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Conversion Optimization

20 eCommerce sales strategies that (actually) work

Successful eCommerce selling is often about drilling down to the details. Here are 20 strategies to help you do just that.

20 eCommerce sales strategies that (actually) work

Competition is fierce. 

As an eCommerce business owner, you could be using the same old strategies to sell more. 

And wondering why they don’t work.

Let’s change that for good. 

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • how to upgrade the regular strategies
  • eCommerce brand examples that are nailing sales strategies.   

20 strategies that boost eCommerce revenue by 2x

1. Put CX at the center of your sales strategy

Between an eCommerce business putting its products out there to be sold and potential customers turning around to convert, there’s one major step. 

It’s CX or customer experience. 

It’s essentially how a buyer experiences your products, touchpoints of communication, paying up, checking out and coming back to buy or browse again. 

CX encompasses the “before”, the “during” and the “after” of a customer’s interfacing with a brand. 

When you put this aspect at the middle of your bigger sales strategy map, the other pieces (like site optimization, customer support, UX-friendly design to name a few) begin to fall into place. 

One brand that we admire is Zappos

Now owned by Amazon, Zappos never stopped operating as an independent brand simply because of the precedent they’d set in terms of CX. 

From declaring really helpful returns and exchange policies to running warehouses 24/7 just so that deliveries could be made perfectly on time, the brand is a living example of excellent CX. 

Zappos focuses on creating a memorable customer experience

How to apply:

a) Bring alignment between customer journey and communication. 

How you talk to a customer - which comprises what you say, how you say and why you say - decides how they in turn decide to process their engagement with you. 

Aligning where the customer is in their lifecycle with your brand and what you communicate is critical.

This goes beyond declaring festive offers or exclusive member-only discounts. 

For example, if a customer is at the acquisition stage, it’ll mean that they’re already interested in your brand and what it has to offer. 

At this stage, your communication has to come across as nurturing, helpful and/or educational. 

Here’s an example from Birchbox - clearly a cart abandonment email - where the brand offers alternatives to the original items sitting in the cart. 

b) Offer continuity in experience across channels. 

This may seem obvious but even now there are customers who complain of differing experiences with the same brand across various touchpoints. 

For example, if a customer has added items to their cart over mobile, ensure this reflects when they access your site through the desktop as well. 

Or let’s say, you’ve recommended a series of products in your desktop version. 

Ensure a customer is able to view the same recommendations when they log in through a tablet. 

c) Make timely support and tools available. 

This could mean replying to emails without delay - one way to do this is to automate follow-ups unless very specific information is requested. 

If you feature a chat bot, let it have a section on FAQs so that customers don’t have to wait for you to intervene for simpler challenges. 

Here’s an example from the way Wayfair does it. 

wayfair features FAQs in their live chat

2.  Harness the power of attentional bias

We tend to like what’s familiar — especially when choosing between product A and product B.

If A is a generic brand name that’s popular or trending, it's possible customers will often choose it over product B.

In psychology, it’s called attentional bias.

People tend to favor what’s known or familiar rather than accepting new information.

A study revealed how customers perceive information—this can go a long way in understanding how to catch your customers’ attention. 

As an eCommerce business owner, you can make this work in your favor.

Repeat your brand name, logo, tagline, and ad campaigns on the landing page, social media, billboards — anywhere you can, so a customer knows and sees you.

The more you show up, the faster customers will recall your brand. 

How to apply:

15 eCommerce sales strategies that (actually) work

Here are some tips to establish brand recall through retargeting:

a) Use visuals to make potential customers recall products. 

If they abandoned products in the cart, then showing them the product rather than just the product name will help them recall better.   

b) Get your timing right with retargeting. 

Don’t do too much, don’t do too little. Try to show your retargeted ads one hour, 12 hours, and then 2 days later. 

c) Capture what’s trending to curate copy and offers that’ll entice customers. 

See how Apple (example above) retargets right in time for Mother’s Day and even gives a convenient delivery option.

3. Be clever with pricing (the Decoy Effect)

National Geographic conducted a study with a set of people who were asked to choose from the following options:

Small Popcorn: £3

Large Popcorn: £7

Most people chose small popcorn here because of the pricing.

A third option was later included:

Small Popcorn: £3

Medium Popcorn: £6.50

Large Popcorn: £7

Here, most customers chose large popcorn because they were receiving a higher value at £0.50 extra.

What you saw was the Decoy Effect in action.

Simply put, it’s a phenomenon where customers will change their preference between two options when presented with a third option that makes the most expensive choice look like a bargain.

This example was run to understand how Decoy Effect influences customers to opt for an expensive option all the time.

How to apply:

a) Limit to only three choices. 

Introducing more choices will diminish the decoy effect and overwhelm customers leading to no purchase at all.

Therefore, keep a maximum of 3 options – no more.

What are these three choices?

The target, the competitor, and the decoy.

This works because of how shoppers think and buy.

They are generally torn between two different options - when you introduce a third option keeping one of the previous two in mind, customers immediately find one option more favorable than the rest.

When you introduce more options, customers are still left confused and unable to make a quick decision.

b) Make the decoy option (slightly) unflattering. 

Or else customers will end up choosing the decoy option, rather than the product you want them to choose. 

Keep the price of the decoy option as close to the expensive product so a customer identifies a better value and chooses the more expensive option.

See how Nutribullet in the example below practices the Decoy Effect: 

While shopping for a Nutribullet blender, you see these two options: a blender at $89 with 900 watts of power and a 5-piece accessory kit, and a blender at $149, with 1200 watts and with 12-piece accessories.

Depending on the requirement, you can choose either of the two.

But now look at what Nutribullet does.

It introduces the third option at $125, which offers 1000 watts with a 9-piece accessories kit.

For $36 more, you get extra 100 watts and four more accessories.

nutribullet uses the decoy effect to attract eCommerce customers

Seems like a bargain, right?

Congratulations, you have been decoy-ed!

Read more here: Delve into more scientific strategies to increase your eCommerce conversion rate    

4. Play smart with “choices”

Giving more options is good, right? Wrong.

Remember the last time you had to pick an outfit to wear to an occasion.

How long did it take?

How many options did you consider?

As a result, how frustrated did you get?

Now apply the same logic to an eCommerce site.

If you’re giving too many choices to customers, they will feel overwhelmed and may have difficulty arriving at a decision.

As a result, they'll bounce.

How to apply:

a) Limit the number of CTAs you feature. 

More CTAs don’t necessarily mean more action. NameOn, an online retailer, found out their dropout rate between cart and checkout page was 31.7%

NameOn features only one CTA to avoid distraction

At the first step of the checkout process, they were losing out on too many customers.

Guess what?

The variation performed better by 11.40%  which translated into over $1,00,000 in sales for the brand.

b) Keep your promotions simple.

 How many times have you received promotional emails selling too many items at once?

From a business perspective—apart from creating choice fatigue—you run the risk of coming across as spammy

c) Create limited products in each category. 

From an often-cited jam experiment, we know if customers are faced with too many choices, it only leads to choice paralysis. 

Instead, offering limited choices which help them solve their problem or fulfill their intent will perform better. 

CC Ebook Banner

5. Make your first fold legendary 

Above-the-fold is expensive real estate in eCommerce. 

Be it on the homepage, the category pages or even the product pages. 

What you do with this area - what you feature, what it says, how it helps people act (or not) - becomes a deciding factor in whether a potential customer will want to buy from you. 

If the first fold can communicate that your brand and products are right up the customer’s alley, there won’t be a whole lot of reason for the customer to keep scrolling. 

One brand that gets its above-the-fold right more times than not is Everlane.

Their imagery and copywriting along with a simple and effective navigation panel ensure potential buyers keep exploring. 

everlane homepage above the fold example

How to apply:

a) Create a unique selling proposition that captures the customer’s imagination and sentiment. 

Your product might be among the best in the world, or even truly cutting edge. 

But unless you bring out how that feature can be of help to the customer’s life, your USP isn’t really working. 

Here’s a look at the above-the-fold section from Bobo’s

The USP leaves customers with no doubt about how the brand can prove to be meaningful for them. 

Bobo's homepage first fold USP example

b) Steer clear of unnecessary distractions in the form of multiple images in a carousel. 

We know how this can be tempting. 

Who doesn’t want to optimize this limited amount of space and feature ALL the latest offers and collections?

But the point is the more you display in this section, the more likely buyers will feel distracted (especially if they don’t find what they’re looking for). 

If you do intend to use multiple sliders to the homepage banner, ensure you limit it to two or three. 

Just like Disguise Cosmetics does (and the carousel is totally manual with the user being able to switch between the two dots to the right). 

disguise cosmetics hero banner example

6. Use reciprocity to make buying more convincing

Human beings are wired to trust and depend upon give-and-take scenarios. 

So, the reciprocity principle can become an effective foundation to sell well in eCommerce. 

Take Nike as an example. 

It’s true that the brand is known for its superlative product quality and innovation, but in the wings, a whole lot of reciprocity is at work. 

The brand takes “empowerment” as a strong core value and acts in a number of ways to be perceived as an empowering agent.

(Think of the Nike Training Club, which is a free resource for people interested in fitness across the world). 

How to apply:

a) Offer relevant discounts. 

Whether it’s through a first-time sale or a rewards-based discount, offering the right discount can mean a higher likelihood of sales. 

For example, a customer has bought from you three times. 

Offering them a decent discount at this stage will probably give you the fourth sale while telling them that you care as a brand. 

b) Send relevant content on products you know customers are checking out and considering. 

For example, you find them checking out your best selling face serum multiple times but not buy it. 

Follow up by sending a mail that calls them out like: “We noticed you were checking out…”

 and then follow it up with some content that throws light on the benefits, how it can be used and what other people have to say about using it. 

c) Offer free samples of select products to repeat customers. 

We understand that the cost of free trials and free samples can add up. 

But you can avert the risk of them coming to nothing by targeting those who’re very likely to see sense in your solutions and have consistently bought from you. 

Plus, if you know a specific customer and are doing your data homework well, you’d also know what kind of free product they’re likely to enjoy (and later pay a price for). 

We think you'll enjoy reading : Are your sales dropping? See how choice paralysis might be harming your eCommerce business

7. Leverage commitment & consistency to drive repeat purchases

According to Robert Cialdini (in his 6 principles of persuasion), human beings like to be coherent and also to be perceived as being so. 

Customers mostly buy those things that are in alignment with who they believe they are and how they believe they should act.  

Here’s an example from Big Hammer Wines

The brand doesn’t just leave it at customer reviews - in order to drive commitment & consistency it goes on to say:

“Here’s what wine lovers just like you have to say about our wines.”

big hammer wines uses the principle of commitment and consistency

How to apply:

a) Make wishlisting easy and make it even easier to find it. 

Feature it where it’s super visible and ideally indicated through an icon that’s most familiar to eCommerce shoppers (remember the heart?)

Remove the need for shoppers to sign up to access their wishlists. 

Make it easy to remove items from the wishlist. 

b) Enable social sharing of purchases. 

Feature a social sharing button on your product pages. 

Somewhere right beneath the add-to-cart button is a great idea. 

So is giving the option to share from your order confirmation page. 

8. Introduce more shipping options to target more customers

We were intrigued when a client asked us if free shipping would really drive conversions for her online store. 

The short answer: It depends on different factors 

Fast and Free?

This is every customer’s default expectation mode when it comes to shipping.

However, free shipping won’t magically increase conversions. You need to apply it strategically.  

How to apply:

a) Offer fast and free deliveries. 

Customers expect that. The longest they would like to wait for product delivery in return for free shipping is 4.1 days.

If unconditional free shipping is a big deal for your small business, ensure to create necessary thresholds. This is a win-win because you clarify the minimum amount a cart value needs to be to qualify AND it pushes buyers to increase their AOV to qualify. 

b) Offer multiple shipping options.

If you’ve been predominantly local but wanting to grow, consider offering international shipping options. 

Similarly, you may want to create separate shipping options for customers who want products on priority while others who don’t. Starting an “expedited” option is a great idea.  Like Fitbit does.

fitbit offers multiple shipping options to customers

9. Make brand storytelling offer the right reasons to buy

Almost everyone knows and can tell that a brand is much more than the products it creates or promotes (or both). 

Ask anyone why they buy from their favorite brands, and it’s likely you’ll have a very coherent answer. 

Harry’s, the men’s shaving care brand, is a wonderful case in point. 

With humble beginnings, the brand began small but slowly became a strong competitor to an established brand like Gillette. 

In the process, they created a brand story that millions have come to love, relate to and trust. 

Harry's is a brand known for a memorable narrative

How to apply:

a) Ensure that your brand finds a place in the way your product pages read. 

Offer a glimpse of your brand essence right from how you name your products to how you describe their features and benefits. 

Here’s how Harry’s does it on their bar soap product page. 

Harry's is a brand known for a memorable narrative

b) Align your marketing efforts with the narrative you’re creating for your brand. 

The more coherent the brand narrative is across channels, the more convinced customers will feel. 

We feature yet another example from Harry’s - this time from one of their emails to loyal customers. 

(They’re a brand known to take real good care of what they create and who they create for)

Harry's customer ecommerce email example

10. Go beyond loyalty programs to attract repeat customers

Did you know that getting new customers to the website costs seven times more than retaining existing customers?

The probability of selling to existing customers is 70% compared to selling to new customers at 5%-20%.

As an eCommerce business owner, you must look into retaining old customers and increasing their customer lifetime value (CLV).

What is CLV, you ask?

It’s one of the most important eCommerce metrics that reflects your business growth.

It’s the total amount of money you receive from a customer during the lifetime of your brand.

How to apply:

a) Send reminders to refill. 

If you sell products that need constant replenishment, sending reminders to refill will show the eCommerce brand cares about its customers. Like Harry’s does. 

harry's product refill reminders on order confirmation page

You can go a step further by asking customers for feedback on what products they’d recommend for people like themselves.     

b) Use personalization at every step. 

Not just in your product recommendations. 

For example, if you create kids’ craft materials, ensure to feature DIY ideas in your emails. 

Another way to personalize is to send your customers recommendations in the form of gifting ideas. 

11.  Make it INCREDIBLY easy for buyers to purchase

You have less than 10 seconds before buyers hit the website next door.

You need to make it worth their while so they can hang on. 

Will you ask them to go through multiple steps to check out? Well, you shouldn’t.

You'll have to make it easier for them to check out.

How to apply:

columbia single page checkout example

Consider applying 1-click checkout rather than a multiple-step checkout process.

Research shows that websites with fewer clicks have higher conversion rates, so include third-party apps such as Paypal or Bolt.

Need inspiration? Here's Top 29 one-page checkout page designs

12. Incite an emotional response through your communication

Making an immediate connection with visitors is essential.

That’s where creating an emotional response comes handy. 

And no place better than product pages to do it in detail, and do it well. 

How to apply:

15 eCommerce sales strategies that (actually) work

a) Capture attention through engaging copy. 

Your visitors have an attention span of a few seconds.

If you place a joke or some witty copy on the landing page, e-mails, CTAs, etc. which no one expects, you instantly hook them. 

Increased attention means customers will be able to recall your brand better next time around.

b) Use visuals and create a strong narrative. 

Be it in the first fold of your homepage or in the image gallery of your product pages, your visuals can do the heavy lifting of convincing potential customers. 

If they are shot in a way to depict both product details as well as highlight a lifestyle, nothing like it. 

Here’s an example from LoveEvery, a brand which ensures an interactive GIF image in their product gallery. 

loveevery features a dynamic hero image in their product gallery

13. Rethink your upselling strategy

Here’s the thing—people don’t enjoy being sold a product/service.

Trying to upsell customers after every purchase can backfire and they might leave without making any purchase.

The art of upselling needs to be focused on providing value to customers, understanding their problems, and creating a fulfilling experience for them.

How to apply:

a) Start upselling only after the first purchase.

For first-time website visitors, let them explore your products without overwhelming them with upsells. 

It’s a possibility they’ll leave the site and never return. 

When they visit again, show them upsells that are relevant to them and that they would consider buying.

b) Upsell ONLY relevant and related items. 

It’s like this:

If someone is buying converse shoes, would you upsell them a pair of socks or a shirt?

converse upsells only relevant and related products

The correct answer is the socks. (see example image above)

Before you start upselling to customers, see which offers are relevant to them. 

Know which products will add value and will be beneficial in the long run. 

c) Make sure the pricing is right. 

The products you’re upselling need to be cheaper than those added to the cart. 

If you are upselling a product similar in value, the chances of customers adding it to their cart will be very low.

d) Identify milestones in a customer’s life to upsell

Here are a few examples: 

  • When a customer completes a few months or a year with the brand
  • Accomplished a certain number of tasks on your product
  • Saw a double ROI from the product
  • Spent a lot of time using the product

It's always a best practice to upsell to customers when they require additional features and when upselling offers them value.

e) Use smart bundling tactics. 

A great way to upsell and increase the average order value is to bundle your product. 

When you do so, customers tend to perceive a higher value from your offering. 

The key here is to bundle products smartly, keeping in mind relevance to the single focus product and the value offered as a whole.

14. Took inspiration from Amazon? Roll it back

Amazon is the holy grail of the eCommerce business.

Most people copy Amazon’s strategies thinking, “If they've done it, it must be right.”

But this couldn’t be far from the truth.

How to NOT apply:

a) Don’t follow Amazon’s design layout. 

The website’s UI/UX is a mess and offers an overwhelming experience to the customers.

The layout is stuffy even though it offers personalized recommendations as per customers’ shopping and browsing history. 

If your website doesn’t offer a seamless user experience, it’ll be hard to convince customers to return to your site again.

Aim at keeping your website’s navigation, UI, and content optimization as clean and simple as possible.

Less is more especially when you’re designing a website.

b) Don’t feature so many CTAs like Amazon does.

Amazon suffers from too many CTAs. 

As we mentioned in the Jam Experiment, too many options lead to customers barely converting as opposed to a strong CTA, which gives customers a direction where they should go.

15. Enhance search results for product discovery (not just SEO)

Most eCommerce brands have nailed every part of search results. 

Researching similar words, including spelling mistakes, and predictive text – it’s all done. 

Yet, online brands don’t think to personalize search results. 

This often creates an underutilized pool of potential.

How to apply:

Ikea features enhanced results on their ecommerce site

a) Apply smart categories or rich content to search results

This offers a great platform for product discovery, cross-sell, and sales opportunities.

For example, a shopper searches for LED lights.

You can show the results and segment them under ‘All Departments’ (for shoppers who aren't sure about which type they’re looking for), and specific categories such as ‘Living Room’ or ‘Dining Room’ (for shoppers who are looking for something more specific). 

This way, you can save your new visitors time to wade through the entire product list and makes their search experience simpler.

b) Offer the benefit of Enhanced Results

When visitors search for a product, the search results also contain images, quick information, links, and other media that offer a detailed look into the products.

We love how IKEA does it! (see image above)

16. Always think mobile first, and then desktop

Forbes reported that mobile commerce will grow to 68% by 2022 as more people shop on their phones.

While the statistics and trends look great, most eCommerce brands we work with have a common complaint, ‘Why are our mobile conversions less than desktop?’ 

Most eCommerce store owners are late to realize they are facing conversion issues due to complicated mobile UX.

For better mobile shopping experiences, focus on usability. 

How to apply:

focus on mobile UX to sell more

Good mobile store usability means customers can see clear navigation cues that help them explore products without frustrating them.

a) Find ways not to interrupt user experience. 

On mobile, pop-ups are a deterrent, interrupting user experiences.

Google announced how “intrusive interstitials” or aka “popups” on mobile sites hinder page ranks.

You can avoid the penalty by not showing the pop-up as soon as the user lands on the product page.

Instead, utilize a scroll or time-triggered pop-up that doesn’t cover the whole page.      

b) Include pinch and expand, and double-tap. 

Research shows a whopping 40% of eCommerce stores don’t support pinch or tap gestures for product images. 

Here's an interesting read: Make mobile shopping easier with the perfect product page 

17. Scarcity strategies: don't make those common mistakes

Scarcity marketing thrives on the economic scarcity principle which states that limited supply equals an increase in demand. 

According to the principle, people are more likely to buy a product when it’s difficult to acquire.

This is because the item in question becomes more desirable with scarcity. 

In eCommerce, brands create artificial scarcity so that potential customers find it more appealing, exclusive, and valuable - thereby creating a buying rush. 

How to apply:

apply scarcity principle to your product pages in a strategic way

Here are a few mistakes to avoid while applying scarcity strategies:

a) Don’t use ‘exclusivity’ for almost every product category. 

Instead, see which premium products have low stock and then craft messaging that includes a pre-order CTA. 

b) Don’t overwhelm shoppers with promotional offers. 

Send them reminders about the discounts, but not more than once through the same channel.    

Read more: Here are some more common mistakes to avoid in scarcity marketing  

18. Reduce cognitive load while shopping (use only a few nudges)

While nudges are useful to drive action and compel shoppers to click the ‘buy now’ CTA. 

Miller’s law states that our short-term memory can handle approximately 5 to 9 objects at a time.

Information more than this runs the risk of cognitive overload.   

Consequently, if you add too many nudges, it’ll overwhelm shoppers and prompt them to abandon the cart.  

How to apply:

a) Offer a quick summary of the product on the cart page. 

This way shoppers don’t need to go back to the product page. 

b) Feature a stock level nudge.

 It can create a sense of urgency and make shoppers buy the product right away. 

c) Feature payment nudges (but distribute them).

Nordstorm has 4 nudges around payments.

However, see how the information is distributed evenly.

On the lower left side, they have shown acceptable cards and an international shipping note.

On the right side, near the CTA, they have added financing options and a loyalty program nudge.      

nordstrom payment nudges during checkout

19. Give them a compelling reason to leave that review

Sometimes, the products look great on the product page’s image gallery. 

Today, customers know that these images are edited to look amazing.

Often, when customers receive the product, and if it doesn’t look exactly the same as it does on the website, they are bound to be disappointed.    

Since customers can’t gauge how the product looks in real life, UGC can become your secret sales weapon. 

While eCommerce brands do capture reviews and ratings to push customers toward a sale, they don’t take advantage of it.

You can repurpose it to show it as user-generated content and establish authenticity.      

How to apply:

a) Ask customers to share a photo, video or text.

As long as it’s created by people and not brands, you can use it as part of your gallery.

Go a step further by offering a discount or free samples for a creditable review with images.  

Use UGC as social proof on product pages

b) Feature influencers promoting your products. 

Tag products as influencer ‘faves’ or include the influencer’s review. 

20. Craft effective A/B tests 

As an eCommerce store owner, you might know about A/B testing to improve user experiences and increase conversions. 

However, many online stores tend to test the wrong elements. 

They also run split tests on website pages that don’t make a difference to conversions or sales.

For example, testing CTA button colors will not really offer any real insights on how to design your page to make more sales. 

Some eCommerce brands also tend to test too many elements and don’t get the desired results.  

So, think quality over quantity. 

How to apply:

Here’s a step-by-step process to run A/B tests: 

a) Analyze current metrics

Before brands start testing variants, see what you actually want to test and which issues you want to resolve.

For instance, you have a high bounce rate on a particular landing page.  

b) Determine your hypothesis

Is your landing page too busy?

Should you include more visuals?

Are your website visitors confused about which actionable step you would like for them to take when they reach your website?

c) Segment target groups

You might have different sets of customers: returning visitors, repeat customers, new customers, browsers, etc.

They will react differently to different elements and have different issues with the eCommerce store.

This means you need to run different tests for each group.     

d) Make changes according to results

When your testing period is over, analyze the results and use them to determine whether or not to make the changes.

If your A/B test variation led to significant results, then you know exactly what you need to change.

If the variation didn’t produce the desired results, move on to testing the next hypothesis on the list.

Explore more: A/B testing vs multivariate testing 
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