In the early years of the internet, driving online sales was a matter of whose website looks better. They were simpler times. In 2021, however, running a successful e-commerce business requires a lot more than a fancy website. In this cut-throat market, how do you drive online sales?
We must not underestimate the importance of the website. It is, after all, the equivalent of a storefront for your online business. But that’s just the start. Selling online now requires a multi-pronged approach. You have to plan everything – from getting noticed initially to managing the attention you get.
Driving online sales does rely on some fundamentals of doing business. Pricing, for example, remains as crucial a factor as ever. But there are also new and innovative ways of marketing yourself. Managing customer experience with online survey tools like SurveySparrow has also become key. There’s a lot of ground to cover here, so let’s get started.
How To Drive Online Sales: The 7 Key Factors
Since the e-commerce boom, there have been plenty of studies about the most important elements of selling online. Below, we’ve picked the 7 factors that have consistently proven to significantly impact online sales. If you want to know how to drive online sales, these are the areas you want to focus on.
1. Targeted Advertising
Since the invention of social media and user data monetization, advertising has never been the same. Gone are the days when you advertised on hoardings and magazine covers, only hoping to capture the attention of a broadly defined audience. In 2021, you simply cannot drive online sales without utilizing the power of targeted advertising.
The online ad market is controlled by a few big players. That’s where you want to focus to drive online sales. Choosing platforms will also depend on where your target audience is most likely to spend their time. We’ll elaborate below.
Targeted Facebook Ads
If you are looking to target your audience by age, relationship status, location, interests, or just about anything, it’s likely that Facebook Ads will be your friend. The social media giant has amassed a huge amount of data from its users and thus can show highly targeted ads.
Plenty of eCommerce sites use Facebook to drive online sales. When ads are so specifically targeted, conversion rates from your campaign are high. Advertising on Facebook is also quite cheap and will give you returns that make the marketing costs negligible.
Since Facebook bought Instagram, the site has also been integrated into Facebook’s targeted ads ecosystem. If you run ad campaigns on Facebook, you can choose to run the same campaign on Instagram as well. Instagram is particularly suitable if you’re targeting young, tech-savvy audiences.
There are a few things to note about driving online sales through Instagram. For the platform, influencer marketing has become a powerful tool. Popular creators with millions of followers are often happy to endorse your brand for a fee. Influencer marketing has, in recent times, become one of the most powerful ways to advertise on social media.
Google Keyword Ads
Google Ads is the more expensive option, but it can also be the most successful if you use it along with Google Ads API in the right way. Advertising on Google can give you great returns for your target keyword. The question you want to ask yourself before advertising is – Will my target audience go looking for the product category I’m selling on search?
For a lot of online businesses, the answer is ‘Yes!’ For them, advertising on google under a target keyword is a great option. By advertising on Google, you’re targeting people who are actively looking for your product and are ready to buy. That’s a great time to capture a customer’s attention.
2. Online Reviews
If you’re confused about how to drive eCommerce sales, a key thing to understand is the sheer power of reviews. Customer reviews can make a huge difference in affecting consumers’ purchase decisions. For an e-commerce business, few things are more important than cultivating positive reviews and responding to negative ones. But don’t take our word for it.
Do you think customers don’t bother to read reviews? It turns out, according to a study conducted by Trustpilot last year, that a whopping 89% of online customers consult reviews before making a purchase. When you build an eCommerce website, you put effort into your product descriptions. If 9 out of 10 customers are reading reviews, it only makes sense that you pay attention to those too.
Another misconception about online reviews is that customers don’t trust them. 3 out of 4 customers said, in a Brightlocal study from 2019, that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. That’s a statistic to think seriously about. Encouraging customers to give positive reviews is like having them recommend you to all future customers.
The same study by Brightlocal found that customers who read reviews also read company responses. You know what this means, right? Responding to reviews is incredibly important. In 2021, catering to online reviews is one of the most important aspects of customer service. Thus managing product levels across different channels and implementing omnichannel third-party logistics ensures that orders are fulfilled on time, and your products and services get excellent reviews.
While trying to figure out how to drive online sales, you might have taken a lot of care to curate good reviews. But there’s another problem here. How do you measure returns on customer experience? To see whether your strategies are working, conduct a customer experience survey. You can build it at SurveySparrow within minutes, and deploy it to see how you’re doing.
3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Sales in the physical world is driven by marketplaces with high footfall. That is also a nice way to think about search engine optimization. Being on the first page of google for a high-frequency keyword is like having a store in a crowded shopping mall. Simply put, search engine optimization is online real estate, and driving online sales is about how much of it you can capture.
Pay-Per-Click vs SEO
A large chunk of online shoppers still searches for products online using search engines like Google. Aside from targeting these users by running ads on Google, you can also try to rank up organically. But you might think – Why should I put in so much effort into SEO when I can just pay Google to show my results on top? That’s a fair question.
Well, for one, paying for ads for driving online sales costs a lot of money. Secondly, customers tend to trust the organic search results, and that trust will transfer on to your eCommerce store. An ad, on the other hand, raises our antennas about the possibility of being cheated. But SEO can also be notoriously hard to crack, with plenty of competition. Ideally, then, you want a combination of Google Adwords and SEO in order to reap the benefits of both.
When you search for a product on Google, do you immediately see a list of products with prices? Its the very first search result, and it comes from Google’s own eCommerce listings outlet, Google Shopping. Ecommerce websites that are featured on Google Shopping have a significant advantage. They jump the queue.
If you are learning how to drive online sales, it will be well worth your time to optimize your eCommerce store for Google Shopping. This gives your store a chance to be featured on top of the search results. Driving online sales is about taking all the opportunities you can get. You need to try a variety of things, and Google Shopping is definitely one of them.
4. Shipping and Returns Policy
In nearly all aspects, online stores have beaten local shops in their value to the customer. The prices are lower. The range of products is extensive. And you don’t have to get out of your house. The one thing that eCommerce stores lack is instant access to your purchase. Local stores win fair and square in that regard.
Yet, the advantages of the eCommerce experience still drive online sales. When customers are making purchase decisions online, they consider factors like shipping and returns policy. If you are focusing on driving online sales, make sure to have a good shipping infrastructure and a returns policy that makes customers feel secure.
The Importance of Fast (and Free) Shipping
Can you recall the last time you didn’t buy something from an online store because it would take too long to reach you? We can all recall such experiences. In fact, they happen very frequently. The logistics of shipping are tough to crack. The hard truth, though, is that customers in 2021 expect blazingly fast shipping, but they also don’t like paying for it.
If delivery takes longer than a week, 38% shoppers said in a survey that they would cancel their purchase. If you’re thinking about driving eCommerce sales, be careful about what you promise. A whopping 69% of consumers also claimed that they would be less likely to order from places that don’t deliver within two days of the promised date. To reduce shipping delays, your business can partner with third-party logistics providers to improve the shopping experience and increase customer fulfillment.
A Returns Policy That Gives Security
When eCommerce was starting out, the returns policy was all the rage. Customers were insecure about the quality of deliveries and wanted to be assured that they wouldn’t be scammed. That factor has quieted down now, but customers still care deeply about a store’s returns policy when buying online.
Think back to your own online shopping experiences. How often have you bought something without glancing at the returns policy? You might be surprised by what you find. According to a study conducted by UPS, the delivery giant, over 67% customers read the returns policy before making a purchase. When we’re buying online, we still want to make sure we won’t be taken for a ride.
5. Customer Experience
For retail shops, customer experience is characterized by large, air-conditioned showrooms and cheerful staff. The world of eCommerce doesn’t have any of that. Online, good customer experience looks different, but it is still as important a factor in driving online sales. If customers don’t feel good about shopping at your eCommerce store, that will make a serious dent on your online sales.
Ease of Use
When it comes to driving online sales, it all comes down to ease of use. Are customers able to navigate your site easily? Is the design intuitive and free of glitches? This is the part where having a great website still matters a whole lot. If you’re running an eCommerce store, a well-designed website may just be your wisest investment.
A great website, though, is not just a great-looking website. Amazon is certainly not the prettiest eCommerce website on the market. The website, though, is easy to navigate and loaded with functionality. You can sort and filter according to your preferences. You can zoom in on images and save items for later. All these things come together to make for a great customer experience.
Customer Satisfaction Surveys
To drive online sales, you want to optimize the online shopping experience to make for the best customer experience possible. For this goal, its important to routinely survey your customers and find out what’s working. With SurveySparrow, you can embed quick surveys into your eCommerce store and get customer feedback that will put you on the right track.
Driving online sales often comes down to having a good eCommerce store that cares about customer satisfaction. How do you know if you’re succeeding on this point? Routine customer satisfaction surveys can help you make sure you have no blind spots. You can then rest assured that you’re giving your customers the best possible online shopping experience.
6. Competitive Pricing
There are only a few ways to search for products online. You can rely on search engines like Google or marketplaces like Amazon. Either way, products show up on such search results from multiple sources, with different prices. The pricing that is the lowest has an edge in driving online sales.
There are many advantages to online shopping, but the primary reason people prefer it still is because of the lower prices. By eliminating rental and logistical costs in large part, online stores have lowered prices. Even now, though, the competition ground has only shifted, not vanished. Now, customers look for the sellers offering the lowest price online.
Once customers have chosen to buy a specific product, it often just comes down to pricing. Who’s giving it to me the cheapest? There is little else involved if customers have a basic amount of trust for competing stores. If you want to crack how to drive online sales, there’s no better way than to offer the lowest price on the market.
7. Word-of-mouth (WOM) Marketing
I remember the last time someone told me about a bad experience they had with a new eCommerce store. It was years ago, and since then, even though the store has often offered me lower prices, I’ve never bought anything from there. It takes a second to erode trust with word-of-mouth reviews.
Fortunately for stores selling genuine products, word-of-mouth marketing works equally powerfully the other way around as well. Positive reviews from friends and family can be tremendously effective in marketing your brand. One recommendation from a person in one’s network is usually more influential tens of ads on Facebook.
How do you encourage WOM marketing? By focusing on customer experience. For people to tell other people about your store, you can’t offer an ‘okay’ experience. Nobody goes out of their way to talk about average experiences. If you deliver extraordinary customer experiences, people will want to talk about them with their friends and family. That can make all the difference in driving online sales for your brand.
Net Promoter Score (NPS) Surveys
Let’s say that you are determined to encourage word-of-mouth marketing. You have invested heavily in your customer experience. At this point, you’re sure that your service is worth raving about. How do you know if its working? By conducting NPS surveys. Here’s an NPS survey created using SurveySparrow to check customer pulse..
‘Net Promoter Score’ is a rating between 1 to 10 that tells you how likely your customers are to recommend your service. Conducting an NPS survey is easy. With SurveySparrow, you can display a quick NPS survey at the end of your customer’s shopping experience. Nobody minds clicking on a number, and you will have data to see if your marketing efforts are working.
Wrapping It Up…
As we’ve seen, driving online sales in 2021 is no longer about a fancy website. It involves everything from influencer marketing on Instagram to having a listing on Google Shopping. The market is cut-throat and dynamic. No online business can pin all their hopes on a single strategy or platform. In order to drive eCommerce sales, you need to make bets on all platforms available.
Running an online business, under pressure to grow rapidly, is no easy task. What helps, though, is constantly staying in touch with the new and upcoming ways of driving online sales. Understanding and utilizing the 7 key factors we’ve listed above is the key to making progress in eCommerce. The world of the internet is a dynamic one. Keep striving to adjust and change accordingly, and you will have a successful online business that doesn’t get left behind.