopping experience is geared towards a frictionless sale.
Stand out and be found
Firstly, your website must stand out in internet searches. Ensure your webpages are optimised for SEO. Many content management systems will have built-in features that pinpoint any SEO weak spots. Always publish good quality content and, to achieve the best search engine rankings and visitor engagement, update your website as frequently as possible.
Mobile-friendly is a must
Optimise your website with the mobile experience in mind. Pages need to look great on your phone as well as a computer. With 54% of e-commerce sales made on a mobile device according to eMarketer, use a responsive design that makes web pages appear correctly on a variety of devices and window or screen sizes.
Effective product and service descriptions
Do your products and service justice with a compelling narrative of what your offering does, but also keep the customer in mind and highlight why buying it would benefit their business. Make sure the best features stand out and tailor the description for the target buyer.
Avoid plain words and instead use evocative words that help to paint a picture, e.g. Asda describes its photo printing service as ‘bringing your memories to life’.
A picture paints a thousand words
High-quality photos and images will give your website a professional look. Free image libraries such as Pixabay, Pexels and StockSnap.io offer beautiful royalty-free images, and Shutterstock and Getty offer a paid alternative. If you are photographing your own products, make sure images are crisp, clear and well lit.
Make it easy to buy
Pricing needs to be clear and conspicuous. Make this visible next to your beautiful picture and evocative description! Look through the eyes of a potential buyer, how quickly can you add an item to the online basket and move to the checkout? Use a different colour, size or another way of highlighting the price and ‘buy now’ buttons to help reduce the number of abandoned shopping attempts.
Real-time stock levels let shoppers know if an item is actually available. Highlight any that are running low on stock to create a ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO) which might persuade a customer to place an order immediately.
The power of online reviews
Providing social proof for each product is essential in building credibility. Trustpilot has found that three out of four British shoppers consult online reviews before buying online. Use genuine customer reviews and these will be instrumental in converting browsers to buyers.
You can also make recommendations based on complementary products and offer a discount if more than one product is bundled together. This can increase the order value considerably.
Sign them up!
Encourage visitors to sign up to newsletters and permission-based marketing emails. An excellent way to achieve this is to make discounts available for subscribers. Armed with a database of current and past customers, you can use low-cost email marketing to regularly put offers, product updates and details of any new launches straight into their inbox.
Ensure a smooth checkout experience
There is nothing more frustrating than getting a shopper to the point where they are ready to place an order, only for the customer to abandon the shopping cart. You can minimise how often this happens by ensuring you have a simple and straightforward order form to fill in, and offer a variety of different payment options at checkout.
Another good idea is to use automated systems so that once a payment has been completed, post-sale emails, order updates, invoice generation and shipping all happen as seamlessly as possible for the customer, and with minimal manual intervention by your business.
Reactivate abandoned shopping
It is estimated more than a third of shoppers regularly abandon their shopping cart before completing a purchase. But all is not lost. If you have already captured the customer’s email address, then a well-timed and well-crafted email can work wonders in terms of reactivating the sale. It is estimated that this approach can convert 5% of abandoned carts into sales.
A great follow up
Post-sale, you need a slick follow-up to build on the initial purchase. Use automated email order confirmations and follow with regular updates on the order and shipping status. It doesn’t end there. Check in a week or two after the sale and see what the customer thought of the product. This is a great time to ask for that review that we talked about earlier.
Capitalise on recurring purchases
For products that are used regularly, why not sign customers up to a repeat purchase program. Everything from pet food to baby wipes can be bought using a subscription model. You can encourage sign-ups to a regular purchase program by offering discounts and other incentives.
Case study: e-commerce platform boosts sales by 150%
BoxBoxBoxCo is a Yorkshire-based SME that creates beautifully crafted gifts for Formula 1 fans. It has added an Etsy marketplace store to complement a traditional website. Etsy has increased sales by 150% and helped the company to increase exports to the USA of a top-selling tea towel product from 15% to 37%.
Owner Adam Le Feuvre comments, “the Etsy marketplace provides a slick shopping platform which allows me to concentrate on making high quality, unique items for the discerning Formula 1 fan. It has proved to be a vital part of our overall online marketing strategy as well as opening up new markets and opportunities for us.”
Be like Amazon
For a great example of how to position your products, look no further than Amazon. They use all of the above tips and more. People often think that product pages need to be short and to the point, but Amazon’s pages typically contain lots and lots of information. This is because relevant, high-quality content will be read by serious potential buyers.
One of the words that come up most often in this article is ‘easy’ – make it easy for a customer to do business with you; make it easy to pay and complete an order. To survive and thrive in the online retailing world is becoming ever harder. But if you embrace the tips described above, then you will put yourself in a great position to see your sales lift off.
Until you receive money from a sale then you are at risk of late or non-payment, making it tough for you to manage cash flow. Read our guide to learn more about getting paid and finding the best payment method for you and your customers.
Once you have decided that collecting Direct Debits could make a big impact on improving your cash flow, you need to decide who to partner with. There are many different providers and offerings but how do you make sure that you pick the right one for you?
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