The Ultimate Guide To eCommerce in 2017….and beyond!
Lets face it, eCommerce is becoming more and more competitive. At the same time more and more money is being spent online.
One stop platforms like shopify are making it easier for people to get their own eCommerce stores online within a matter of hours. Shopify is used by over 600,000 companies and the numbers are only growing. If you are interested in finding out what the hype is about then you can open a store yourself. Cloudwards.net has put together a complete guide on how to use Shopify so you can start selling online in just a few clicks. If you aren’t ready to commit, Shopify even offers a free 14-day trial.
UK consumers spent around £133 billion online in 2016, up £18 billion from 2015.
That figure is set to explode as by 2030 it is expected that around 40% of all sales will be generated online.
The high street is in for a rough time and it’s already starting to show cracks with high rents and business rates set to make high street trading more difficult in the second half of 2017.
Whilst these stats produce somewhat of a daunting picture for the high street, the flip side shows a very positive outlook for eCommerce and Online Retailers, with sales expected to grow around 10% year-on-year.
In this article you are going to learn 6 simple eCommerce hacks that you can use to generate more sales through your eCommerce website.
No matter your industry or target audience, we have found that these principles apply across a wide range of eCommerce websites and are part of Online Sales Psychology and proven to boost sales.
There are lots of businesses using eCommerce to grow online, the reason’s for each tend to come down to a few simple benefits:
- Lower Overheads
- Easier To Scale
- Low Risk When Expanding Into New Regions
- You could also be up and running in less than 30 minutes
Local businesses have been using eCommerce to great effect to get not only local traffic to their website but to access the greater market of the whole world.
Hack #1 – Understand Behaviours
There are many shocking eCommerce behaviours, and probably the most concerning of all is that your visitors shopping basket is often nothing more than a wish list!
That’s right – Some users fill their virtual baskets with products that they would love to buy.
Whether it’s to create some sort of list, get an idea of total pricing or simply doing some research and price shopping you against your competitors.
It is vitally important that you note this behaviour as it is the only REAL insight you have into the mind of your customers. By looking at the items they are storing in their Baskets, you get an insight into what your website visitors are looking to buy.
Whilst there is no real fix for this issue, it certainly gives an insight into buy behaviour.
Here are a few more key buying behaviours that you must be aware of:
- Too many distractions – Links to recommended products, Links to discount codes or even links to your Social Media all pull your visitors away from completing a transaction. Be sure to overcome this by ensuring you remove all unnecessary items from your pages and if you do need to have links, make sure they open in a new window. This is known as fixing a leaky bucket.
- Images and now video play a huge part in selling your products – Words can only do so much. Trying to sell a dress or handbag using only words and no imagery is pretty difficult. Make life easier for you and your potential customer by at the very least putting up multiple images of your product, offering a 360 degree virtual image if possible and always as a priority using video to show the quality of your product, how it fits, how it flows and really sell your item through the screen as if it were real life.
- You can offer too much! Giving your website visitor options to choose products, especially electrical products in different sizes, colours, memory formats and with additional cases and upsells can really affect sales. Presenting 64 variations of a product can be very difficult to do, think of a smart way to walk someone through 2-3-4 steps that takes them by the hand and allows them to select their product through all the variations without creating any stress or confusion.
To further understand behaviours you will need certain software enabled on your website. Software such as Google Analytics is a great place to start as you can set a funnel and see how far down your funnel visitors are going before abandoning their purchase.
Secondly you will need some more detailed software like Crazy Egg, Kissmetrics or Inspectlet – Which allow you to pull more data across different methods such as heat maps, click maps and screen recordings.
When you understand the behaviour of your visitor and the journey that they take through your website – Which may not be the journey that YOU had in mind for them – then and only then can you optimise your website around them.
Hack #2 – Killer Product Images & VIDEO!
2017 will be another year that online video usage grows. Consumers are opting to watch 2,3,4,5-10 minute videos than read paragraphs of text.
It’s an absolute known fact that video converts better than text. And so this is even more of a reason why you should be using video to sell your products online.
It doesn’t have to be a flashy video – Frank Kern did a polished video versus a video shot on a mobile phone with a thunder storm in the background and the raw video converted BETTER than the polished video! – Even a simple video of you sat there holding your product to the screen and talking it through like a customer was there in your shop will work well.
We have seen Stanwells use this technique to good effect.
The big guns like ASOS use video on a wide range of products, they use catwalk video, the reason being is that it shows the product in action in real life, it shows how the product fits, how it reacts to the light and how it flows with movement – Which ultimately what people want too see.
You should also use imagery if video isn’t an option.
And of course the master of imagery is Apple.
Apple use super slick imagery of their product that paints it in the best possible light, quite often with just a simple compelling benefit headline accompanying the image.
- Always use multiple images where possible – This helps show all the different dimensions of your product.
- Dont mix & match – If you are going to use studio shots of your product use them consistently, on category pages nothing makes a page look messier than a mix of lifestyle and studio shots all different sizes!
- Always use the highest quality possible images where you can, Low-Res images will do you more harm than good.
- Use video where possible, it’s proven to boost sales – Give it a try!
Hack #3 – Use Compelling Product Descriptions
Now, Hack #2 clearly outlines the importance the roll video plays in improving your online sales. And at the very least explains how and why you must use multiple images – that paint your picture in the best light – to really sell your products.
To accompany your images you must include a product description that enhances the sale.
Now, descriptions don’t just appear on a product page, they start long before there. Infact your descriptions begin in the Search Engine Result Placements (SERPS).
This could be the first line of contact that a potential customer when searching for your product in a search engine such as Google.
Spend time think about your Meta Description Title Tags – They will be the first things people see in Google, so you don’t want to put them off before they even get to your site!
A title description is as below. It’s the blue line of headline text that you click on in the search results and the description is whats known as a Meta Description and forms part of your website code.
Some key facts for your Meta & Title Tags:
- Make them click worthy
- State Facts
- State Benefits
- Stimulate Emotions
- Stand out in the Search Results against your competitors
- And most of all, invoke some sort of feeling of pleasure or reaction that causes a potential visitor to click
Benefits Vs Specifications
Benefits & Specifications are often confused, and over our years of experience one of the main things we have noticed is that product descriptions are often nothing more than a list of features & specifications and do not state any real clear benefit to your shopper.
If you are selling a tech product such as a laptop or MP3 player, then a need to state specifications & features is fine – People need to know how many GBs of memory their new iPod will have!
But on the flip side it is also worth stating what that really means to a non tech person. So sticking with the above example a 16GB iPod feature may be presented as a benefit that says something like “store over 20,000 hours of music in your pocket – That’s over 5,000 individual songs!”
Think of some of the key benefits that users look for:
- Fitting In as part of a crowd
And use them in your product descriptions.
You may need to produce technical specs – But do it in a tab format like Currys do in this example.
You can also do the same with clothing, Next clothing do this really well. Instead of talking about materials and cotton percentage, they use subtle descriptions that are engaging and draw you into the products real key benefits.
Remember – Always keep it relevant and real to the customer, convey compelling benefits and spend time, or even hire a professional copywriter to craft your product descriptions for you.
Hack #4 – Instill Confidence
Social Proof Sells. People Buy From People. So let’s talk about how we can leverage on that theory, instill confidence and increase your eCommerce conversions.
Let’s look at some key ways to instill confidence:
- Product Reviews
- Social Proof
Testimonials help instill confidence on your eCommerce website – that’s a proven fact. Ok, well maybe they don’t work as well as they used to. Due to fabrication.
However what’s difficult is getting people to believe and buy in to your testimonials.
So let’s look at the different type of testimonial and how you can make it better and instill confidence.
Firstly you have the written testimonial. Back in the day this worked a dream however people started to become dubious of them as they became more and more over the top, and the ‘fakeness’ got worse when names started becoming nothing more than ‘A client’ or ‘Mr Jones’.
To hack the written testimonial you need to beef it up and put it on steroids. Firstly try adding a real name that maybe links through to a social media profile for example – If you are a business this is very easy to do – And then add a photo of the person who gave you your testimonial.
This only adds a little meat to the bones, so the next and best thing to do is… VIDEO TESTIMONIALS!
By adding a genuine video testimonial your conversions can sky rocket – they don’t have to be as polished as the pro-activ infomercials that you see on TV late at night, it could be as simple as someone being asked a few questions at your live event or a video that a raving fan has posted to Social Media screaming & shouting about your product.
A video testimonial is far better than words – That’s one way to come across genuine and how you can sell person to person online combining testimonials & an element of social proof.
A testimonial that comes from a 3rd party platform such as Tripadvisor or Google Reviews or Trust Pilot is a further way of strengthen your testimonial as they can not (usually) be manipulated (on a massive scale!).
Product Reviews are another great way to instill confidence in visitors to your eCommerce website.
A simple eCommerce plugin can allow you to start this right away. Just a simple plugin that shows 5 stars and allows people to register and leave their feedback.
Amazon does this incredibly well, in fact the majority of purchase decision making is done from the reviews – So a review can make or kill a sale!
Having reviews of your products allows those who have purchased to share the pros and cons of your product. If you’re product is great then your reviews will be also.
Reviews of your product will also backup your product descriptions as customers will start sharing what they found to be compelling and great about your product – They become raving fans for you, promote your product to others and help instill that much needed confidence to get the sale.
Again reviews can be done through a third party piece of software such as Trust Pilot, which in turn builds further trust as they are confirmed purchases and cannot be edited by the eCommerce website owner.
Social proof plays into the tribe, hard wired mentality that we have as humans. It’s the reason why we have ‘crazes’, it’s why everyone was playing pokemon go, it’s why everyone has the same haircut, it’s why we all want to be a part of the cool gang and have the latest iPhone.
Social Proof can be conveyed through your website in 2 very simple ways.
Firstly you can show purchase history. Ebay does this very well. So if you have sold (genuinely) tens, hundreds or thousands of a product then it’s worth showing it, like eBay do.
This helps create a little urgency as well – especially if you show there’s a lot been sold and very few remaining in stock.
The second way to use Social Proof is like how booking.com do it. If you’ve ever used the website before to book your holiday and looked at a specific hotel you will notice the messages that appear saying for example “71 people viewed this same hotel in the last 24 hours”.
It helps with social proof as it shows other people are looking an interested in the same product and also creates urgency as it could be snapped up at any moment.
Think about how Testimonials, Product Reviews & Social Proof can be integrated into your website, think about they feed each other and create almost like a “circle of confidence”.
Loyalty rewards also help you grow socially.
Loyalty is an integral part of retention planning and marketing for any brand. Cultivating customer identity through their engagement and attachment to a brand can easily be motivated through a well-crafted loyalty program. Providing customers with rewards for spending money, referring friends, sharing on social media, leaving product reviews, sharing their birthday and so on can result in extra customer perks that result them in coming back to your business over others. There are many tools for loyalty, but one that encompasses points, referrals and VIP programs all wrapped in one is Sweet Tooth.
Remember: Third party platforms and feeds from places such as Trip Advisor & Trust Pilot work best!
Hack #5 – Leveraging Influencers & FREE Advertising
It’s great having a beautiful eCommerce website, with all the best products on there, the best pricing, the best shipping & postage deals, but without traffic it will be very difficult to generate any sales and optimise your eCommerce website for conversions.
Leveraging influences comes from the old marketing adage about generating business via word of mouth and creating raving fans who act as cheerleaders for you business – Think APPLE!
The psychology & theory behind this comes back to people buying from people, we are more likely to ask a friend for a recommendation and as a business owner you need to be aware that a recommendation is the strongest type of lead you can get.
Half of the job is already done for you.
The first thing to do is to create some amazing value in your customer’s life, whether that be through your low pricing, your bundle deals, your delivery options or your customer service.
There has to be something that gives that little extra.
Look at Amazon. Constantly innovating. Amazon prime allows you to get products within hours. The amazon Kindle allows you to get a book within seconds. Jeff Bezos is constantly innovating to get products to people quicker and this is adding great value as it speaks to the “on-demand” generation who want everything now.
One of the most simple ways to get people to shout about your business is by utilising Social Media.
Facebook – as with most things – do this best.
The great thing about Social Media is the snowball effect that it creates. So by adding a simple “like” button to your product page, which then gets clicked by a customer, then shows up on their public wall and to all their friends and family.
It’s free advertising.
That is the most basic way of doing it: adding a “like” button and letting customers spread the word to their friends and family.
A more direct response way of doing it would be to add the Facebook “Want” button to a product.
This button makes the interaction a bit more direct, it allows potential customers to show their friends and family that they want your product.
Now, this is great, as it alerts people to a possible gift for someone, especially if it is close to Christmas or a Birthday.
It’s better to buy something that someone wants, rather than leave it to chance, right?
The next option is to use the Facebook eCommerce plugin called Ask A Friend by ShopSocially.
This plugin allows you to select friends whose opinion you value on a product you are considering buying. The app allows those friends to vote and help you make a decision.
Ask A Friend can improve conversions on your eCommerce website by as much as 5% and again plays into the psyche of recommendations – Which help boost sales.
With Facebook you can also add the Buy Now button to products to capture social sales as well as offering purchasers the opportunity to share their purchases to their wall once they have completed a purchase.
The benefit is that your customers become your sales agents to their friends and family… that’s half of your work done to getting a new sale.
Hack #6 – Optimise That Journey & Call To Actions
If a visitor lands on your website and can’t find their way around, whether that be due to a complex navigation that requires multiple clicks or due to lack of Call To Actions taking them by the hand, then your website will have a high bounce rate and our conversions will suffer.
eCommerce website design requires a special skill and an extra focus on user experience.
This eCommerce hack explains how you can optimise the journey a visitor takes around your website.
Strategy – It’s important to design on the paper or in your mind a funnel how you will attract, activate and retain your customers. Knowing the channels and platforms for each of these phases is important for your marketing strategy to make sure you have the tools to retain your old customers, activate the ones that once visited your page, and your marketing efforts bring new visitors on daily basis.
Clarity – The first thing you should do is to get clarity in your own mind. Ask yourself “When someone lands on this page of my website, WHAT do I want them to do next and is it CLEAR WHAT they should do next?”
Create clarity by using headlines and subheadings to let your visitor know what page they are on and what the page is about.
Secondly use Call To Actions to take your visitor by the hand and dive action. By having a clear call to action, that uses a contrasting colour to the rest of the page and has a direction action such as “Buy Now” written on it, will make it crystal clear to your visitors what and where they need to do.
Remove Friction – Friction is anything that gets in the way of your visitor going through their journey and completing the required action.
A simple example of friction would be to have too many clicks to get through to what the visitor actually wants.
Let’s say for example that a visitor does a search on Google for “Men’s Blue Nike Jacket”, this person then sees your PPC advert, clicks it, and gets sent to your homepage.
This makes the visitor work harder. They are expecting to land on a page selling a Men’s Blue Nike Jacket, instead you are breaking their pattern by sending them to your homepage….
….and then you are making them click around to find the product you have already promised them in your paid advert.
You can also remove friction by making your user click as few times as possible.
Ideally you would want someone from your paid ads to go directly to your product with their only clicking having to be on the advert.
From someone coming directly to your website, perhaps via your homepage, then you really want to make it no more than 2-3 clicks for your visitor to get to where they want to be.
This means directing to people to featured or popular products from your homepage and optimising your navigation to ensure that your products are organised by categories and that they can be easily seen a clicked on.
On your category pages, should you have multiple variations of products then it is best to add a product filter to allow your website visitors to filter products in certain categories by price, size, colour etc.
Having deep integrations across every place you sell to create a true omnichannel experience for customers is another great way to remove friction from the buying process.
And finally… offer a search function for your website.
Some visitors to your website may still find it difficult or time consuming to find what they want, especially if on a mobile device, so offer a search box where they can quickly type in keywords and they see all the related products.
You’ve almost reached the end….
But not quite!
Remember, when following the above eCommerce hacks to always be testing… test colours, test font size, test imagery, test video length… then you will get better and a bigger conversion rates.
What ever you do, do NOT rely on discounting as a tactic to grow your eCommerce store, it wont work!
Bonus eCommerce Hacks!
We couldn’t just leave you with those killer eCommerce hacks and let you take our word for it, here’s some bonus eCommerce advice from our friendly experts around the web.
Matt from Grasshopper offers this advice:
“Conversion is a big thing at the moment because people are getting a ton of traffic from social which is fine, but they don’t know how to turn that into a paying customer. It’s like a bit hole for many sites.
Mobile is a bit thing at the moment and having a mobile-friendly (not just responsive) site is vital for customer experience but, in many industries, customers would still rather buy on desktop for more considered purchases.
Mobile works well for impulse buys or on sites like Amazon where trust has been earned it doesn’t require adding payment and address details.
For many sites, mobile doesn’t convert that well.
My top 5 tactics to improve conversion.
Customer Reviews – Amazon has built a business on this. They should also be using an independent reviews engine like Trust Pilot or Feefo
Demo Videos – I’m not talking sales videos. Demo videos showing the product in action (with benefits not just features) will help keep people on the site longer and want to own your product.
FREE Delivery – Hitting people with delivery charges in the basket is one way to lose them. Customers want a free and fast, Amazon-like service and don’t want to pay for it.
Live Chat – Customers need immediate answers. They often don’t want to phone and don’t want to wait for an email. Live chat is a great conversion tool.
A simple checkout – If customers don’t need an account then don’t force them. The more obstacles you put in the way the less people will be bothered to finish it.”
Key Takeaways from Matts expert opinion:
- Mobile sales are growing
- Considered purchases are completed on desktop over mobile
- Mobile works well for impulse buys
Our second expert is Graham Charlton of SaleCycle
Graham offers his wisdom on forms and how they can be made better to help improve eCommerce conversion rates.
“I’d say that forms are one of the biggest areas where websites can improve conversion rates. There are still lots of sites making the most basic usability errors. Look at your forms. More importantly, observe your customers using them (this can be done via remote user testing for example) and find out where the difficulties are for users. Identifying and correcting these can have an immediate impact on conversion rates.”
Key Takeaways from Grahams expert eCommerce opinion:
- Check your forms for basic usability errors
- Identify any difficulties in your forms and resolve them