Conversion Rate Optimization – The BigCommerce Blog https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog Ecommerce Blog delivering news, strategy and success stories to power 2x growth for scaling brands. Mon, 18 Jun 2018 21:51:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.6 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/cropped-e8d7fa0a-3b0e-4069-91b1-78460a4d4af1-150x150.png Conversion Rate Optimization – The BigCommerce Blog https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog 32 32 A Detailed (Step-By-Step) Look at Effective Ecommerce A/B Testing https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/ab-testing/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/ab-testing/#respond Fri, 25 May 2018 14:11:43 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=28685 Let’s start with the good news. But it’s not all bubblegum and roses. Frankly, you’re having challenges. Your store’s ecommerce…]]>

Let’s start with the good news.

You’re running a fairly successful ecommerce site. You’re making a decent amount of revenue and things are chugging along nicely.

But it’s not all bubblegum and roses.

Frankly, you’re having challenges.

  • Your store’s ecommerce conversion rate – and thus your conversion funnel – isn’t that great.
  • Carts get abandoned more than you’d like.
  • And your return on ad spend is only average.

You know things could be better, but you’re not sure what steps to take.

We’ve got some good news for you, and it’s called A/B testing.

You’re probably familiar with the term.

You’ve heard about the simplest examples of A/B testing like changing button colors and calls to action. But most ecommerce businesses don’t know how to do it effectively.

This is unfortunate, given that, when done well, A/B testing – or split testing – is one of the most powerful ways to improve some of the most important metrics in your business.

That’s what this article is all about.

We’re going to give you a detailed look at A/B testing, why you should do it, some examples, how it works, what you can test with it, when to use it, and much more.

This is your detailed roadmap to A/B testing.

Paige Gerber, Director of Content Experience, UberFlip

Always. Be. Testing. I can’t stress enough how important it is to test your messaging.

A/B testing is the only way to find out what your customers are looking to see before they hit the checkout and make a purchase.

Once you hone in on the copy, images, and call to actions that convert you’ll quickly see a direct correlation between understanding what your customers want and return on ad spend.

What Is A/B Testing?

Let’s start by making sure we’re all on the same page.

Most people think of A/B testing only in terms of small tweaks to button colors or calls-to-action or headlines, but it’s much deeper than that.

So what is A/B testing? Put simply…

It’s a method of determining which design, content or functionality is more successful with your site visitors. It allows you to test a variation of your page (or element on a page) that may affect your consumers behavior.

For example, it can involve:

  • Testing two different content layouts for the same product to see which layout produces more sales.
  • Or different product taxonomies for your site to see which one makes it easiest for customers to purchase from you.
  • Or moving navigation items around to see which results in more sales.

But here’s the thing…

A/B testing isn’t a one-time deal. It’s not one and done, like a college basketball player going pro.

Effective A/B testing ideally involves repeatedly testing improvements until you get the best possible version.

It’s an iterative process with each test building upon the results of the previous tests.

Like physical fitness, when A/B testing is done consistently and with focus, it allows you to incrementally improve your overall website design to better align with your consumer behavior and business goals.

When you start, you may not see massive gains; however, when you look back after several months, you’ll be amazed at the overall improvements.

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Why Should You Do A/B Testing?

As an ecommerce store owner, you’ve got dozens of tasks on your plate.

  • Listing products.
  • Optimizing products for SEO.
  • Responding to customer inquiries.
  • And a thousand more.

Why should you bother with A/B testing?

Is it really that effective?

Yes, it really is.

A/B testing allows you to significantly improve your customers’ shopping experience.

Happy customers translates into better click-through rates, more conversions, more revenue, greater loyalty, fewer complaints, and much, much more.

Not convinced? Take a look at Amazon.

How has Amazon managed to evolve from a site that only sold books to the largest ecommerce retailer in the world?

Much of it is due to CEO Jeff Bezos’ insistence on constantly testing, experimenting, and innovating.

As he noted in Fortune magazine:

“Experiments are key to innovation because they rarely turn out as you expect and you learn so much…If you can increase the number of experiments you try from a hundred to a thousand, you dramatically increase the number of innovations you produce.”

Bezos understands that, fundamentally, success comes from making your customers as happy as possible – making their shopping experience seamless and pain-free.

But to identify what makes them happy, you need to constantly hypothesize, test, experiment, and repeat.

Consider all the ways Amazon has made online shopping pleasant.

  • 1-click ordering.
  • Dash buttons that allow you to reorder products simply by pressing a button.
  • Two-day shipping.
  • A hugely powerful recommendation engine.

The list goes on and on.

These innovations didn’t occur randomly through some sort of ecommerce version of Darwinism.

Rather, they were the result of rigorous testing and then taking action based on this evidence-based approach.

And Amazon isn’t alone in their commitment to generating outstanding results through conversion optimization.

The most innovative companies in the world deploy it constantly, and you’re regularly exposed to multivariate tests whether you know it or not.

Have you ever noticed how Netflix regularly changes the cover images on television shows and films?

There’s a reason for that. The official Netflix Tech Blog notes:

In fact, every product change Netflix considers goes through a rigorous A/B testing process before becoming the default user experience.

Major redesigns…greatly improve our service by allowing members to find the content they want to watch faster.

However, they are too risky to roll out without extensive A/B testing, which enables us to prove that the new experience is preferred over the old.

And if you ever wonder whether we really set out to test everything possible, consider that even the images associated with many titles are A/B tested, sometimes resulting in 20% to 30% more viewing for that title!

With an astonishing amount of choices available in just about every industry, Amazon and Netflix realize that generating customer loyalty is critical.

They want to give people a reason to come back again and again.

A/B testing paves the way for that loyalty.

Jamie Turner, Author, Speaker, CEO at Jamie Turner Live

The first secret to ecommerce success is testing your way there. That’s always a top priority.

The second is to spend 10% of your time/budget testing new techniques and technologies.

And the third is to be sure to share your successes and failures with everybody internally. That way, you can be sure you have a staff with a knowledge base.

How Does A/B Testing Work?

Now that you have a general idea of the what and why of A/B testing, let’s dive into the specifics.

There are two primary types of A/B testing: client side and server side, with client-side being the more common.

  1. Client-side testing involves sending the exact same version of a page to every visitor and then using Javascript to make changes and tweaks within the visitor’s browser before the visitor is shown the resulting page.
  2. Server-side testing is when your web server shows visitors different page variations, altering them on the server before they are sent to the visitor’s browser. No modifications to the page are happening in the browser.

Regardless of which type is used, the general methodology is the same.

Using analytics tools, such as Google Analytics and HotJar, you evaluate the performance of each page variation.

For example, you may send 50% of your traffic to variation A and 50% of your traffic to variation B.

Then you analyze the data to determine whether variation A or variation B is more effective according to a set objective (conversion), whether that’s sales, email opt-ins, click-through rates, etc.

When it comes to Netflix, they may test the movie Pulp Fiction with two different covers to see which one generates the most views. Amazon may test the number of fields in their checkout process. You get the point.

However, there is a caveat.

A/B testing hinges on what’s called statistical significance.

In order to be confident that test results are accurate and not the result of an anomaly, a certain number of visitors (the sample size) must be reached.

If this threshold isn’t met, A/B tests can be inaccurate, leading you to implement changes that can actually hurt your site.

The implication?

If your site doesn’t get enough traffic, you may want to consider first investing in paid advertising or search engine optimization to increase your overall traffic numbers.

Once you’ve reached the necessary levels of traffic, you can implement A/B testing at any point and see a significant return on your investment.

If you need help determining at what point you’d see an ROI, here is a calculator you can use to determine how an A/B testing can impact your website.

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Where Do You Use A/B Testing?

A/B testing is all about removing consumer pain points. Whenever you can remove friction from the shopping process, it significantly increases the chances of conversions. Again, this is where Amazon stands out.

They’ve done everything possible to remove common online shopping hassles such as:

  • Filtering to find a specific product that matches your needs.
  • Comparing similar products, or those that were purchased alongside the currently viewed product.
  • Determining the overall quality of a product (they implement reviews, questions, photos, etc.).
  • Repeatedly filling in billing information.
  • Waiting a week for a package to arrive.
  • And much more.

In the context of your own ecommerce store, you can use A/B testing when comparing:

  • Different page layouts.
  • Navigation organization (where your menu is, etc.).
  • Headline effectiveness.
  • Body copy.
  • CTA copy and design.
  • Website photography and product images.
  • New visual styling for a page.
  • New pricing strategy.
  • Different promotions/offers.
  • And much more.

The beauty of A/B testing is that you can systematically work through each of these areas, incrementally and consistently improving each one to increase conversions.

Stephen Slater, Sr. SEO and Digital Advertising Manager, TopRank Marketing

Just because it’s launched doesn’t mean it’s done. Always test something new.

If your not testing and evolving from day 1 you are going to lose.

Keep testing. Keep getting better.

So many brands launch and expect everything to work right out of the gate. That’s rarely the case.

Test and get better. Then do it again.

There are so many A/B testing tools out there. Pick one and know it. Google Optimize, Unbounce, Optimizely… Pick one and test everything. 

A/B Testing Examples

A/B tests can come in many shapes and sizes.

Here are a few wireframes highlighting the types of A/B tests you might see as part of an optimization program.

Navigation A/B Test

In this test example, we aim to see whether consumers are able to better navigate a site and reach checkout by exposing the menu at the top level rather than through a drop-down menu.

AB testing navigation

Product Detail Page A/B Test

In this test example, we aim to see if placing more educational information about the product higher on the page will affect the add-to-cart rate.

AB testing product detail page

Form A/B Test

In this test example, we aim to see whether consumers are more inclined to complete a form with fewer fields and simpler placeholder text within the fields.

AB testing form

When Should You Use A/B Testing?

Random A/B testing is always a bad idea.

It results in you spending an inordinate amount of time testing areas that matter very little while ignoring the biggest drivers of growth.

And because you’re testing random variables, it makes it difficult to determine which changes have had the greatest effect.

Before you begin testing, you need a roadmap.

This roadmap will guide you specifically through what to test and in what order.

How do you create such a roadmap?

By doing thorough research on your customers and how they behave on your site.

Some of the research tools include:

  • Analytics – Identify your most popular pages, CTR, traffic sources, pages with a high bounce rate, paths through your site, etc.
  • Heatmaps – Discover exactly where and how people navigate your site. See where they click, where they pause, where they get confused, etc.
  • User Tests – Personally watch users navigate your site to discover where points of friction occur. Proper user testing will also include the testing subjects speaking out loud about what they are experiencing as they complete tasks on your site.
  • Surveys – Directly ask your customers about their shopping experiences. Did they encounter any problems? What would they like to see improved?

After doing a thorough analysis of your customer’s behavior, you can begin to develop hypotheses about your current website and how you might improve the overall customer experience.

These hypotheses then form the basis of your A/B testing roadmap.

Each of them will be systematically tested. Those that are proven statistically valid will be implemented and those that aren’t will be discarded.

What Are The Benefits Of A/B Testing?

A/B testing works so well because it’s entirely based on numbers.

There’s no relying on gut feelings or instinct.  Flashes of “inspiration” are only accepted if the numbers prove them out.

Changes are only implemented if they are validated by the data.

Additionally, A/B testing dramatically reduces the risks normally associated with redesigning your website.

Instead of a taking a big gamble on an entire site redesign, which ultimately could lead to your conversions tanking, you’re making small, incremental improvements.

Each of these improvements is geared toward improving the customer experience.

Finally, A/B testing cuts through the opinions of those paid the most.

Your position or salary don’t determine which changes are implemented. Only the data does.

What Are The Challenges of A/B Testing?

We’d be lying if we said A/B testing was a magic bullet and that one test will fix everything and cause your revenue to skyrocket.

The reality is that it’s an ongoing, incremental, iterative process.

It’s like going to the gym. A single workout isn’t going to do much for your physique. Random workouts aren’t going to help much either.

If you want results, you need a plan that you consistently implement.

The same goes for A/B testing.

Once you develop your roadmap, you need to follow it closely.

Areas of improvement will be tested systematically, and each test will build upon the results of the previous test.

It’s not sexy and it’s not as fast as just making the change, like in a fad diet. It’s a workout. And it’s proven to be effective.

And there are specific challenges involved:

1. It requires a fair amount of experience to do effectively.

There are a number of specific tools used in A/B testing, and some of these tools have a steep learning curve.

Additionally, there needs to be a fundamental understanding of web design, statistical analysis, and other domain-specific knowledge.

2. It’s a process.

Contrary to what many articles would have you believe, A/B testing is not a silver bullet.

A single test probably won’t do much for your revenue.

As mentioned above, it’s about developing a long-term plan and then sticking to that plan. It’s about targeting specific goals and improvements over time.

3. Traffic is required.

We touched on this above but it bears repeating. While the amount of site visitors will vary depending on the test and the objectives, you need at least a fair amount of traffic to ensure that your tests are statistically valid.

If your site has a low traffic volume, you’ll probably need to work on raising that before you can begin A/B testing.

Given The Challenges, Is A/B Testing Worth It?

So, given the challenges and struggles listed above, is A/B testing still worth it?

While we certainly understand the hesitance, we’ve seen again and again just how powerful A/B testing can be.

When done properly, it can have a huge impact on some of your most important Key Performance Indicators (KPIs):

1. Improved return on ad spend (ROAS).

The more friction you remove from your website, the more paid traffic turns into sales, effectively increasing your return on ad spend.

2. Reduced customer acquisition cost.

Similar to how testing helps improve ROAS, the money you spend on other methods of customer acquisition will benefit from the reduced friction and will shrink your customer acquisition cost (CAC).

3. Increased lifetime customer value (LTV).

Testing makes your website more sticky and engaging which helps drive more return business. In other words, the easier you make the shopping process, the more customers will want to come back again and again.

This increases your customer lifetime value.

4. Increased email signup conversion rate.

Your email list can be a huge revenue driver.

Testing different ways of inviting new subscribers will help you maximize your email list sign-ups which increases the people you can promote your products or services to.

5. Increased average order value (AOV).

Increased testing can help you find out what product bundles or upsell opportunities could work best, increasing your average order value.

At scale, this directly impacts your bottom line revenue.

6. Reduced cart abandonment rate.

Every time a person abandons their cart, that’s money walking out your digital door.

Using A/B testing to optimize your checkout process can remove friction, confusion, and mistrust, and reduce your cart abandonment rate.

7. Increased ecommerce conversion rate (CR).

Smoothing out any barriers on the path to purchase using A/B testing is the most effective way to increase your conversion rate.

As you can see, despite the challenges, A/B testing can make a massive difference in the growth and overall revenue of your ecommerce business.

How Can You Find The Right A/B Testing Solution?

When it comes to A/B testing, experience and skill is just as, if not more important than the tools themselves.

First, you need to determine whether you want to do the testing in-house or hire an outside agency to do the testing.

Evaluating Skill Sets

Regardless, of your choice, here are some of the key skills to look for in testing and optimization are:

  • Data research.
  • Statistical analysis.
  • UX design.
  • Behavioral psychology.
  • Project management.
  • Persuasive writing.
  • Conversion strategy for conversion optimization.
  • User research.
  • Information architecture.
  • HTML and CSS.
  • jQuery and JavaScript.
  • And more.

CRO is a robust process requiring a variety of skills.

Each of these skills contributes uniquely to the CRO process, and the absence of any of them can lead to ineffective A/B testing.

Using The Right A/B Testing Tools

There are also a number of specific tools required to do A/B testing.

The two most commonly used tools are Optimizely and VWO.

Both offer a full suite of A/B testing tools, including the ability to easily deploy tests, analyze the results, evaluate website heat maps, and much more.

Examples of Tools You Can Use For A/B Testing:
  • Optimizely.
  • VWO.

The Good uses these types of tools.

A few things to note about Optimizely:

Optimizely is a feature-rich, enterprise-level A/B testing tool, and is priced accordingly. It is widely considered the industry leader for larger sites.

That said, for many small to medium-sized businesses it can be like using a semi-truck when a pickup will do. We recommend considering whether you will realistically utilize its full suite of features before you select this tool.

A few things to note about VWO:

Visual Website Optimizely (or VWO) is an effective small to medium sized business A/B testing tool.

It provides a solid mix of features that will do all of the core tasks that a professional A/B testing tool should. While it does not offer as many premium features as Optimizely, it is often a more cost-effective alternative for many growing businesses.

Google also recently released a free tool called Google Optimize, which can be good for beginners but doesn’t provide the robust set of tools you need to truly do A/B testing effectively.

Whichever tool you choose, spend time researching the capabilities, pricing, and overall level of support for each.

Also, if you plan on doing your testing in-house, be sure you feel some level of comfort with the software you choose.

Using Conversion Rate Optimization Service Providers for A/B Testing

In addition to the proliferation of SaaS applications designed to help you implement A/B testing, a number of service based businesses provide A/B testing and conversion rate optimization as a ‘done-for-you’ service.

Be warned though: it has become fashionable for many marketing agencies to add CRO or A/B testing to their laundry list of services, yet have little more than beginner knowledge.

There is a simplistic way to do A/B testing and a more methodical and professional way to do it. Make sure you’re getting the latter.

Some things to look for in A/B testing services are:

  • Whether they offer CRO as an add-on to other marketing services or focus exclusively on CRO.
  • Case studies that demonstrate previous CRO success. These case studies should make clear the specific processes they used to achieve their results.
  • Whether they’re data-driven. CRO should always be data driven. Any methodology that relies on intuition, flashes of “insight”, or hunches, isn’t CRO. It’s random guessing that most often turns out to be incorrect.
  • If they have a defined CRO process. A true CRO firm should have a specific, defined CRO process that they follow again and again. If they don’t, it’s a sign that they probably don’t know what they’re doing.
  • Do they focus on the short term or long term. Optimization is about playing the long game. Shooting for quick results involves taking shortcuts, or not waiting for enough test results to make a proper recommendation, which almost always disrupt the process and produce inaccurate results. The best CRO firms are squarely focused on implementing a robust plan over the long run.

Bottom line: Don’t assume that because a digital agency says they do CRO, they actually do CRO. Do your research. Ask the right questions. The research is time well spent.

For an in-depth guide on how to evaluate a CRO agency, read this whitepaper.

Conclusion: Don’t Neglect A/B Testing

A/B testing is one of the most powerful and effective ways to drive ecommerce growth.

Some of the biggest, most profitable companies in the world have achieved their massive success in large part due to A/B testing.

Generally speaking, if Amazon does something, other ecommerce sites should pay attention.

A/B testing worked for Amazon.

It will work for you.

Want more insights like this?

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How to Build an Ecommerce Sales Funnel to Drive Growth [21 Examples + a Free Workshop] https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/ecommerce-sales-funnel/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/ecommerce-sales-funnel/#comments Fri, 19 Jan 2018 14:46:47 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=24522 Online sales accounted for 11.7% ($394.9 billion USD) of total retail sales last year, according to the U.S. Department of…]]>

Online sales accounted for 11.7% ($394.9 billion USD) of total retail sales last year, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

That’s up 15.6% year-over-year.

With this move to online, having an ecommerce presence is no longer innovative enough to win you sales.

No matter your industry.

Instead, retailers need sound strategies to drive business growth — that means:

  1. Retaining existing customers
  2. Attracting new ones by meeting them when and where they shop.

To help drive that growth, online brands need to think about their consumer and that individual’s buying journey.

One way to model the consumer journey is through a funnel, starting at the top with awareness and going through to an ultimate, final action — a purchase.

Though a consumer’s journey through the funnel is not linear, it provides businesses with a strategic framework from which to build out a plan.

Below are the four stages to the funnel, what the goals of each stage are and examples for bringing those stages to life.

In all, we’ve brought you 21 examples showing you exactly how other online brands are building their funnel –– and how you can, too.

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The Awareness Stage

  • What it is: The “top of funnel” is the first stage in the sales funnel; it’s the awareness stage.
  • When it matters: This is where potential customers become aware of your business and offerings (e.g. a product or a service) and how it may solve a pain point.
  • Keep in mind: The potential customer may not even know they have a problem that you could solve. Therefore, the goal of this stage in the funnel is to make the potential customer aware by focusing on content — or information — that identifies consumer segments, highlights a potential problem and introduces your brand.

Think of the awareness stage as an initial conversation between you and the potential customer.

You both are getting to know each, with the potential customer demonstrating some interest. Introduce yourself.

Do not try to make a hard sell.

In practice, this can take many forms.

The B2C Awareness Stage

If you’re an ecommerce B2C brand selling razor blades, for instance, your initial interaction with the potential customer could take the form of content that tries to draw people into the brand’s website or community.

Take a look at Dorco’s Shave Talks content site, for example.

The brand isn’t hard selling their razors.

Instead, the goal is to education –– bring the customer along to journey to begin to think they may need a different razor.

That’s always the first step.

Look at a few of the examples they are using to really hit on pain points potential customers may be having, and then educating them on how to solve for those.

  • The goal is to become a valuable resource for people looking for solutions – which Dorco happens to have.
  • The goal –– again –– is to give value long before the brand gets anything in return.

Check out some these content pieces Dorco is using to achieve those 2 goals:

In general, this content provides information that the customer may find valuable.

It may even solve a problem — whether they knew it beforehand or not — that they have.

Again, this content in the awareness stage does not attempt to sell anything.

The B2B Awareness Stage

Likewise, a B2B brand needs to offer up similar content that tries to be a valuable resource and not a hard sell.

In the case of the B2B brand, though, your content might be very specific to a particular audience — the C-suite, product managers, marketers, etc. — and it may offer up more thought leadership and technical content.

Freund Container is a great example of this.

This B2B brand provides valuable content resources to prospective buyers, getting down and dirty in the details to educate customers.

Here’s a 3 step walk through of some of their helpful content in the awareness stage (which is also good for SEO!).

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

The Role of SEO in the Awareness Stage

Driving awareness of your brand is not just about content, though.

Whether the potential customer is searching for a product (e.g., razor blades for men) or trying to find a solution to a problem they have (e.g., eliminating ingrown hairs), they will likely do an online search.

Your job, then?

Be one of the first batch of results that populate the search results.

According to Ignite Visibility, a digital marketing firm, position 1 on Google receives a 44.64% click-through rate.

That number drops to 28.92 percent for the result in position 2, and 17.26 percent for the result in position 10.

Let’s take a look at how Dorco is doing with a “mens razors” keyword search:

As you can see, by having a well-honed search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) strategy, you can increase your chances of catching your customer’s eye.

Dorco’s SEM strategy is strong given the competitive market – allowing it to rank #2 in the ad placements.

Similarly, it’s men’s shaving category page ranks #3 on Google for a high traffic, very brand-relevant keyword.

But look at what would happen to their traffic if they could move to #2…

Google uses a handful of barometers to gauge which sites it delivers to searchers, including site speed, relevance and mobile-readiness.

Above, you’ll see Ahrefs pulls in Domain Ranking as well –– showing that one quick fix Dorco could make is increasing its DR.

You do that by getting more links from other sites with high DR.

Here are three things you can do to help boost your brand’s Google search engine ranking.

  1. Improve site speed by using the HTTP/2 network protocol by accepting multiple concurrent requests and therefore reduce dormancy. Faster speed can also be achieved by limiting 404 errors, too many redirects and orphaned pages.
  2. Shift your focus from content quantity to content quality. Previously, Google rewarded sites for their breadth of content. No more. Today, sites with well-researched, organized content, with an emphasis on multi-media, are in favor. Why? Because backlinks matter (as you can see in the Ahrefs chart above). And you only get backlinks from quality sites when you publish quality content.
  3. Make sure your site is mobile-optimized. How long someone stays on your site and what they do there (click, for instance) matters. Google reads this as engagement, and the more engagement you have, the higher you rank. Why? Because engagement indicates that they content is answering the query the user input. If your site isn’t mobile-optimized, folks won’t stay on your site long and Google will lower your ranking.

Here are a few next steps your brand can take to increase your search results ranking and drive increased awareness stage traffic.

1. Write long-form, educational content including video and/or downloadables.

Google measures engagement on a page, and anything that gets someone to click counts.

A good way to do this is via a lookbook or on-site magazine, which requires –– you guessed it –– clicking!

Check out LEMS’ below (or the version on the site here).

Or Natori’s here (or the site version here).

2. Create educational videos about your brand and why you started.

Use those in blog posts and on your homepage –– as well as in Facebook ads.

Many brands do this well –– both using videos to tell the brand’s story and advertising that on Facebook to drive fans and conversions.

3. Create short, educational videos or visual content that showcase your product.

Use those to advertise on Facebook and in blog posts to drive traffic.

And use personality, too!

See how GoRuck makes this work with their visual blog content.

See the entire post here.

Here is another great example from Renogy.

They sell B2C solar panels – and must do a lot of leg work to educate customers on why they need them, how they are made and their long-term value. They use tons of content, calculators and more to do this – as well as this video.

4. Create tools to help educate consumers and build trust with your brand.

Speaking of Renogy and the calculators they have created, these are great examples of tools to help educate your audience.

Tools like these help potential new customers dive deeper into the benefits and bring them closer to the purchasing phase.

Plus, they generate high SEO value due to the engagement that occurs on the page.

Let’s look at another example – well, 2 – from NaturallyCurly.com.

NaturallyCurly uses tools to educate those with curly hair on their type and what to expect in the coming days. They do this with two tools (and push their product through them as well).

First, the Texture Quiz – which lets people know what type of curly hair they have (and the products that go best with it).

Here’s the full page.

They also have a Frizz Forecast that allows folks to drop in their zip code and will show them their hair forecast for the next few days.

Editor’s note: mine is *always* frizzy. The perils of living in Austin, Texas. Here’s the full page.

The Interest Stage

  • What it is: The second stage of the sales funnel is the “interest” phase.
  • When it matters: When a potential customer moves into this stage of the funnel, it means they are interested in your brand’s story or the pain point you may be solving. They are, well, interested in learning more.
  • Keep in mind: Just because a potential customer is aware of a brand and its products and/or services, it doesn’t mean that the potential customer has an interest.

It may just be bad timing for some.

For others, there can be varying lengths of “awareness” that stretch out over days, weeks, months, and so on. Or, there will be those you might not be able to interest at all.

This is to be expected. Each customer is different, and each moves (or doesn’t) through the funnel at their own pace.

When the potential customer does move into the interest stage, it takes the form of making further initial contact.

Meaning, for example:

  • if you have a newsletter, they subscribe
  • if you have a white paper, they download
  • if you have a social media presence, they connect.

The interest stage is a way for the potential customer to engage further with your brand to see what you have to offer, still without the hard sell.

Let’s go back to our NaturallyCurly example.

A tool like the Frizz Forecast is a chance to connect their content to their product.

The potential customer uses the tool, sees the forecast and then immediately gets product recommendations that can solve for their immediate needs.

Beyond that obvious connection, the interest stage in the funnel is a chance for the potential customer to essentially window shop.

Here are 3 ways to help keep that interested consumer browsing and potentially move them into the next stage of the funnel (where you make money!)

1. Use navigation wisely.

Your visitor needs to know where to go, how to get there and what to do.

A header that travels with him to allow him to toggle between pages will keep him on the site longer.

Help by including filters that allow him or her to scale down the products he sees on each page to a list that speaks to what he is looking for, and buttons that allow him to quickly make a purchase.

This is called faceted search.

Here’s a great example from online boutique YALA, where you can clearly see the cookie trail of the page you are on, have access to faceted search and can filter based on additional preferences.

2. Integrate social media into your site.

Include links to your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, to ensure that potential customers have a way of connecting with you, and you with them, on the platforms they use most.

Olive Mattress does this in a really cool and innovative way.

First, they include their social media accounts in the footer of the site so that they show up on every single page.

This makes their social media accounts easy to find, but not interruptive of the shopping experience.

Then, they also include social media links out to the founders on the About Us pages.

This allows folks to follow and interact with the founders themselves.

Why does this matter?

Because buying a mattress is a high cost purchase – and people often want to be able to talk to the retailer about it.

On site customer service chats can help – but so can social media, where people already are.

3. Provide an offer and have clear calls to action.

In exchange for his or her email, give your visitor an offer for a discount off a first purchase, or bonus item upon a certain spend.

This will reel him in and provide a way for you to reach our after he has left the site.

Crossrope does this well by on inviting members to a 30-day fitness challenge, and using pop-up social proof to show others joining in.

Using a pop-up offer when someone lands on the page, they then push you to a landing page (this allows them to advertise this page across the web, rather than relying on the pop-up alone) to gather an email address.

Here is the two step process:

Step 1. See the site here.

Step 2. See the full page here.

You can also choose to eliminate the landing page potion, and nab email addresses with a discount.

Rock Revival does this well.

Here’s their example.

The Decision Stage

  • What it is: The third stage in the funnel is the “decision” stage.
  • When it matters: Here, the consumer has moved beyond browsing products and solutions to contemplating a purchase. In this stage, your job as the brand is to convince the consumer of the value of the actual product or service.
  • Keep in mind: Proving value can be achieved through a variety of means. For example:
    • Word of mouth
    • User-generated content
    • Social proof
    • Case studies

Here are three tactics to help demonstrate product/service value to the consumer and help move them to a purchase decision.

1. Provide clear, compelling product descriptions.

When your shopper can’t touch the pair of jeans he is eyeing or hold them up to his legs to gauge their fit, he is forced to rely on the information you provide him.

Seize this opportunity by providing:

  • Clear product descriptions, including specifications like sizing charts, measurements, weight, and key materials,
  • Using bullet points and high-resolution visuals to display this information in an easy-to-digest format.

Yumi does this well with a pop-out sizing chart for all of their products.

See the full page here.

Beatific, the seller of a paper journal, also does this well, calling out the product’s specific build and materials.

This helps buyers understand why *this* journal over others.

See the full page here.

2. Online shoppers trust peer reviews.

Be sure to include those online reviews on your site.

Make the experience a valuable one for potential customers by providing written reviews rather than a star system only, and make the time to keep on top of the reviews coming in and reply to valid complaints promptly and professionally.

See below how Enertion Board assures customers that product reviews are real and verified – to add additional social proof for the purchase.

See the full page here.

Here’s another example from TrainingMask.com.

See the full page here.

3. Offer perks.

Perks such as free shipping, relevant discounts, and easy returns can both make buying seamless, get customers into follow through on their purchase and entice them to buy from you again.

Look at how SerengeTee adds immediacy to their discounted shipping messaging just by using, “Today.”

This helps to increase engagement with a promotion by using a psychological trigger.

The Action Stage

  • What it is: The fourth, and final, stage in the sales funnel is the “action” stage.
  • When it matters: Once a consumer has made their decision to purchase, they need a final push to action — making that purchase from your ecommerce site.
  • Keep in mind: One way to ensure the consumer takes action on your site is by focusing on a frictionless purchasing experience.

Here are 4 tips to help improve the online checkout experience.

1. Use predictive entry to auto-populate fields.

Help your customer save time at checkout by allowing him to create an account which will fill in transactional fields such as shipping and billing addresses, saving him precious minutes and getting him to the “Buy Now” button faster.

Many customers’ computers will do this for them –– as you can see in the example below.

One-click technology via digital wallets can also alleviate this pain point.

3. Use progress indicators.

These keep users up to speed on what part of the checkout process they are in, and keep your customers’ baskets in full view throughout the checkout process so they are less inclined to move away from the transaction to check cost, size, and other specifications.

This is particularly important is you are not using a one-page checkout.

In the example above, you can see the hover price, product, shipping and tax indicators.

On multi-page checkouts, you want to ensure you are using progress indicators to move customers long.

A good way to do this is my sandwiching next steps and expectations for a customer on a single page. Your ecommerce platform should be able to do this for you out of the box.

Here’s an example for Osmotics Cosmeceuticals.

2. Make customers aware of your site’s security.

Educate consumers on the security measures of your website to let them know that their personal and payments information is well guarded.

With high-profile data breaches announced in the news, this could help alleviate concerns during uncertain times.

A good place to do this is in your footer –– which will remain persistent throughout your site and continue to security message.

Here’s an example from NextAge Mississippi’s product page.

3. Accept all forms of payment.

With the myriad of ways to pay, it’s crucial to meet the preferences of your customers by offering acceptance of all card types.

Your customer might carry multiple cards for different purposes.

Likewise, this includes integrating digital payments into your checkout experience.

For example, explore accepting digital wallets such as Android Pay, Apple Pay, Amazon Pay and Samsung Pay.

How to Setup an Ecommerce Sales Funnel

In all, an understanding and proper use of the sales funnel can help fuel and increase your online sales.

Think about your customer, and think about how you can facilitate each stage of their buying journey.

Here are the steps:

  1. Build awareness by offering value.
  2. Optimize your content offerings for SEO and paid social to drive traffic.
  3. Create tools to solve potential customer pinpoints and win hearts and minds.
  4. Use data from tools and on-site engagement to push potential customers to the products most helpful for their needs.
  5. Setup on-site navigation to allow customers to find what they need quickly and easily.
  6. Use clear calls to action.
  7. A/B test content, calls to action and advertising copy to see which messages and offers engage the most.
  8. Provide in-depth product breakdown content to drive home the final purchasing decision
  9. Use security seals to prove site security.
  10. Offer perks like free shipping or promotions to make the offer sweeter.
  11. Use predictive entry to auto-populate fields to make checkout easier.
  12. Accept all forms of payment.

And that’s it! For a walk through of exactly how to set this up on BigCommerce – checkout our workshop below.

Build an Ecommerce Sales Funnel to 2X Growth

Real feedback from real workshop attendees:

“I have almost doubled my internet sales using only 3 points from this workshop.

Plus, I do zero paid marketing.

The full hour is worth every second!”

That story can be yours, too. Register now. 

Get The Data Now

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72% of Sites Fail Ecommerce Site Search Expectations: 3 Steps + a Checklist to Ensure Yours Isn’t One of Them https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/ecommerce-site-search/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/ecommerce-site-search/#comments Tue, 09 Jan 2018 16:24:02 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=26541 It’s official: mobile ecommerce on-site search experiences are abysmal. You probably didn’t need a study to prove that out. In…]]>

It’s official: mobile ecommerce on-site search experiences are abysmal.

You probably didn’t need a study to prove that out.

We’ve all been there, after all – typing on a mobile screen into a tiny box that serves us little to no accurate results.

In fact, according to a recent Baymard Institute Mobile Ecommerce Usability study, most of us use on-site search when on mobile (and over other mobile search experiences).

Here’s exactly what they found:

On-site search was found to be the preferred product finding strategy of the test subjects, as they perceived it to be faster than category navigation.

And yet, despite most of us using on-site searches on mobile, the mobile search experience on ecommerce sites is almost entirely broken.

Even on desktop – where consumers using on-site search spend 3-4x more with a given brand – most online stores fall short.

“[This data] comes as little surprise, as we’ve already documented how severely desktop ecommerce search misaligns with users’ search behavior,” points out the author of the Baymard study.

“For example, 70% of (desktop) ecommerce search implementations are unable to return relevant results for product-type synonyms (requiring users to search using the exact same jargon as the site) and 34% don’t return useful results when users search for a model number or misspell a word with just a single character in the product title.”

That’s a big deal – because if a consumer is taking the time to type in what exactly they are looking for from your brand, then they are further down the funnel than any other potential consumer on your site.

And yet, most ecommerce brands treat on-site search as an afterthought.

But you shouldn’t, because ignoring on-site search results in:

  • Lower desktop average order value
  • Decreased mobile conversion
  • Reduced SEO – and thus, less organic traffic

With so many brands ignoring this issue, it’s important to break this down to the basics. After all, consumers are using site search bars (despite all the odds against them – hard to see, difficult to use, etc.) and brands still aren’t paying any attention to them.

Meet the Consumers Who Use On-Site Search

Broadly speaking, online shoppers can be split up into two predominant types:

  1. Browsers.
  2. Searchers.

The first type – Browsers – goes through a string of behaviors that is the online equivalent to window-shopping.

They are shoppers who really don’t know precisely what they are looking for, or perhaps are not sure exactly how to verbally express what they want.

Browsers can navigate through multiple merchandise collections, often using the site menu and view many products in one session, without ultimately buying a thing.

Searchers, on the other hand, are shoppers who exhibit a clear intent.

When navigating a website, particularly an ecommerce website, they are looking for a category of products, a specific product, color, or even a SKU.  

The above example is from a nationally recognized online store, where their best performing on-site search keywords are SKUs.

This focused behavior leads to a exponentially higher likelihood of conversion. This is why search can be characterized as the most important conversion vehicle on on your website.

3 Ways to Optimize Mobile Search for Increased Sales

Think of on-site search as a handy assistant to your most important shoppers – those who exhibit a clear intent.

This is especially true on mobile, where on-site search experiences across 50 of the top online brands (in the study conducted by Baymard) shows the brands average mobile on-site search experience is way below customer expectation par.

This makes sense. Here are the 2 biggest issues confronting searching mobile consumers.  

  1. When it comes to mobile, the smaller screen and touch functionality affects browsing experience.
  2. Viewing is more limited than on desktop. On mobile, a consumer typically sees only one or two products per screen, while on a laptop or desktop it’s likely that dozens of products are visible at once.

These cause mobile browsing to be a more tedious experience –– causing shoppers to abandon the funnel and lose you the sale.

Is it possible this variance in mobile behavior and lack of UX is partly responsible for the lower mobile conversion rate when compared to desktop?

It’s only a correlation, but it’s enough so to light a fire under any brand not focusing on optimizing for it.

Here are 3 tips to power-up mobile site search for your store.

1. Make your mobile search box visible and open.

Designers and UX professionals know the importance of search, and typically assign it prime real estate in a custom theme.

However, in many default store themes, the search box is missing or hidden on the mobile screen.

As a result, search becomes a small magnifying glass icon that is hardly noticeable to the eye, or worse, buried among many other menu items.

Recognize this?

Keep in mind, that shoppers of the ‘Searchers’ variety are your most important customers, and they already know what they want to buy.

Make your search box visible, open and easily accessible, so that people can engage with it intuitively.

What follows is common sense: if your mobile shoppers can type what they are looking for and find it quickly, conversion is not only more likely, it is accelerated.

When shoppers see a clear, open search box front and center, they are encouraged to start their journey by telling you what they are looking for.

Let’s look at 3 examples:

1. BB Crafts.

Bbcrafts.com’s visible search box helps shoppers find what they want on mobile, with the search bar clearly visible and ready for text just below the logo.

2. So Good to Buy.

So Good to Buy has a similar design, putting the search bar open and clearly visible just above the logo and below the sales banners.

3. Sam’s Furniture.

Sam’s Furniture’s mobile search bar blends more into the theme, but remains open and visible. It also allows for a photo search option as well.

Sam’s Furniture One of the Most Innovative Brands of 2017

Selling furniture online is hard. Not because its expensive. Not because there are a ton of competitors.

Those things matter, sure, but it is the difficulty in shipping that is the real issue.

Here’s how Sam’s Furniture figured it out.

2. Use rich autocomplete with error-correction to engage shoppers.

Google has cornered nearly 80% of the web search market. It’s safe to assume your online shoppers are familiar with it.

We are all therefore conditioned by Google to expect an autocomplete function.

This means that the search engine predicts a search query as it is typed.

When the autocomplete mechanism works well, it:

  • Helps users save time
  • Iterates their search queries better
  • Finds the results they’re looking for, faster.

In ecommerce, these benefits extend not only to suggesting the search query, but also suggesting the most relevant products.

If the user selects a popular query, he or she would get to a results page, without the need to type the entire product name or search query.

In addition to saving time, this implicitly also assures the shopper that they’re in the right place, since they are not the only one searching for this particular term, phrase or item.

If, alternatively, a shopper selects a recommended product, they would proceed to land on the product page.

From there, they can conveniently click the “Buy” button and begin the checkout process, without first going through a search results page.

Here’s how that process works.

  1. Go to search
  2. Type in search – it auto-populates
  3. Go to product pages instead of search category page

This quick shift from search to product page, in turn, accelerates the purchase cycle and speeds up conversion.

What’s more is that on mobile, autocomplete holds even greater importance, since screen real-estate is scarce, and smartphone typing is error-prone and somewhat harder to execute, compared to desktop.

This is precisely why rich autocomplete is infinitely crucial to mobile conversion.

Shoppers should be able to find products even if they misspell all or part of their query, and this is more likely to happen if visitors are engaged from the very first character they type.

Let’s look at another example by Group Vertical, which uses rich autocomplete to engage shoppers and minimize the typing requirement.

3. Use merchandising to promote products where it matters.

Search is all about anticipating shoppers’ intent.

And with AI on the horizon and machine learning getting faster and much, much smarter –– on-site search may be the first arena to employ these new technologies.

After all, AI algorithms predict with high accuracy which products a shopper will select at a given moment for a specific search query.

For instance, when a shopper searches for “running shoes” – what are the products he or she are most likely products to click on?

AI and machine learning can get us closer to the results.

Search apps and search engines are self-learning. This means that those engines analyze, learn and improve the relevance of search results over time.

It’s why every so often, Google has a major update to their algorithm. As the algorithm evolves, so does the code and thus engineers must get involved.

Of course, machine learning and AI are only half of the equation.

The other half relates to the online merchant’s strategic choices, which can vary according to a number of business related considerations, including:

  • Item profitability
  • Ongoing or ad-hoc promotions
  • Stock shortage and surplus

These merchandising decisions dictate a variety of decisions:

  • Which products are promoted ahead of others
  • Which products are hidden or buried according to season, promotion or keyword
  • Which products appear in searches initiated from specific geographic locations.
  • Which products appear for specific customer groups and segments

Advanced merchandising capabilities are doubly crucial when it comes to mobile shopping.

Once again, this is due to the small screen size, and the fact that shoppers who browse search results will typically only look at only the first few to see if that’s what they are looking for before moving on.

You can’t count on shoppers giving you a second chance – not when competition may be out-UXing you.

By ensuring that the search algorithm takes into account not only the verbiage used, but also other factors such as user behavior, location and promotions, merchants can better match shoppers’ intent and display the most relevant results possible.

Then, the path to conversion is quicker.

rcplanet.com is merchandising search results to optimize conversion with over 50,000 products. This is key for parts and whole product vendors. They need to promote whole products ahead of their parts. In the example above, you see that when you search for drone, you first get the whole drone product rather than drone engine replacement part.

Your On-Site Search Optimization Checklist

If you’ve been struggling to improve mobile conversion rate in on your site, dive in to your on-site search report and see what shows up.

  • Are folks searching for items that get no results?

Don’t be like HP. Ensure your search results always show something relevant – or at least moves them to another idea.

  • What are your most popular search terms?

Can you use those to inform your SEO strategy, too? The above keywords get people to click on the product page. That would probably be the case on Google, too. Try it out!

  • Are consumers using site search at all?

BigCommerce’s in-store search analytics report breaks down in-store search queries to help you better investigate needs. Learn more about the report here.

Additional apps you can use like Instant Search+ also provide in-depth search analytics for better decision making and optimization prioritization.

  • Can you install a heat map tool (Lucky Orange, for instance) to see if users hover or click on the bar?

The above questions are how you determine if your on-site search functionality needs a facelift.

And in all likelihood – it does.

Not even the biggest brands out there get this right even 50% of the time. But you can.

And that’s how you win over the competitors.

Recommended Site Search Functionality & Best Practices
  • Make sure your search bar in visible on all devices.
  • Use autocomplete for quicker searches.
  • Ensure misspellings still have results.
  • Merchandise on-site search results for relevance.
  • Turn your frequently searched for items into FAQs for SEO.
  • Use images rather than only text.

Additional Store Search Best Practices

Learn how to set up your BigCommerce site for an exceptional on-site search experience now.

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The Ultimate 2018 Ecommerce Checklist: 31 Experts Prioritize 19 Growth Tactics to Implement Now https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/ecommerce-growth-hacking-strategies/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/ecommerce-growth-hacking-strategies/#comments Wed, 20 Dec 2017 17:56:19 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=26205 Immediately following Cyber Five of 2017, I sent an email out to a bunch of ecommerce experts and multi-million dollar…]]>

Immediately following Cyber Five of 2017, I sent an email out to a bunch of ecommerce experts and multi-million dollar ecommerce store owners.

I wanted to:

  1. See how they did over Cyber Five – obviously!
  2. Get a feel for where their heads were at

That latter reason had me asking these crazy smart, crazy successful folks what was on the horizon for ecommerce in 2018.

That focus on 2018 was important –– and asking them after Cyber Five even more so.

Why?

Because a lot happens in a year within retail and ecommerce.

And every new product, tool, technology and strategy that enters the market hits a crux during Cyber Five.

That’s when those new rules to success have to pass a very hard test:

Do these strategies actually work under the height of industry traffic, sales and scrutiny?

Let me give you an example:

2017 has been the year of Facebook Advertising.

But we’ve all been in that year before, with another tool you have heard of: Google Shopping and PLAs.

Those two tactics still work wonders for brands, with the caveat that:

  1. Competition is fierce and as a result…
  2. Costs are high.

Those two factors often make Google Shopping and PLAs harder for brands making less than $10M in annual sales to compete.

It’s a big-box play where demand is high and visibility is low in supply. And you all well understand economics 101.

Facebook is about to go through the same transition.

But I’ll let one of my go-to experts on Facebook Advertising explain this for me.

In 2018, one thing is guaranteed, Facebook Ad inventory will go up in cost.

Facebook has made a lot of ecommerce owners into millionaires, but now big brands are realizing the power of Facebook and the cost is going up. – Eric Carlson, Co-founder, 10X Factory.

He isn’t the only one who sees this coming.

As a result, many experts are recommending alternate approaches to success for 2018.

This is especially true for brands just breaking into the $1,000,000 in annual revenue club – or at least have it in sight.

Brands like that are considered early stage, high-growth ecommerce companies.

And they have a big challenge to address:

Allocating funds appropriately to sustain and accelerate growth without losing it all.

It’s a hard task at hand. So, here’s what I did:

  1. I reached out to 31 experts to ask what 3 areas they’d focus on (or are planning on focusing on) for 2018 to drive real growth and get ahead of the trends.
  2. Then, I went through all of their answers, and gathered them into categories.
  3. Next, I ranked them based on how many experts said this strategy or areas of focus was important.

And this post is the culmination of that information.

Ecommerce Growth Strategies For 2018

Here are the top 19 ecommerce growth strategies recommended by Internet Retailer 1000 brands and the experts that advise them, in order of priority.

  1. Localization, Personalization & CX.
  2. Community Building, Customer Engagement & CRM.
  3. New Content Types & SEO.
  4. Mobile Optimization.
  5. Social Media Advertising, Campaigns & Retargeting.
  6. CRO & Data-Driven Optimizations.
  7. Technology.
  8. Email Marketing, Automation & AOV.
  9. Influencer Marketing.
  10. Omni-Channel Management.
  11. Payment Solutions.
  12. Branding.
  13. International.
  14. Customer Lifetime Value & Referral Programs.
  15. Catalog Extension.
  16. PR.
  17. Shipping + Fulfillment Optimization.
  18. Sales Tax Liability.
  19. Pricing.

To help keep you focused on these priorities, I’ve broken down the top 10 below, and looked at:

  • What it means
  • Why it’s so important
  • Materials you can use now to brush up on the topic
  • Brands already doing it well so you can mimic their approach, and alter it for your specific audience.

This is your ultimate checklist for what you should be focusing on, in order of priority, for 2018.

Bookmark the page, and dive on in.

1. Localization, Personalization and Customer Experience

I know what you’re thinking:

There are way too many topics combined into a single strategy here.

But that’s just not true.

Localization is a segment of personalization, and all personalization aims at bettering the customer experience.

Let’s look at it in that lens.

What is customer experience?

Customer experience historically has involved WOW’ing the consumer. Providing exceptional customer service, fast shipping, low prices, an easy-to-navigate site.

This discipline includes:

  • UX
  • Pricing strategy
  • Shipping and logistics
  • Customer service.

In 2018, though, personalization and localization are being added to that mix.

This is because easy-to-navigate websites, fast shipping and transparent pricing are already the norm.

Now, brands must look to new tactics to make their customer experience a differentiator.

What is personalization?

Personalization in ecommerce often refers to personalized merchandising. When personalizing a site experience, brands use a variety of known customer data points to serve contextually relevant content and products.

Those data points can include:

  • Search Queries: Recommend products based on a customer’s search terms
  • Purchase History: Recommend products based on a customer’s past purchases
  • Shopping Cart: Recommend products based on the current contents of a customer’s cart or wishlist
  • Social Behavior: Recommend products based on product rating, shares and likes
  • Geographic Location: Suggest relevant products based on customer’s local climate or other regional considerations
  • Customer Segments: Use purchase histories of customers with similar demographics to recommend products

Using data points like the above, site pages will be altered to best serve and convert the individual consumer.

What is localization?

Localization is a form of personalization in which the IP address of a customer alters site content to provide for more contextual merchandising and content.

Here’s an example from Tyler’s TX. My IP address is coming in from Austin, Texas – so the site serves me Austin, Texas content.

Best Online Guides for Personalization

Here are a few guides you can use to learn about personalization, localization and on-site merchandising to increase your customer experience.

  1. The Ecommerce Personalization Manual: 3 chapters full of actionable steps to increase your revenue through measurable personalization testing and implementation.
  2. How to Use Local Marketing to Sell More: From local SEO to localized merchandising and everything in-between, here’s a step-by-step guide to get more locals to your site.
  3. How 12 Wildly Successful Stores Use Visual Merchandising to Drive Sales: It’s not just about implementing the personalization, it is also about how it looks. This guide will show you exactly how to do it –– based on what is already working in the market.
  4. How 3 Brands Conquered Global Markets via Localization: Localization matters most when dealing with international audiences. Here’s how you can localize to earn global sales, no matter your size.
  5. Personalization Apps + Tools to Help You Implement: A list of tools and apps you can begin using now to implement personalization strategies.

3 Real World Personalization Examples

Here are how 3 brands currently optimized their customer experience using a variety of personalization tactics.

1. Marucci.

Marucci on-site bat customization tool hits it out of the park – seriously.

Customers can build their own bat, including material, color and even initial customization.

Then, once you build the bat, that bat will follow you around the web until purchase.

Check it out.

2. Declaration Co.

You can use a combination of out-of-the-box personalization tools and additional applications to turn your product pages into landing pages (i.e. high-traffic driving, high-converting).

Check out below how Declaration Co. makes this work.

P.S. They use the Personalized Recommendation App by Beeketing.

3. Paul Mitchell.

Wondering how you can collect additional data to better personalize?

Create an educational survey to lead consumers further down your funnel, as well as collect additional information.

Check out the one Paul Mitchell emailed out to their list:

2. Community Building, Customer Engagement and CRM

It’s hard to build a community and appropriately engage with your customers if you don’t have a rock solid CRM.

What is a CRM?

CRM stands for customer relationship management. You’ve probably heard of one of the most widely used ones: Salesforce.

What these tools do is aggregate customer information – including order information, additional data points they’ve given you – with touchpoint information.

In other words, you can go to a customer’s profile in a CRM tool and see:

  • When you last emailed them
  • Who last spoke to them on chat and about what
  • When they last bought something
  • What their average LTV is
  • So on and so forth.

For ecommerce brands, this often means pulling in information from:

  • On-site chat
  • Facebook messenger
  • SMS
  • Email
  • Order statuses
  • Customer groups
  • Loyalty programs
  • Referral programs
  • And more

Why does all of this matter?

Because how effectively you speak to your customer, solve their issue and get them to the cart directly affects engagement, conversion and your bottom line.

Omnichannel Applies to CRM, Too

Establish a single customer system of record.

It’s nearly impossible to truly accomplish #1 without one.

Make sure it can resolve identities across devices!

– Eric Keating, VP of Marketing, Zaius

Best Online Guides for Customer Engagement

Get a head start in improving your customer engagement via community and CRM. Here are the best guides to walk you through each aspect.

  1. How to Navigate the Chaotic Chat Channels of Modern Ecommerce Customer Service: Two brands give you a behind-the-scenes look at how they manage exceptional customer service across all channels. Hint: They use Reamaze.
  2. 8 Tools + Must-Know Strategies to Drive Customer Acquisition and Lifetime Loyalty: Everything you need to know from Day 1 to get more customers now and then keep them coming back for the long term (i.e. how to build a community of buyers).
  3. What Sending 100,000,000 Emails Taught Me About What Doesn’t Work: The best way to learn how your customers want to engage? Learn how they don’t. But don’t learn it firsthand. This article will show you the pain, and the solution, so you can go into the game smarter and better.
  4. How to Set Up an Ecommerce Customer Loyalty Program: This guide will walk you through everything you need to know, from why to how and then how to measure.
  5. How to Use Customer Testimonials to Drive 62% More Sales: Already have a ton of engagement? Here’s how you can use that engagement to get even more.
  6. CRM and Customer Relationship Management Tools: All the tools you might need to grow your program and track your conversations more strategically and seamlessly than ever before.

Have You Gone ChatBot Yet?

Now is a great time to starting thinking about chatbots.

There’s a lot of different types of chatbots available now that can help you on-site with customer service, or Messenger bots that can help you build longer and stronger relationships with your customers and fans.

– Richard Lazazzera, Founder of A Better Lemonade Stand

3 Real World Customer Engagement Examples

The very first step to ensuring your customers engage with your brand is to ensure they can SEE that they can engage with your brand.

Here are 3 examples of brands doing just that.

1. Olive Ave.

Olive Ave uses subtle but clear on-site messaging to alert customers to a variety of customer engagement tools, including:

  • Reviews
  • Chat
  • Rewards

This is a common trio of customer engagement tactics – allowing customers to see and leave reviews, talk to someone for help and/or join the rewards program.

See how they did it below.

mobi

2. Mountain Crest Gardens.

Mountain Crest Gardens is, in my professional opinion, light years ahead of most ecommerce brands in terms of customer engagement.

They used a tool – Rivet Works – to collect not just customer reviews, but customer photos of their products being used.

And people LOVE it.

They use those photos on their review page (below), on product pages as well as in social media –– always with a call to action for a customer to also submit.

It’s an engagement tactic that kills 3 birds (AKA tactics), with one stone (AKA email).

3. Shongolulu.

Want to know one of the best ways to build customer engagement?

Get them involved directly in your company mission.

Many brands with philanthropic missions, like Shongolulu, encourage customers to become brand ambassadors –– sharing the message with the world.

And it works!

As the micro-influencer and ambassador community grows, so too does your brand’s presence across the web.

After all, it’s always been a small group of dedicated people who changed the world.

Let your brand lead the next charge.

Be Yourself. Sell More. It Can Be That Easy.

Turn yourself and your employees into personalities. You’ll develop quicker and more meaningful relationships with your customers when it’s personal.

In 2018, people connect with other people – not brands, or companies.

– Brett Owens, Marketing Director & Co-Founder, LeadDyno

3. New Content Types + SEO

Even during Cyber Week 2017, in BigCommerce’s User Facebook Group, I had brands telling me that while their campaigns performed insanely well, organic still drove the most conversions.

That’s right – organic traffic still ranks as the #1 tactic for driving traffic and conversions for the long term.

This isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it tactic. Nor is it one you can just ignore.

  • You want to win at least on long-tail keywords.
  • You want traffic to your site to be at least 50% organic.

This is because:

  1. You don’t have to pay for organic traffic: In theory, you have to pay with your time or a salary to a content creator and SEO manager)
  2. People like to find “the best” on their own, not through ads: If they can type in a keyword on Google, come to your site and be floored at what you offer –– they are converting. And fast.

What is SEO?

SEO is the acronym for search engine optimization.

This is mostly referring to Google’s search engine because it is the most used in the world (next to Amazon’s, but that’s a topic for another time).

The more optimized your website is, the higher you show up in Google’s search results.

Your goal is to rank 0-5 for any related keyword search.

Most ecommerce brands optimize for long-tail, at least at first. Getting high ranking for short-tail keywords is hard. Bigger brands typically win here because of their Domain Authority, which takes into account:

  • How long your site has been live
  • How much traffic it gets
  • How long people stay on it
  • How many people link to it
  • Etc.

Think Far Beyond the Sale

On-site content to draw in customers in times other than a purchase point is becoming super important for LTV increase without large marketing spend.

– Erik Huberman, Founder and CEO, Hawke Media

What are long-tail vs. short-tail keywords?

“Bow ties” is a short-tail keyword. “Bow ties for dachshunds” is a long-tail keyword.

Long-tail keywords are just more specific.  

Best Online Guides for SEO + Content

Optimize your site as it currently is, and get content ideas now from these comprehensive guides.

  1. The Ultimate Guide to Ecommerce SEO: Learn how to attain page 1 ranking + see all the tools the experts use, how, when and why. This is the scientific side of SEO.
  2. How to Master Amazon SEO: Yes, Amazon also has a search engine – called A9. This post will teach you how to rank well there, too.
  3. How to Build a B2B SEO Strategy to Beat Out Your Competition: Online B2B sales are growing. Getting your B2B SEO strategy in shape now will set you up to win for the long run.
  4. The Content Strategy to 3X Your Ecommerce Traffic: You can build it, that doesn’t mean they will come. This guide will show you how to make sure your content, your site and your products get seen. It doesn’t end at publish –– it ends at sales.
  5. How to Turn Product Pages Into High-Converting Landing Pages: This is a HUGE opportunity. Turn your product pages into optimized landing pages and you’ll get more traffic AND more sales. This guide will show you how (plus the good and the bad of the tactic).

Content marketing is harder than ever. Don’t give up.

Content marketing hasn’t changed much from last year beyond the fact that it’s harder than ever before to rank.

  • You’re competing with more brands.
  • You’re competing with more landing pages.
  • You’re competing with more videos on YouTube.

So, it’s time to invest in creating content that is both optimized for search and maximized for shareability on social media.

– Ross Simmonds, Founder, Foundation Marketing

3 Real World Content + SEO Examples

The best advice out there right now in terms of SEO for ecommerce brands is this:

Turn your product pages into optimized landing pages.

How do you do that?

Check out the brands below.

1. Jackson Galaxy.

Jackson Galaxy uses video, clear CTAs, lots of copy and tons of reviews to turn their product pages into an SEO-optimized landing page.

2. BlanksUSA.

BlanksUSA uses campaign pages as landing pages in order to drive long-tail traffic to products easily grouped for a specific customer segment.

In this case, for the small-business audience.

3. Orion Cooler.

And what if you just want to make sure your homepage is optimized? Well, be sure you include:

  1. Interactive graphics
  2. Videos
  3. Cross-linking.

Orion Coolers does this well.

4. Mobile Optimization

Mobile optimization these days isn’t just about having a site that is responsive.

That’s just step #1.

Having a mobile-optimized site also means including:

  • Mobile-optimized search
  • Digital wallets
  • Product videos

And that’s just for starters.

Mobile and Desktop UX Should Be Equal

Mobile experience need to be on par with desktop. That’s just expectation these days.

– Josh Mendelsohn, VP Marketing, Privy

Digital Wallets + Mobile Optimization

Mobile commerce is continuing to rise thanks to one new technology: digital wallets.

These wallets allow for one-click purchasing that makes buying on the go less annoying.

Examples of digital wallets and one-touch payments include:

  • Amazon Pay
  • Apple Pay
  • PayPal One-Touch
  • Visa Checkout

Focus on Mobile Checkout

Offer Apple Pay, PayPal Express or Visa Checkout and don’t make the customer have to fill in all of their details on a mobile phone.

Ease of purchase is key.

Also, think about credit. PayPal Credit was previously expensive for the retailer.

Today’s buy-now, pay-later systems are not – including PayPal Credit and Klarna.

– Rupert Cross, Digital Director, 5874

Best Online Guides for Mobile Optimization

Mobile is the New Desktop

In the digital space we’ve been banging the drum on mobile for years now and there are still many sites that don’t get it.

Optimize your forms, create mobile-first designs, load pages quickly. Mobile is here. Understand how your customers use mobile and optimize.

– Stephen Slater, Digital Advertising Manager, TopRankMarketing

3 Real World Content + SEO Examples

1. Couture Candy.

On mobile, what would you do?

Fill out your email and begin an account…or just use Amazon Pay?

2. CocoWeb.

Same scenario here –– sign up, or just hit Apple Pay and be done with it?

“We have seen an AOV increase of over 25%, a mobile conversion increase of over 75%. We accomplished this while decreasing mobile paid traffic by over 50%!” 

3. Solo Stove.

You don’t even need to take them to a cart. Just use a pop-up like Solo Stove does to help the customer decide where to go next.

Make sure payment is one of those options.

Mobile Means Everything

Mobile experience will be key in 2018.

Mobile traffic has already overtaken desktop traffic, and we are seeing mobile sales approach desktop sales.

This trend will continue, with mobile eventually overtaking desktop sales.

Retailers with a mobile-first mentality will outperform those that treat mobile as a second priority. This mobile-first mentality applies to everything: web design, email layouts, reward programs and more.

– Steve Deckert, Co-Founder, Smile.io

5. Social Media Advertising, Campaigns and Retargeting

Social media advertising, specifically Facebook Advertising, was all the rage in 2017.

Many an ecommerce business owner turned a pretty $1,000,000 in annual revenue off of this tactic.

And while many may still be able to do so in 2018, it is likely that the cost is going to go way up.

In the meantime, be sure you have the basics down:

  1. Upload your catalog to Facebook Shop
  2. Use Dynamic Product Ads to retarget site visitors based on what they viewed.

Social Media is Scientific

Brands need to gain a scientific understanding of social media marketing and become experts in A/B testing in site building, content development and marketing/advertising.

All of these work together.

– Krista Fabregas, Editor, Ecommerce & Retail, FitSmallBusiness

What is Social Media Advertising?

Social media advertising is a popular channel for ecommerce brands to use to run campaigns, drive traffic and close sales.

It works best when:

  • Retargeting customers who visited a site to come back and close a sale
  • Using customer testimonials and videos to earn visibility
  • Creating an online, loyal community

Facebook Advertising has historically been the most popular social media advertising channel.

The Pillars of Modern Social Media Advertising

Good social media advertising and marketing is about 3 things:

  1. Engaging with consumers where they are – in social media – and not just using social media as an advertisement, but as a way to truly engage with and celebrate your fans
  2. The use of user-generated content in your social media, which will help you both celebrate your fans and provide a more authentic engagement experience for consumers
  3. Leveraging micro-influencers in a broad and authentic way to expose your content to new consumers.

– Neal Schaffer, Author, The Business of Influence

Best Online Guides for Social Media Advertising

Retargeting and Engagement Go Hand in Hand

Building a culture around your brand will be the only way to compete and thrive in a marketplace that turns everything into a commodity driven by price and reviews.

So focus on engagement, retargeting and community.

– Bryan Bowman, Founder, eCom Underground

3 Real World Social Advertising Examples

1. Tommy John.

Tommy John uses a gifting video along with a customer testimonial in this re-targeted Facebook Ad.

2. Rollie.

Rollie is an Australian brand that has (clearly) just launched in the US. They are likely targeting me based on my geographic location and having visited their site before.

This link leads back to a specific campaign page.

The ad is an image.

2. Nike

Nike is using the multiple photo option ad (aka, not a video) and promoting customized items in the ads.

Video + Ads = Success

Facebook prioritizes videos and videos help build way more trust then just a regular ad. Videos are so powerful and using Facebook Custom Engagement Audiences you can sequence potential customers who watch 10 seconds of one of your videos to another video.

Using Facebook Video Ads combined with Custom Engagement Audiences alone you can sequence potential customers all the way down a video funnel that goes from Awareness to Engagement and then to Conversion.

In 2018 video will continue to be a huge opportunity for ecommerce brands.

– Daniel Wallock, Marketing Strategist, Wallock Media

6. CRO and Data-Driven Optimizations

CRO stands for conversion rate optimization, which you can only do through data-driven optimization and decision making.

These two aspects are tied hand in hand. You cannot do one without the other.

Average ecommerce conversion rates rest at about 2% – and that’s not very good.

Conversion rate optimization allows you to run tests to determine which various designs, language, etc. increase sales versus others.

Then, you can launch updates sitewide to see a major lift.

CRO Tools Are Cheap and Easy

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) to me is priority 1, 2, and 3.

The tools are cheap and easy to use. The data they can provide is invaluable.

Look for little wins here and there and over the course of the year you will find that you have made it far more likely that a visitor to your website becomes a paying customer.

– Zach Heller, Owner, Zach Heller Marketing

CRO Best Practices

Here are a few key best practices and tools to use for CRO and testing.

  • Keep yourself out of the picture: Don’t create navigation categories just to create categories. Only include links your shoppers find valuable. This is not the time or place to rely on aesthetics or your gut feeling. Instead, use Google Analytics or your ecommerce analytics to determine your most frequently visited landing pages (i.e. Women’s, Men’s, New Products, etc) and then link out to those within your site navigation.
  • Use tools to avoid assumptions: Consider using Crazy Egg, HotJar or Lucky Orange, tools that provides heat mapping. Heat mapping is an insanely valuable way to better understand how a shopper uses your site. This type of information is extremely informative, especially when coupled with additional metrics regarding your online store, like in-store search and website exit rates.

  • Create categories based on search: If you’re a BigCommerce merchant, use your in-store search analytics to help determine what shoppers are looking for, then bring those categories front and center. If you’re not a BigCommerce merchant or you’d like another look at what shoppers are searching for on your site, use Google Analytics: Google Analytics > Account > Behavior > Site Search > Search Terms.

Get more in touch with your market

Regularly get your customers on the phone. Ask why they choose you. Ask what problems drove them to you in the first place. Ask how they view you compared to competitors.

Ask, ask, ask.

Their answers are literally what should go on your website to connect more deeply with your market and generate more sales.

Nothing generates more ideas for how to improve your website than these conversations.

– David Tendrich, Co-Founder & CEO, Reliable PSD

Best Online Guides for CRO

Testing is Always Priority #1

Every brand has to first test their way to success. That’s always a top priority.  

The second is to spend 10% of your time/budget testing new techniques and technologies.

And the third is to be sure to share your successes and failures with everybody internally. That way, you can be sure you have a staff with a knowledge base.

– Jamie Turner, Author, Speaker, and CEO, Jamie Turner Live

3 Real World CRO Examples

OK, so this is the one section of the post where I can’t give you any original examples.

A/B testing is a private strategy for businesses, and rarely do they share their insights beyond the internal teams.

That makes sense.

You don’t want to show your strategic and data-backed advantages to your competitors, do you?

I found a few examples, but none show you side-by-side design comparisons.

1. Andreas Carter Sports.

One of the biggest changes we made was to the ‘Add To Cart’ button. Simply changing it from black to a blue color has reduced abandoned carts by up to 50%. – Jeremy Hagon, Marketing Manager, Andreas Carter Sports

2. SerengeeTee.

We have continued to improve conversion through A/B testing and design upgrades. Last year, conversion was 4.2%; this year, we are at 4.6%.

The average conversion rate in our industry is somewhere in the 2-3% ballpark.

This has given us an edge against other clothing brands. – Jeff Steitz, Founder and CEO at Serengetee

3. Natomounts.

I have 30 BigCommerce sites up and the reason I keep coming back is because my development staff and design staff are familiar with the templates and the backend. We can quickly create a website or create a duplicate website for A/B testing in less than a few days. – Brandon Chatham, Founder & CEO of NatoMounts.

The One Tactic Above All Else

Every business, depending on what stage they are in, will have different priorities, but I know what we’ll be focused on.

We’re going to add more great private label products and drive more traffic via email marketing.

But number 1 for us, as always, is continual conversion optimization.

– Jason Boyce, Founder, Dazadi

7. Technology

There’s been a massive shift in retail. Everyone feels it.

  • It’s why there is so much more competition.
  • It’s why marketing matters so much more than ever before.

It all comes down to two things: cost of entry and scale.

The cost of entry and cost to scale have dramatically reduced over the years. It would be impossible a decade ago to launch a website paying only $30 a month.

Today, that’s the norm.

And because the cost to entry is so low, more people has entered. And a lot of those people are scaling –– again, because the technology to do so costs so little.

Suddenly, marketing to earn your fair share of the market is one of the most important factors to success.

And if that’s the case, well…

Then you better make sure you tech stack works for you.

Let’s listen to Grant Yuan, President of CuttingBoard.com.

My advice for other business owners is this: it’s important to save time and work on the things that matter.

Rather than tying up time with manual data entry and packaging, focus on things that help your business grow – like marketing, business development, etc.

Let tools and integrations take care of the other elements of the business, and outsource work when you need it.

Don’t be afraid to invest in resources that help you grow faster and with less stress.

20 Most Popular Ecommerce Tools

Here are some of the most popular tools, apps and technologies for ecommerce brands. 

  1. MailChimp
  2. Shipstation
  3. QuickBooks Online
  4. Facebook Ads Extension
  5. JustUno
  6. Buy Buttons
  7. Yotpo
  8. ShipperHQ
  9. Smile.io
  10. AfterShip
  11. inkFrog Open
  12. Signifyd
  13. Xero
  14. Stamps.com
  15. PixelPop
  16. InStockNotify
  17. Shippo
  18. Soundest
  19. Form Builder by POWr
  20. BigCommerce

3 Real World Examples of Brands Using Technology to Grow

1. So Suzy Stamps.

Honestly, InStockAlerts is worth its weight in gold. When I was starting out, I didn’t have a lot of inventory. I didn’t understand how fast I was going to grow. So, I’d do a new product release and within an hour I’d be out of stamps.

Suddenly, all my customers wanted to know when a product would be back in stock. They wanted an email to let them know so they didn’t miss out on it a second time.

I knew I didn’t have time to send everyone an email! Then, I have more sales with no additional time spent. It’s magic. – Suzanne Moore, Founder, So Suzy Stamps

2. Atlanta Light Bulbs.

We also use PriceWaiter on our product pages – which lets the buyer name a price. The buyer goes to our site and says, “Hey, I want to buy 50 of these at $2 a piece.”

On the backend, we have loaded up all of our pricing rules into the PriceWaiter system. That app knows if we are willing to sell X items for Y dollars –– as long as the order value is above Z.

PriceWaiter auto-calculates all of that on the fly for the B2B buyer so they don’t have to wait to hear back from us. They just get a message that says we’ve accepted their offer, or if the price is too low, we offer them a different deal. –– Doug Root, CEO at Atlanta Light Bulbs

3. Incy Interiors.

We use several different integrations with BigCommerce right now, but we like the social tools that make it easy to optimize things like email campaigns we send out through MailChimp.

We’re currently setting up a more robust CRM system, but we use MailChimp to work on lowering cart abandonment rates and staying in touch with our customers.

We also like that the social media tools for Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram make it much easier to share our products. –– Krista Withers, Founder of Incy Interiors

Your Secret Weapon

Leverage new technologies and services to make purchases as easy as possible. Never forget that there is tech out there to help you solve a variety of problems.

– David Mercer, Founder, SMEPals

8. Email Marketing, Automation and AOV

Email marketing has long held the #1 position as the most profitable growth channel for online stores.

There is a few reasons for this:

  • Building your email list drives top-of-funnel connections – allowing you to build out a funnel that turns email addresses into real, loyal customers.
  • Receipt emails are the most opened emails bar none. Your opportunity to upsell or drive loyalty here is huge.
  • Your email marketing open and click-through rate are easily measurable, and give you a good understanding of how engaged your audience is (or isn’t).
  • Because metrics are easy to track, A/B testing messages to increase engagement is relatively easy, and won’t affect on-site conversions.
  • Doing all of the above is free once you capture that email (also depending on the cost of your email service provider).
  • Best yet, all of the above can be automated. This means you can set and forget, check the number, re-optimize and then go about your business is other areas.

All in all, email marketing drives increased loyalty, repeat purchases, net new purchases and increased AOV, and it can do all of that without you having to actually send individual emails to individual customers.

Automation is the real winner here – and email marketing is a test-bed of measurable aspects you can manipulate in order to drive growth behind the scenes.

Automation That Feels Human

Every ecommerce brand should prioritize their automation, whether that’s automated emails or on-site campaigns.

It’s the name of the game and one that you’ll need to do without sacrificing too much of the human touch to execute it well.

–  Kayla Lewkowicz, Marketing Manager, Privy

Best Online Guides for Email Marketing and Automation

3 Real World Email Marketing Examples

Email marketing doesn’t always have to be about journeys and streams.

Those are big parts of what makes email marketing work. But the #1 thing you must do is this:

  • Be honest.
  • Be open.
  • Be transparent.

You want your audience to connect. Here are some great ways to do it.

1. Dorco.

Dorco sent out a personal email from the CEO of the company to promote an organization called ShowerUp –– a mobile truck that goes around to homeless communities to provide hygiene options –– like shaving –– to the community.

It’s a heartfelt letter with a real signature. It also includes a coupon code so that you can give and get discounted off.

It’s a win-win-win.

2. Care.org.

Sometimes, philanthropy and sales can go hand in hand.

This is especially true with Care.org. They run a gifts.care.org site that allows folks to buy gifts that help those in the underdeveloped world.

Here is an example of one of their holiday emails to their base.

3. Kelty.

Remember, beyond giving and philanthropy, your emails should build community among your base.

Kelty, a camping site, does this incredibly well. Each of their emails is themed, with an image to support the message.

Yes, they showcase products. But they also showcase content to help readers and customers nail down their next adventure.

9. Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is one of the most effective strategies to growth for online brands.

Why?

Because consumers trust other people’s opinions over almost anything else.

Word of mouth is powerful – and today, word of mouth doesn’t have to happen face to face.

Instead, it can happen Instagram post to Instagram Post or YouTube Video to YouTube Video.

And better yet, for brands at least, you don’t have to pay an insane amount of money to make influencer marketing work for you.

You don’t have to be, know or pay for Kylie Jenner, for instance.

Instead, you can empower a group of micro-influencers to create a groundswell of support that isn’t expensive to maintain and that feels more natural, community-driven and honest than large payouts to big names.

Influencers Are Vital

A strong network of influencers is a vital part of building a strong, sustainable ecommerce business.

– David Mercer, Founder, SMEPals

Most Commonly Used Influencer Marketing Strategies

  1. Content Featuring Your Products or Services
  2. Product or Service Reviews
  3. Promote Giveaway Contests
  4. Offer Discounts to Drive Conversions
  5. Offer Custom URLs for Free Access

Best Online Guides for Influencer Marketing

3 Real-World Influencer Marketing Examples

1. Natori.

Natori promoted their line of sports bras through fitness influencer Sarah Dussault.

Natori is a brand that sells luxury lingerie, women’s clothing and home décor.

If they were to promote any of their other products through this specific influencer, it wouldn’t be as relevant.

But in this case, the product they were promoting was a line of sports bras, so a fitness influencer like Sarah was a good choice.

2. Skullcandy.

Skullcandy works with YouTube influencers to offer honest reviews of the product. This is a great tactic to use if you are certain of your product’s quality.

Check out the video below for an example.

You’ll notice that the influencer doesn’t mince words – these headphones used to be expensive. They don’t cost as much anymore.

Thoughts like that help to convey honest value and feedback to the audience. In YouTube influencer marketing, you often won’t have much say over what an influencer says about your product.

3. Di Bruno.

Product and service reviews similar to the YouTube example above can also be done in print/text.

An excellent example is Hello Subscription’s detailed review of their experience with Di Bruno Bros. Hello Subscription is a blog dedicated to promoting and reviewing subscription boxes.

Their Co-Editor, Tom, reviewed a “House of Cheese Pairing Club,” box from Di Bruno Bros. The review included more than 20 images, and detailed descriptions of the contents of the subscription box, about which Tom also shared his honest opinions.

10. Omni-Channel Management

Omni-channel may be an industry buzzword, but the need for it at the level of growing brands cannot be ignored.

Most brands sell in more than 1 place. Here is a non-exhaustive list of options:

  • Webstore
  • Brick-and-mortar
  • Amazon
  • eBay
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Houzz
  • Alibaba
  • Wholesale
  • Etsy
  • Pop-up Shops
  • Events + Markets

And that list is only ever going to grow.

For brands, the first trick is deciding which channels make the most sense for you.

The second trick is to scale each of those channels, and subsequently the brand, effectively – maintaining exceptional inventory, branding and customer experience across the board.

So…let’s start from the beginning here…

Omni-Channel Requires Rethinking

The rapid growth we’re seeing in the ecommerce space has far reaching implications for the tools and services we use to convert customers on a daily basis.

This also means that ecommerce brands need to focus more attention on how new tools and new customer behavior will interact.

Omni-channel sales require businesses to rethink how goods and services will reach consumers or at least attract consumer attention.

–  David Feng, Co-Founder, Re:amaze

What is Omni-Channel Management?

Omni-channel management is process and strategy by which brands manage their inventory, branding and customer experience across a variety of channels.

Common tools brands use include:

  • ERP
    • Brightpearl
    • NetSuite
    • Sage
    • SAP
  • System Integrators
    • eBridge Connections
    • Jasper Studios
  • POS
    • Square
    • Springboard Retail
    • ShopKeep
    • Hike POS
    • Amber POS
    • Lightspeed Retail POS
  • CRM
    • Salesforce
    • Reamaze
    • Hubspot
  • APIs

Best Online Guides for Omni-Channel Management

Gain Control, or Lose It All

Gain control of your distribution channels, addressing sales tax liability and expand into international marketplaces. That’s a good 2018 strategy.

– James Thomson, Partner, Buy Box Experts

3 Real World Influencer Marketing Examples

1. Glory Cycles.

Glory Cycles began on eBay and has since build a legacy brand on their own webstore.

But they haven’t left eBay behind. Today, they use the marketplace to sell returned items for a profit.

We don’t put a lot of energy into our eBay efforts, but we do use it to sell our returns.

The reason for that is we’re a bit limited in what our vendors allow us to sell on that platform, so it’s primarily a channel for moving returned product.

It’s extremely simple with the BigCommerce integration.

For a long time, we shied away from doing a lot of eBay business because we didn’t want to run two separate systems, but with BigCommerce we can run everything from a single location.

When we get an eBay order, it still comes through as a normal order in BigCommerce, and that was very attractive to us. –– Clive De Sousa, President, Glory Cycles.

In this model, BigCommerce serves as the inventory management hub.

2. BeachRC.

BeachRC sells on eBay, Amazon, their webstore and brick-and-mortar. They use BigCommerce as their inventory hub, and Square as their POS.

BigCommerce’s Amazon integration is really good – and it’s really helped us out. We’re converting more ecommerce and online sales due to our Amazon presence now.

I would have never gone out to put products on Amazon on my own. The fact that it was going to be easy to integrate directly through BigCommerce is why I did it – and now, we see 1 out of every 10 orders coming to us through Amazon.

It’s a great gateway to gaining customers, especially when you are strategic about which products you put up there, and which you make exclusive for your own site.

I think beyond just selling on Amazon for Amazon’s sake. Being there helps to create more customers for our website, too. It helps us with volume and with growing our website and our clientele.

I’d say 99% of everything we do is through BigCommerce. We’re not using Amazon Seller Central very much. I want to make everything easy and streamlined for my team, so we use the BigCommerce Control Panel and Channel Manager to do almost everything. – Brent Densford, CEO of BeachRC

3. Casey’s Distributing

Casey’s Distributing built an app on top of BigCommerce’s API to sell wholesale to brands across the globe. The app uses Casey’s Distrubuting’s inventory in BigCommerce as the hub of its system.

We’re building an app for the BigCommerce app store that will connect our inventory feed to BigCommerce store owners who want it. Working with thousands of retail businesses, we know that one of the challenges when starting a store is figuring out what to sell.

Well, Casey’s can help – and we’re using the BigCommerce API to do it.

Soon, BigCommerce store owners new to selling online can add NFL/NBA/NCAA/NHL/MLS merchandise to their sites to sell. These are brands people know and love.

The app will connect all the dots for BigCommerce customers. They can add products through it, pick the teams they want and then the app will update the quantities for them and it will help them remove products after they become obsolete.

It’s a no-brainer if you are just getting started. The API makes it incredibly easy. – Ben Johnson, VP Operations at Casey’s Distributing and President, MaxQV, LLC.

That app is called League License.

Final Word

For article length sake, I cannot go into this amount of detail for the other 9 topics considered very important by experts.

However, the 10 tactics above are in order of priority. Start from #1 and work your way down.

Get these channels and strategies optimized, and you’ll be ready to tackle the other 9 – and will have a bulky bottom line which which to do it.

Have questions? Concerns? Leave a comment!

Want more insights like this?

We’re on a mission to provide businesses like yours marketing and sales tips, tricks and industry leading knowledge to build the next house-hold name brand. Don’t miss a post. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

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The 19 Ecommerce Trends + 147 Online Shopping Stats Fueling Sales Growth in 2018 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/ecommerce-trends/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/ecommerce-trends/#comments Wed, 20 Dec 2017 14:00:25 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=16600 Conducting high-level research into who buys what, when and why, with regards to Americans shopping online, can be costly and…]]>

Conducting high-level research into who buys what, when and why, with regards to Americans shopping online, can be costly and time-consuming — which is why we’ve done it for you.

BigCommerce has teamed up with retail and payment experts Square to dive deep into the shopping habits, behavior and preferences of thousands of American buyers across multiple generations in 2018.

Free Download

Get the Comprehensive Modern Consumer Shopping Habits Study in a PDF version for further reading, research and action. It’s free and a quick download away.

Download Report Now

In addition, we’ll be breaking down the top ecommerce trends of 2018.

We began monitoring the impact of these trends during Cyber Five 2017.

Why?

Because a lot happens in a year within retail and ecommerce.

And every new product, tool, technology and strategy that enters the market hits a crux during Cyber Five.

That’s when those new rules to success have to pass a very hard test:

Do these strategies actually work under the height of industry traffic, sales and scrutiny?

Let me give you an example:

2017 has been the year of Facebook Advertising.

But we’ve all been in that year before, with another tool you have heard of: Google Shopping and PLAs.

Those two tactics still work wonders for brands, with the caveat that:

  1. Competition is fierce and as a result…
  2. Costs are high.

Those two factors often make Google Shopping and PLAs harder for brands making less than $10M in annual sales to compete.

It’s a big-box play where demand is high and visibility is low in supply. And you all well understand economics 101.

Facebook is about to go through the same transition.

But I’ll let one of my go-to experts on Facebook Advertising explain this for me.

In 2018, one thing is guaranteed, Facebook Ad inventory will go up in cost.

Facebook has made a lot of ecommerce owners into millionaires, but now big brands are realizing the power of Facebook and the cost is going up. – Eric Carlson, Co-founder, 10X Factory.

He isn’t the only one who sees this coming.

As a result, many experts are recommending alternate approaches to success for 2018.

This is especially true for brands just breaking into the $1,000,000 in annual revenue club – or at least have it in sight.

Brands like that are considered early stage, high-growth ecommerce companies.

And they have a big challenge to address:

Allocating funds appropriately to sustain and accelerate growth without losing it all.

It’s a hard task at hand. So, here’s what I did:

  1. I reached out to 31 experts to ask what 3 areas they’d focus on (or are planning on focusing on) for 2018 to drive real growth and get ahead of the trends.
  2. Then, I went through all of their answers, and gathered them into categories.
  3. Next, I ranked them based on how many experts said this strategy or areas of focus was important.

And this post is the culmination of that information – along with 147 stats to back up how the industry has gotten here.

Join the Ecommerce Growth Summit

This half-day pre-IRCE event on June 5 is limited to only 250 attendees and includes speaking tracks from:

  • Jennifer Fleiss, Co-founder of Rent the Runway
  • Ken Natori, President of The Natori Company
  • Jenny Buchar, Senior Manager, Digital Operations at SkullCandy
  • and others!

Food and drinks are complimentary – as are Q&A sessions with the speakers on how they grew to $100M, launched wholesale and direct to consumer channels, migrated from Demandware and Magento and so much more.

Reserve your spot now

Top 19 Ecommerce Trends of 2018

Here are the top 19 ecommerce trends and growth strategies recommended by Internet Retailer 1000 brands and the experts that advise them, in order of priority.

  1. Localization, Personalization & CX.
  2. Community Building, Customer Engagement & CRM.
  3. New Content Types & SEO.
  4. Mobile Optimization.
  5. Social Media Advertising, Campaigns & Retargeting.
  6. CRO & Data-Driven Optimizations.
  7. Technology.
  8. Email Marketing, Automation & AOV.
  9. Influencer Marketing.
  10. Omni-Channel Management.
  11. Payment Solutions.
  12. Branding.
  13. International.
  14. Customer Lifetime Value & Referral Programs.
  15. Catalog Extension.
  16. PR.
  17. Shipping + Fulfillment Optimization.
  18. Sales Tax Liability.
  19. Pricing.

To help keep you focused on these priorities, I’ve broken down the top 10 below, and looked at:

  • What it means
  • Why it’s so important
  • Materials you can use now to brush up on the topic
  • Brands already doing it well so you can mimic their approach, and alter it for your specific audience.

This is your ultimate checklist for what you should be focusing on, in order of priority, for 2018.

Bookmark the page, and dive on in.

1. Localization, personalization and customer experience.

I know what you’re thinking:

There are way too many topics combined into a single strategy here.

But that’s just not true.

Localization is a segment of personalization, and all personalization aims at bettering the customer experience.

Let’s look at it in that lens.

What is customer experience?

Customer experience historically has involved WOW’ing the consumer. Providing exceptional customer service, fast shipping, low prices, an easy-to-navigate site.

This discipline includes:

  • UX
  • Pricing strategy
  • Shipping and logistics
  • Customer service.

In 2018, though, personalization and localization are being added to that mix.

This is because easy-to-navigate websites, fast shipping and transparent pricing are already the norm.

Now, brands must look to new tactics to make their customer experience a differentiator.

What is personalization?

Personalization in ecommerce often refers to personalized merchandising. When personalizing a site experience, brands use a variety of known customer data points to serve contextually relevant content and products.

Those data points can include:

  • Search Queries: Recommend products based on a customer’s search terms
  • Purchase History: Recommend products based on a customer’s past purchases
  • Shopping Cart: Recommend products based on the current contents of a customer’s cart or wishlist
  • Social Behavior: Recommend products based on product rating, shares and likes
  • Geographic Location: Suggest relevant products based on customer’s local climate or other regional considerations
  • Customer Segments: Use purchase histories of customers with similar demographics to recommend products

Using data points like the above, site pages will be altered to best serve and convert the individual consumer.

What is localization?

Localization is a form of personalization in which the IP address of a customer alters site content to provide for more contextual merchandising and content.

Here’s an example from Tyler’s TX. My IP address is coming in from Austin, Texas – so the site serves me Austin, Texas content.

Best Online Guides for Personalization

Here are a few guides you can use to learn about personalization, localization and on-site merchandising to increase your customer experience.

  1. The Ecommerce Personalization Manual: 3 chapters full of actionable steps to increase your revenue through measurable personalization testing and implementation.
  2. How to Use Local Marketing to Sell More: From local SEO to localized merchandising and everything in-between, here’s a step-by-step guide to get more locals to your site.
  3. How 12 Wildly Successful Stores Use Visual Merchandising to Drive Sales: It’s not just about implementing the personalization, it is also about how it looks. This guide will show you exactly how to do it –– based on what is already working in the market.
  4. How 3 Brands Conquered Global Markets via Localization: Localization matters most when dealing with international audiences. Here’s how you can localize to earn global sales, no matter your size.
  5. Personalization Apps + Tools to Help You Implement: A list of tools and apps you can begin using now to implement personalization strategies.

3 Real World Personalization Examples

Here are how 3 brands currently optimized their customer experience using a variety of personalization tactics.

1. Marucci.

Marucci on-site bat customization tool hits it out of the park – seriously.

Customers can build their own bat, including material, color and even initial customization.

Then, once you build the bat, that bat will follow you around the web until purchase.

Check it out.

2. Declaration Co.

You can use a combination of out-of-the-box personalization tools and additional applications to turn your product pages into landing pages (i.e. high-traffic driving, high-converting).

Check out below how Declaration Co. makes this work.

P.S. They use the Personalized Recommendation App by Beeketing.

3. Paul Mitchell.

Wondering how you can collect additional data to better personalize?

Create an educational survey to lead consumers further down your funnel, as well as collect additional information.

Check out the one Paul Mitchell emailed out to their list:

2. Community building, customer engagement and CRM.

It’s hard to build a community and appropriately engage with your customers if you don’t have a rock solid CRM.

What is a CRM?

CRM stands for customer relationship management. You’ve probably heard of one of the most widely used ones: Salesforce.

What these tools do is aggregate customer information – including order information, additional data points they’ve given you – with touchpoint information.

In other words, you can go to a customer’s profile in a CRM tool and see:

  • When you last emailed them
  • Who last spoke to them on chat and about what
  • When they last bought something
  • What their average LTV is
  • So on and so forth.

For ecommerce brands, this often means pulling in information from:

  • On-site chat
  • Facebook messenger
  • SMS
  • Email
  • Order statuses
  • Customer groups
  • Loyalty programs
  • Referral programs
  • And more

Why does all of this matter?

Because how effectively you speak to your customer, solve their issue and get them to the cart directly affects engagement, conversion and your bottom line.

Omnichannel Applies to CRM, Too

Establish a single customer system of record.

It’s nearly impossible to truly accomplish #1 without one.

Make sure it can resolve identities across devices!

– Eric Keating, VP of Marketing, Zaius

Best Online Guides for Customer Engagement

Get a head start in improving your customer engagement via community and CRM. Here are the best guides to walk you through each aspect.

  1. How to Navigate the Chaotic Chat Channels of Modern Ecommerce Customer Service: Two brands give you a behind-the-scenes look at how they manage exceptional customer service across all channels. Hint: They use Reamaze.
  2. 8 Tools + Must-Know Strategies to Drive Customer Acquisition and Lifetime Loyalty: Everything you need to know from Day 1 to get more customers now and then keep them coming back for the long term (i.e. how to build a community of buyers).
  3. What Sending 100,000,000 Emails Taught Me About What Doesn’t Work: The best way to learn how your customers want to engage? Learn how they don’t. But don’t learn it firsthand. This article will show you the pain, and the solution, so you can go into the game smarter and better.
  4. How to Set Up an Ecommerce Customer Loyalty Program: This guide will walk you through everything you need to know, from why to how and then how to measure.
  5. How to Use Customer Testimonials to Drive 62% More Sales: Already have a ton of engagement? Here’s how you can use that engagement to get even more.
  6. CRM and Customer Relationship Management Tools: All the tools you might need to grow your program and track your conversations more strategically and seamlessly than ever before.

Have You Gone ChatBot Yet?

Now is a great time to starting thinking about chatbots.

There’s a lot of different types of chatbots available now that can help you on-site with customer service, or Messenger bots that can help you build longer and stronger relationships with your customers and fans.

– Richard Lazazzera, Founder of A Better Lemonade Stand

3 Real World Customer Engagement Examples

The very first step to ensuring your customers engage with your brand is to ensure they can SEE that they can engage with your brand.

Here are 3 examples of brands doing just that.

1. Olive Ave.

Olive Ave uses subtle but clear on-site messaging to alert customers to a variety of customer engagement tools, including:

  • Reviews
  • Chat
  • Rewards

This is a common trio of customer engagement tactics – allowing customers to see and leave reviews, talk to someone for help and/or join the rewards program.

See how they did it below.

2. Mountain Crest Gardens.

Mountain Crest Gardens is, in my professional opinion, light years ahead of most ecommerce brands in terms of customer engagement.

They used a tool – Rivet Works – to collect not just customer reviews, but customer photos of their products being used.

And people LOVE it.

They use those photos on their review page (below), on product pages as well as in social media –– always with a call to action for a customer to also submit.

It’s an engagement tactic that kills 3 birds (AKA tactics), with one stone (AKA email).

3. Shongolulu.

Want to know one of the best ways to build customer engagement?

Get them involved directly in your company mission.

Many brands with philanthropic missions, like Shongolulu, encourage customers to become brand ambassadors –– sharing the message with the world.

And it works!

As the micro-influencer and ambassador community grows, so too does your brand’s presence across the web.

After all, it’s always been a small group of dedicated people who changed the world.

Let your brand lead the next charge.

Be Yourself. Sell More. It Can Be That Easy.

Turn yourself and your employees into personalities. You’ll develop quicker and more meaningful relationships with your customers when it’s personal.

In 2018, people connect with other people – not brands, or companies.

– Brett Owens, Marketing Director & Co-Founder, LeadDyno

3. New content types and SEO.

Even during Cyber Week 2017, in BigCommerce’s User Facebook Group, I had brands telling me that while their campaigns performed insanely well, organic still drove the most conversions.

That’s right – organic traffic still ranks as the #1 tactic for driving traffic and conversions for the long term.

This isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it tactic. Nor is it one you can just ignore.

  • You want to win at least on long-tail keywords.
  • You want traffic to your site to be at least 50% organic.

This is because:

  1. You don’t have to pay for organic traffic: In theory, you have to pay with your time or a salary to a content creator and SEO manager)
  2. People like to find “the best” on their own, not through ads: If they can type in a keyword on Google, come to your site and be floored at what you offer –– they are converting. And fast.

What is SEO?

SEO is the acronym for search engine optimization.

This is mostly referring to Google’s search engine because it is the most used in the world (next to Amazon’s, but that’s a topic for another time).

The more optimized your website is, the higher you show up in Google’s search results.

Your goal is to rank 0-5 for any related keyword search.

Most ecommerce brands optimize for long-tail, at least at first. Getting high ranking for short-tail keywords is hard. Bigger brands typically win here because of their Domain Authority, which takes into account:

  • How long your site has been live
  • How much traffic it gets
  • How long people stay on it
  • How many people link to it
  • Etc.

Think Far Beyond the Sale

On-site content to draw in customers in times other than a purchase point is becoming super important for LTV increase without large marketing spend.

– Erik Huberman, Founder and CEO, Hawke Media

What are long-tail vs. short-tail keywords?

“Bow ties” is a short-tail keyword. “Bow ties for dachshunds” is a long-tail keyword.

Long-tail keywords are just more specific.  

Best Online Guides for SEO + Content

Optimize your site as it currently is, and get content ideas now from these comprehensive guides.

  1. The Ultimate Guide to Ecommerce SEO: Learn how to attain page 1 ranking + see all the tools the experts use, how, when and why. This is the scientific side of SEO.
  2. How to Master Amazon SEO: Yes, Amazon also has a search engine – called A9. This post will teach you how to rank well there, too.
  3. How to Build a B2B SEO Strategy to Beat Out Your Competition: Online B2B sales are growing. Getting your B2B SEO strategy in shape now will set you up to win for the long run.
  4. The Content Strategy to 3X Your Ecommerce Traffic: You can build it, that doesn’t mean they will come. This guide will show you how to make sure your content, your site and your products get seen. It doesn’t end at publish –– it ends at sales.
  5. How to Turn Product Pages Into High-Converting Landing Pages: This is a HUGE opportunity. Turn your product pages into optimized landing pages and you’ll get more traffic AND more sales. This guide will show you how (plus the good and the bad of the tactic).

Content marketing is harder than ever. Don’t give up.

Content marketing hasn’t changed much from last year beyond the fact that it’s harder than ever before to rank.

  • You’re competing with more brands.
  • You’re competing with more landing pages.
  • You’re competing with more videos on YouTube.

So, it’s time to invest in creating content that is both optimized for search and maximized for shareability on social media.

– Ross Simmonds, Founder, Foundation Marketing

3 Real World Content + SEO Examples

The best advice out there right now in terms of SEO for ecommerce brands is this:

Turn your product pages into optimized landing pages.

How do you do that?

Check out the brands below.

1. Jackson Galaxy.

Jackson Galaxy uses video, clear CTAs, lots of copy and tons of reviews to turn their product pages into an SEO-optimized landing page.

2. BlanksUSA.

BlanksUSA uses campaign pages as landing pages in order to drive long-tail traffic to products easily grouped for a specific customer segment.

In this case, for the small-business audience.

3. Orion Cooler.

And what if you just want to make sure your homepage is optimized? Well, be sure you include:

  1. Interactive graphics
  2. Videos
  3. Cross-linking.

Orion Coolers does this well.

4. Mobile optimization.

Mobile optimization these days isn’t just about having a site that is responsive.

That’s just step #1.

Having a mobile-optimized site also means including:

  • Mobile-optimized search
  • Digital wallets
  • Product videos

And that’s just for starters.

Mobile and Desktop UX Should Be Equal

Mobile experience need to be on par with desktop. That’s just expectation these days.

– Josh Mendelsohn, VP Marketing, Privy

Digital Wallets + Mobile Optimization

Mobile commerce is continuing to rise thanks to one new technology: digital wallets.

These wallets allow for one-click purchasing that makes buying on the go less annoying.

Examples of digital wallets and one-touch payments include:

  • Amazon Pay
  • Apple Pay
  • PayPal One-Touch
  • Visa Checkout

Focus on Mobile Checkout

Offer Apple Pay, PayPal Express or Visa Checkout and don’t make the customer have to fill in all of their details on a mobile phone.

Ease of purchase is key.

Also, think about credit. PayPal Credit was previously expensive for the retailer.

Today’s buy-now, pay-later systems are not – including PayPal Credit and Klarna.

– Rupert Cross, Digital Director, 5874

Best Online Guides for Mobile Optimization

Mobile is the New Desktop

In the digital space we’ve been banging the drum on mobile for years now and there are still many sites that don’t get it.

Optimize your forms, create mobile-first designs, load pages quickly. Mobile is here. Understand how your customers use mobile and optimize.

– Stephen Slater, Digital Advertising Manager, TopRankMarketing

3 Real World Content + SEO Examples

1. Couture Candy.

On mobile, what would you do?

Fill out your email and begin an account…or just use Amazon Pay?

2. CocoWeb.

Same scenario here –– sign up, or just hit Apple Pay and be done with it?

“We have seen an AOV increase of over 25%, a mobile conversion increase of over 75%. We accomplished this while decreasing mobile paid traffic by over 50%!” 

3. Solo Stove.

You don’t even need to take them to a cart. Just use a pop-up like Solo Stove does to help the customer decide where to go next.

Make sure payment is one of those options.

Mobile Means Everything

Mobile experience will be key in 2018.

Mobile traffic has already overtaken desktop traffic, and we are seeing mobile sales approach desktop sales.

This trend will continue, with mobile eventually overtaking desktop sales.

Retailers with a mobile-first mentality will outperform those that treat mobile as a second priority. This mobile-first mentality applies to everything: web design, email layouts, reward programs and more.

– Steve Deckert, Co-Founder, Smile.io

5. Social media advertising, campaigns and retargeting.

Social media advertising, specifically Facebook Advertising, was all the rage in 2017.

Many an ecommerce business owner turned a pretty $1,000,000 in annual revenue off of this tactic.

And while many may still be able to do so in 2018, it is likely that the cost is going to go way up.

In the meantime, be sure you have the basics down:

  1. Upload your catalog to Facebook Shop
  2. Use Dynamic Product Ads to retarget site visitors based on what they viewed.

Social Media is Scientific

Brands need to gain a scientific understanding of social media marketing and become experts in A/B testing in site building, content development and marketing/advertising.

All of these work together.

– Krista Fabregas, Editor, Ecommerce & Retail, FitSmallBusiness

What is Social Media Advertising?

Social media advertising is a popular channel for ecommerce brands to use to run campaigns, drive traffic and close sales.

It works best when:

  • Retargeting customers who visited a site to come back and close a sale
  • Using customer testimonials and videos to earn visibility
  • Creating an online, loyal community

Facebook Advertising has historically been the most popular social media advertising channel.

The Pillars of Modern Social Media Advertising

Good social media advertising and marketing is about 3 things:

  1. Engaging with consumers where they are – in social media – and not just using social media as an advertisement, but as a way to truly engage with and celebrate your fans
  2. The use of user-generated content in your social media, which will help you both celebrate your fans and provide a more authentic engagement experience for consumers
  3. Leveraging micro-influencers in a broad and authentic way to expose your content to new consumers.

– Neal Schaffer, Author, The Business of Influence

Best Online Guides for Social Media Advertising

Retargeting and Engagement Go Hand in Hand

Building a culture around your brand will be the only way to compete and thrive in a marketplace that turns everything into a commodity driven by price and reviews.

So focus on engagement, retargeting and community.

– Bryan Bowman, Founder, eCom Underground

3 Real World Social Advertising Examples

1. Tommy John.

Tommy John uses a gifting video along with a customer testimonial in this re-targeted Facebook Ad.

2. Rollie.

Rollie is an Australian brand that has (clearly) just launched in the US. They are likely targeting me based on my geographic location and having visited their site before.

This link leads back to a specific campaign page.

The ad is an image.

2. Nike.

Nike is using the multiple photo option ad (aka, not a video) and promoting customized items in the ads.

Video + Ads = Success

Facebook prioritizes videos and videos help build way more trust then just a regular ad. Videos are so powerful and using Facebook Custom Engagement Audiences you can sequence potential customers who watch 10 seconds of one of your videos to another video.

Using Facebook Video Ads combined with Custom Engagement Audiences alone you can sequence potential customers all the way down a video funnel that goes from Awareness to Engagement and then to Conversion.

In 2018 video will continue to be a huge opportunity for ecommerce brands.

– Daniel Wallock, Marketing Strategist, Wallock Media

6. CRO and data-driven optimizations.

CRO stands for conversion rate optimization, which you can only do through data-driven optimization and decision making.

These two aspects are tied hand in hand. You cannot do one without the other.

Average ecommerce conversion rates rest at about 2% – and that’s not very good.

Conversion rate optimization allows you to run tests to determine which various designs, language, etc. increase sales versus others.

Then, you can launch updates sitewide to see a major lift.

CRO Tools Are Cheap and Easy

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) to me is priority 1, 2, and 3.

The tools are cheap and easy to use. The data they can provide is invaluable.

Look for little wins here and there and over the course of the year you will find that you have made it far more likely that a visitor to your website becomes a paying customer.

– Zach Heller, Owner, Zach Heller Marketing

CRO Best Practices

Here are a few key best practices and tools to use for CRO and testing.

  • Keep yourself out of the picture: Don’t create navigation categories just to create categories. Only include links your shoppers find valuable. This is not the time or place to rely on aesthetics or your gut feeling. Instead, use Google Analytics or your ecommerce analytics to determine your most frequently visited landing pages (i.e. Women’s, Men’s, New Products, etc) and then link out to those within your site navigation.
  • Use tools to avoid assumptions: Consider using Crazy Egg, HotJar or Lucky Orange, tools that provides heat mapping. Heat mapping is an insanely valuable way to better understand how a shopper uses your site. This type of information is extremely informative, especially when coupled with additional metrics regarding your online store, like in-store search and website exit rates.

  • Create categories based on search: If you’re a BigCommerce merchant, use your in-store search analytics to help determine what shoppers are looking for, then bring those categories front and center. If you’re not a BigCommerce merchant or you’d like another look at what shoppers are searching for on your site, use Google Analytics: Google Analytics > Account > Behavior > Site Search > Search Terms.

Get more in touch with your market

Regularly get your customers on the phone. Ask why they choose you. Ask what problems drove them to you in the first place. Ask how they view you compared to competitors.

Ask, ask, ask.

Their answers are literally what should go on your website to connect more deeply with your market and generate more sales.

Nothing generates more ideas for how to improve your website than these conversations.

– David Tendrich, Co-Founder & CEO, Reliable PSD

Best Online Guides for CRO

Testing is Always Priority #1

Every brand has to first test their way to success. That’s always a top priority.  

The second is to spend 10% of your time/budget testing new techniques and technologies.

And the third is to be sure to share your successes and failures with everybody internally. That way, you can be sure you have a staff with a knowledge base.

– Jamie Turner, Author, Speaker, and CEO, Jamie Turner Live

3 Real World CRO Examples

OK, so this is the one section of the post where I can’t give you any original examples.

A/B testing is a private strategy for businesses, and rarely do they share their insights beyond the internal teams.

That makes sense.

You don’t want to show your strategic and data-backed advantages to your competitors, do you?

I found a few examples, but none show you side-by-side design comparisons.

1. Andreas Carter Sports.

One of the biggest changes we made was to the ‘Add To Cart’ button. Simply changing it from black to a blue color has reduced abandoned carts by up to 50%. – Jeremy Hagon, Marketing Manager, Andreas Carter Sports

2. SerengeeTee.

We have continued to improve conversion through A/B testing and design upgrades. Last year, conversion was 4.2%; this year, we are at 4.6%.

The average conversion rate in our industry is somewhere in the 2-3% ballpark.

This has given us an edge against other clothing brands. – Jeff Steitz, Founder and CEO at Serengetee

3. Natomounts.

I have 30 BigCommerce sites up and the reason I keep coming back is because my development staff and design staff are familiar with the templates and the backend. We can quickly create a website or create a duplicate website for A/B testing in less than a few days. – Brandon Chatham, Founder & CEO of NatoMounts.

The One Tactic Above All Else

Every business, depending on what stage they are in, will have different priorities, but I know what we’ll be focused on.

We’re going to add more great private label products and drive more traffic via email marketing.

But number 1 for us, as always, is continual conversion optimization.

– Jason Boyce, Founder, Dazadi

7. Technology.

There’s been a massive shift in retail. Everyone feels it.

  • It’s why there is so much more competition.
  • It’s why marketing matters so much more than ever before.

It all comes down to two things: cost of entry and scale.

The cost of entry and cost to scale have dramatically reduced over the years. It would be impossible a decade ago to launch a website paying only $30 a month.

Today, that’s the norm.

And because the cost to entry is so low, more people has entered. And a lot of those people are scaling –– again, because the technology to do so costs so little.

Suddenly, marketing to earn your fair share of the market is one of the most important factors to success.

And if that’s the case, well…

Then you better make sure you tech stack works for you.

Let’s listen to Grant Yuan, President of CuttingBoard.com.

My advice for other business owners is this: it’s important to save time and work on the things that matter.

Rather than tying up time with manual data entry and packaging, focus on things that help your business grow – like marketing, business development, etc.

Let tools and integrations take care of the other elements of the business, and outsource work when you need it.

Don’t be afraid to invest in resources that help you grow faster and with less stress.

20 Most Popular Ecommerce Tools

Here are some of the most popular tools, apps and technologies for ecommerce brands. 

  1. MailChimp.
  2. Shipstation.
  3. QuickBooks Online.
  4. Facebook Ads Extension.
  5. JustUno.
  6. Buy Buttons.
  7. Yotpo.
  8. ShipperHQ.
  9. Smile.io.
  10. AfterShip.
  11. inkFrog Open.
  12. Signifyd.
  13. Xero.
  14. Stamps.com.
  15. PixelPop.
  16. InStockNotify.
  17. Shippo.
  18. Soundest.
  19. Form Builder by POWr.
  20. BigCommerce.

3 Real World Examples of Brands Using Technology to Grow

1. So Suzy Stamps.

Honestly, InStockAlerts is worth its weight in gold. When I was starting out, I didn’t have a lot of inventory. I didn’t understand how fast I was going to grow. So, I’d do a new product release and within an hour I’d be out of stamps.

Suddenly, all my customers wanted to know when a product would be back in stock. They wanted an email to let them know so they didn’t miss out on it a second time.

I knew I didn’t have time to send everyone an email! Then, I have more sales with no additional time spent. It’s magic. – Suzanne Moore, Founder, So Suzy Stamps

2. Atlanta Light Bulbs.

We also use PriceWaiter on our product pages – which lets the buyer name a price. The buyer goes to our site and says, “Hey, I want to buy 50 of these at $2 a piece.”

On the backend, we have loaded up all of our pricing rules into the PriceWaiter system. That app knows if we are willing to sell X items for Y dollars –– as long as the order value is above Z.

PriceWaiter auto-calculates all of that on the fly for the B2B buyer so they don’t have to wait to hear back from us. They just get a message that says we’ve accepted their offer, or if the price is too low, we offer them a different deal. –– Doug Root, CEO at Atlanta Light Bulbs

3. Incy Interiors.

We use several different integrations with BigCommerce right now, but we like the social tools that make it easy to optimize things like email campaigns we send out through MailChimp.

We’re currently setting up a more robust CRM system, but we use MailChimp to work on lowering cart abandonment rates and staying in touch with our customers.

We also like that the social media tools for Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram make it much easier to share our products. – Krista Withers, Founder of Incy Interiors

Your Secret Weapon

Leverage new technologies and services to make purchases as easy as possible. Never forget that there is tech out there to help you solve a variety of problems.

– David Mercer, Founder, SMEPals

8. Email marketing, automation and AOV.

Email marketing has long held the #1 position as the most profitable growth channel for online stores.

There is a few reasons for this:

  • Building your email list drives top-of-funnel connections – allowing you to build out a funnel that turns email addresses into real, loyal customers.
  • Receipt emails are the most opened emails bar none. Your opportunity to upsell or drive loyalty here is huge.
  • Your email marketing open and click-through rate are easily measurable, and give you a good understanding of how engaged your audience is (or isn’t).
  • Because metrics are easy to track, A/B testing messages to increase engagement is relatively easy, and won’t affect on-site conversions.
  • Doing all of the above is free once you capture that email (also depending on the cost of your email service provider).
  • Best yet, all of the above can be automated. This means you can set and forget, check the number, re-optimize and then go about your business is other areas.

All in all, email marketing drives increased loyalty, repeat purchases, net new purchases and increased AOV, and it can do all of that without you having to actually send individual emails to individual customers.

Automation is the real winner here – and email marketing is a test-bed of measurable aspects you can manipulate in order to drive growth behind the scenes.

Automation That Feels Human

Every ecommerce brand should prioritize their automation, whether that’s automated emails or on-site campaigns.

It’s the name of the game and one that you’ll need to do without sacrificing too much of the human touch to execute it well.

–  Kayla Lewkowicz, Marketing Manager, Privy

Best Online Guides for Email Marketing and Automation

3 Real World Email Marketing Examples

Email marketing doesn’t always have to be about journeys and streams.

Those are big parts of what makes email marketing work. But the #1 thing you must do is this:

  • Be honest.
  • Be open.
  • Be transparent.

You want your audience to connect. Here are some great ways to do it.

1. Dorco.

Dorco sent out a personal email from the CEO of the company to promote an organization called ShowerUp –– a mobile truck that goes around to homeless communities to provide hygiene options –– like shaving –– to the community.

It’s a heartfelt letter with a real signature. It also includes a coupon code so that you can give and get discounted off.

It’s a win-win-win.

2. Care.org.

Sometimes, philanthropy and sales can go hand in hand.

This is especially true with Care.org. They run a gifts.care.org site that allows folks to buy gifts that help those in the underdeveloped world.

Here is an example of one of their holiday emails to their base.

3. Kelty.

Remember, beyond giving and philanthropy, your emails should build community among your base.

Kelty, a camping site, does this incredibly well. Each of their emails is themed, with an image to support the message.

Yes, they showcase products. But they also showcase content to help readers and customers nail down their next adventure.

9. Influencer marketing.

Influencer marketing is one of the most effective strategies to growth for online brands.

Why?

Because consumers trust other people’s opinions over almost anything else.

Word of mouth is powerful – and today, word of mouth doesn’t have to happen face to face.

Instead, it can happen Instagram post to Instagram Post or YouTube Video to YouTube Video.

And better yet, for brands at least, you don’t have to pay an insane amount of money to make influencer marketing work for you.

You don’t have to be, know or pay for Kylie Jenner, for instance.

Instead, you can empower a group of micro-influencers to create a groundswell of support that isn’t expensive to maintain and that feels more natural, community-driven and honest than large payouts to big names.

Influencers Are Vital

A strong network of influencers is a vital part of building a strong, sustainable ecommerce business.

– David Mercer, Founder, SMEPals

Most Commonly Used Influencer Marketing Strategies

  1. Content Featuring Your Products or Services
  2. Product or Service Reviews
  3. Promote Giveaway Contests
  4. Offer Discounts to Drive Conversions
  5. Offer Custom URLs for Free Access

Best Online Guides for Influencer Marketing

3 Real-World Influencer Marketing Examples

1. Natori.

Natori promoted their line of sports bras through fitness influencer Sarah Dussault.

Natori is a brand that sells luxury lingerie, women’s clothing and home décor.

If they were to promote any of their other products through this specific influencer, it wouldn’t be as relevant.

But in this case, the product they were promoting was a line of sports bras, so a fitness influencer like Sarah was a good choice.

2. Skullcandy.

Skullcandy works with YouTube influencers to offer honest reviews of the product. This is a great tactic to use if you are certain of your product’s quality.

Check out the video below for an example.

You’ll notice that the influencer doesn’t mince words – these headphones used to be expensive. They don’t cost as much anymore.

Thoughts like that help to convey honest value and feedback to the audience. In YouTube influencer marketing, you often won’t have much say over what an influencer says about your product.

3. Di Bruno.

Product and service reviews similar to the YouTube example above can also be done in print/text.

An excellent example is Hello Subscription’s detailed review of their experience with Di Bruno Bros. Hello Subscription is a blog dedicated to promoting and reviewing subscription boxes.

Their Co-Editor, Tom, reviewed a “House of Cheese Pairing Club,” box from Di Bruno Bros. The review included more than 20 images, and detailed descriptions of the contents of the subscription box, about which Tom also shared his honest opinions.

10. Omni-channel management.

Omni-channel may be an industry buzzword, but the need for it at the level of growing brands cannot be ignored.

Most brands sell in more than 1 place. Here is a non-exhaustive list of options:

  • Webstore
  • Brick-and-mortar
  • Amazon
  • eBay
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Houzz
  • Alibaba
  • Wholesale
  • Etsy
  • Pop-up Shops
  • Events + Markets

And that list is only ever going to grow.

For brands, the first trick is deciding which channels make the most sense for you.

The second trick is to scale each of those channels, and subsequently the brand, effectively – maintaining exceptional inventory, branding and customer experience across the board.

So…let’s start from the beginning here…

Omni-Channel Requires Rethinking

The rapid growth we’re seeing in the ecommerce space has far reaching implications for the tools and services we use to convert customers on a daily basis.

This also means that ecommerce brands need to focus more attention on how new tools and new customer behavior will interact.

Omni-channel sales require businesses to rethink how goods and services will reach consumers or at least attract consumer attention.

–  David Feng, Co-Founder, Re:amaze

What is Omni-Channel Management?

Omni-channel management is process and strategy by which brands manage their inventory, branding and customer experience across a variety of channels.

Common tools brands use include:

  • ERP
    • Brightpearl
    • NetSuite
    • Sage
    • SAP
  • System Integrators
    • eBridge Connections
    • Jasper Studios
  • POS
    • Square
    • Springboard Retail
    • ShopKeep
    • Hike POS
    • Amber POS
    • Lightspeed Retail POS
  • CRM
    • Salesforce
    • Reamaze
    • Hubspot
  • APIs

Best Online Guides for Omni-Channel Management

Gain Control, or Lose It All

Gain control of your distribution channels, addressing sales tax liability and expand into international marketplaces. That’s a good 2018 strategy.

– James Thomson, Partner, Buy Box Experts

3 Real World Influencer Marketing Examples

1. Glory Cycles.

Glory Cycles began on eBay and has since build a legacy brand on their own webstore.

But they haven’t left eBay behind. Today, they use the marketplace to sell returned items for a profit.

We don’t put a lot of energy into our eBay efforts, but we do use it to sell our returns.

The reason for that is we’re a bit limited in what our vendors allow us to sell on that platform, so it’s primarily a channel for moving returned product.

It’s extremely simple with the BigCommerce integration.

For a long time, we shied away from doing a lot of eBay business because we didn’t want to run two separate systems, but with BigCommerce we can run everything from a single location.

When we get an eBay order, it still comes through as a normal order in BigCommerce, and that was very attractive to us. –– Clive De Sousa, President, Glory Cycles.

In this model, BigCommerce serves as the inventory management hub.

2. BeachRC.

BeachRC sells on eBay, Amazon, their webstore and brick-and-mortar. They use BigCommerce as their inventory hub, and Square as their POS.

BigCommerce’s Amazon integration is really good – and it’s really helped us out. We’re converting more ecommerce and online sales due to our Amazon presence now.

I would have never gone out to put products on Amazon on my own. The fact that it was going to be easy to integrate directly through BigCommerce is why I did it – and now, we see 1 out of every 10 orders coming to us through Amazon.

It’s a great gateway to gaining customers, especially when you are strategic about which products you put up there, and which you make exclusive for your own site.

I think beyond just selling on Amazon for Amazon’s sake. Being there helps to create more customers for our website, too. It helps us with volume and with growing our website and our clientele.

I’d say 99% of everything we do is through BigCommerce. We’re not using Amazon Seller Central very much. I want to make everything easy and streamlined for my team, so we use the BigCommerce Control Panel and Channel Manager to do almost everything. – Brent Densford, CEO of BeachRC

3. Casey’s Distributing.

Casey’s Distributing built an app on top of BigCommerce’s API to sell wholesale to brands across the globe. The app uses Casey’s Distrubuting’s inventory in BigCommerce as the hub of its system.

We’re building an app for the BigCommerce app store that will connect our inventory feed to BigCommerce store owners who want it. Working with thousands of retail businesses, we know that one of the challenges when starting a store is figuring out what to sell.

Well, Casey’s can help – and we’re using the BigCommerce API to do it.

Soon, BigCommerce store owners new to selling online can add NFL/NBA/NCAA/NHL/MLS merchandise to their sites to sell. These are brands people know and love.

The app will connect all the dots for BigCommerce customers. They can add products through it, pick the teams they want and then the app will update the quantities for them and it will help them remove products after they become obsolete.

It’s a no-brainer if you are just getting started. The API makes it incredibly easy. – Ben Johnson, VP Operations at Casey’s Distributing and President, MaxQV, LLC.

That app is called League License.

Want more insights like this?

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147 Online Shopping Statistics Behind Why These Ecommerce Trends Matter Most

For article length sake, I cannot go into this amount of detail for the other 9 topics considered very important by experts.

However, the 10 tactics above are in order of priority. Start from #1 and work your way down.

Get these channels and strategies optimized, and you’ll be ready to tackle the other 9 – and will have a bulky bottom line which which to do it.

Struggling with getting your CEO, CMO, founder or even yourself on board with some of these ideas and strategies? 

Not to worry. This is where data comes into play. 

BigCommerce and Square, as mentioned earlier, teamed up to dive deep into the shopping habits, behavior and preferences of thousands of American buyers across multiple generations.

You can download that full guide below. 

Free Download

Get the Comprehensive Modern Consumer Shopping Habits Study in a PDF version for further reading, research and action. It’s free and a quick download away.

Download Report Now

That deep dive and research also gave us 147 stats on exactly how U.S. shoppers shop online, including:

  • Who does the shopping
  • Where they shop
  • When they shop
  • Why they shop
  • What they buy when they shop
  • How they shop 

Why is this research so important?

Because it’s easier than ever for businesses to have a digital presence across a variety of channels.

A 2017 point-of-sale solutions survey of 1,164 U.S. business owners conducted by Square and Mercury Analytics found that:

  • 56% have a physical store.
  • 21% have a pop-up store, or pop-up at events.
  • 34% sell through their own website (using a website building platform).
  • 25% sell through Facebook (40% on social media as a whole).
  • 16% sell through Amazon (more should, considering almost half of purchases begin here).
  • 22% sell through other marketplaces (including Amazon, Etsy, eBay, etc.).

However, despite how easy it is to launch a webstore, scaling an online business remains extremely difficult even for the most seasoned ecommerce expert.

Ecommerce sales are growing, but many retailers are struggling to capitalize on their digital sales channels.

The secret to success in 2018 is no longer just get it out there and see how it performs. The most successful retailers are strategic and targeted in their efforts, both offline and on.

It’s called omni-channel selling, and it’s something BigCommerce and Square have been exploring over the past year, in an attempt to help connect the dots between your business and the those who want to buy from your business.

Are you an omni-channel seller?

It’s not just about broadcasting on all channels, though. Effectively targeting a ready-to-buy audience requires solid data and statistics on your customers.

Below, you’ll find ecommerce trends, data and statistics reporting on exactly how Americans shop online, why customers convert, why they don’t and who your business should be targeting on the various online channels in order to optimize for ROI.

This data gives you a window into what consumers look for in an online shopping experience, showcasing the potential to adapt your ecommerce business to fit the modern shopper.

These findings can percolate through every aspect of your business: product pages, emails, content marketing and much more.

Online Shopping Trends and Statistics
  1. General online shopping statistics.
  2. Ecommerce trends by generations.
  3. Ecommerce trends by parental status.
  4. Ecommerce trends by gender.
  5. Ecommerce trends by city-size.
  6. Spending and conversion rates.
  7. Buying frequency.
  8. Customer location at time of purchase.
  9. Types of online goods purchased.
  10. Influencing factors on conversion rates.
  11. Social media as an influencing factor.
  12. Online shopping in society.
  13. Shopper characteristics by channel.

Let’s dive in. 

General Online shopping data:

  • 51% of Americans prefer to shop online in 2018.
  • 96% of Americans with internet access have made an online purchase in their life, 80% in the past month alone.
  • Ecommerce is growing 23% year-over-year, yet 46% of American small businesses do not have a website.
  • Online orders increase 8.9% in Q3 2016, but average order value (AOV) increased only 0.2% — indicating that transactional growth is outpacing total revenue.

Online shopping trends by generation:

  • 67% of Millennials and 56% of Gen Xers prefer to shop on online rather than in-store.
  • 41% of Baby Boomers and 28% of Seniors will click to purchase.
  • Millennials and Gen Xers spend nearly 50% as much time shopping online each week (six hours) than their older counterparts (four hours).
  • 48% of millennials have shopped on marketplaces, 76% at large retailer sites, 46% on webstores or independent boutiques, and 29% at category-specific online stores.
  • 56% of Gen Xers have shopped on marketplaces, 76% at large retailer sites, 49% on webstores or independent boutiques, and 37% at category-specific online stores.
  • 59% of Baby Boomers have shopped on marketplaces, 74% at large retailer sites, 42% on webstores or independent boutiques, and 39% at category-specific online stores.
  • 51% of Seniors have shopped on marketplaces, 66% at large retailer sites, 30% on webstores or independent boutiques, and 44% at category-specific online stores.
  • Millennials and Gen Xers spend 6 hours per week shopping online
  • Baby Boomers spend 4 hours per week shopping online.
  • Seniors spend 2.5 hours per week shopping online.

Ecommerce trends by parental status:

  • Parents spend more of their budget online in comparison to non-parents (40% vs. 34%) and spend 75% more time online shopping each week (7 hours vs. 4 hours for non-parents).
  • Parents spend 61% more online than non-parents ($1,071 vs. $664).
  • Nearly half (49%) of parents stated that they cannot live without online shopping.
  • 53% of U.S. parents have shopped on marketplaces, 78% at large retailer sites, 53% on webstores or independent boutiques, and 34% at category-specific online stores.
  • 54% of non-parents have shopped on marketplaces, 72% at large retailer sites, 39% on webstores or independent boutiques, and 37% at category-specific online stores.

Online shopping trends by gender:

  • Men reported spending 28% more online than women during the past year.
  • 52% of men have shopped on marketplaces, 75% at large retailer sites, 39% on webstores or independent boutiques, and 31% at category-specific online stores.
  • 56% of women have shopped on marketplaces, 74% at large retailer sites, 48% on webstores or independent boutiques, and 40% at category-specific online stores.
  • Men and women both report spending 5 hours per week shopping online.

Online shopping trends by city-size:

  • Although they have greater proximity to physical stores, customers in large or mid-size metropolitan areas spend more online annually ($853) than suburban shoppers ($768) or those in rural areas ($684).
  • Americans in metropolitan areas are spending the most online.
  • 63% of suburban shoppers share that shipping costs are their least favorite part of online shopping.
  • 38% of rural shoppers cite strong concerns about online privacy.
  • 49% of Americans in metropolitan areas have shopped on marketplaces, 76% at large retailer sites, 45% on webstores or independent boutiques, and 30% at category-specific online stores.
  • 60% of Americans in suburban areas have shopped on marketplaces, 73% at large retailer sites, 44% on webstores or independent boutiques, and 42% at category-specific online stores.
  • 58% of Americans in rural areas have shopped on marketplaces, 71% at large retailer sites, 39% on webstores or independent boutiques, and 40% at category-specific online stores.
  • Americans in metropolitan areas report spending 4.5 hours per week shopping online.
  • Americans in suburban and rural areas both spend 5 hours per week shopping online.

Online spending and conversion rates:

  • 51% of Americans think shopping online is the best way to shop, with 49% preferring shopping in-store.
  • Americans spend 64% of their shopping budget in-store, and 36% online.
  • In the last year, shoppers have spent the most with ecommerce marketplaces ($488), closely followed by major online/offline brands ($409) such as Nordstrom or Best Buy.
  • 74% of Americans have shopped at large online/offline brand name retailers, 54% on ecommerce marketplaces, 44% at small and specially online brands and 36% at category-specific online retailers.
  • When shopping online, nearly half (48%) of online purchasers first turn to a mass commerce marketplace.
  • 31% first shop at a large online/offline brand name retailer, 12% first shop at a category specific online retailer, 7% first turn to a small/speciality online retail brand (more on conversion rates here).
  • 52% of smartphone owners use online banking (or e-banking), indicative of a further trend towards mobile shopping

Online shopping buying frequency stats in America:

  • 95% of Americans shop online at least yearly.
  • 80% of Americans shop online at least monthly.
  • 30% of Americans shop online at least weekly.
  • 5% of Americans shop online daily.

Customer location when making a purchase online:

  • A quarter of online shoppers (25%) have made an online purchase from a brick-and-mortar store.
  • 43% of online shoppers have made a purchase while in bed.
  • Millennials and Gen Xers are nearly 3x as likely as Baby Boomers and Seniors to have made an online purchase from bed (59% v 21%).
  • 23% of online shoppers have made an online purchase at the office.
  • Nearly 3 in 10 (29%) of Millennials and Gen Xers have made a purchase from the office.
  • More than 15% of Baby Boomers and Seniors have made a purchase from the office.
  • 20% of American online shoppers have purchased from the bathroom or while in the car (a +1 for mobile commerce).
  • Millennials and Gen Xers are 5x more likely to have made an online purchase from the bathroom (31% v. 6%) than Baby Boomers and Seniors.
  • One in ten customers admitted to buying something online after drinking alcohol.
  • Men are more than twice as likely as women to have made a purchase after consuming alcohol (14% to 6%).
  • Younger generations are 5x more likely to drink and shop than their older counterparts (15% to 3%).
  • Parents are twice as likely as non-parents to have made an online purchase after drinking (15% v 7%).

Statistics about types of items purchased online:

  • 60% of shoppers have purchased clothing, shoes and accessories items from large retailers, 54% at marketplaces, 44% from category-specific and 45% from webstores.
  • 43% of online shoppers have purchased computers or electronics from marketplaces, 41% from large retailers, 29% at category-specific online stores and 17% at webstores.
  • 34% of shoppers have purchased beauty items at marketplaces, 31% at large retailers, 29% at webstores and 25% at category-specific online stores.
  • 55% of shoppers have purchased books, movies and music shop at a marketplaces, 36% at large retailers, 24% at webstores and 21% at category-specific online stores.
  • 18% of shoppers have purchased flowers and gifts on marketplaces, 18% at large retailers, 24% at webstores and 28% category-specific online stores.

Stats about what influencing factors get people to buy online:

  • The top three factors that are very or extremely influential in determining where Americans shop are price (87%), shipping cost and speed (80%) and discount offers (71%).
  • Seniors are less influenced by discount offers than other generations: 47% to 74%.
  • Almost a quarter of online shoppers (23%) are influenced by social media recommendations.
  • 42% online customers find recommendations from friends and family influential, twice the number who cite advertisements as influential when determining where to shop.
  • Younger generations more receptive to advertising: Millennials and Gen X are twice as likely as older generations (27% vs. 14%) to be influenced by advertising.
  • 23% of shoppers are influenced by social media recommendations/reviews.
  • Online shoppers want products to be brought to life with images (78%) and product reviews (69%).
  • Female respondents cited that they enjoy online shopping (51% vs. 37% of male respondents), invest more time (60% vs. 46% for male counterparts) to find the best deals and often search for coupon codes to get discounts (48% vs. 29% for males).
  • 66% of online shoppers have decided not to buy an item because of shipping costs.
  • 72% of females and 59% of males have decided to abandon their purchase because of shipping costs.
  • 49% of cite not being able to touch, feel or try a product as one of their least favorite aspects of online shopping.
  • 34% said difficult to return items and long delivery estimates were also a pain (indicating a desire for same-day delivery).
  • 21% of Americans state that unattractive or hard-to-navigate websites is frustrating when buying online.
  • 78% of online shoppers want more images from ecommerce sites.
  • 69% of online shoppers want more reviews from ecommerce sites.
  • 46% of online shoppers want more product comparisons from ecommerce sites.
  • 42% of online shoppers want more testimonials from ecommerce sites.
  • 30% of online shoppers want more video from ecommerce sites.
  • 42% of online shoppers have made a purchase they later regret.
  • Millennials are more likely to experience purchaser’s regret than any other generation (51% v 37%).
  • 21% of Americans have accidentally bought something they didn’t want.
  • More than half of Millennial and Gen Xers (55%) have overspent when shopping online, while just under two in five (38%) of baby boomers and seniors have done the same.
  • 48% of online shoppers have bought or spent more than planned when shopping online.

Social media as an influencing factor on conversion rates:

As social commerce continues to grow, these trends are indicative of the massive potential for retailers to connect with shoppers on their favorite platforms.

  • 30% of online shoppers say they would be likely to make a purchase from a social media network like Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat.
  • 20% of online shoppers would be likely to make a purchase from Facebook.
  • 17% of online shoppers would be likely to make a purchase from Pinterest.
  • 14% of online shoppers would be likely to make a purchase from Instagram.
  • 12% of online shoppers would be likely to make a purchase from Twitter.
  • 10% of online shoppers would be likely to make a purchase from Snapchat.
  • Men are more likely than women to make a purchase through Facebook (23% vs. 17%).
  • Men are more likely than women to make a purchase through Instagram (18% vs. 11%).
  • Men are more likely than women to make a purchase through Twitter (17% vs. 7%).
  • Men are more likely than women to make a purchase through Snapchat (15% vs. 6%).
  • 29% of online shoppers would be likely to follow a brand on Facebook.
  • 21% of online shoppers would be likely to follow a brand on Pinterest.
  • 21% of online shoppers would be likely to follow a brand on Instagram.
  • 18% of online shoppers would be likely to follow a brand on Twitter.
  • 13% of online shoppers would be likely to follow a brand on Snapchat.
  • 20% of online shoppers would purchase an item a friend has included on their Pinterest board.
  • 18% of shoppers would purchase an item a friend liked on Facebook.
  • 21% of online shoppers would purchase an item featured in a brand’s Facebook post.
  • 18% of online shoppers would purchase an item from a brand’s Pinterest board.
  • 51% of Millennials would be likely to make a purchase over social media.
  • 36% of Gen Xers would be likely to make a purchase over social media.
  • 14% of Baby Boomers would be likely to make a purchase over social media.
  • 3% of Seniors would be likely to make a purchase over social media.
  • 29% of Millennials and Gen Xers would likely make a purchase through Facebook if given the option.
  • 26% of Millennials and Gen Xers would likely make a purchase through Pinterest if given the option.

Online shopping in society:

  • 2 in 5 (40%) online shoppers say they couldn’t live without online shopping.
  • Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers are more than twice as likely as seniors to say they couldn’t live without online shopping (43% to 20%).
  • Online shoppers are nearly twice as likely to say they could not live without online shopping as they are to say they could not live without streaming music (40% to 21%).
  • Online shoppers are 8x as likely to say they could not live without online shopping as they are to say they could not live without dating apps (40% to 8%).

Shopper characteristics by channel:

Marketplace shopper characteristics and trends.

  • 55% of all ecommerce sales are done through branded stores, vs. 45% via marketplaces.
  • Of the 45% of all sales through marketplaces, the most common destinations are:
    • Amazon – 36%
    • eBay – 8%
    • Etsy and others – 1%
  • Shoppers on marketplaces search for product online more often and spend more online, too.
  • The marketplace shoppers is more likely than the average shopper to enjoy taking their time to find the right deal (62% v. 54%).
  • More likely to research brands before making a purchase (61% v. 48%).
  • Average amount spent per year on marketplaces: $488.
  • What marketplace shoppers buy: Book, movies, music (44%), Clothing, shoes and accessories (43%), Computers and electronics (34%), Health and beauty products (29%).
  • 70% of shoppers plan to check out Amazon Prime on Prime Day, per DigitalCommerce360

Recommended Posts

Learn more about Amazon’s evolution from bookstore to worldwide sales giant.

Large retailer shopper characteristics and trends.

Shoppers on large retailer sites are high spends and are less likely to shop elsewhere.

  • Those who have ever shopping at a large online/offline retailer are less likely to research brands before making a purchase (53%) than those who shop at small/speciality (58%), marketplaces (61%) or category-specific (61) online retailers.
  • Average amount spent per year: $409.
  • What larger retailer shoppers buy: Book, movies, music (28%), Clothing, shoes and accessories (47%), Computers and electronics (32%), Health and beauty products (24%).

Online store shopper characteristics and trends.

Shoppers on webstores enjoy shopping and visit a variety of retailers.

  • Small/speciality online shoppers spend the majority of their budget elsewhere — a yearly average of $501 on marketplaces, $404 at omni-channel retailers and $233 at category specific online retailers.
  • Those who have ever shopped at a small/speciality online retailer are more likely than the average shopper to say they enjoy shopping (55% to 45%).
  • Average amount spent per year: $182.
  • What webstore shoppers buy: Book, movies, music (15%), Clothing, shoes and accessories (27%), flowers and gifts (15%), Health and beauty products (19%).

Category-specific shopper characteristics and trends.

Shoppers on category-specific sites are loyal to brands, not to the retailer type.

  • Category-specific shoppers are more likely than the average shoppers to tend to stick to certain brands or retailers (52% v. 42%).
  • And they’re more hesitant than the average shopper to make large purchases (49% to 41%).
  • Average amount spent per year: $259.
  • What marketplace shoppers buy: Book, movies, music (21%), Clothing, shoes and accessories (30%), flowers and gifts (19%), Health and beauty products (19%).

For more information, see the full data analysis on omni-channel selling here.

Want more insights like this?

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The 8 Tools and Strategies Proven to Acquire New Customers & Increase Customer Engagement https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/customer-acquisition-engagement/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/customer-acquisition-engagement/#respond Tue, 05 Dec 2017 20:38:20 +0000 https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=25923 How is a sinking ship different from a failing ecommerce site? At least the captain can go down with their…]]>

How is a sinking ship different from a failing ecommerce site?

At least the captain can go down with their ship!

You can’t – so you better do everything in your power to keep the customers coming.

As we approach crunch time in the world of online shopping, now seems like as good a time as any to review the best tools and techniques for acquiring new customers, increasing repeat business, and minimizing loss.

The whole ecommerce game boils down to getting people to buy your product. And then, hopefully getting some of those customers to come back again and again.

Whether you’re new to ecommerce or a grizzled vet who remembers what it was like to sell on eBay, this guide should give you some new ideas and reinforce old ones, including:

  • Why actionable, helpful content is your responsibility (i.e. curation isn’t key)
  • When to ask customers for reviews (and then how to use those!)
  • How to do influencer outreach to earn increased SEO (the science + the art)
  • How to use live chat to increase conversions and customer loyalty
  • Why your site doesn’t need to be beautiful, it needs to be helpful (and what the difference is)

You’ll also find recommendations on BigCommerce apps and integrations that fellow entrepreneurs use to succeed.

If there’s anything you want to add, please leave us a comment or email us – don’t be shy!

Customer Acquisition Tactics: The 4-Step Process

Customer acquisition is the process by which ecommerce brands actively find and then convert net new customers to their sales cycle.

Many brands think that to effectively create a customer acquisition cycle, all you need to do is launch your website.

But that is far from the reality. Once you launch, you need to then:

  • Create targeted ads on Facebook
  • Install 1-step checkout
  • A/B test your copy
  • Get niche bloggers to talk about it

That’s how net new customers will come.

Let’s go a layer up here, though. Good customer acquisition breaks down into four major categories:

  1. Promotions.
  2. Design.
  3. Testing.
  4. Outreach. 

If you nail these four areas of ecommerce customer acquisition, you should expect to do pretty well at convincing Joe Web Surfer to buy your stuff.

What is cost of customer acquisition?

The cost of customer acquisition is typically referred to as CAC, and it is easily broken down into a simple formula.

It is the cost spent on acquiring new customers (marketing expenses) divided by the number of customers acquired for that given period.  

For example, if you spend $100 in a year and acquire 100 customers, your CAC is $1.

Additional Recommended Reading

In case we’re moving too fast: here’s a comprehensive guide on how to drive traffic to your ecommerce site.

Customer Acquisition Strategy Ideas + Examples

1. Give ’em a deal they’ll never forget.

What’s the last thing you bought online?

Chances are, it probably was on sale, came with a discount code or was shipped to you for free.

People love discounts.

Giving someone the feeling that they “won” a deal is a powerful way to make them like your product more than a competitor’s.

You can go about promotions in a variety of ways.

Use your social media channels to run ads featuring a coupon that’s redeemable on your website if you have a pretty solid target demographic figured out.

If you’re more into drip campaigns or interacting with customers off of social media, and perhaps have a popular blog, your email list is a bona fide money-making machine.

Encourage people to subscribe to your email newsletters and occasionally reward them for access to their inboxes with an exclusive offer.

Additional Recommended Reading

To get the most out of welcome emails, check out these battle-tested templates.

If you have a less popular item in stock or dwindling inventory of a SKU that’s no longer made by your suppliers, put it to use either as a limited-quantity loss leader or throw it in as a freebie on orders over a certain quantity.

Not only does this free up valuable space in your ecommerce fulfillment warehouse, it gives customers the warm and fuzzy feeling that comes from getting a great deal.

Don’t forget that when you’re crafting deals to lure in new customers, you should pay attention to related trends or the time of year.

That could mean putting together ads that drum up anticipation for the winter holidays or spoofing the new hit TV show that everyone in your demographic follows.

The only thing better than a sale is a sale that connects with the lifestyles of the people who are your customers.

BigCommerce app that could help: Coupon Pop entices new visitors to become customers with instant pop-up discount offers designed to get sales.

2. Design your website to be helpful, not sophisticated.

No one cares if your website has 1080p image sliders or embedded QR codes.

The only thing that matters is that a first time visitor can find what they’re looking for, and then buy it from you.

So keep things simple and easy to use.

Use an ecommerce database (otherwise known as a search bar) for customers that actually answers their queries — and leave breadcrumbs for them to navigate your selection of items if you have an especially large inventory.

When a visitor is ready to make the leap into becoming a customer, make sure your site has a 1 page checkout to keep things as easy as possible.

Write detailed product descriptions that tell your customer exactly what they’re getting when they order from you.

If you sell clothes, include specific sizing charts and model dimensions. You wouldn’t buy something online without knowing what you were buying — so take that into consideration when you think about your customers.

That said, writing an immaculate product description is only the first step to true customer satisfaction.

The real test is ensuring that your order fulfillment process 100% ensures that your customers get the correct product, in the right size, and on time.

Whether these operations are handled in house or outsourced, the financial cost and soft costs of mispicks, lost inventory and late shipments can be disastrous to your bottom line.

Additional Recommended Reading

Need to explore different fulfillment tactics more? Check out our article on ecommerce fulfillment, self fulfillment and dropshipping.

Another underrated feature of any good ecommerce site is load time.

If you’re using a bulky web platform or cheaping out on server space, there’s a good chance you could have a higher bounce rate as visitors decide it’s not worth waiting for a page to load.

You can’t afford to lose traffic just because your load times are slow. Optimizing page load times is fundamental to your site’s chances at success.

Additional Recommended Reading

Need ideas on ecommerce store design? Click here to see some of our favorite ecommerce website designs.

BigCommerce app that could help: LiveChat. One of the classic drawbacks to shopping online is that customers can’t try on or test out products.

While futuristic solutions such as virtual reality shopping could change that, specialty or customizable items will be a tough online sell so long as customers feel like they can’t know for sure what they’re buying. One method for covering that gap of uncertainty is a customer-facing live chat integration.

ZenPro Audio’s Story

Warren Dent is the owner and founder of ZenPro Audio, an ecommerce site that sells high-quality audio equipment and products.

At this price point, most folks have various audio needs and order size requirements, making the product difficult to sell without direct interaction with individual customers.

That’s why Dent decided to install a live chat app. He explains the benefits best:

“I tried a half dozen or so live chat apps, and always ended up coming back to LiveChat. It’s not the cheapest. However, it has the ability to customize the chat window with logos and avatars, allows file transfers back and forth with customers, and is fast and responsive.

The admin page is very clean, and the chat page to me was the most sensibly laid out. Pop-up notifications work, and when you click them it carries you to the open tab and chat for immediate response every time.

The incoming chat sound is spoken as “incoming chat” which also makes sense to me, when a customer is initiating.

Afterwards, standard message sounds apply.

You can watch your customer type in real time which can be helpful.

Also, customer support is outrageously awesome –– and work, of course, via live chat. They’ve never been unavailable when I had dozens of requests to tweak my design etc.

I tried the rest and found the best in my opinion anyhow.”

How ZenProAudio 2X’D AOV

Live chat isn’t the only tool that helps convert. See how Klarna can turn prospects into customers for high-priced items.

Get a 100% Increase in AOV with Klarna

3. A/B test everything.

A/B testing is important, though not to see which designs are best or to use data to outwit other colleagues (though it can do both of those as well). No, A/B testing is about figuring out which options produce the highest numbers of conversions.

Ecommerce conversion rate optimization is the #1 tactic to growth for brands past the startup stage.

Why?

Because the more customers you convert (moving the needle from 2% of site visitors to 5%), the more money you make, the lower your CAC (the calculation of which is explained earlier) and the less you have to spend to acquire that customer again.

It’s smart for your brand to have a test plan for online shopping website optimization. That means that you:

  • Mark on Google Analytics every time you launch a new test
  • Have a standard for how long you run them and how many visitors must experience both versions
  • Have a process for executive approval to launch the winner
  • Move on to the next item to test to increase conversions
  • Repeat as needed.

This is especially true with copy on landing pages and product pages.

If there’s one thing you should remember about copywriting, it’s this:

The sole purpose of the first sentence in an advertisement is to get you to read the second sentence.

Copywriting guru Eddie Shleyner said that, and he knows a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t.

Without good copy — without the sort of hook, line and sinker content that gets customers’ eyes moving down the page — your product is as good as dead.

So write product copy.

  • Test out a sentence.
  • Test out your tone.
  • Test out corny jokes.
  • Test out every facet of your website.

Not just the words themselves, but the layout of your website. Does it make sense to have the product search bar tucked into the top right corner, or would you have larger order sizes with a full-width behemoth?

Do blue “buy now” buttons get more clicks, or are they outperformed by red? Is “buy now” a better CTA than “get this?”

The more you know, the better your ecommerce businesses will do.

Here’s a list of 5 fundamental parts of your business that need testing; if you can’t do it, then find someone to do it for you. It’s simply too important to not take into consideration these ecommerce testing scenarios.

5 Ecommerce A/B Testing Ideas:

  1. Product copy
  2. Landing page/lead magnet layout
  3. Email drip campaign copy
  4. Blog content: Video vs. infographic vs. photo gallery vs. test
  5. Advertising layout + copy

Best BigCommerce app for this: Visual Website Optimizer gives you 7 different testing options, including conversion tracking and A/B testing.

Additional Recommended Reading

If you’re stuck on optimization ideas, check these landing page and checkout page design articles.

4. Reach out to influencers.

People who work in marketing either love or hate influencer outreach. It just depends on your personality and whether you like cold-emailing folks to ask for favors or not.

What no one denies is that working the back channels of major media websites or Page 1 heavyweights is not an option if you want your business to succeed.

It’s mandatory.

So how do you stock your pipeline full of quality influencers? This largely depends on where it’s most effective for you to do your marketing.

Additional Recommended Reading

Stuck on influencer marketing? These nine influencer marketing case studies should help.

Building up a catalog of valuable backlinks usually starts with the content you create.

Quid pro quo is a reliable strategy for breaking into more venerable websites. If you allow someone from a relevant website to write a guest post on your company’s blog or simply link to one of their posts from somewhere on your site, you can leverage that into getting a guest post or backlink on their site.

Depending on what sort of audience you’re targeting, it might be more effective to seek out backlinks via an Instagram or YouTube channel instead of on a Facebook page or on a blog post.

How do you know which channels make the most sense? By looking at our Google Analytics or BigCommerce Analytics to determine from where your most profitable traffic is coming –– and then working with influencers to get more of that.

In terms of finding influencers, free tools such as the BuzzSumo trial version or Google Alerts go a long way to connecting you with people and media channels who can make a difference.

While it’s not cheap, Pitchbox is a highly effective platform for performing keyword matches on influencer sites in your niche and scraping contact info for you to cold email in automated sequences.

It’s a huge time-saver and can get you handfuls of backlinks, especially if you craft a winning cold email.

Examples of Ecommerce Influencers:

  • Ezra Firestone
  • Richard Lazazzera
  • Sujan Patel
  • Noah Kagan
  • Shayla Price
  • Krista Fabregas
  • James Thomson
  • Daniel Wallock
  • Rieva Lesonsky
  • Andrew Youderian
  • Emil Kristensen
  • Tracey Wallace

Overview of Customer Engagement Tactics That Work

Customer engagement is how much interaction your marketing, merchandising and business-as-usual activities inspire in your customers. In other words: how often do your customers engage with you?

Customer engagement is a good measuring stick for customer lifetime loyalty and a brand’s overall messaging effectiveness.

Brands typically begin measuring customer engagement once a prospect has bought something –– or turned into a customer.

This is because once you have those new customers coming through the door, it’s time to focus on the next step: getting them to buy again.

What can you do to foster a better relationship and drive trust with your existing customers and ensure that they come back to you for future purchases?

The key to converting new ecommerce customers into repeat customers lies in keeping them interested in what you’re offering. How you do that depends most of all on your brand and what you’re trying to accomplish by engaging with them.

Good customer engagement breaks down into four major categories:

  1. Rewards
  2. Social media
  3. Content creation
  4. Post-purchase experience

6 Examples of Customer Engagement Strategies

1. Build loyalty through rewards.

Making your product appealing to customers on an emotional basis is a powerful way to build loyalty.

After all, when marketers use words like “loyalty” that have emotional connotations, it’s clear that the endgame is to make people feel like your company is more than just a brand and they’re more than just customers.

They want to feel valued.

How do you make someone who paid hard-earned cash for your product feel special? You reward them for it.

  • Give out discount codes to customers who review you on Amazon.
  • Have a digital punch card on hand for repeat buyers so they get their 6th product refill for free.
  • Organize members-only meet-ups and get your customers talking about your brand to each other and within their social circles.

You can grow customer lifetime value in just a year if you follow these tips.

True brand loyalty – “My daddy only drove Fords and so do I” – is incredibly valuable, hard to fake, and hard to earn.

By showing your customers that you’re willing to give them an exclusive discount, you demonstrate that you want their business and want them to feel satisfied with your product.

Best BigCommerce app for this: Smile.io incentives customers to share your brand with their friends through social media as well as encourage customers to post positive reviews in exchange for future discounts or redeemable rewards points.

Formerly known as Sweet Tooth, the app integrates with BigCommerce businesses with the sole purpose of building customer loyalty through incentives such as discounts and reward points.

Lisa Chu, owner of toddler fashion company Black n Bianco, knows the importance of keeping her customers hooked to her brand.

“Month by month my conversion rate and traffic started to increase [with Smile.io]. By rewarding our customers I built brand loyalty and created a positive feedback cycle of happy, passionate and vocal customers. Rewarding them really helps keep my brand relevant and competitive. Smile.io is the perfect app because it incentives customers to post reviews (especially the positive kind!) and share our brand with their friends through social media.”

After using BigCommerce for 4 years, Black n Bianco integrated Smile.io, which led to an increase in customer engagement of 38%.

Most businesses would kill for that sort of return on their investment. Maybe you don’t need to kill at all; you can test ride it and start getting the love from your customers you always dreamed of.

2. Reflect your audience’s tastes in your social feed.

There’s nothing sadder than seeing an inactive social media page for an ecommerce business.

How are you supposed to connect with your customers?

Have them call an (800) number? That would be acceptable if your customers were in the senior age bracket and this was 2010.

But even grandma has a Facebook account these days, so you pretty much have no excuse.

Do some research and put together a core list of social media channels you want to focus on.

The plan of attack for successful customer engagement varies depending on your goals and what network you’re using.

Tractor company John Deere uses a clever Instagram hashtag that their customers might use when they’re out in the field on a combine harvester or perhaps dressing up their youngest as tractors for Halloween.

It connects the image of practicality and reliability that characterize the brand with current owners, aficionados and potential future customers.

Le Creuset knows its customers tend to be passionate about cooking and swoon over food porn. There’s no better social media platform for this than Pinterest, since the focus is on images (in this case, gorgeous browned crusts, sumptuous stews and other culinary delights).

Oftentimes their enameled cast iron pots are not even in a shot; all you see is a close-up of a freshly prepared meal with a link to the recipe.

This exemplifies the goal of social media and online customer engagement: you’re not trying to upsell, you’re giving them value for something they already got.

In some ways, this overlaps with the goal of creating loyalty. Either way, the end result is the same: by reflecting your customers’ tastes on the appropriate social media channel, you keep them interested and poised to buy from you again when the moment presents itself.

3. Create useful, actionable content.

It’s not just enough to share other peoples’ creations on the company Twitter account.

You need to proactively create content that your customers will appreciate and find useful.

If done right, your content should not only augment the experience of your customers; it should also be shared and reposted by other influencers, too.

Quality content comes in a variety of forms.

  1. You could release a series of guides or mini ebooks that correspond to the product you sell.
  2. Maybe host a YouTube channel or a podcast with tailor-made episodes.
  3. Or pay bloggers to publish short stories that feature your item just as it was intended.

Whatever content you make, it should connect existing customers to your brand.

So what does useful, actionable content look like in the real world? Here are a couple examples.

Blue Bottle Example

If you’re a coffee addict, you’ve probably heard of Blue Bottle — they’re a heavyweight in the world of subscription premium quality coffee.

They have a few brick-and-mortar locations, but the creme de la creme of their revenue comes from their ecommerce store.

For anyone who loves coffee, their website is a treasure trove of useful information about how to make the perfect cup.

Whether that comes in the form of a Bialetti or a cold brew, Blue Bottle has step-by-step guides with clear photos and written instructions that walk you through the process of making coffee the way you like it.

When creating content to engage with existing customers, they asked one simple question — What’s the best complement to our excellent coffee? — and the answer was this series of useful guides.

Excellent content doesn’t need to sell your brand at all; it just needs to feature it.

Ipsy Example

Ipsy understands that principle and that’s why their partnership with popular makeup and cosmetics artists on Instagram is such a brilliant idea.

They run a subscription service that sends out a personalized selection of sample-sized cosmetics and makeup once a month, and they use Instagram for the heavy lifting of content creation.

The brand re-posts images with permission from Influencers like Ashly to help grow their audience and engage with fans.

Turn Your Instagram Fans Into Customers

Instagram Shopping is now available for U.S. sellers. Install it here. And download the guide below for 80+ examples of brands already using it.

Get 80+ Instagram Shopping Examples Now

4. Follow up on purchases.

There’s one other way that your business should cater to existing customers: right after the sale.

As you probably know from experience, after you buy something the novelty slowly fades away.

Sure, you’re going to be addicted to your new PS4 for the first couple months after you buy it. But eventually other distractions or new toys get in the way, and all of a sudden the only reason you use it is when you want to watch Netflix on a Sunday night.

When a new customer comes along and buys something from you, don’t wait til the novelty has worn off to approach them with a social sharing incentive or free product in exchange for answering a survey.

While this is anecdotal and not the same as a scientific survey, most online shoppers I know tend to leave reviews for products within a week after they made a purchase.

Additional Recommended Reading

If you’re having trouble with abandoned shopping carts, you might want to learn how to reduce them — and gain more purchases.

Greg Bullock, director of marketing at longtime BigCommerce website TheraSpecs, has advice for any ecommerce business looking to increase customer engagement in the post-purchase phase.

“Like most ecommerce companies, we use an automation tool — in this case ActiveCampaign — for outreach before and after a purchase. Our precision-tinted glasses often require some time in order for customers to experience relief for their light sensitivity, and we want to experience that journey with them as well as help set and manage their expectations.”

Keeping in touch with customers and demonstrating that you care about their experience after the sale helps to create a positive feedback loop.

That’s only natural when someone places their trust in your brand and is rewarded with a quality product and a friendly email asking if there’s anything that can be done better.

Bullock says that looking for feedback is even more important if a customer isn’t satisfied with their purchase:

“We have automated emails that go out from our service team to learn more about how TheraSpecs are working, and we want to engage with that customer in order to share in their joys of relief or provide service if there are any issues. For those who offer positive feedback, we like to delight them by offering a discount on their next purchase as well as the opportunity to share their story on our blog and social channels.”

This is why following up with customers matters: if you do it right, it just turns right back into good marketing for your brand.

Key Metrics For Customer Engagement:

  • Email open rate
  • Email click through rate (CTR)
  • New versus repeat visitors
  • Time on site
  • Bounce rate
  • Frequency rate (how often the same visitor returns)
  • Repeat purchase rate
  • Customer loyalty program activity

The Complete List of Tools

Here is a final list and links to all the tools mentioned in this piece:

  1. Active Campaign
  2. Smile.io
  3. Buzzsumo
  4. Pitchbox
  5. VWO
  6. LiveChat
  7. Coupon Pop
  8. Klarna

What’s your secret to winning new customers and making repeat ones? Tell us in the comments below!

Want more insights like this?

We’re on a mission to provide businesses like yours marketing and sales tips, tricks and industry leading knowledge to build the next house-hold name brand. Don’t miss a post. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

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How to Beat Amazon: 5 Best Practices Any Online Store Can Use Today [Infographic] https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/beat-amazon-best-practices-infographic/ https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/beat-amazon-best-practices-infographic/#respond Mon, 18 Aug 2014 18:41:35 +0000 http://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/?p=9329 As independent online store owners, it can sometimes feels like we’re in a shadow fight against the Big A. Customers want low prices, so we…]]>

As independent online store owners, it can sometimes feels like we’re in a shadow fight against the Big A. Customers want low prices, so we lower our prices—but that ends up only decreasing our profit margin. And if the margins are too low, then it can be hard to run a successful business.

Instead of blindingly trying to beat them at the pricing game, we have to figure out ways we can provide a better experience for our customers. Whether it’s giving them a store dedicated to a particular niche, or just providing them with more of a boutique experience, there are many ways you can standout from Amazon. But before we can add flare, we’ve got to get the basics down first.

To help you beat Amazon, the good folks at Wiser have created an infographic, below. From product descriptions and shipping to pricing and testing keywords, this infographic is chock-full of best practices that will help you achieve parity so your sales can rocket into the stratosphere. Check it out.

How do you beat Amazon?

5 ways to stop getting Amazoned

how to beat amazon infographic

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