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7 advanced e-Commerce techniques to drive more sales

Bundaberg rum website page showing their exclusive range of products

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Why read this? : You learn the basics of e-Commerce to lay the foundations for your online selling. But it’s often more advanced e-Commerce techniques that make your brand stand out. Learn 7 different ways to elevate your e-Commerce approach. Read this for advanced e-Commerce techniques and ideas to boost your online sales.  

You need to master some core skills to succeed in e-Commerce. Market research to understand customer needs. Brand strategy to create great brands. And of course, customer experience to make sure every interaction runs smoothly. 

Improving the customer experience includes :-

Woman holding credit card near a macbook and typing in her details

Mastering these basic e-Commerce techniques helps you avoid common e-Commerce mistakes. (see some of these in our learn more about e-Commerce article). 

Avoiding mistakes is a good start. But, it’s not enough to excel in e-Commerce. Get the basics right first, for sure. But at some point, you want to do more. 

The good news is there’s always more to learn in e-Commerce. So this week, we share 7 of our favourite more advanced e-Commerce techniques.

Online exclusives - limited distribution

The first way is when you restrict which stores can sell certain of your products. You limit distribution so a product only sells online, or it only appears in certain online stores. It becomes an online exclusive.

So, for example on the Bundaberg Rum online shop, they list some products which they don’t sell in any other channels. (see our online alcohol selling article for more on Bundaberg). 

Though it makes that product harder to buy, it also makes it more desirable.

Bundaberg rum website page showing their exclusive range of products

For certain products, the harder it is to get hold of, the more valuable customers perceive it to be. Customers desire things that are hard to get. 

If something’s easy to buy, you can buy it anywhere, anytime. You can take it or leave it. With things that are hard to buy, you feel compelled. Buy it, or you won’t get the chance again. 

It’s based on the psychological principle of scarcity. (see our article on behavioural science for a deeper dive on this topic).

Scarcity makes products more desirable

The less available a product is, the more worried we get we’ll miss out on the chance to buy it.

Scarcity mainly works on the FOMOFear of Missing Out – principle.

Buy it now or risk never getting the chance again. 

It’s particularly helpful if your plan is to be more premium (a differentiation competitive strategy) and to sell to more specific segments.

The limited availability e-Commerce technique works well for brands that sell at a higher price.

Front on image of a Bugatti Veyron car

Cheap products are available everywhere because everyone buys them. Expensive products are much less available because fewer people buy them. That’s why there’s no Bugatti garages and Tiffany stores on most High Streets for example. 

There’s an element of status that goes with online exclusives too. Owning something few others do appeals to many people.

This approach means you can charge higher prices. You sell less units, but increase the value of each sale (compared to selling more units at a lower price). That’s good for your profit line.

Online exclusives - limited time

The limited time offer is another way to offer an online exclusive.  When you do this, it’s not the product that’s exclusive, but the offer you make to sell it. Buy it now or miss out. 

It’s commonly used with services for example. You offer a deal that expires after a certain time. So, “Hurry! Only 2 rooms left at this price” as you see on many travel websites for example. 

This e-Commerce technique is a good fit with services is because the “offer” of the services are often time-bound anyway. 

Think about that hotel room for example. Say you want to stay in Sydney tomorrow night. You search for hotel options and find one like The Ultimo in the example here.

Each hotel is trying to fill as many of its rooms as it can. Unfilled rooms earn no money. So, when they feel time pressure to fill a room, they offer deals to push for a sale. But, they limit the time that offer’s available to put time pressure on you to snap up the deal. 

It’s the same psychology as limiting the distribution. Scarcity. Fear of Missing Out. If I don’t book this room at this price now, I might not find a better deal. It’s an effective e-Commerce technique because it increases sales conversions just when you need them. 

Targeted offers

A more advanced e-Commerce technique is to use customer data to make more targeted offers.

You go after specific segments, customers with the most potential rather than everyone.

The most common way is to work with online retailer customer data. 

Most retailers sell their suppliers insights about customers, or offer targeted promotional packages based on customer segments. 

It’s a more advanced e-Commerce technique because you need to know how to work with digital data. You need to check for legal compliance on privacy and spam for example. You need to set up tracking to measure the responses and link them to actual customer details.  

The data helps you target specific segments. These segments share similar demographic traits like age, gender or location, and/or behavioural traits like purchase frequency, size of basket and weight of purchase. 

You pick segments, and the retailer sends out your message or sales promotion to those specific customers.

So demographic based offers targeted only to men, or under 30s, for example. Or you make behavioural offers like loyalty deals for regular buyers and price discounts for brand switchers.

This type of e-Commerce technique is very efficient. It only goes to the customers most likely to be interested. There’s less wastage and usually higher levels of sales conversion. 

Targeted offer example - bulk buyers

So for example, online retailers will often offer to help you target bulk buyers. Customers from big families for example. Or customers who buy products for a group or organisation (but aren’t procurement specialists). 

Take snacks and beverages for example. Bulk buyers are significant segments in those categories. Many small offices and factories buy their biscuits, teas and coffees online for example. Target them with the right order and you’ll get a large order. Clearly, that’s good for your online sales.

Targeted offer example - similar purchases

You can even also target offers based on what other products people in a segment have bought. You use their purchase history to work out an insight about them.

For example, say your product targets new parents. How do you find them? You can look for shoppers who “started buying nappies in the last 3 months”, and there’s a good chance those are new parents.  Similarly, let’s say you want to find healthy shoppers. You look for those who buy of kale or broccoli (and exclude those who buy lots of chocolate). 

The key benefit with this advanced e-Commerce technique is the precision. You find the shopper most likely to buy into your offer. That’s an efficient way to spend your online marketing budget. 

Advanced content

Not all products bought online are everyday, transactional products. 

Some products are bought infrequently. Some have more involved buying decision processes.

You can drive sales of these types of products by sharing more educational or entertaining content as part of the shopping experience. 

It’s helpful if you already created content to drive awareness and consideration. You use this e-Commerce technique to extend the use of that content into trial and loyalty.

Selling high ticket products online - Audi A3 home page

It’s common to use lots of content to help the buying decision in high ticket categories like cars or electronics. The bigger the decision, the more the customer wants information. There’s more risk to a big purchase. Educational or entertaining content reduces that risk. Relevant high quality content builds confidence in the product and the store.

Often this content comes out of the Reason to Believe from the brand’s positioning. It could include for example expert reviews, or endorsements from existing customers. 

Category information

Content that helps you pick the right product is often highly valued in categories where the shopper doesn’t purchase regularly. It’s good for customer experience and drives sales. 

As an example, online alcohol sellers such as Dan Murphy’s often offer category informations as you navigate their site. 

Which wines to pick for certain occasions. Or how to choose between different types of whisky or gin. Very helpful if you don’t often buy those products. 

Dan Murphy's website showing options when the Buy Wine menu its selected - by type, region, popular brands, and award winners

The retailer usually writes this content. But chances are you know your category better than the retailer. You can share that knowledge and influence what’s written on that page. It’s in the retailer’s interest to help customers make the best choices. It’s the online equivalent of having an in-store expert to help customers.

This type of content also helps with the retailer’s SEO. Richer content that keeps customers on the page for longer, so helps boost their rankings.

Interactive content

Most of this type of content is written. But you can also create more interactive and engaging content. 

For example, show video content on how to use the product or how it’s made. Show funny or entertaining advertising. Include online tools customers can interact with. The most simple tools are often the most effective. Product comparison tables work consistently well for example, and are easy to produce.

When you sell through online retailers, you often have to pay to get extra content on their site. Even though it’s driving their sales. They see it as selling media space for your products on their site. So it almost always comes at a cost.    

It’s easier to add extra content if you manage your own online store. You control the whole experience (see our D2C business model article). Adding extra content improves the experience and drives sales. 

Services

If relevant, you can also add services to extend your online offer.

This is a more advanced e-Commerce technique than a one-off product purchase.

Customers have online needs that services can meet. You offer extra services to meet those needs.

These online needs cover areas like the need for information, entertainment and shopping for example. Or needs around communications, social and productivity.

A subscription model box branded with three-brains on a doorstep

For example, in our e-Commerce planning process guide, we talk about subscription models. Customers sign up to get products delivered automatically over time. That’s a service that makes the shopping experience easier. 

Or as per our customer service article, you offer access to professional advice or content that helps people make the right choice. (common in healthcare and financial services for example). This service makes the information experience better. 

For purpose driven products, you can share content relevant to that purpose. For example, check out the Who Gives a Crap example in our brand purpose article. This type of service makes the social experience feel much better. 

Shop in shop

The final 2 advanced e-Commerce techniques are specific to working with online retailers

The first is when you set up a shop in shop section for your brand on the retailer’s site.

It looks like a brand shop. But it’s hosted within their overall store website. 

It’s an online equivalent of the branded beauty concessions you find in department stores. 

Screengrab from Myer.com.au home page

The customer’s still in the retailer’s store site. But on the page, it feels much closer to your brand identity.

This means your brand experience is much stronger. Not just separate individual product pages but a more customised and integrated experience. You’re not limited by their product information management system templates. You can create your own branding and designs. 

You can showcase all your educational and entertaining content. The shopping experience is down to you, while the retailer still manages the order to delivery system.

Of course, you need to look at the profit and loss impact very carefully. How much more will you sell by having the shop in shop compared to a standard listing? For a positive ROI, you need to make more profit than the cost of creating the content and “renting” the space on the retailer’s site.

Link building

Our final favourite of the advanced e-Commerce techniques is link building. Internal links help customers navigate around your site and find the content they’re looking for. External links to and from retailer sites help with SEO, but only if they help customers find what they’re looking for. 

Think through the customer’s journey to help plan links. If they’re researching and checking out your brand website it makes sense to link to the retailer’s site. It helps make the purchase easier if they decide to buy. Of course, you need to decide whether to link to one specific retailer, or show a range of retailer options. 

Similarly, if they’re browsing on the retailer’s site, and you have a piece of content on your site that could help convince them to buy, it makes sense to link from the retailer site to your site. But of course, you need to make it easy for the customer to go back to the retailer to buy. 

Managing the links

As you set up links to retailers on your site, work out how you’ll manage them. Do you just do simple links that only point to product pages? Or do you make them more dynamic, so they pull information from the retailer’s site like price and special offers? Check out specialist suppliers like Numerator who can (for a fee) set up these dynamic links for you.

If you want links from the retailer site back to your brand site, you need to have the conversation with the retailer well in advance. This can be challenging. In general, retailers don’t like to direct traffic away from their site. Their logic is clear. The longer a customer stays on their site, the more they spend. (a similar thought process applies to physical stores). 

To get a backlink from a retailer, you need to show they’ll make more money if customers visit your site. You need research and a strong commercial argument to back up your case. (or you just pay them for the link. That can work too). You need to show how your content or services will boost their sales. 

Conclusion - Advanced e-Commerce techniques

It takes time to get the basics of e-Commerce right. Understand the customer. Build a strong brand. Create a good customer experience.

These key techniques are the right place to start with e-Commerce. 

But once you’re up to speed on these, you need more advanced e-Commerce techniques to keep growing.

You move into other areas like behavioural science, services and closer partnerships with online retailers.

Person holding a mobile phone with an e-Commerce page on screen and a credit card in the other hand

Use these different e-Commerce techniques to create better online shopping experiences. Create offers tailored to specific segments based on their specific needs. Apply psychological drivers to help move customers more easily along the journey towards a sale. Customers will appreciate the better experience. And your sales numbers will see the benefit. 

Check out our how to get more sales online guide for more on the basics of e-Commerce. Contact us if you need help with any of these advanced e-Commerce techniques. 

Photo credits

Woman holding credit card near Macbook : Photo by Pickawood on Unsplash

Bugatti : Photo by David Levêque on Unsplash

Doorstep delivery (adapted) : Photo by MealPro on Unsplash

Online shopping with phone and credit card : Photo by PhotoMIX Company from Pexels

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