You’ve built a beautiful eCommerce store to sell your awesome products. Phew, hard part over you think, now all I have to do is sit back and watch the sales roll in. But nobody is visiting your site. And when they do get there, they leave without buying anything.
The old adage of build it and they will come doesn’t apply to eCommerce stores, as it takes a lot of work to make them a success. Building your online store is just the first step of many. Here at GetApp we’ve put together 10 tips to help you promote your eCommerce store to get those visitors through your (virtual) doors and racing to the checkout.
Focus on site design
It’s no use deploying a strategy to attract visitors if the website isn’t up to scratch when they arrive. Your eCommerce site needs to be fast, attractive, and easy to use, while making it clear where and how you can make a purchase.
“The first step is to make it as easy for your customers to buy products on your site as possible. Make your products easy to read about, and make sure the pages load quickly,” says Matt Behnke, founder and CEO, Orthotic Shop, an eCommerce store that specializes in comfortable shoes and accessories. “All the advertising in the world won’t mean anything if your website is terrible.”
With eMarketer predicting that purchases from a mobile device will account for a third of UK retail eCommerce sales in 2015, it’s vital that your website is optimized for mobile use. This means responsive design. “This type of design essentially guarantees that your website is easy-to-use on nearly any platform imaginable,” says Austin Paley, director of Corporate Marketing at digital marketing agency Blue Fountain Media.
“For eCommerce sites where the ideal buyer is making an immediate purchase, if your website is difficult to use on a mobile phone, there is a good chance the user will become frustrated and not follow through with the purchase.”
Develop compelling content to drive SEO
Many people think of SEO as some kind of trick that will magically get visitors to come to a website. But the game is up. According to Garrett Perks, founder and creative director of digital marketing firm EvenVision, the days of paying a SEO firm to ensure the success of an eCommerce store are long gone. Building traffic and sales now require compelling content.
“Retailers should think about their story and their unique expertise, and develop informative, useful, industry-relevant content,” says Perks. “Answer the questions that users are asking in their search bars. If businesses are doing that well, Google is doing a good job of the rest – connecting searchers with useful, informative content that answers their questions. Approaching SEO in this way, with compelling content marketing, leverages Google as it is intended to function rather than trying to game the system.”
David Wright, president and chief marketing officer of online marketing firm W3 Group Marketing, believes that while the SEO “game” is constantly changing, the value of delivering unique, interesting content that gets liked, favorited, tweeted, shared, etc will remain powerful.
“Google and other search engines are focusing more and more on providing rich content that gets shared on social media,” he says. “Strive for 1500 words or more, with pictures, video and compelling text content to make the most of your posts.”
Think long-tail for long-term success
That’s not to say that you should abandon SEO altogether, as using long-tail keywords is a useful way to increase visits to your online store. “Instead of focusing simply on doing link building for generic keyword phrases (such as “gourmet coffee”) that get a large search volume, companies should focus initially on specific product brands and items,” says Jonathan Bentz, marketing manager at cloud infrastructure hosting company Netrepid.
“While there may be less search volume for a specific product (ie “Colombian dark roast coffee decaf”), the likelihood that a shopper is looking to buy is significantly higher for a long tail search. Apps such as SEMRush and Moz have great tools to help online retailers get accurate keyword estimates, cost per click rates, and determine difficulty for ranking in the organic results.”
Advertising can pay off
While compelling, shareable content will help boost your Google ranking, it will take time. This means that you’ll also need to focus on boosting direct traffic through some well-placed ads.
“Assuming your site is brand new and not rolling in organic traffic from Google, the best thing you can do is buy paid ads on either search engines or forums like Reddit,” says Quincy Smith, marketing director at Uplift ROI, a company focused on crowdsourced conversion rate optimization. “Offer a discount in the ad, measure the results, and tweak as needed based on the traffic you are receiving.”
“Organic and social are both very important and you can’t really afford to ignore them long term, but if you’re just getting started and need that initial boost in traffic, be sure to take out some ads. Then build in the rest over time,” adds Behnke.
Once these efforts have paid off and you have visitors (both organic and direct), the key is to ensure that you get them to buy something by incentivizing them to like or follow you on social media. “Display a popup with an additional promotion or contest for a like or share and then you will be able to market to them forever,” says Smith. “You will also find many share your contest or promo with their friends.”
“Take a good look at social profiles: are they set up?, what kind of audience do they have? (if any) and how can that be leveraged with specials, deals, and content to draw those social users onto the site?” adds Tyler Blackwell, inbound marketing strategist at search engine optimization practitioners Iterate Marketing.
Don’t neglect Pinterest and Instagram
Social media efforts often tend to focus on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, but don’t forget the visual power of Pinterest, Instagram, and even Slideshare. “Pinterest is a powerful tool for promotion of your eCommerce store. Build up your followers and your influence by featuring quality content and engaging with users,” says Leeyen Rogers, VP of Marketing at JotForm, a company that builds online forms. “Share not only your own products and offerings but also that of others, as you want to gain trust as a resource for great content. Blatant self-promotion does not do well on social media.”
LIV Swiss Watches, a small, independent, boutique-style brand, used Instagram to attract customers to its eCommerce site during its launch on Kickstarter at the end of 2014. “We were contacted by huge watch and fashion influencers who follow Kickstarter, and who promoted our campaign for us on their Instagram accounts,” says Esti Chazanow, co-founder and brand manager at the company. “We immediately saw a spike in our Kickstarter campaign as a result of their promotions. Our campaign was fully funded within the first 11 hours and we received close to $200,000 in total pledges. By the end of it, we had managed to pre-sell 500 watches.”
Tap into the reach of influencers
Maybe your own social media following isn’t quite generating the traffic and brand awareness you need. That’s when you should call in the experts – the influencers who have a loyal fan base can can help you out. “Reach out to influencers that have the kind of audience that you’re trying to reach,” says Rogers. “Give them samples of your products and exclusive access to deals and events so that they can explore your company and spread the word on their blog, video channel, or social media profiles.”
While social media is an incredibly useful tool for promoting your eCommerce store, don’t forget about the power of a targeted and relevant email newsletter or campaign. “It’s incredibly important to have a number of email campaigns set up to build trust and interact with potential customers during every step of the buying cycle,” says Liz Froment, project manager for TheMcMethod.com, which focuses on promoting eCommerce stores through email marketing. “That includes getting campaigns like cart abandonment, holiday scheduling, re-engagement, and sale notices.”
Once you’ve ticked all of the above boxes, you should have enough traffic coming in to do some analysis. “Google Analytics is great for eCommerce, you can analyze performance by page and identify product pages that just aren’t performing,” says Blackwell. “If you are struggling to turn users into buyers there are plenty of tools to use: Maybe you want to go with Unbounce to create a highly-targeted landing page, or maybe you want to use Google AdWords‘ remarketing campaigns to target display and search ads only to customers who abandoned their shopping cart.”
Retarget your users
In the old days, unless you captured a visitor’s email when they were on your site, once they left they were gone, probably forever. Due to advances in online advertising, that’s no longer the case. “Now you don’t have to look at customers as lost when they leave your site because remarketing can get them back to your website and give them another opportunity to buy,” says Wright.
“You can make sure people who visit your site start seeing your ads in other places – reinforcing their awareness of and familiarity of your brand, making them more likely to know, like and trust you enough to do business with you – done right, that is. Some companies overdo it so there is a balance that needs to be found.”
What have you done to successfully promote your eCommerce store and attract visitors? Share your top tips in the comments below or check out our top rated eCommerce apps.