Every online store wants to increase traffic and conversions. But even after you’ve put together a basic strategy it can still be challenging to decide on which marketing tactics you should try.
That’s why we put together an overview of effective marketing tactics and ecommerce tools along with ideas to help you implement each approach. The ideas themselves run the gamut from straightforward acquisition to generating more repeat purchases from the customer base you already have.
Try to implement one of these ideas every day for the next few weeks. On the last day of your sprint, take stock and figure out which tactics worked best to drive new sales.
What is ecommerce marketing?
Ecommerce marketing is the practice of using promotional tactics to drive traffic to your online store, converting that traffic into paying customers, and retaining those customers post-purchase.
A holistic ecommerce marketing strategy is made up of marketing tactics both on and off your website. A sound marketing strategy can help you build brand awareness, drive customer loyalty, and ultimately increase online sales.
You can use ecommerce marketing to promote your online store as a whole or to drive more sales for specific products. Below is an overview of a few practical ideas to try.
17 ecommerce marketing ideas to increase online sales
1. Upsell your products
Most of us have heard some variation of the famous, “Would you like to supersize your order?” It’s an example of upselling, or the approach of selling a slightly more premium product than the one the customer was originally considering.
For many businesses, upselling can be more effective than acquiring a net new customer. Sometimes your customers don’t know that a premium product is available, or they may simply need more evidence to understand how an upgrade (or package) is a better fit for their needs.
For example, is one of your product models made of slightly better leather? Or does one carry a special component that’s handmade? Make sure to emphasize the difference and ask, in the right places, if the customer might want to upgrade.
There are two main considerations when using upselling to increase sales:
- Make sure your upsells are related to the original product
- Be sensitive to the anticipated price range of your customers
Your product has to fit the customer’s original needs, and they may not be enthusiastic about a higher price point once they have an anchor price in mind. An anchor price is often the first number a customer sees, and it’s the number against which they compare other price points. The new product must be a discernibly better fit than the original for it to be worth the additional cost.
Anyone who’s ever purchased a computer is familiar with the screen below. Once you’ve selected a particular model, companies will usually highlight upgrades for performance (upselling) or additional accessories (cross-selling) for you to consider.
2. Integrate Instagram
With over 500 million daily active users, Instagram is one of the fastest growing social apps around, connecting consumers, influencers, and brands.
If you take compelling photos, use hashtags strategically, and post at the right times then you’re well on your way to building a large Instagram following of people who are interested in your products. The key to mastering your organic Instagram presence is engagement with your followers.
What are some ways to engage with your audience on Instagram? You may try running contests or going behind the scenes to showcase your product development process. You can also pay to play on Instagram. For ecommerce marketing, adding products to your Instagram posts and stories gives your followers a direct path to purchase, which is key for increasing your online sales.
Check out this example from GoPro to see shopping on Instagram in action:
3. Reduce abandoned carts
Harsh truth: You’re losing money every time a visitor abandons their cart without purchasing.
This phenomenon is well-studied. Visitors add items to their carts, but abandon their carts during the checkout process. According to the Baymard Institute, 69.23% of shopping carts are abandoned.
It’s worth directly addressing as many hesitations as you can because some shoppers who abandoned their carts could have been reminded to complete their purchase. Perhaps they could have been persuaded with a discount or free shipping, for example.
One simple and effective ecommerce marketing idea to reduce the frequency of abandoned carts is an email recovery campaign, which can convince your visitors to make a return visit and complete their original purchase.
The folks at LUSH use quirky subject lines and emails with additional product suggestions to try to get customers to return to their carts.
Craft an email that entices your visitors to return to their carts by reminding them of what they considered purchasing in the first place, and why.
4. Launch a Facebook store
Although Facebook has undergone a number of changes, it remains a viable platform for social media and ecommerce marketing.
It’s fairly straightforward to start making sales through your Facebook store. Better yet, your Facebook store can integrate directly with your Shopify store so you don’t have to keep a separate inventory.
For inspiration, have a look at the Facebook store for Fiercely by Valery Brennan.
5. Capture more email subscribers
Dollar for dollar, email marketing is one of the most effective channels at your disposal for making sales and generating repeat customers. Roughly 17% of digital marketing spend happens in email, but it contributes 24% of revenue, according to a 2015 study by Forrester Research.
There are too many tweets and Facebook posts for us to keep up with, and email can offer a more intimate interaction. People are still more protective of messages sent to their personal inboxes versus their social feeds. Plus, email gives you the space to say things that can’t fit into a social media post.
To get started with email marketing, actively promote your newsletter, blog and any other email capture efforts to get as many subscribers as you can. Take a look at Huckberry, which makes signing up for its email list the central focus when you first visit their site.
6. Improve your email campaigns
It’s not enough to simply capture a bunch of email addresses. You then need to send regular, valuable emails for the channel to be an effective ecommerce marketing activity.
There are many occasions that are perfect for sending emails that your subscribers will actually appreciate:
- Send a welcome email as soon as a customer makes a purchase.
- Provide exclusive promo codes and free gifts.
- Send regular newsletters to alert subscribers of new discount offers, product tips, and, when appropriate, company news.
- Share relevant content to help customers get the most out of their recently purchased items.
- Run a BOGO campaign in time for the holidays to promote self-gifting during the season, too.
- Thank your highest-value customers. Send a personal note expressing your appreciation for their business.
- Solicit feedback. If someone visits your site but doesn’t make a purchase, ask about their experience and how you can improve it.
Take a look at this simple email from Uncommon Goods. For Father’s Day, they sent a last-minute email to remind subscribers of the occasion, and to provide a service for the procrastinators on their list. The subject read, “The Gift that Will Save Father’s Day.”
7. Send wishlist reminder emails
One final type of email to add to your list of ecommerce marketing ideas: the wishlist reminder email. The wishlist reminder email is closely related to the abandoned cart email. Both are designed to convince shoppers to take the final step in purchasing the products they have shown intent to buy.
Has it been a while since someone checked in on their wishlist? Have an item on sale that’s been put on a lot of wishlists? Is it selling out? Send out an email to let your customers know.
It may just be the trigger they need to finally purchase the item. ModCloth alerts shoppers when products are nearly out of stock. This motivates shoppers and helps minimize regret—no one wants to accidentally miss out on a product they’ve been eyeing.
8. Make it easy for your customers to get what they want
If your store is poorly designed, then you’re losing customers. But what exactly does a poorly designed store look like?
Besides appearing untrustworthy, the store could be suffering from some combination of the following: lacking a clear value proposition, hard-to-read font, or confusing navigation.
Even when you’ve improved the dimensions above, you could still be making a few design mistakes. Are you properly segmenting your products or are you putting too many products on a single page? Have you figured out the right balance between text and visuals? These are just a few of the many things that you should consider. If your theme isn’t converting well, consider some of the other great themes available on Shopify.
9. Engage online store visitors with live chat
There are other high-impact ways to engage with site visitors and customers outside of email. For example, you could use live chat to engage with shoppers on your site.
Many live chat tools let you target browsers on certain pages, after they’ve been on your site for a certain length of time, or even after they’ve arrived on your site through an email newsletter. Live chat also enables you to have direct conversations with your customers so you can answer and address customer concerns right while they’re planning to buy.
Luxy Hair uses live chat to engage prospects and inform current customers of their order status, without having to contact their support team over email.
10. Anticipate future sales
If you have the ability to expand your product line, then you should evaluate market demand and see if it’s worth the cost. You can do that through a variety of approaches: keyword research, geographic validation, social media trends, etc. One more creative way to test out your market? Pre-sell items to see how many people place orders.
If you’re trying to decide which of three to-be-released products to sell, for example, create pages for all of them, making sure to use quality product photography and compelling copy for each one. Then list them as “out of stock” and see which product gets the most attention in terms of back-in-stock notification requests. That’s the one to sell.
In footwear and apparel especially, there are times when certain size or color variants are temporarily out of stock. KEEN, which sells hiking shoes, gives shoppers the option to receive an email when the product of their choice is available again.
11. Start a content marketing program
Every ecommerce store should consider blogging regularly to connect with customers and to rank better in search engines. If you’re already creating content, consider actively featuring your blog on your online store.
Don’t forget, there are more ways to take advantage of content marketing than simply blogging:
- Start a podcast to feature your expertise or build a stronger community
- Guest post on other websites and blogs to build awareness and generate backlinks, which also help with SEO
- Create long-form content and guides to help customers use your products more effectively
One unlikely brand that has used content marketing to increase online sales is River Pools and Spas. Their company blog has earned them kudos from New York Times, but they don’t just stick to blogging. In time for the 2018 summer season, they have a downloadable guide featured on their homepage to help customers buy the right fiberglass pool as well.
12. Embrace personalization
Personalization is another effective marketing tactic to drive online sales. Using behavioral data, personalized experiences are served to the visitor, according to their past actions and preferences.
According to BCG, personalization can lift sales as much as 10%, but the opportunity is greater than that. Only 15% of companies are using the technology to its fullest extent.
You can also account for location in personalization to create an experience catered to where your customers are in the world. Someone in southern California may be looking for bathing suits in October, while your Maine customers probably need coats, for example.
Alloy Apparel shows a “what’s popular” carousel of products for online shoppers, but personalizes it with trending items local to the visitor.
13. Leverage user-generated content
User-generated content (UGC) is a great way to generate social proof. When prospective customers see that people just like them are regularly purchasing your products, they’ll feel more confident in doing the same.
According to Salesforce, 54% of consumers trust information from online reviews and recommendations from their peers, compared to the 20% who trust the brand itself.
UGC can take many forms. Technically, even product reviews are UGC. One of the most effective types of UGC is pictures of customers actually using your products. Pepper, a store that sells bras, features lots of pictures of happy customers in their products.
14. Think local
Brick-and-mortar businesses aren’t the only ones who can jump on the local movement. Online retailers can also take a local approach to their ecommerce marketing tactics to increase online sales.
To figure out what local means for you, here are a few ways you can look at it:
- Identify where you have large concentrations of customers and run a promotion for that location. Look at which products those customers are buying and other spending behavior indicators, and consider local events or seasons to appropriately time a promotion.
- If you have a warehouse or multiple warehouses, consider a promotion with free, discounted, or expedited shipping to customers in the vicinity. This’ll be easier for your operations team to execute and also help you promote sales in a cost-effective manner.
15. Optimize your product pages
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the practice of optimizing your website for on-site conversions and increased sales. Practicing CRO helps you identify problem areas on your site.
Where are you losing sales? Who’s dropping off and why? What can you do to capture those missed opportunities? This process is done through both qualitative and quantitative research, so you get a holistic and unbiased view of how conversion-oriented your site is.
Once you’ve conducted your research to identify challenges and opportunities, you can develop hypotheses and tests to see which approaches generate the most sales. For more information on how you can implement CRO to increase online sales, check out the following:
- 19 Growth and CRO Experts on Increasing Revenue Without Increasing Traffic
- How to Find and Plug the Leaks in Your Conversion Funnels
- The Complete Guide to A/B Testing: Expert Tips from Google, HubSpot and More
16. Optimize for mobile
By 2021, more than half of all online shopping is expected to happen on mobile devices, according to Statista. Optimizing your store for mobile means more than having a responsive design. It means you’re designing your site with mobile visitors in mind from start to finish.
Perhaps you have a bigger add to cart button on all mobile product pages, making it easier for the visitor to add to cart without zooming in, for example. You might also present your images in a different format, making it faster for mobile visitors to load product photos and easier to zoom in.
Frank Body sells body scrubs and skincare products. When a mobile visitor lands on a product page and scrolls down, the “add to cart” button appears at the bottom. This saves the visitor from having to scroll all the way back up, likely losing their spot on the page.
Read more about optimizing your store for mobile:
- Mobile Ecommerce Design Trends: 11 Best Practices to Optimize for Mobile-First Sales
- How to Optimize Clients’ Stores for Mobile
- 5 Simple Hacks for an Optimized Mobile Ecommerce Design
17. Reward your loyal customers
Focusing on customer retention is a cost-effective way to increase online sales. Return customers account for 22% of a retailer’s revenue, while making up just 11% of the total customer base, according to Stitch Labs. They also spend 15% more over the course of a year.
One way to reward loyal customers and big spenders is through a customer loyalty program. There are many ways both your customers and you can benefit from a loyalty program. They give customers extra incentive to make a purchase and they keep your brand top-of-mind through automated reminders.
You choose how to reward customers, how frequently and for what actions. For instance, you might have a point-based program, which has its own point-based currency that can be redeemed for discounts, free shipping or free gifts.
Outdoor brand REI has a robust customer loyalty program. Members pay a one-time fee ($20) to join the program, and they receive access to exclusive online (and in-store) sales and events. They also receive coupon codes and a portion of what they spend over the course of a year back in store dividends.
Your loyalty program doesn’t need to be as robust and you can implement it easily with a Shopify app.
Move forward with your own online store
Now you have a sizeable list of tactics and apps to help you generate more traffic and increase online sales.
Editor's note: A version of this article was originally published June 2014.