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Ecommerce Advent Calendar – 24 Small Improvements for a Prosperous 2020

Advent calendars are everywhere, mostly filled with mini sizes of random products you don’t really need, but who doesn’t like to get a new gift every day? Why not treat your ecommerce store (and eventually your customers) the same way? Or maybe even a little better. In this piece, we’ll look at 24 tips and tricks designed to be just what your ecommerce business needs for 2020. And it all starts (and ends) with your customers.

1.   Create campaigns for repeat customers

One of the best things you can do is immediately thank someone who has bought from you more than once. They’re your most exceptional customers and most likely to be a future source of revenue. We all know that it’s cheaper to get someone to buy again than to find a new customer, but these people have already taken that step to purchase at least twice. Adobe says that their revenue is equal to at least that of five new shoppers.

Keep in touch with their own unique email campaign. Thank them and reach out regularly with deals or select options. Personalise whenever you can, whether it’s complex packages based on their purchase history or high-level campaigns like getting extra savings for their birthday or on the anniversary of their first purchase.

2.   Don’t force people to register

About one-third of shoppers won’t end up buying from you if you force them to register for an account, according to 2018 data. That’s a lot of lost sales just because you wanted a little more data. Never force it.

Instead, just ask for an email address after the fact so you can send someone a receipt. In that receipt email, ask them to sign up for your newsletter or other emails in exchange for a discount or savings. Putting registration here at the end will increase the likelihood of getting account info that doesn’t cannibalise sales.

3.   Be transparent on requirements

Do you have specific returns policies? Offer a money-back guarantee? Or give deals based on defined order values? Tell people clearly and keep requirements as simple as possible. Quick Sprout has a case study that shows how a money-back guarantee can build your sales too. Part of its boost is from trust, and the other part is that people are willing to shell out when they feel safe, while some unsatisfied customers are going to be too lazy to return items properly.

4.   Simplify the shopping cart

Run through your shopping process and see if you have any duplicate steps or unnecessary items. Do people need to click multiple times to see tax or shipping costs/options? Are you asking for repeat info like their name or address? Do you have multiple screens that your site doesn’t need? The simpler your shopping cart and checkout process, the more likely people are to finish the sale. Minimise it down to what you need and be as clear as possible early on in the process. Reduce the hassle, so it’s the way you would like to shop.

5.   Showcase your trust

Most website checkout options display trust badges at the bottom of the screen. Some companies also put these in the footer of every page. They’re good to have, though not everyone is going to look for them.

Boost your store by adding two additional types of trust elements. The first is simply the list of payment options you take. If customers can see on your product pages that you accept their preferred methods, such as PayPal or a specific credit card, they can be more willing to buy.

The other element you want is the SSL certificate. This gives your website the “https” instead of “http” address and some from groups like Verisign give you a padlock symbol in front of the URL to tell users things are secure.

Even more important is that many web browsers are now showing warnings when someone visits a site without the SSL certificate, saying this might be potentially harmful to the user.

6.   Trade immediate deals for emails

If you really must capture someone’s email and get an account, give them a reward right away. Don’t worry about immediate verification or other elements that would cause them to have to leave your store.
Apply the discount right away. The trick here, if you don’t quite trust your users, is to autofill that email address in your checkout page. If they change it, they lose the discount. This calls their bluff and may make them think twice about leaving because they know you caught them trying to game the system.

7.   Share the wealth with referrals

For people who are willing to apply by the rules and even buy from you more than once, expand benefits they can get. One easy method that’s especially common for ecommerce and subscription businesses is the referral bonus. The trick here is to make it easy to get an initial discount. A low barrier makes people more willing to share with their friends. You can try giving a basic, small discount for the simple act of signing up to get a referral code. Then, the large benefit that you want to provide comes after their friends have made a certain number of purchases.

8.   Expand product descriptions

People get bored reading boring copy. Don’t subject your users to it. Jazz up product descriptions with information about how people use your products and the benefits they give. Make descriptions easy to scan so people can’t miss them. Finally, match them to your market’s personalities, using humor when it makes sense and engages people.

9.   Consider images and video from customers

Products sell better when they have images and video. That can be a lot of work for small ecommerce companies to source when you’ve got a tight budget, lots of products, or not much time. So, ask shoppers to do the work for you. When people make a purchase, use one of your follow-up emails to ask for photos or video of what they love or your product in action. You can also make sure your review platform supports photos too. When people give you these, use them as additional product options and share a little love with the customer too.

10.  Make reviews available and strategic

Reviews should be on every product page. You want to show people the average rating of your product and also detailed responses from customers. You can get strategic by keeping these physically short on the page. A carousel that loads the next review when a user clicks can help them learn more while never having the page scroll too far down to see the product. That way, customers read why others loved something and they’re also always looking at it.

11.  Prioritise available products

Make your marketing a little more dynamic by highlighting what you have in stock. This is your ads on social and regular channels as well as the banners and options on your pages. Push what you have available and note when things are running low. “Only 12 left!” is a compelling prospect when someone clicks through from an ad. If the customer sees counts like that on all your popular items, they may trust that the urgency is real and be more included to buy.

12.  Up-sell on the page

Don’t make people wait to see what could be a better offer. If you’ve got kits or packages, or an upgrade, put it right there below your product on the page. If something will save them money, advertise this right away. Your best bet is usually to promote upsells that people want, like packages that contain items people usually buy together but at a discount. Make the savings stand out visually and you can get a lift with minimal effort.

13.  Let people save what they want

Tablet User
Wishlists are amazing prospects for your customers. They allow someone to window-shop now and come back regularly to see if something is on sale or easily buy what they’ve saved up for over the past few weeks. Shareable wishlists are also great tools to encourage someone to use your store as their birthday or holiday present list. Most ecommerce platforms have multiple add-ons for wishlists, and customisation tends to be very straightforward thanks to CRM tie-ins. Low-code, low-risk opportunity for better sales.

14.  Optimise your site for load times

People want your site to load in under about 2 seconds on their PC and under 4 seconds on mobiles. If you’re too slow, they’ll leave. HubSpot notes that ever one-second delay can reduce conversions by 7% and nearly 80% of existing customers who think your site loads too slow say they’re less likely to buy from you again. Work to make your sideload faster by compressing images and reducing what’s on the page. You can also turn to your host to see about scaling up to meet demands during peak traffic.

15.  Always be mobile-friendly

More than half of all online shopping will be on mobile devices by the end of next year, according to Statista. Optimise your pages for mobiles so that you’re not losing out on this huge chunk of your audience. Start with templates that display properly on mobiles and then work to minimise on-page elements. Keep product info easy to find but consider enlarging purchase buttons and adapting text so people don’t need to keep zooming in and out to use your site.

16.  Look for additional mobile-friendly commerce options

Yes, your website should be mobile-friendly, but that’s not all. There are also other mobile commerce solutions you can consider. If you have an especially loyal fanbase, then why not give them an app that shows their account and order info with ways to purchase products. This might be especially useful if you have recurring orders that are fairly regular — think of things like pet food or laundry detergent.

There are also multiple mobile marketplaces that might consider. Some are social or major PC-friendly channels like Amazon and eBay, while you can also look for more niche options like subscription box services and unique stores like Not on the High Street.

17.  Try chatbots and live agents

Your store can perform better when customers are more engaged and less confused. Chatbots and live chat agents are the two birds with one stone approach here. They can easily answer frequent questions and share needed links to things like return policies and sizing charts.

Live agents can also direct customers to sales pages, discounts, or even do things like check an order status without making the customer email your team. The more you allow these folks to handle directly, the happier your customers are going to be with the overall experience. Just don’t forget to train your support, whether it’s people or bots.

18.  Launch traffic-heavy channels

There are also options for you to build your own channels within larger sites. We recommend you look at high-traffic options. The best example is Facebook, which makes it easy to create a store right on the social network. You can integrate it with most ecommerce platforms, so there’s minimal additional management. Plugins take care of deals as well as inventory counts and order generation, so most ecommerce companies get their new channel up and running very quickly.

19.   Bundle when you can

You can improve sales and perhaps lift average order prices by pairing distinct groups of products together under a single SKU. These bundles or kits can increase profit when items are related, while also cutting shipping costs.

Use your existing customer data to find out what’s commonly purchased together and bundle those items. Customers love it, especially when they save money on things they were already going to buy. Or, if you have items that aren’t moving quickly, you can pair them with popular items at greatly reduced costs to get them out of the warehouse. Sometimes, it’s better for your bottom line to get rid of inventory that causes high, recurring storage costs and prevents you from ordering more of your most-popular items.

20.   Be honest about shipping costs

Barilliance rates unexpected shipping costs as the number 1 reason potential customers leave without finishing the checkout process. It’ll scare away roughly 25%, rating as the most-likely cause for abandonment and having the most impact of any element it studied.

Tackle this in one of two ways. First, show full shipping costs as early in the process as possible. Be transparent and don’t hide requirements to hit “free” or other shipping options. If you have a threshold for free shipping, about 93% of your audience that hasn’t met it will add more things to their cart to do so. The second is to make a certain type of shipping standard and free for your orders — two-day shipping is starting to dominant here. What you do instead is bake the cost of shipping into product pricing.

21.   Give people shipping options

Cost is just one element of shipping. The other is timing. Your customers will have their own needs for timing on products and delivery. Some will want things ASAP while others can wait days or even weeks. Meet both with standard shipping options as well as expediated or even overnight shipping when possible. It’s perfectly okay to charge more for faster shipping! Those in an immediate need will expect it.

22.   Use software to foolproof fulfilment

Let’s look at the operational side of things for a moment. Supporting some of these changes will require you to manage more channels and orders. If you add next-day or overnight shipping, you might also need new workflows to keep things in their proper place and get products to people on-time and with the order correct.

A full warehouse management suite (WMS) is going to be your best bet here — and in many cases you’ll see an ROI quickly. The WMS can help you reduce the time it takes to pick and pack orders, plus can automate different actions that end up saving you money. One of the best tools will be automated carrier selection based on price and availability, allowing you to meet shipping needs at the best price.

23.Partner with specialists

Ecommerce businesses start because someone had a great idea for a product people want. Almost no one starts an ecommerce business in order to run a warehouse or perform accounting tasks. When you start to grow, these tasks become more complex and also play a larger role in the success of your business.

When an area is outside your expertise, taking up too much time, or causes losses, it’s time to look for partners. What you might find surprising is that many partners in these areas can actually lead to you saving money. Your best bet is to look for companies that specialise in businesses like yours.
Don’t settle just for sales and marketing materials. Look for honesty (just like you would be with your customers) and 3PL or other recommendations based on your specific business.

24.   Make sure it’s all honest

Our last point threads back to many above: treat your customers with respect. You want to be seen as an adult. You don’t want companies to try and pull one over on you. Your customers are the same way. Be honest with them and forthright, not hiding or minimizing what can cause an issue. The goal is to create happy buyers who want to buy again, generating consistent recurring revenue. That’s the best way to protect and grow an ecommerce store. We hope these help, and we’re glad you didn’t have to wait 24 days to get all the goodies inside!

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