How to drive traffic to an e-Commerce site
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
Why read this? : We look at 3 key skills which help you take on the challenge of how to get more sales online. First, learn how market research and customer understanding helps you sell more. Then, how brand skills help you create a strong e-Commerce brand. And finally how to use a customer experience approach to give shoppers what they need. Read this to learn how to use these skills to get more sales online.
How this guide raises your game :-
There are many different ways to sell online. As our e-Commerce planning guide shows, some of them can be quick and easy to set up.
For example, you can make your products available for sale in channels like marketplaces and print on demand in a matter of minutes.
But being available for sale doesn’t mean anyone will buy. Customers have millions of online stores to choose from. And each of those stores can have hundreds, even thousands of products.
So, in this guide we look at what you can do to drive sales online. We cover 3 key skill areas which help you drive e-Commerce growth :-
It’s customers who drive your sales. So, clearly the better you understand who they are, and what they need, the better you’ll be able to sell to them. And that’s where market research comes in. Market research is what you do to better understand customers.
Though market research can get quite detailed at times, the basic process behind it is quite 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, that business 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.
As per our 5Ws of e-Commerce market research article, your aim is to understand the who, what, where, when and why of online shoppers :-
So your e-Commerce research usually starts with identifying who your target audience is. You want to build up a profile of you ideal customers.
If that’s potential customers who don’t currently buy from you, the research will focus on what they currently do, and why. For example, what drives them to choose competitor products, or to not buy at all.
Or it might be customers who do currently buy from you, but don’t buy frequently or in large volumes. Those can also be an important source of e-Commerce growth.
Once you understand who the target audience is, you can use research to understand more of what they do.
This is usually driven by data, especially from secondary research. For example, you look at the analytics on your store website 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.
You’re looking for ideas and insights into what might with customers in the future, based on what you see them doing in response to current or past activities.
This data gathering often focusses 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.
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.
Your market research data also gives you insights about when customers buy. That could be time of day for regular purchases, for example, 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. So when you place your media, for example. 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.
The final 5W question is usually the one which offers 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 all parts of your 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.
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 answers you get from that research then go into how you build your brand and create your customer experience.
It’s likely your market research will show that not all online shoppers are the same.
There will be different groups or segments who share similar attributes. And these segments may be different sizes and require different marketing approaches.
So, it’s important you can research these segments, and identify which are the most attractive and relevant.
This helps you set up your business to best meet those opportunities.
Ideally, you carry out a segmentation, targeting and positioning approach for your sales online. You may already have done this as you built your brand. But, even so, you still need to factor in the impact of online selling.
Online shopping segments may not be the same as segments of shoppers who shop in traditional channels. They may be different sizes. Or have different attributes that distinguish between them.
So for example, the demographic splits might be different. You might have younger shoppers who have grown up with online shopping. They might be more comfortable using the technology.
Or you might have older shoppers who are less mobile, and find it harder to go out. They might shop online for the added convenience of not going to a store.
Shopping occasions and times can vary from traditional retail segments.
So, you might have a segment of shift workers, or parents with newborn children. These segments can find it difficult to get to traditional stores during the day. But online shopping is convenient because it lets them shop at times that suit them.
You might also find segments who buy in bulk quantities on behalf of others. So, tea and coffee supplies for offices and businesses, for example. Or other areas where groups come together. We know of one category where prisons, hospitals and day care centres are the biggest online shopping segment, for example.
These online shoppers value the convenience of having large quantities delivered.
From this identification of segments, it’s important then to identify the highest potential segments. You would use a market attractiveness approach and identify attractiveness variables.
The variables you use depend on what you discover during the market research process.
But clearly, how much people spend online, and how often they buy would be factors to consider.
You’d also want to consider the level of competitiveness for each segment. If online shoppers already buy something and are happy with it, it’s going to be harder to get them to change their behaviour.
When it comes to e-Commerce, your targeting approach also depends on whether you use online retailers, you set up your own store, or both.
Because online shopping generates a large amount of data, online retailers may already have their own segments they can share with you.
This segments might be based on past online shopping behaviour, where people live, or what time of day they shop, for example. So you could target heavy, medium or light users. Or, shoppers in a particular city or region. Or, shoppers who shop early in the morning or late at night.
And when you have your own online store website, you have direct access to all this sort of data. So, you can use this data to test out what you think the segments and best targets are. This generates new data, that you can use to refine your approach.
You finish this part of the process with your positioning. This clarifies who your target audience is. It clarifies the benefit that your product offers. And in the case of online shopping, it stretches the frame of reference to include the context of it being sold online.
This can take you into some of the benefits that we 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 customisation of the product.
The positioning statement is the summary of what the brand is, what it offers and what its competitive set is. It then also covers the key point of difference based on the benefit, reason why and reason to believe to show why consumers would and should buy it.
This helps you define both your competitive strategy and your competitive advantage which lead you towards building your brand identity.
Brand identity is a combination of tangible and intangible assets that defines what your brand thinks, feels and does.
It defines what your brand looks and sounds like with consistency and clarity.
Brand identity helps consumers find you, and helps them connect with your brand.
When it comes to how to get more sales online, it’s important to flex your brand identity so that it fits the context of online sales.
Do your essence, values and personality come through clearly in your advertising and your packaging and on your product page, for example?
Use a framework like the brand identity wheel, to make sure key tangible assets are suited to selling online. These sorts of tools are helpful to make sure all the different parts of your brand identity connect together.
Does the fact you are selling online change any of what the shopper might answer on “how it makes me feel” or “what it says about me” for example?
When you make sure your brand identity fits what the online shopper is looking for, you build trust and consistency. These remove barriers to online selling that might otherwise stop the customer deciding to shop with you.
This increases your chances of selling more online.
The final marketing skill to support online selling is then your marketing plan.
This should cover the different “P” elements of the marketing mix such as product, price, promotion, place, people, physical location and process. These “P”s then informs what you do, how you do it and when you do it.
Your marketing plan drives activity in key areas like advertising, digital media channels and online sales promotions.
Read our e-Commerce planning process guide for more detail on how and where e-Commerce connects to marketing planning.
Though you can include customer experience as part of a broader marketing strategy, it has such an impact on e-Commerce, you should consider it in its own right.
It’s an important process to identify how to get more sales online. It’s what drives most e-Commerce growth.
Customer experience (CX) development combines marketing and technology into an approach which aims to improve every interaction the customer has with your brand.
It aims to find and fix key pain points in the customer journey. This is the different interactions the customer has with the brand. Theses improvements help customers have a much smoother journey towards buying.
This approach brings together a number of processes, tools and software systems.
You can use customer experience tools in conjunction with the marketing skills outlined above, to help bring to life the target and the plan.
So, for example, customer personas help visualise “who” your target audience is. That’s helpful when you’re writing briefs for example.
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 can be made to feel more relevant.
The customer journey map helps you identify the key touchpoints where the shopper interacts with your brand.
With this map, you can identify specific digital media channels for example to make customers more aware.
You can identify key parts of the store website to drive consideration and conversion.
The map can identify ‘pain points’ the online shopper feels at each stage, and drive you to look for solutions to those pain points.
When you simplify down what needs to happen with e-Commerce customer experience, there are really five key areas to focus on.
Clearly, online shoppers need to know your page exists, and to visit it, if you’re to have any chance of selling online.
So, clearly a great way to start on how to get more sales online, is to make people aware of the product page. And persuade them to visit it.
So, you need activities like advertising and public relations to drive awareness.
But, you want to prioritise key digital media channels like search, social and display advertising to make it easy for online shoppers to reach your product pages.
But once, you create awareness, and online shoppers visit your product page, how do you then influence them to buy?
This is an important step when it comes to how to get more sales online. When a shopper visits your product page, it’s a good sign they’re interested.
The way you present your product and product information on this page is important. As part of the customer experience journey, it’s where the shopper makes the decision to buy.
And actually, it’s usually “not buy”.
As per our article about D2C costs and how they freak out accountants, the average conversation rate (the percentage of visitors who buy) is normally only around 2%.
That means 98% of the people your advertising dollars encourage to visit the page, don’t generate you any sales. So, that means you need a lot 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. E-Commerce sellers who’ve made product pages which outperform this 2% are open about the principles they use to do it. And while these principles don’t guarantee sales, ignoring them almost certainly guarantees that you won’t sell.
So, implementing these basic product page principles should be part of your customer experience development.
That applies both to when you have you own store website, or you manage your product pages on an online retailer’s site.
When you do go through an online retailer, you have to work around their systems and way of working. But as per a recent article, most retailers will expect you to supply brand assets that meet these basic principles.
At the simplest level, you need to create 3 core elements for every product page. You need the product name, product image and product information. They’re the bare bones of your product page.
Product pages can and do clearly contain more than that, as we’ll go on to cover. But, you really need to start with getting these 3 parts right.
Your product name needs to be clear, consistent and easy for online shoppers to find. This might seem obvious. But, the product name has to be able to identity very specific variations of a product. And, that can get more complicated.
So, your product name will likely consist of a couple of different elements that help consumers narrow down and identify exactly what the product is. If you sell on an online retailer site, the first element would likely be the brand name. Then you’d include a sub-brand name to narrow down what the actual product is. And then, you might need to include a third product identifier to specify the exact product.
It’s easier to understand how this works, when you look at real-life examples.
So, for example with this Coca Cola product name listing on Amazon.
The brand name is clearly Coca-Cola. But that also covers all Coca-Cola variants like Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Cherry Coke and so on. But then, with the sub-brand name, Classic, your choice is narrowed.
And then the product identifier is the pack size – Multipack cans 36 x 375ml. With these three elements, you know exactly the product you will get.
Let’s look at a fashion example.
Here the brand name is Levi’s. But that covers a wide range of products.
The sub-brand then narrows it down to “Men’s 501 Original Fit Jeans”. With this, we then know exactly who it is for and what the style is.
At this point, we haven’t narrowed it down to the specific size of the jeans in the product name. That is the product identifier.
But look at the page, and you can see this size selection is right there under the product name.
Behind the scenes, the full product name in Amazon’s systems will include the size. It needs to so the warehouse will find the right product.
But, for the shopping experience, Amazon have chosen to make it easier by having you pick the Brand / Sub-brand and then size in two separate choices.
There’s a balance here, between giving enough information in the product name to make it easy to find and identity. And not giving too much information, and making it confusing.
In general, it’s better not to ask the shopper to deal with any more than three elements of the product name at any one time.
So, if you look back at the example above from our online shop, we’ve organised the product name with three elements. Design name – Gender – Product Type. So, “New Zealand Invention – Men’s Premium Tank Top” for example.
Like most of our products, there are then different size and colour options. And these are indeed, all part of the product name in the back-end systems. But the shopper picks them only after they find the design and style they like.
Online shopping in many categories is driven by visual appeal of the design of the product.
You want to make sure that your product photography creates this appeal and drives sales.
But even before that, you need to 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.
Obviously, not a good thing.
As part of your photography evaluation, you need to think about how your product photos are lit and what the background and context will look like.
In low involvement and functional categories, where the product is the “hero”, you will want to keep backgrounds simple and unobtrusive.
But in high involvement or emotional categories, it can create more impact to include lifestyle shots. These types of shot show the product in action, either with models, or with props to show them off.
You also want to make sure that the image is a high enough resolution and quality.
So, if the site allows the shopper to zoom in on the product for example, it needs to stay sharp and legible. However, the file size needs to be not too large, or it’ll be slow to download on the page. Most sites define the optimum file size and image dimensions they need.
In most cases, it also helps to show the product from multiple angles. Front, back, top and sides for example. It can help if the shopper has a 3D rather than 2D view of the product.
You also want to consider how many product images to show. When it’s someone else’s site like with bricks and clicks or pure players, they control 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 to pick enough to make an impression, but also not so many it overwhelms the shopper. Something around seven plus or minus two is usually about right.
You also need to consider how you will supply and manage the product imagery. This might be as simple as sending an email to the online retailer. But, as we cover in our product information management systems article, you often manage images through online spreadsheets, or third party services like skuvantage.
And finally, it’s also worth checking what your packaging actually looks like on screen. If you developed your packaging to stand out on shelf in a physical store, that doesn’t mean it will still work in digital formats. We cover how packaging and e-Commerce need to work together in another article.
The next product page requirement is all the relevant product information. This information usually comes from the packaging.
It will include a combination of mandatory information, such as nutritional and allergy information on food products, and key selling messages.
These selling messages should cover key features and benefits to help persuade the consumer to buy.
It’s important to apply good sales copy principles.
You also want to double check basic spelling and grammar to make sure there are no mistakes.
These look unprofessional and can impact sales. When you spot mistakes, you need to fix them quickly.
Either fix it yourself in the product information management system, if you can. Or, ask the online retailer to fix it.
In addition, you also need to think about how to make this product information content search friendly. You should make sure you know the key principles of writing for search, and use them.
Which keywords do you prioritise for example? And how do you make sure all the metadata is set up correctly to make it search friendly?
Once you have the product name, product images and product information in place, it’s time to look at what else you can do. There are more areas you can influence to help you with how to get more sales online.
As you can see, with our detailed product page checklist, there are a number of 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.
Obviously, price is one factor that influences whether the online shopper’s decision to buy. So, you need to make sure the price is easy to find on the product page. And, on any navigation pages.
On product pages, the price normally appears near the product name, and the call to action button.
On navigation pages, it’s usual to find it 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 can help persuade customers they’re getting a good deal at the price. Or that they’ll miss out on the deal if they don’t buy.
When used online, you should also consider how you present the price. There’s evidence that smaller fonts make customers perceive price as less than bigger fonts for example. And you can use the principles of psychological pricing to, for example, decide whether to include decimal points or round the price up to the nearest dollar.
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.
So, in our example above, we add a green background to the “Buy Product” box to make it stand out more. Our normal Call to Action buttons are white font, on a red background.
This is the only time on our site we use a different button colour scheme. It helps to show that it’s a different action from just visiting another page.
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 points of the online shopper experience.
For technical or detailed products, the call to action might be to book a consultation or a call-back, for example. After the shopper buys the product, the call to action could ask them to comment, or leave a review of their experience.
Customer reviews from real shoppers are a great sales and marketing tool. They feel independent and unbiased to other customers.
So, they do a double job. They help you track how happy your customers are. And, they persuade other customers that you offer a good online shopping experience.
Even if you only ask customers for feedback and don’t publish it, giving customers the opportunity to tell you how you have done builds trust and confidence in your brand.
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 together so that they are 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 are also used to create the URL naming structure of pages within the site.
So for example, let’s say hypothetically, 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. So, for example the filters might be T-shirts, then men’s T-shirts and then our product name.
So, the URLs would build like this …
Category : amazon.com/tshirts
Sub-category : amazon.com/tshirts/mentshirts
Product URL : amazon.com/tshirts/mentshirts/ threebrainsnumberonetshirt
The owner of the online store website usually decides on this hierarchy of the navigation. They should do this based on market research with consumers to see how they navigate the site and find products.
It is the type of site functionality which you can test and evolve over time. The navigation hierarchy also helps with search functionality. It makes it more obvious to search engines what the product page is about.
Which brings us on to the next check on the product page.
Though shoppers can find their way to the page using the category filters, they may also search on the product directly. They can do this on Google. Or, they can use the internal search function that normally comes with e-Commerce sites.
If you’ve written your sales copy to include the product name and product description using the principles of SEO writing, then your product should appear when shoppers search for it.
If the product doesn’t appear, you should review your SEO approach and diagnose if there are any issues.
It may be that Google for example takes some time to index the page, and it appears a few days after you publish it.
But every time a shopper searches and the page doesn’t appear, you potentially lose a sale. So, it’s an important part of your product page to test.
You also want to consider what to do on paid search if online retailers are bidding on the same search terms as you. This can push the price of paid search up. So, you would want to review your digital media strategy to make sure that search enquiries go to the right place.
Search queries to learn more about the brand for example, you want to push to your brand website. But search queries where “buy” in included in the search query, really need to go to a shopping site, either an online retailer or your own store.
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 the orientation of images (portrait and landscape), the size of fonts and buttons and even how much information is displayed. Mobile formats for example usually need bigger images and buttons and have less room for long copy.
In the example video from our shop when you view the page in portrait on a mobile phone, you can see text and images “fit” the screen. Even though the space is very different from a wide screen as seen 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 wouldn’t even notice that this happens.
But if you HAVEN’T set up the site to be responsive, they certainly will notice. Images and text might float off the screen, or look really tight and cramped. These can reduce the trust that the shopper feels in the online shop, and so reduce the chances of a sale.
Your level of involvement in the payment, delivery and customer service depends on whether you manage your own online store, or you sell through online retailers.
When you manage your own store, this part of the customer experience is normally called Order to Delivery. See our separate guide for more on this.
So, how to set up payments so they go securely from the customer to your bank. How to manage storage, and the physical transportation of the products.
And some of the typical customer service scenarios like lost orders, damaged orders and claims for refunds.
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.
Ideally, once the customer places an order, they shouldn’t actively need to do anything else until the product arrives.
Any time the customer has to do something, this creates a friction point. Part of your online store testing is to make sure minimise the number of these friction points.
You can do this by keeping the customer informed of the progress of the order, for example. Automated messages to show the order’s been received, processed and dispatched help reassure the shopper their product is on the way.
Tracking links from the courier help customers physically track the location of the product.
Anything that lets them know when their product will be delivered helps to remove these potential friction points. The less friction points the smoother the experience. You may well need extra IT skills to help you set up these messages, and links.
You also want to consider how to remove friction points that can affect your business. So, customers who receive a package and claim it wasn’t delivered, for example. Most delivery companies will now get a signature when they deliver an item. Or they’ll take a photo of the delivery, if the shopper has given “permission to leave” the product.
Having clear FAQ sections and contact details helps boost the confidence of the shopper in your e-Commerce system. After all, they have already paid the money for the goods.
They depend on the efficiency of your order to delivery process to get the product to them quickly and in one piece.
Follow-up contacts to make sure the customer is happy, or to make complementary offers or share ideas can help build longer-term goodwill and drive repeat purchases. Set up your CRM systems to help with this.
Repeat business from loyal customers is where e-Commerce businesses get a solid base of sales.
This checklist of ideas ensures you create a better customer experience for online shoppers. 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.
For further ideas on how to improve your customer experience to drive even more sales, check out our article on advanced e-Commerce techniques.
This article shows you how to do more advanced online selling like online exclusives, subscription models and offering online services.
We’ve identified many of the common touchpoints to persuade and convert online shoppers to buy your products.
But how you best bring that to life at each stage, means you also need to build this into your marketing plans.
And then that plan needs to be put 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 builds confidence in the online shopper. You want them to feel connected to your brand and how it is sold online.
It’s important to review and optimise each stage. This can feel like an overly detailed part of the process. But, often small improvements can drive large changes in behaviour. And this will have a positive uplift in online sales.
You want to remove any potential barrier or reason to not buy. Ideally, try to make it so it’s actually easier to buy online than not. Using a customer experience approach is an important habit to get into, when you’re trying to work how to get more sales online
We hope this guide has 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 and learning key market research, brand development and customer experience skills as we’ve outlined here, you can improve your chances of being a successful online seller enormously.
E-Commerce as a channel is relatively easy to get into, but relatively hard to do well.
That’s part of the fun and challenge.
You need 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.
That’s how you build the skills and learn how to get more sales online.
It’s part of an overall customer-centric and digital way of doing business, that we’ve tested and learned and use as part of our own business on a day-to-day basis.
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.
Contact us, if you want to know more about how we can support your e-Commerce to grow your business through our coaching and consulting services.
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