Seven ways to drive more online sales

Shopping trolley on a computer keyboard

Sadly, many of the best examples of eCommerce can be found outside Australia, so here’s seven expert tips on best practices every business can follow to drive more sales online.

I recently undertook some in-depth research that looked at the eCommerce strategies of Australia’s largest retailers. Shockingly, what I found was that even our biggest and supposedly brightest stars are getting it wrong. From a lack of integration between online marketing strategies through to bland, untargeted email marketing campaigns, the examples of what not to do were plentiful. But rather than paint a broad, grim picture of our eCommerce market, I decided to include a review of companies who were doing lots of things right, which brings me to the crux of my article.

Here is some insight into proven techniques for snaring more business, as well as practical tips that both large and small retailers can use in their quest to create a great online shopping experience:

1. Detailed product descriptions

A high percentage of all purchases, both online and offline, are researched online beforehand. The best way that we can help consumers through the purchase decision is by providing them with as much information as possible.

If you sell identical products to your competitors, use unique descriptions rather than those provided by the manufacturer. This will set you apart from the competition and (when used with other SEO tactics) can increase your likelihood of being found on search engines.

2. User reviews

These are a very powerful method of conveying information about products. Consumers are more likely to trust peer reviews over company or expert reviews. Amazon.com is a great example of a company that uses reviews across many categories and actively encourages each customer to provide reviews for their purchase. They also use ‘was this review helpful?’ surveys as a means of assessing review quality. Many retailers worry about the potential for negative reviews, but academic studies have shown that the number and quality of reviews have a greater impact on Amazon.com sales than the actual star rating itself.

3. Using video

Video is another very powerful and engaging method of conveying information to consumers. We love video and consume it in great quantities. The rise in smartphones and the ability to watch video on our mobile phone means consumption of online video will continue to increase. Video conveys information in a quick and easy to understand format that works well for many products, such as fashion and personal goods.

A great example is Marks and Spencer TV online in the UK. Through this they provide clever video messages for multiple product ranges including fashion, home and food with great affect on sales. Marks and Spencer found that on average, products with video experienced an uplift of 30 percent in sales.

Video can be relatively cheap to produce and host online, and is within reach of every business. Zappos in the US use a short, two-minute video for each product on their website. The video features a Zappos employee showing the product and providing the same information that sales staff would offer in store, which helps the consumer evaluate the product in an engaging way.

4. Up-sell and cross-sell tactics

Often seen as a more complex area of online retail, this is a great technique to increase the average order value of purchases. Many off-the-shelf eCommerce solutions offer up-sell and cross-sell functionality out of the box at an affordable price, allowing smaller retailers to compete with larger competitors.

To really grasp what works, make sure you look at your customer and analytics data and test different variables. Tesco, the UK supermarket, is one of the world’s leaders in the use of customer data. They use this to suggest a vast array of up-sell and cross-sell opportunities by offering bundles and alternative products on both product pages and at the basket. I also have to mention Amazon (again…) as they pioneered cross–sell and up-sell online through their ‘customers who bought this item also bought’ and ‘frequently bought together’ suggestions.

5. In-store integration

Bricks and mortar stores are an advantage that retailers need to leverage. Providing in-store stock levels and allowing in-store collection or delivery gives consumers great flexibility. Most importantly, it provides the retailer with the opportunity to get the consumer in-store to potentially make additional purchases.

Good examples of in-store integration include Dick Smith in Australia, which provides a ‘click and collect’ function. Marks and Spencer allows consumers to order online and save on postage by collecting in a store of their choice.

6. What does your brand represent?

Many companies think cheap or price-based competition when they think eCommerce, but some of the most successful companies have clear value propositions that are not based on this. An example is Appliances Online in Australia, who use great customer service, nationwide delivery, a large product range and best overall value as a proposition. And it’s clearly working. Appliances Online recently won an Australian online industry retail award for best customer experience and is considered a leading retailer in the Australian market.

7. Social media

Social media has changed consumer behaviour. Today, consumers engage companies and brands directly on social media to seek and share information. Using social media platforms such as Facebook will increase consumer awareness when done well, while social sharing on your product pages will increase awareness of products, increase inbound traffic and show consumers that others have been interested in your products.

Social media is a two-way communication tool, not just a platform for you to push messages and content. Use it to listen and respond to customer feedback and share relevant comments and product news.

A great Australian example of social media use is Appliances Online. Its Facebook page demonstrates great interaction with their online community. Every single question posed gets answered and any complaints are dealt with effectively. They are a shining example of how to use social media to foster a positive conversation with their community.

In conclusion

Through simple and effective online strategies, retailers can go a long way to improving the customer experience and online return. I’ve listed a few shining retail examples today that will hopefully inspire you to embrace a new approach to your marketing and sales techniques – techniques that will quickly set you apart from your competition.

There’s a growing world of opportunity for online retailers but you’ll see your share of the market diminish if you don’t constantly look for ways to improve your ability.

Peter Paterson is Director, eMarketingConnected.