Why read this? : We look at more advanced e-Commerce techniques which help you go beyond the basics of online selling. Learn how to stand out with our 7 top tips on expert level online selling. Read this to learn advanced e-Commerce techniques which can boost your online sales.
You need to master some basic 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 :-
Mastering these basic e-Commerce techniques helps you avoid common e-Commerce mistakes. (see for example, 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 is to limit distribution. You restrict which stores can sell certain of your products. So, maybe a product only sells online. Or it only appears in certain online stores. It becomes an online exclusive.
Though it makes that product harder to buy, it also makes it more desirable.
For certain products, the harder it is to get hold of, the more valuable customers perceive it to be. Customers desire things which 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 which 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 behavioural science article for more on this).
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 FOMO – Fear of Missing Out – principle.
Buy it now, or risk never getting the chance again.
The limited availability e-Commerce technique works well for higher priced brands.
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 which 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.
This e-Commerce technique is a good fit with services 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.
A more advanced e-Commerce technique is to use customer data to make more targeted offers.
You go after the customer segments with the most potential rather than going after everyone.
The most common way to do this is using 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.
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 online for a group or organisation.
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 lots 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.
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.
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.
Content which 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 information 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.
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 give advice.
This type of content also helps with the retailer’s SEO. Richer content keeps customers on the page for longer, so helps boost their ranking.
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 create.
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.
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 which services can meet. You offer extra services to meet those needs.
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 which makes the shopping experience easier.
Or as per our customer service article, you offer access to professional advice or content which 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.
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.
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.
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.