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How to drive traffic to an e-Commerce site

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Why read this? : We share the 5 key actions which help you drive traffic to an e-Commerce site. Learn this process to pull in high potential customers to your store. Read this for ideas and inspiration on how to attract visitors to your online shop.

A big part of your e-Commerce plan is having somewhere to sell.

So, let’s say you’ve set up your online store website with great content, style and functionality. And your back-end systems like payments, deliveries and customer service are all good to go. 

But none of these are any use unless you can get customers to visit your online store.

You need traffic to your site so customers can experience what you have to offer.

e-commerce planning process - 5 key steps in e-commerce experience

So, that’s why this week’s focus is on how to drive traffic to an e-Commerce site. We’ll look at 5 key actions :-

Understanding the target audience

You start with your understanding of the customer. You have to know who they are and what they need and want before you can plan how to drive traffic. Clearly, you want the highest potential customers to visit. Those who are most likely to buy from you. 

There’s 2 parts to this understanding in e-Commerce. 

First, there’s your overall target audience for the products or services you sell. Whatever that is, you should have research and insights into who’s most likely to buy in general.

Quantitative research results example

But because you’re selling online, you also have to understand which of those customers will also specifically want to buy online. And even more specifically, will want to buy online from your store.

You normally combine these insights together as you put together your customer segment profile.

This is a one-page summary of your ideal customer. It collates facts and insights about the customer’s demographics, usage occasions and attitudes.

The product / service element will be specific to your brand and category. But as per our what online shoppers want article, the specific online shopping needs and insights usually relate to :- 

  • ease and convenience. 
  • range.
  • price comparisons. 
Customer Experience Personal Template Blank.001

You need this profile to help you with the next key action. That’s writing a brief for your agencies to come up with a plan to drive traffic to your e-Commerce site. 

Briefing your agencies

The e-Commerce plan which drove the building of the site should have included a traffic goal. You should have estimated :- 

  • how many visitors you need.
  • how many of those you need to convert to buy.
  • what those conversions will mean for your store’s profit and loss.

These calculations help you work out how much budget you can spend to drive traffic to your e-Commerce site and stay profitable. Technically, you’ve already done the first step in the advertising development process. You know your business objectives and budget.

The advertising development process - a guide on how to advertise successfully

Now, you have to brief your agencies so they can help you deliver those objectives. You’ll be asking your advertising agency and media agency to show you how to drive traffic to your e-Commerce site. 

Key areas to brief

The brief normally has 5 key areas :-

  • brand.
  • objectives.
  • communication.
  • rationale.
  • project.

Brand summarises your vision, essence, personality and values.

Objectives covers the business opportunity, marketing challenge and growth target. 

Communication brief template with 5 sections - brand, objectives, Communications, Rationale and Project - including additional copy about how to complete

In this brief, that’d be how many visitors you want to attract, how often and over what time period. You should also specify the target audience and what you want them to do (visit the site)

Communication is your thinking on what the advertising needs to say and do. You usually focus on the key benefit you want to highlight in the advertising. This normally links to your competitive strategy and positioning. The benefit underpins the advertising idea and media plan. We’ll look at those more closely in the next step. 

Rationale is the back-up for your benefit. It details why customers should believe what you say. (usually adapted from your positioning’s  reason why and reason to believe).

Project outlines timings and budget for the project. Plus, it details project-specific Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and who’s the client lead on the project. 

Developing the advertising idea

There’s 2 parts to the agency response. The first part focusses on what you should say and how you should say it. That’s usually summed up in the advertising idea. (it may also cover other communication  areas like PR and packaging, but it’s almost always led by advertising). 

As per our how to advertise guide, adverts can be about :-

  • building long-term brand equity (to make customers more likely to consider your brand).
  • driving immediate actions (when the focus is on short-term sales).

Three-brains Unpause campaign first draft storyboard

As the goal here is driving traffic, you’d expect the advertising idea to focus more on immediate action. You want customers to do something specific i.e. visit your store. 

To get customers to visit, the advertising idea has to stand out and be relevant (see our advertising evaluation guide for more on this), and also have a compelling call to action to visit your site. 

The idea should reflect your competitive strategy

The advertising idea should also reflect your competitive strategy

For example, if that’s cost leadership, the advertising idea should focus on price discounting and sales promotions. You make it clear your online store offers the best prices. Many big price-driven retailers, like Bunnings in this example, do this by highlighting their low price guarantees. Or they’ll run short-term sales offers like 20% off all products this weekend only. 

Bunnings Price policy which shows if you can find a lower price, they'll beat it by 10%

On the other hand, if you’re more about differentiation or occupying a unique niche, those will be the focus of your advertising idea. For example, the shopping experience you offer e.g. fast deliveries, easy returns or product customisation. Or you use more advanced e-Commerce selling techniques like online exclusives, targeted offers or extra services like subscriptions.

You evaluate the advertising agency response to make sure it meets the brief. But you also have to look at when and where it’ll appear, which brings us to the other half of the response. 

Planning media

The media agency response takes the advertising idea, and defines the best times and places for the advertising campaign to appear. 

It may include traditional channels, but you’d expect it to be digital media led.

Digital adverts can include call to action buttons which link directly to your site. If your goal’s to drive traffic to your e-Commerce website, you want it to be as easy as possible for the customer to do this. Clicking a link on a digital advert is the easiest way to make this happen. 

The media schedule - an example

The main channels you’d expect to see in the response are :-

Social media channels

The way social media worksfits really well with e-Commerce. It’s a great channel to drive traffic to your e-Commerce website. 

For example, social content usually leads with visuals. So you can show customers what you’re selling in ways which grab attention and make your products or services look desirable.

The content’s also very shareable. If your content’s good enough, you get even more bang for your media buck as customers share it with their friends. 

Plus, it’s comparatively easy to create social content, and target the media at relevant customers. The basics of creating an image or short video, writing some sales copy and booking the media space against a specific customer segment isn’t hard to do. 

Most new online stores start their advertising on social media. It’s relatively cheap to try out ideas, and you can do this without using a media agency. Channels like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter help you find your audience, and build interest in your e-Commerce store. (see also our review of other social media channels you can use). 

The real challenge comes in doing all these things well enough to make an impact. That comes from testing and learning to see what works, and what doesn’t. You do more of the former, and stop doing the latter. 

Test and learn social media

For example, you run separate adverts with different product images. Say one with the product on its own and another with someone using the product. Or you try video content. Or a carousel of images.

What works best in each category will be different. There’s no set rules about what works on social. You test to learn what works best your target audience.

You can also test out different advertising copy. If you’re not sure which features or benefits have the most appeal, run adverts side by side with different messages. See which ones work best.

Or try out different sales promotions. What about promo codes and price discounts, for example? Limited time offers (e.g. 20% off until this Sunday)?Limited availability offers (e.g. last 50 units left in stock)? (see our advanced e-Commerce selling techniques article for more ideas like this).

Instagram post saying No Network cables? Thank Dr John O'Sullivan and the team at CSIRO - with a picture of a woman wearing a T-shirt that shows a WiFi symbol and the words Australian Invention

You can test these offers for very little cost. A $10 ad spend on Facebook will reach about 600 people currently. This is a good test number to see if your social media adverts gets a reaction, before you decide to spend more.


Another focus area to drive traffic to your e-Commerce site is search, where you’ll look at :-

  • paid search – where you pay for your site to appear against specific search terms. 
  • organic search – where your site naturally appears in search results because of how it’s been set up. 

Your search plan normally starts with keyword research. You use tools like Google Ads or Answer the Public to see the terms people search on.

laptop google search

For your store, you’d look at search terms on the products/services you offer, your brand terms and any relevant additional category information or content. 

Paid search

With paid search, you normally look at specific buying related terms. That could be buy “x”, where to buy “x” or the specific product names, for example. 

This is especially true If you sell the same products as other stores. Unless you have a lot of search authority on your site, you’ll likely need to do some paid search so customers find you in the rankings. 

Google Ads Brand and Marketing Keyword research results

Organic search

Organic search is more about making sure your site and product page content is optimised with good SEO writing. You should rank for unique products only you sell, and for your brand terms on organic search. Depending on what extra content you add, you may also be able to organically rank on some category search terms. For example, how-to articles and buying guides will give your site an SEO boost. 

You’d also make sure your site uses good technical search practices. For example, filling in the metadata on product pages like the page title, focus keywords, slugs and meta description. You’d also check your H2 and H3 titles reference your focus keywords enough.

For e-Commerce search, it’s also worth registering with Google Merchant Centre.This helps your products appear in search on the Google Shopping channel. You input data about your product and refresh the information every month. It’s a great way to make your online store more visible when customers are searching on shopping related terms. 

Display advertising

Display advertising refers to adverts you place on other websites. These will typically be high traffic sites regularly visited by lots of your target audience.

For example, news, sport and entertainment sites carry lots of display adverts.

Plus, there’s often sites with category level content you can place display adverts on too. 

For example, if you sell baby clothes, you can advertise on a site aimed at new parents. If you sell gym equipment, you can advertise on a health and fitness site.

Though you can often buy these media spots directly, it’s more usual for your media agency to do it. They know the market and can make informed recommendations about which ones will work. Plus, they’ll already have systems in place to manage the media buying. 

The main exception is when you’re selling on marketplaces  like ebay or via pure players like Amazon. You can buy their media space directly as part of the way your account is set up with them.

A broader view of display

If you take a broader view of “display”, then arguably you can use other, more traditional communication channels to help drive traffic to your e-Commerce store. 

For example, your packaging and PR activities can help highlight and remind people your store exists. 

And if you advertise the products or services you sell separately, you should make sure you feature or link to the store’s URL so customers know where to buy. 


Finally, it’s also worth making sure you understand tagging and how it links to your data and analytics. When you run multiple display advertising campaigns, tagging adds a piece of code to each advert. When someone clicks on the advert, that code then helps you track what they do. You can understand what type of customer clicked, and what they did on your site. 

So, it helps you identify which advertising drives the most traffic. And it helps you identify which advertising drives the most sales. Those are important to know. Because with that knowledge, you can better optimise the overall experience. 

Optimising the experience

Some e-Commerce experts will tell you that your site is at its worst on the day it launches. That’s because there’s always something more you can do to make your site better. 

In terms of driving traffic to your e-Commerce site, you want to make sure your advertising messages are brought to life when customers visit.

Your site has to deliver on the promises your social, search and display adverts make to help convince customers to buy.

Customer Experience Journey Map

Seeing an advert is usually the first step of many steps on the customer journey. If it doesn’t deliver, the customers won’t take the next step of visiting your site.

So, it’s important you keep looking for ways to make the whole journey work better. And then reflect these improvements in what you do to drive traffic to your e-Commerce site. Let customers know about ways you’re making their online shop easier and / or better. 

This can be as simple as writing clearer, more compelling product names and descriptions and making your images and videos more engaging. (see our online grocery and high ticket product pages articles for examples of this). 

Or it can tap into more advanced selling techniques and adding extra services. For example, subscriptions to make re-ordering easier, or better payment and delivery options.

Use data to understand if you’re meeting the customer’s needs

Your aim’s to make sure the overall customer experience meets the customer’s needs. The tests you run and the improvements you make are all about making customers happier.

If you can’t explain what it’ll do for the customer, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it. 

You’ll know if it’s working by analysing your data.

You should set up an e-Commerce dashboard and use it to track feedback on your activitie and look for new insights.

Example of an e-Commerce dashboard showing results on campaigns, operations, platforms and sales

These help you learn more about your customers. And that’s where the process starts again, so next time you drive even more traffic to your e-Commerce site. 

Conclusion - How to drive traffic to an e-Commerce site 

Your e-Commerce site needs visitors to survive and thrive. So, you have to plan how you’ll let customers know your store exists and how you’ll persuade them to visit it. 

We’ve covered the 5 big steps which will help you drive traffic to your e-Commerce site. 

You start with understanding your target audience. You gather data, research and insights to dig into who they are, and what they need or want. 

Arrow shaped sign on a brick wall saying entry

 Then you write a brief and work with your advertising and media agencies to come up with a traffic-driving plan. They find you a motivating advertising idea, and build a targeted media plan to get that idea out to the right people, at the right time and in the right places. 

Finally, you measure the results of that activity, and plug the learnings back into the start of the process so you do it better next time. The more you learn about what your customers like, the higher the level of traffic you’ll drive to your e-Commerce site. 

Check out our advertising, media planning and online store website guides for more on this. Or get in touch if you need help to drive traffic to your e-Commerce site. 

Photo credits

Entry : Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Social Media :  Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

Google on a laptop : Photo by Benjamin Dada on Unsplash

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