So you took advantage of the wealth of funding supporting the development of e-commerce websites and now have a shiny, brand new shop platform to sell online. Congratulations! You have taken the first step to diversifying your customer base and expanding into a brand new (and fast growing) market.
If you were confused by the “first step” comment above, we weren’t kidding. Getting your store online is only the first step to successfully selling your product and expanding your market. We know, this may not seem fair, but it’s true.
Building an online presence may be a fantastic start, but that’s all it is: a start. And sometimes that start isn’t enough to lead to increased sales. Basically, it all comes down to traffic and conversions. For an e-commerce platform to be successful it needs to not only have visitors (traffic), but that traffic must also complete a purchase (conversion).
Maybe your site is doing fantastic, in which case, good for you! But if you’re stuck for ideas or your site took off at first but is now stagnating, read on to troubleshoot what to look for and what steps to take to build your e-commerce success.
If people don’t visit your store, they can’t buy anything, right? E-commerce success all starts with traffic. It’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security thinking “I’ve got my website now, so people will come and buy from it.” The reality is, marketing for e-commerce isn’t any different than marketing for a bricks and mortar store. Your online store will need to be promoted so people know you are there, and these days the digital marketplace is bursting with competition so you need to make sure your marketing message is heard.
Here’s what you need to think about to increase traffic to your site:
- Is your SEO optimized so your business appears on Google searches?
You can check SEO by using an incognito tab to search for your product and see if your website comes up on the first page of a Google search. If you sell maple syrup and your business is in Renfrew, then Google “maple syrup Renfrew” and see what comes up. You can also use one of the many free SEO tools out there (so many to choose from!). You may need to increase your keywords on your website to increase your Google ranking.
- Are you actively marketing your site?
Digital marketing is not that expensive, and a small budget can go a long way in gaining new business. Just as with a bricks and mortar store, if people don’t know you’re there, they won’t visit your store. Launch an advertising campaign through social media and you should see a corresponding increase in site traffic.
- Are you targeting the right customer?
If you are using digital advertising but aren’t seeing an increase in conversions, take a closer look at who exactly you are targeting with your ads, and make sure this reflects your ideal customer. Don’t be afraid to be specific in selecting that customer – think about the ideal age, sex, and interests of the people you want to reach the most with your advertising and then gear marketing towards that demographic.
Unfortunately, even if you get people to your store there’s no guarantee they will add anything to their cart or even check out. This is like getting someone into your physical store and having them wander around but not see anything they like. You may ask yourself “why did that customer leave so quickly?”
The answer might be your displays aren’t eye catchy enough, your store is cluttered, or maybe they just aren’t your target customer, so they didn’t see anything that appealed to them. All these will come into play for your e-commerce store. Shopify has a great blog post that covers this topic.
Here’s what you need to think about to increase the likelihood of completed purchases:
- Is your website and online store design intuitive? Does the checkout process flow naturally?
Don’t assume that because you paid someone to create your online store that it’s flawless. Take the time to navigate your store like you’ve never seen it before (you can even use an incognito tab so you aren’t storing cookies). Navigate and actually make a purchase to see how everything looks and flows. Ask yourself: is your website is easy to navigate? Is it too cluttered? Try streamlining content and reducing words so it’s easier for customers to navigate without being overwhelmed by information. Make sure products are easy to find and add to their cart.
- Is your site professional looking and attractive?
Evaluate (and be brutally honest!) the professionalism of your site – did you hire someone to take pictures for you? Are your photos appealing? Does your brand look professional? Are you conforming to your brand colour palette and style? A cluttered and unappealing website is just like a cluttered and unappealing store – customers won’t want to stay long and they won’t want to make a purchase while they’re there.
- Are you relaying the necessary information?
Don’t make your customers hunt for information, give it to them up front, and in multiple locations. Do you offer free shipping? Do you take returns? Do you do free local delivery? Tell your customers as soon as they arrive at your page (the toolbar at the top of the page is ideal for this). These are the types of questions inquiring minds want to know before they check out.
- Are you mobile friendly?
You’ve checked your site and it’s a beautiful work of art on your computer, but have you checked out what it looks like on your smart phone or tablet? Market trend research shows that more than half of all internet traffic shopping is completed from a mobile device or tablet which means it’s critical that your site work fluidly on both a computer, smartphone, or tablet. Pull out your phone and navigate your site using only that device and see how it works. You can also use the “inspect” tool on your website to see how it will look on different devices.
- Is the price right?
If you are seeing people visit your website but then quickly leave, it may be that your prices are too high for your product in comparison to your competitors, but it could also mean you have been bringing the wrong customer to your website (see traffic, above). If you are comfortable with your price, try targeting a slightly different demographic and see what happens.