An 8-Point Checklist for Increasing Your E-Commerce Sales, Part 1
E-Commerce is a sector with very few guarantees. It seems as though there are monumental changes happening by the hour in terms of new technologies, consumer mind-sets, big data, etc. However, amidst all the chaos, one thing is clear: e-commerce isn't going anywhere anytime soon. According to the U.S Census Bureau, online retail sales have been on a steady climb over the past decade, and show no signs of slowing down.
For all the risks and uncertainties involved in running an online store, there are many common elements which have helped guide e-commerce businesses to a healthy return on investment. Without further ado, here's the ultimate checklist for boosting your online sales.
1. Measureable Goals
Your sales goals lay the groundwork for your entire strategy. The way in which you reach them determines whether your efforts are worthwhile. To do this properly, the goals you set must be measurable.
Running an online business is much more than just operating a website. Your marketing mix will be doing a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of your bottom line. It’s imperative that every move you make must be planned out with a concrete definition of success.
For example, if you’re rolling out a new social media strategy involving more video content, you need to have clear metrics in mind for how the cost of production equates to your e-commerce sales — e.g., each video results in X amount of website traffic, out of which an average of X percent of visitors convert into buyers.
For such custom metrics that serve as your key performance indicators (KPIs) in line with your goals, Piwik is a great open-source tool that integrates with open-source e-commerce platforms such as Zen Cart, VirtueMart, osCommerce, Magento and others.
Some of the most common and significant metrics you’ll need to track are clickthrough rates from your marketing channels, visits that lead to purchases, and cart abandonment.
In one way or another, each facet of your approach funnels into your sales goals. Each one should be backed up with the proper analytics with the right KPIs to ensure you aren’t wasting any of your precious time and resources.
2. Keyword Research
Today's shoppers love to turn to the web to answer their questions. On average, there are 3.5 billion Google searches each day. With a number like this, you cannot ignore the importance search engine optimization has on your bottom line. The keywords you include in your website’s content are what make your business visible to the masses.
Therefore, each term needs to be carefully researched and placed within your site's content. Start by putting yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer. What types of queries would they most likely enter into the search bar in relation to your product or service? Do some brainstorming and create primary and secondary lists of terms used in your industry and their semantic equivalents.
The Ahrefs Keyword Explorer is keyword research tool that’s ideal for e-commerce, as it monitors over 3 billion keywords from 100-plus countries. Furthermore, it shows you more accurate search volume (as opposed to the Google Keyword planner, which shows volumes in “ranges”) as well as clickstream data.
Let’s say you run an online shoe store. Begin by entering in “running shoes.” From here, the engine will give you search-specific metrics like local and global search volume, clicks per search, and return rate, and also suggest potential branded and nonbranded keywords to target.
Keep in mind, the more searches each term has, the harder it will be to rank for it. The goal is to find the keywords that don’t have too broad a meaning and are specific to your business and the needs of your potential customers. However, they shouldn't be too obscure that no one searches for them.
3. Relevant Content
Content has taken a significant role in today’s marketing mix. Every single report or survey finds invariably that marketers are increasing their investment in content marketing. Producing content by itself is simple. Appropriately gearing the messaging to appeal to the right people at the most opportune time is hard.
One of the biggest mistakes businesses commit is creating content for themselves, not the audience. As interesting as you think a topic is, it may very well be completely irrelevant or uninteresting to your customers. Everything you produce should work to seamlessly guide people down the sales funnel, regardless of where they are in the buyer’s journey.
For example, Skullcandy, a leading seller of headphones, has done a fantastic job of pinpointing its ideal customers and crafting content that speaks directly to their interests.
“I wanted to integrate headphones into snowboard backpacks, beanies, and helmets … to make an easier music delivery device,” said Rick Alden, founder of Skullcandy, in a CBS News interview.
Keeping this mission in mind, Skullcandy's marketing team geared its content strategy to appeal to those who partake in nontraditional sports. The retailer's ideal customer is young, trendy, and identifies with music and athletics. Here's one of Skullcandy's videos, which perfectly encapsulates its target audience’s interests:
To simplify the inspiration process, it helps to keep tabs on your audience with web and social media monitoring tools. While there are plenty of options to choose from, Talkwalker and Brandwatch are a couple of the most reliable and comprehensive resources for this purpose.
Using the monitoring feature, you can track keywords related to your business and learn what people are talking about within your industry, which will eventually let you identify customers’ pain points that you need to deal with. Such insights are crucial for creating content that your audience will find most interesting.
Remember, the sales process begins when people first become aware of your brand’s existence. The content you produce should work to establish your reputation as an industry expert, educate prospective customers on relevant issues, present your product or service as a viable solution, and validate their decision to become a customer.
Watch This Space
In part two of this series, scheduled for a week from today, I'll explore the benefits of educating shoppers about your product, having an intuitive website that works on any device, and encouraging customers to click where you want them to.
Rohan Ayyar is a project manager at E2M, a digital marketing firm specializing in creative content strategy, web analytics and conversion rate optimization for startups.
Related story: Why Retailers Should Tread Lightly With Predictive Analytics
Rohan Ayyar is the regional marketing manager for India at SEMrush. His blog, The Marketing Mashup, covers digital marketing from the perspective of B2B, B2C, lead generation, mobile marketing, SEO, social media, content marketing, database marketing including predictive analytics, and conversion rate optimization. In addition, he'll look at emerging marketing technology and how marketers can use it. Reach Ayyar at firstname.lastname@example.org.