Before joining Your Marketing Team in 2019 I was the hands-on owner of an ecommerce site which I founded together with a friend and business partner in 2006.
The experience of setting up a business and launching it online was a huge learning curve and a journey of highs and lows. We had some great years which we will remember for record sales or successful promotions and other years that we would rather forget that were scarred with problems with supply chains or the threatening emergence of new competition.
One thing which was consistent each and every year was that we always had limited budgets for marketing and never enough money to do everything that we wanted to do.
Like any online business, attracting new customers was always a primary marketing focus and we consistently used Google Adwords to create pay per click campaigns designed around our product lines. We always had to monitor these campaigns like hawks as our marketing pots were low and we needed to ensure that they were always returning on our investment. This was a constant effort and it was always a question for us as to whether we should be investing more into this area.
So, over the years we found new ways to increase sales and turnover through our own efforts. Here are some of the things that we learnt across the years that may be of use to help your business to grow in the same organic way.
1. Good housekeeping
We found it essential to keep reviewing our listings to make sure that our product descriptions were compelling and resonating with our target market. We would amend listings based on customer enquiries and questions believing that if someone had taken the time to ask the question, other people may have already been put off by not seeing the answer. We always tried to make sure that all the information that the customer needed was present.
Good photography and product imagery, including video, presented in a uniform quality and resolution makes a huge difference to the look and feel of an online store. We developed a strict code of rules to adhere to which ensured visual consistency across the site, including tagging all product images with labels.
We found that our customers sometimes found it difficult to make a final decision, particularly when there was a choice of similar products so signposting bestsellers or customer favourites had an immediate impact on the sales of those particular product lines.
From time to time we would also review the structure of the site, was it still working as our range and product lines had evolved? We introduced filters to assist with search to ensure that the shopping experience was easy and hassle free for our customers.
We tried to treat our online store like a bricks and mortar store, keeping things clean and tidy and well signposted and using our home page as our enticing shop window.
2. Preach to the converted
Developing a brand relationship with followers and customers was key to our success and a really enjoyable part of running the business too. Customers who had already purchased with us or been interested enough to sign up to our newsletter were valuable to us, not only for the sales that they could potentially generate ongoing but also for the networks that they socialised with. We took time to focus on creating a brand loyalty programme with these customers and sent out regular emails and offers but we tried to always ensure that these were relevant by grouping our customers and sending targeted communications. Refer a friend campaigns worked really well and small offers such as Free Postage or % discounts always saw a spike in sales.
3. Bigger basket spend
We also found success from introducing a free postage cut off band which really helped to encourage customers to up their basket spend – this has an immediate impact on turnover. Using features such as ‘You May Also Like’ also helped to entice additional purchases.
4. Analyse the analytics
The free analytics tools from Google provided us with a valuable insight into how our website was performing. We tried to regularly review bounce rates. If our marketing efforts had attracted customers to the site, what was making them leave shortly after they arrived? What could we do to the pages to make them stay? Did we have too much copy? Were the products relevant? Or was the reason that we were just attracting the wrong customers? Either way, putting the effort into working our why was really important and becoming familiar with the behaviour on the site was really key to assisting us with the way we would develop it.
5. Build trust
There is still distrust across the web and certainly when we were first starting out we had phonecalls from customers who wanted to double check whether we were a legitimate business prior to making a purchase. As online shoppers ourselves, we understood that we needed to be clear about who we were and that we were a brand that could be trusted. We ensured that we had a clear About Us section along with a Contact section including address and phoneline. We always acted on emails very efficiently. We found that sometimes just a very small interaction with a customer by email or phone would convert a sale. It took a lot of effort on our behalf to be responsive and available, but it definitely helped our business to grow.
We also displayed clear information about our delivery and returns policies. As the years went by and online shopping grew more and more popular, it also became very clear that online shoppers want a fast and reliable service, preferably trackable, and they also want to be able to easily return something if it wasn’t right and the introduction of free returns definitely saw an increase in our sales that year. We also made sure that the relevant security certificates were in place on the site particularly for the payment section.
6. Generating customer reviews
Happy customers are a great asset for any company and positive customer reviews can be worth their weight in gold. Whatever sector you operate in, many prospects will check reviews before making a purchase. Encouraging reviews on Google, Facebook and other trusted platforms are a great way to give customers more confidence and build trust.
7. Work at driving website traffic
We started an online business believing that if we just got a nice website up and running, then we could sit back and watch the sales come in! How wrong we were! It took a huge amount of effort and a lot of hard work to consistently adapt and evolve and find ways to move forward. We were both fuelled by the belief that our business idea worked and this definitely helped us power through the times when sales were poor or things seemed to be working against us.
At this time when things are really do feel like they are going against us, online businesses still have a real opportunity for success. Online shopping rates have grown significantly over the last few months during lockdown and there is a whole new market of consumers who have had to adapt to contactless purchasing.
If you are looking to grow your online business and increase sales it can be tempting to invest more into Adwords and social media advertising as they do present a real opportunity for growth. Alongside this, it is fundamental to keep an eye closer to home to make sure you are doing everything you can to grow organically, to convert your visitors, to increase their spends and to continue to keep in touch with them moving forward.
If you simply need an extra pair of hands or would like to invest further in an integrated Marketing Strategy for business growth, please get in touch to speak to our team.