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How to get more sales online

Why read this? : We look at the key skills needed to take on the challenge of how to get more sales online. Learn how market research, brand development and customer experience skills drive online selling. Read this to learn how to get more sales online.

How to get more sales online

How this guide raises your game :-

    1. Learn how market research helps you understand the who, what, where, when and why of your customers. 
    2. Understand how brand development skills help you attract more customers. 
    3. Explore how improving the online shopping customer experience drives more sales.

As per our e-Commerce planning guide, some online channels are quick and easy to set up. You can have products ready to sell online in channels like marketplaces and print on demand in just a few minutes. 

But just being available doesn’t mean anyone will buy. Online customers have millions of stores to choose from, with each store potentially stocking thousands of products.

You have to do something more to stand out. To drive e-Commerce growth you have to build skills in :-

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How to get more sales online - Market research

Customers drive sales. The better you understand who they are, and what they need, the more you’ll be able to sell to them. That’s where market research comes in. Market research is what you do to understand customers better. 

Though market research can be detail-focused, the basic process behind it is simple. It only has 3 steps. You define your business problem. You research that problem. Then you analyse the results and act on them. 

For e-Commerce, the problem is usually some variation on how to get more sales online. That’ll be some mix of finding new customers or getting existing customers to buy more, or buy more often

Market research process - Define problem, research problem, analyse and put answer into action

As per our 5Ws of e-Commerce market research article, you aim to understand the who, what, where, when and why of your customers :-

Who

Your e-Commerce research usually starts with identifying who your target audience is. You want to build up a profile of your ideal customers

If that’s potential customers who don’t currently buy from you, the research will focus on what they do now and why. For example, what drives them to choose competitor products or not buy at all. 

Or it might be customers who currently buy from you but infrequently or in large volumes. Those can also be a key source of e-Commerce growth. 

What

Once you understand the who, you next research what they do. You gather data, especially from secondary research. For example, you look at your store website analytics to see which product pages perform the best. Or you look at online sources like the Mary Meeker study, or the annual Auspost e-Commerce report to look at more general trends. Plus, of course, you can do primary research and ask them directly what they do. 

You’re looking for ideas and insights into what might work with customers in the future based on how they respond to current or past activities. 

Where

This data gathering often focuses on where customers are, and where they go online. Customers often visit different places depending on where they are on their journey. 

For example, they might look at influencer sites and social media if they’re still researching what to buy.

They might always check out the biggest online retailers in the category to benchmark prices if they’re close to making a decision.

And if any competitors have a strong CRM program, that might keep customers so loyal they don’t switch. 

Screengrab of Amazon.com.au home page, headline says Join Now - Prime Video and shows image of The Test : A new era fro Australia's team and an image of Steve Smith

Market research helps you unlock all these insights about where customers go. That helps you find them with your digital media and gives you an idea of the advertising job to be done to drive them to your store instead.

When

Your market research data also gives you insights about when customers buy. For example, time of day for regular purchases, or time of year for more irregular purchases. 

This helps you time your activity to when customers are going to be most receptive to it. For example, when you place your media. But also what that media says to make it more relevant to the buying occasion. For example, a reference to Easter or Christmas if that’s when the purchase is most likely to take place. 

Why

The final 5W question, why, usually has the biggest impact on e-Commerce growth but is also the hardest to answer. 

Why customers do what they do gives you insights you can use across your entire marketing mix. Answers to why help you create more relevant products and services, more attractive price points, more appealing online stores and clearer, more impactful communications. 

These can be basic needs met by online shopping such as ease and convenience, range or price. (See our what do online shoppers want article for more on these). 

Neon sign with a question mark inside a square at the end of a dark corridor

But the research can also help you go deeper. You can find insights by pulling in ideas from related areas like behavioural science and design psychology, for example. In e-Commerce, it’s relatively easy to test, so you can work out which ideas help improve the customer’s shopping experience.

The mix of questions from these 5Ws of e-Commerce market research then drives your research brief and methodology. The research answers then shape how you build your brand and create your customer experience.

How to get more sales online - Brand development

Your market research will likely show that not all online shoppers are the same.

There will be different segments that share similar attributes. These segments will be of different sizes and demand different marketing approaches. 

You should research these segments and identify which are the most attractive to target. Then you create a clear e-Commerce positioning to stand out with those customers.

It’s the same segmentation, targeting and positioning approach used to build any brand, but the goal is to work out how to get more sales online. 

Segmentation

Customers in online shopping segments differ from those in traditional channels.

For example, the demographic splits often differ. You may have younger shoppers who’ve grown up with online shopping and are more tech-savvy. Or you may have less mobile, older shoppers who find it hard to go out. They might shop online for the convenience of not going to a store. 

Shopping occasions and times can also vary online. You might have shift workers, or parents with newborn children, who can’t get to traditional stores during the day. Online shopping lets them shop at times that suit them.

You often also find customers who buy in bulk on behalf of others. For example, tea and coffee supplies for offices and businesses. Or other areas where groups come together. For example, we know of one category where prisons, hospitals and daycare centres are the biggest online shopping segment. These online shoppers value the convenience of having large quantities delivered. 

Targeting

Once you identify segments, you next build a market attractiveness model to identify which have more potential. 

You rank segments based on the variables you discovered during the market research process. 

For example, how much they spend and how often they buy would help you decide which segments to prioritise to work out how to get more sales online. 

You’d also consider the competitors in each segment. If online shoppers are happy with other sellers, it’s harder to get them to change behaviour. 

Archery target with arrows in bullseye to symbolise marketing targeting

Your e-Commerce targeting decisions also depend on whether you use online retailers, set up your own store, or both.

Because online shopping generates lots of data, online retailers may already have their own segments they can share with you, based on e.g. :- 

  • past online shopping behaviour – heavy, medium or light users. 
  • where people live – specific cities or regions. 
  • what time of day they shop – early morning or late evening shoppers.

With your own online store website, you have direct access to all this sort of data. You use this to work out the best target segments. This generates new data to help you further refine your target audience.

Positioning

You finish off by crafting your positioning statement. This summarises who your brand is for, what it offers and its key point of difference versus competitors. Specifically, it defines :- 

  • your target audience.
  • the benefit you offer. 
  • your frame of reference, which for online shopping, includes the context of it being sold online. 
  • your reason why and reason to believe. 

This can take you into some of the e-Commerce benefits mentioned previously, like ease and convenience, range and price. But it can go beyond those. For example, the frame of reference could also cover service offers like speed of delivery or product customisation. 

The positioning statement helps you define both your competitive strategy and your competitive advantage which leads you towards building your brand identity.

Brand identity

Your brand identity combines tangible and intangible assets to define what your brand thinks, feels and does.

It helps your brand stay clear and consistent in what it looks and sounds like.

Brand identity helps customers understand who you are, and makes it easier to connect with them.

When it comes to how to get more sales online, it’s important to flex your brand identity so it fits the context of online sales. 

Do your essence, values and personality support your e-Commerce goals in your advertising, packaging and product pages, for example?

Brand identity asset classification - intangible - tangible - rules - playbook

You can use a framework like the brand identity wheel to map out all your brand assets. Then check they’re all a good fit with selling online. 

Does the fact you’re selling online change any of what the shopper might answer on “how it makes me feel” or “what it says about me”, for example?

Fitting your brand identity to what the online shopper is looking for helps build trust and credibility. These remove barriers to online selling that might otherwise stop the customer from deciding to shop with you.

Which increases your chances of getting a sale.

Brand identity wheel showing elements of brand identity including essence, values, personality, and benefits

Marketing plan

Finally, you bring this all together in your marketing plan.

This should cover the different parts of the marketing mix such as product, price, promotion, place, people, process, and physical location. 

These drive what you do, how you do it and when you do it. For example, it’ll spell out all your plans for advertising, digital media and online sales promotions.

Read our e-Commerce planning process guide for more on how e-Commerce connects to marketing planning. See also our marketing mix example article for a case study which applies the marketing mix to an online business. 

Examples of the marketing mix 4Ps and 7Ps - product, price, promotion, place, people, process, physical location

How to get more sales online - Customer Experience

Customer experience (CX) is sometimes covered within a broader marketing strategy. However, it impacts so much on e-Commerce, that it deserves more attention. 

It’s a broad process that explores brand interactions from the customer’s point of view. These interactions are often called the customer journey.

CX combines marketing and technology to look for opportunities to exploit and problems to fix (often known as pain or friction points) at each key interaction. 

It’s an organised way to come up with ideas on how to get more sales online. A clever and creative CX approach helps you drive more e-Commerce growth.

Customer Experience Development process

Personas

Customer experience uses several different processes, tools and software systems.

You use these alongside the marketing skills outlined above, to help bring the target and plan to life. 

For example, customer personas help visualise your target audience. Very helpful to accompany briefs

You can show the type of person you’re talking about, and what they think, feel and do.

It means key activities like advertising, copywriting and sales promotions will feel more relevant to the customer.

Customer Experience Personal Template Blank.001

Customer journey map

The customer journey map helps you identify key touchpoints where the shopper interacts with your brand.

For example, you can identify specific digital media channels to spark their interest or encourage them to find out more. You can identify key parts of the store website to persuade them or make buying easy.

The map helps identify ‘pain points’ for the shopper at each stage and shows you what solutions you need to deliver.

The key solution areas generally come from digital media, your shop website, payment and delivery, and the customer service you offer.

Customer Experience Journey Map

Digital media

Driving traffic to your product pages is a big part of how to get more sales online.

Communication activities like advertising and PR can help you drive awareness. You highlight what your store can do for customers.

But e-Commerce normally prioritises digital media channels like search, social and display advertising.

These nudge shoppers to visit your pages by making it easy. You show the answer to their problem is just a click away. That click takes them to your shop website

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

Shop website - product pages

Optimising your product page is a key driver of how to get more sales online. After all, it’s where the actual sale takes place. As part of the customer experience journey, it’s where the shopper decides to buy. Or, not. 

And actually, it’s usually “not buy”. As per our D2C business model article, the average page conversation rate (the percentage of visitors who buy) is only around 2%. That means 98% of visitors don’t buy. So, you need your media to drive lots of visitors. And, you need to do everything you can to push up that 2% conversion rate. 

But, the good news is there are things you can do. There are some well-known e-Commerce product page principles you can apply to improve conversions. These apply whether you have your own store website, or you manage your product pages via a retailer’s product information management system

Product pages - basics

At the simplest level, there are 3 elements for every product page. The product name. Product images. And product information. They’re the bare bones of the page.

Product pages will almost always share more than that, and there are lots of examples of content you can include. But, you must start with getting these 3 basics right.

Product name

Your product name has to be clear, consistent and easy for online shoppers to find. This might seem obvious. But, the product name has to be able to identify each specific variation of a product. And, that can get more complicated.

A keynote page showing product page basics - product name, product information and product images

So, your product name will likely have a couple of different elements to help specify exactly what the product is. You’ll have an overall brand name e.g. Coca-Cola. Then a sub-brand name e.g. Classic or Diet Coke. And then, a more specific product identifier e.g. 36 x 375ml cans multipack. (See our product page and e-Commerce content ideas for more examples of product naming in action).

Product images

Online shopping in many categories is driven by the visual appeal of the product’s design. So, you want to make sure your product photography is appealing.  

But even before that, you should make sure it’s accurate and up-to-date. 

If a customer orders a product based on an old or misleading image, they’ll be disappointed if something different arrives.

This can lead to complaints and requests for refunds. And, possibly even legal action. You don’t want that so run regular reviews of your product images. 

Screenshot of the range of T-shirts available in the three-brains shop

Product image checks

As part of your photography evaluation, you should think about how your product photos are lit and what the background and context will look like.

In low involvement, functional categories where the product’s the “hero”, you’ll want simple backgrounds to avoid distracting the customer’s attention. 

But in high involvement, emotional categories, lifestyle shots can create more impact. These show the product in action, either with models or with props to show them off.

You should also make sure the image is a high enough resolution and quality. 

Woman holding camera showing photography for marketing skills

For example, if the site allows the shopper to zoom in on the product image, it must stay sharp and legible. However, the file size can’t be too large, or it’ll slow down the page. Most sites set out their optimum file size and image dimensions.

It’s usually also worth showing the product from multiple angles. Front, back, top and sides, for example. It can also help to share 3D as well as 2D views of the product.

You should also consider how many product images to show. Online retailers normally limit how many images you can show. But if it’s your own store, you choose how many and which products to show. Try to find a good balance. You want enough to make an impression, but not so many it overwhelms the shopper. Around seven images plus or minus two is usually about right.

Supplying and managing product imagery

You also need to plan how you’ll supply and manage the product imagery. This might be as simple as emailing them to the retailer. But, as per our product information management systems article, you often manage images through online spreadsheets or third parties like skuvantage.

And finally, it’s also worth checking what your packaging looks like on screen. If you developed your packaging to stand out on an in-store shelf, it doesn’t mean it’ll still work in digital formats. This check should be part of your packaging development process.  

Product information

The final product page basic is all the relevant product information. This usually mirrors the packaging.

It’ll be a mix of mandatory information, like allergy information on food products, plus your key selling messages. These selling messages should follow good sales copy principles, sharing key features and benefits to persuade customers to buy.

You should also check spelling and grammar to eliminate mistakes. These look unprofessional and can harm sales. They should be fixed quickly when you spot them, usually by updating the retailer’s product information management system or your store website if you sell D2C. 

A keynote page showing product page basics - product name, product information and product images

In addition, you also need the product information content to be search-friendly. Make sure you apply key SEO writing principles. For example, do keyword research before you write. Set up your metadata and headlines to make the page easier to search.

Once you’ve sorted these basics, then you start to look at what else you can do. There’s more you can do with your product page to help solve the challenge of how to get more sales online.

Product page checklist

As you can see, with our detailed product page checklist, there are several other areas to consider after the name, images and basic information. 

Let’s look at each of these in turn, and review what’s possible to improve the sales performance of your product page. (See also our e-Commerce product page content ideas articles for more real-life examples). 

Price

Pricing is one obvious factor that influences the online shopper’s decision to buy. You should make sure the price is easy to find on the product page and navigation pages.

How to get more sales online - detailed product page checklist

On product pages, the price normally appears near the product name and the call to action button. On navigation pages, it’s usually below the product image.

Price works at 2 levels.

First, at a marketing level, it’s part of the overall marketing mix, as per our marketing plan guide. It reinforces the positioning as price often reflects whether your product is high quality or more mainstream. 

Then, at a sales level, you can add promotional price discounts as per our sales promotions guide. These help persuade customers they’re getting a good deal. Or that they’ll miss out on the deal if they don’t buy.

You should also consider how you show the price. For example, there is evidence that customers perceive the price in smaller fonts as less than the same price in bigger fonts. You can also use psychological pricing principles to, for example, decide whether to include decimal points or round the price up to the nearest dollar.

Call to action

You also want to make sure the call to action button is clear and captures attention.

The “call to action” is what you want the online shopper to do next.

It’s common to play around with colour and typography on the call to action button to make it stand out and be easy to recognise. It should have a clear action such as “Buy now” or “Add to cart” to make it obvious, what you want the online shopper to do next.

In our example above, we added a green background to the “Buy Product” box to make it stand out more. Our normal action buttons have a red background.

An old pocket watch dangling hypnosis style in front of a leather chair with a speech bubble saying "Buy me..."

This is the only time we use a different button colour. It helps to show that it’s a different action.

While “Buy now” is your obvious call to action at the point of purchase, you can also build in other calls to action at different stages of the journey.

For technical or detailed products, the call to action might be to book a consultation or a call-back. After a purchase, the call to action could ask the customer to review their experience. Customer reviews from real shoppers have a high impact as they feel independent and unbiased. In fact, they do a double job. They help you track customer satisfaction. And, they persuade other customers of the value of your offer.

Even if you only ask customers for feedback and don’t publish it, allowing customers to tell you how you have done builds trust and confidence.

Category filters

Each product page needs to fit into the overall navigation hierarchy of the site. This is done with the URL set up of each page. A filter usually defines a group of products and each product page within that group becomes an extension of the filter page URL. 

Think about these filters as the digital equivalent of aisles in an actual store. They group similar products so that they’re all in one place. It makes it easier for the online shopper to compare similar products. You normally find these filters in the navigation bar. They’re also used to create the URL naming structure of pages within the site. 

For example, let’s say we were selling this T-shirt design on amazon.com. 

To make it easier to find this product, we’d adjust the category filters. And these filters would then help to build the URL for the design. For example, the filters might be T-shirts, then men’s T-shirts and then our product name. 

So, the URLs would be built like this :-

Category : amazon.com/tshirts

Sub-category : amazon.com/tshirts/mentshirts

Product URL : amazon.com/tshirts/mentshirts/ threebrainsnumberonetshirt

The online store website owner usually decides this navigation hierarchy. They should do market research to see how customers navigate the site and find products. 

Man standing in front of a river wearing Sweatshirt that says Come and have a go in the shape of a number one

You can test and evolve this functionality. The navigation hierarchy also helps with search. It makes it more obvious to search engines what the product page is about.

Search

This brings us to the next product page check.

Though shoppers can find their way to the page using the category filters, they may also search for the product directly. Either on Google or using the internal search function that comes with e-Commerce sites.

Sales copy, including the product name and product description, written using  SEO writing principles, means your product should appear when shoppers search for it.

If it doesn’t, review your SEO approach to find the issue.

Dan Murphy's website showing 0 results for search on "delivery charge"

It may be that Google takes some time to index the page, and it appears a few days after you publish it. But every time a shopper searches and doesn’t find your page, you lose a potential sale. So, it’s key to keep testing and checking.

You should also consider what to do on paid search if online retailers bid on the same terms as you. This can push the price up. So, you would review your digital media strategy to make sure that search enquiries go to the right place. For example, you want search queries to learn more about the brand to go to your brand website. But search queries where “buy” is part of the search query, should go to a shopping site, either an online retailer or your own store.

Responsive

The final check on your product page is to see how it appears on different devices. How does it appear on desktop, tablet and mobile phones? Most websites are now set up to be “responsive”, which means they adapt their display to the device being used. 

This can affect image orientation (portrait and landscape), the size of fonts and buttons and how much information you show. For example, mobile formats usually need bigger images and buttons and have less room for copy. 

In the example video from our shop, when you view the page in portrait on a mobile, you can see text and images “fit” the screen. Even though the space is very different from a wide screen as on a desktop.

But when you tilt the phone and look at the same content in landscape mode, everything readjusts to fit the screen size.

Most shoppers don’t even notice that this happens. But if you HAVEN’T set up your site to be responsive, they certainly will notice. Images and text might float off the screen, or look tight and cramped. These make the site seem less trustworthy and can hurt the chances of a sale.

Payment, delivery and customer service

Your involvement in managing payment, delivery and customer service depends on whether you manage your own online store, or you sell via online retailers.

When you manage your own store, this part of the customer experience is normally called Order to Delivery

It covers finance, IT and supply chain skills like checking payment details. Processing orders. Managing storage. And physically shipping products from warehouse to customer.

It also covers typical customer service and FAQ scenarios like lost orders, damaged orders and refunds.

Hand holding a VISA card in front of a laptop

From a customer experience point of view, you need to test each of these systems as though you were an actual customer. Look at how to make it as easy as possible for the shopper. Everything should run smoothly. If it doesn’t and the customer feels the need to contact you, that’s a friction point.

Improving the customer experience

Once you get the basics right you should start looking for more ways to improve the customer experience. The better the experience, the more you sell online. 

Do the research to understand customer needs. Build a relevant and appealing brand identity. Set up an efficient order to delivery system and great customer service.

Check out our advanced e-Commerce techniques article for more ideas on how to improve your customer experience to drive more sales.

This covers areas such as how to offer online exclusives, subscription models and online services

Bundaberg rum website page showing their exclusive range of products

Final thoughts on customer experience in e-Commerce

We’ve identified many of the common touchpoints to persuade and convert online shoppers.

But for these to happen, you have to build them into your marketing plans and then be sure to put them into action

The needs you uncover with market research, and your brand identity need to come together at each touchpoint.

They need to give a consistent experience that gives the online shopper confidence. You want them to feel connected to your brand and how it is sold online.

Man leaping between two cliff edges with signs for planning on one edge and action on the other edge

You should regularly review and optimise each stage. This can feel like an overly detailed part of the process. But, often small improvements drive large changes in behaviour. This will grow your online sales.

Remove barriers and reasons to not buy. Make it so it’s easier to buy than not. Using a regular customer experience approach is a key part of working out how to get more sales online.

Conclusion - How to get more sales online

This guide should have given you ideas and inspiration on how to get more sales online.

If there was a guaranteed way to drive e-Commerce growth, everyone would be doing it.

But by applying your market research, brand development and customer experience skills, you vastly improve your chances of being a successful online seller.

E-Commerce as a channel is easy to get into, but hard to do well. That’s part of the fun.

Close up of woman's hands holding a bunch of dollar bills and in the process of counting them

You have to weave together multiple skills and balance out the creativity needed to create products and experience that sell, with the more logical and practical processes and systems that make online selling run smoothly. 

It’s part of an overall customer-centric approach, that we’ve tested and learned in our own business. This is how you build the skills to learn how to get more sales online.

Three-Brains and e-Commerce

We’ve worked on many e-Commerce projects and have good experience across e-Commerce planning, working with online retailers and building online store websites. We know how to connect these expertise areas back into driving your brand marketing and growing your sales. Get in touch to find out how we can support your e-Commerce growth with our coaching and consulting services.

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