The year is 2021 and eCommerce revenues are all set to reach 5.4 trillion US dollars by the next year.
You’ve stuck to the strategies that work until now. But in recent years, the rules of the game have changed.
Online demand has surged and companies are left figuring out: how to cope up, how to serve customers faster, and how to make profits that last.
Thankfully, this post can act as a handy guide to help you win the sales game in 2021 like a boss.
Drive more revenue with these scientifically-proven eCommerce sales strategies (updated for 2021)
1. Harness the power of attention bias
We tend to favor the familiar — especially when choosing between product A and product B.
If A is a generic brand name you’ve heard many times, it's possible that you’ll always choose it over product B.
In psychology, we call it attentional bias.
We tend to favor what we know or are familiar with 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 hammer customers with your brand, the faster they would recall your presence the next time around.
How to apply:
a) Make your retargeting game strong
Be present everywhere.
Prime your audience through emails, ads, social media, billboards — so they are constantly exposed to your brand. You don’t even have to actively ask them to buy from you. The repeated exposure to your message will do the trick.
One good example is Neil Patel, the SEO expert.
Every time, anything related to SEO comes up, you see him there. Blogs, webinars, guest posts, ads — this guy’s everywhere. As a result, people have started associating his name with SEO, and he has been able to build a brand through this leverage.
b) Make use of what’s happening in the world
People rely on recent memories to make a decision.
They will use recent information to form opinions and to make purchase decisions.
As a biz owner, you can take advantage of this.
Example #2: During the series finale of Game of Thrones, George Martin’s books flew off the shelves earning tons of revenue:
Leveraging what’s happening in the world to market your product is a smart way to double your sales and to quickly position yourself in the market.
Keep an eye out for when you can do this for your brand.
c) Look into your exit-intent overlays
You have 7 seconds to grab visitors’ attention.
That’s a short span — but it’s enough to tickle biases and make customers take notice.
Check out this pop-up by Backlinko, a site by Brian Dean:
Brian Dean is a known figure in digital marketing. The pop-up extends the bias in his favor — reinforcing his position as an expert.
2. Go 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) Keep 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.
b) Don’t make the decoy option too flattering
Let the decoy effect work its magic. Don’t make it so flattering that customers 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.
The Decoy Effect in practice:
Example #1 Nutribullet
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 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.
Seems like a bargain, right?
Congratulations, you have been decoy-ed!
Example #2 The Economist
Economist offers three subscription options: print, digital, and print & digital.
In a research, Dan Airley, a professor at MIT, analyzed the pricing structure of the magazine and how it fits perfectly within the decoy effect.
He asked students to choose between two offers:
- Digital: $59
- Print & Digital: $125
Most students chose digital – which was the cheapest option.
Next, they were given a choice between three options below:
84% of people chose the combo option, 16 % chose digital, and none subscribed to the print.
Saw how the decoy effect worked here?
3. Play smart with “choices”
Giving more options is good, right?
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) Mind the CTAs
More CTAs does not necessarily mean more action.
When they took a hard look at the cart page, they realized they have 9 calls to action on the page, which included various sign-ups, newsletters, and social media handles.
They decided to test out a simple variation with a high-converting CTA that asked customers to continue to checkout.
The variation performed better by 11.40% which translated into over $1,00,000 sales for the brand.
b) Keep your promotions simple
How many times have you received promotional emails selling too many items at once?
It’s like visiting a store with too many options on display. There's always a dilemma about what to choose and what to leave.
From a business perspective—apart from creating choice fatigue—you run the risk of coming across as spammy. So you should focus on avoiding your emails to become too spammy and try making them more personal.
Indochino, a clothing retailer, thought this could be made simpler for customers and might also help in increasing their conversions. They conducted a sample test with an email campaign.
Being a seller of custom clothing for men, they realized the best time to promote their shirts was after a customer bought an expensive suit.
They narrowed it down to 3 shirts that matched the suit and customers’ preferences and promoted the bundle.
And included one call-to-action. That’s all.
The emails, thereafter, resulted in a whopping 540% increase in revenue for the brand.
c) Create limited products in each category
In the year 2000, Sheena Iyengar and Mark Leppar tested how numerous variations of a product affect conversion rates. They used jam as the subject.
The experiment took place at a grocery store on two consecutive days. On the first day, shoppers were presented with a stall of 24 flavors of jam. The next day, they were presented with 6 variations of jam.
As expected, the stall with more jams attracted a bigger crowd, but when it came to sales, there was a disparity. The stalls with 6 variations of jams converted 30% as opposed to the stall with 24 variations at 3%.
This shows that fewer product offerings equal better conversions. It also leads to higher customer satisfaction and makes the customer return to make a purchase.
4. Ditch perfection, and ship everything faster
We’ll let you in on a secret: You don’t have to be perfect.
Spending years deciding the colors of the checkout button, or creating a marketing strategy for 6 months before launching the brand, may push you out of the competition before you begin.
Focus on building a site that is user-friendly—not perfect—and keep making changes in the background as per customers’ feedback.
Speed — and not perfection — is today’s need.
Your shipping policy can make or break your eCommerce sales strategies. Customers expect fast and free deliveries. The longest they would like to wait for product delivery in return for free shipping is 4.1 days.
Respond to customers faster, ship products quicker, take customers’ inputs earlier, and as a result, refine the site better.
5. Focus on your customers’ lifetime value (CLV)
Did you know that getting new customers to the website costs seven times more than retaining existing customers?
Data shows 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) Segment your audience
Filter customers based on where they are in the sales funnel and what their interests look like.
Some customers might be looking to buy accessories while others might be looking at denim pants on the website.
If a customer recently got to know about your brand through social media, blog posts, or any other medium, you need to target them likewise.
Now comes the repeat customers.
Filter out your best customers based on how many times they have made a purchase. Once? Twice? Almost thrice?
Figure out the target group that shops from you most often. Is it teen girls? Event planners? Hoteliers?
Once you've segmented them, reach out to them with the best offers - discounts, promotions, special incentives, etc.
Making the first sale is excellent. But securing a lifetime relationship with customers can make all the difference.
b) Leverage the power of email marketing & social media
Email marketing produces the highest ROI as compared to other channels.
For every $1 spent on email marketing, you receive a return of $40.
But most companies don’t do it right.
Email marketing doesn’t have to be always promotional.
Providing value goes a long way in securing relationships with customers and increasing their CLV.
Here’s a great example of Framebridge doing so:
They educate their customers by sharing a valuable skill, therefore, offering unmatched value to their customers.
Sephora does something similar here:
While the email is partially promotional, it includes makeup tutorials that lead a subscriber to their YouTube channel when they click on it.
You can also target the same set of customers on Instagram, Facebook, etc.
Keep in touch with them and retarget them with new offers.
Express gratitude when they buy from your website.
Give them shoutouts on your brands’ handles.
Let them know that you appreciate their business.
This will go a long way in establishing a loyal customer base and significantly improving your CLV.
Companies that emphasize building their relationships with customers generate 50% more sales at 33% less cost.
6. Make it incredibly easy for buyers to purchase
You have 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:
a) Don’t make them register
If someone wants to make a quick purchase, let them. Don’t force them to set up an account and fill in their details.
Allowing guest checkouts will make it easier for first-time buyers to purchase from you, and they might return after having this seamless experience.
In cases where an account is required for subscriptions, you can make the process simpler. Let shoppers create an account via Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, etc. that requires minimal data entering and speeds up the process.
b) Don’t collect too much information
Stick to bare necessities only.
Collect the information you absolutely require and nothing else. In most cases — name, email ID, contact information, and shipping address will do.
This'll make the experience seamless for customers while making sure you have all the information that you need to target them for future purchases.
c) Make the navigation seamless
Your site’s navigation can make or break a sale.
Even then it’s one of the most overlooked factors on the website.
Look into your mobile optimization. Is your website’s design optimized for mobile users? Over 50% of online shopping takes place on mobile and you should look into making the design responsive for the customers.
Take a look at Ferrumpipe's mobile navigation.
No clutter, no fuss.
Another aspect that you should look into is making the site search frictionless.
Fact: People who run a site search convert twice more than people who don’t.
When someone is looking for a specific product in the search bar, they’re on the website with the intent to purchase.
Then, making the site search, easy and seamless should be a factor that can help you convert better.
Airbnb is a classic example here. The first thing you see when you’re on the website is — the search bar on the top of the homepage. People can get straight to the business without getting distracted from any other elements on the webpage.
You should also consider a single-page checkout rather than a multiple-page checkout.
While both have their benefits and have helped business owners convert differently, there are obvious benefits to a single-page checkout that you can’t overlook.
They are shorter and provide the incentive to complete a purchase.
Everything is on one page—so you don’t have to go back and forth in case you miss out on filling information.
Most importantly, there are fewer clicks involved. Research shows that websites with fewer clicks have higher conversion rates.
d) Offer multiple payment methods
Customers are opting for more seamless modes of payment and you must keep up with them.
Here are a few options other than the traditional payment methods that you can explore:
- Buy Now, Pay Later: Letting a customer pay over a period of time for a product they get to have right now.
- Third parties like Amazon Pay and PayPal that gives them cashback and rewards on the purchases made.
- Mobile wallets like Apple Pay makes it easy for buyers to pay with a single touch.
7. Tickle their funny bone
Making an immediate positive relationship with visitors is essential.
Humor can do that for you.
Done well, it can convert shoppers in a jiffy, but gone wrong, it leaves an awkward silence between you and the customers.
But why, as an online brand, should you use humor?
There are several reasons. Take a look.
Why to apply:
a) It captures attention
Your visitors have an attention span of a few seconds.
Humor is the best way to capture their interest.
If you place a joke on the landing page, e-mails, CTAs, etc. which no one expects, you instantly hook them.
Scientifically, when your brain comes across anything funny, it stops analyzing and starts to respond emotionally.
Therefore, the more you can get a visitor to laugh or smile, the more attention they will dole out.
Increased attention means customers will be able to recall your brand better next time around.
b) Customers don’t remember what they’re being sold to
One of the most fascinating ways how humor works is it distracts the brain and makes people lower their defenses.
In other words, it puts visitors to ease and makes them forget what they’re being advertised to.
Why is this necessary?
Because people are generally skeptical of advertisements. They’ve seen so many advertisements over time that they’re closed off to the messages.
Humor catches people off guard.
It makes them take notice and hooks them in an instant.
Once the defenses are lowered, it’s easy to connect with the audience and sell your brand to them.
c) It kicks off dopamine
Humor elevates mood.
If your advertisement can make them laugh, they’ll have a positive sentiment attached to it.
What’s more interesting is—this feeling of joy spills over how a customer feels about your brand.
It may not directly impact your conversions, but it affects how customers view your brand, which might lead to conversions eventually.
Dollar Shave Club’s example is a classic here.
They were a fairly small company that was up against giants such as Gillette, Remington, and Bic.
Over time, they were able to carve a niche for themselves, and the reason was how they advertised themselves.
Their campaigns are known for being straight-up brutal.
One of their notable taglines from an advertisement is, “Our blades are f*cking great.”
If you see the video, you’ll realize that it’s catchy and funny. Probably offensive to some.
But it does its job.
But here’s the thing.
Not every brand gets it.
Not every joke lands and that’s where it gets tricky.
We have some tricks up the sleeves to make sure you never get it wrong:
- Use humor to highlight visitors’ pain points: What does your product do? How does it make someone’s life easier? What is it exactly fixing? Take that and spin it into humor. Boom! You’ve converted 10x visitors right there.
- Be consistent with your brand’s voice: You can’t crack a joke and follow it up with a few paragraphs of serious writing. That won’t work. Figure out what your brand stands for and be loyal to it.
Here’s a brilliant example of Eat24.
Look at their homepage copy:
Down below, they show more personality:
8. Rethink your upselling strategy
Here’s the thing—people don’t enjoy being sold to 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) Wait until they’ve made the first purchase
They’ve come to your website for the first time. Let them settle in.
Bombarding them with upsells the first time won’t go down well. It’s a possibility they’ll leave the site and never return again.
Let them get through the first purchase. When they visit again, show them upsells that are relevant to them and that they would consider buying.
b) Make relevant offers
Before you start upselling to customers, ask what offers are relevant to them.
Know which products will add value to them and will be beneficial in the long run.
Doing so will help to build customers’ trust in you and increase your CLV.
Zappos does their upsells quite well.
On the product page, where they are selling Converse, they recommend socks specifically made for the Converse sneakers.
“Converse Cut-For-Chucks 6 Pair pack”—that’s what they call it.
c) Make sure the pricing is right
Question: If someone buys a pair of jeans, would you upsell them a belt or a shirt?
The correct answer is the belt.
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.
The cardinal 60x60 rule says (which Apple uses brilliantly), that your customers will buy the offer 60% of the time if it’s 60% less than the original purchase value.
Coming back to Apple.
Immediately after adding the iPad to the cart, Apple upsells related products (pencil, adapter, cover, etc.), that is 60% lesser than the original purchase value.
Most customers don’t mind spending a little extra for the overall value they are receiving.
And that’s how Apple nails their upselling strategy.
d) Take advantage of customers’ milestones
Identify noteworthy moments in your customers’ life to upsell products that help them build on to their success.
Here are a few examples when it’ll be great to offer upsells:
- 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 have a need for additional features and when upselling offers them value.
For example, this visual chart shows how to plan upsells effectively based on the customer journey.
9. 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.
Why not to apply:
a) Good site, bad design
Amazon suffers from terrible design elements. 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.
b) Too many CTAs
Amazon suffers from too many CTAs.
As we saw 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.
Amazon’s CTAs look messy and disorganized that confuses the buyers rather than making the decision easier for them.
If you employ this to your website, there are high chances that you’d see a drop in conversion rates at the checkout page.
c) Stacked content
Amazon’s shotgun methods of filling pages as much as they can is an ugly experience for a customer, which you don’t want to emulate.
Their homepage is cluttered with too many suggestions that can stray customers from buying something to buying nothing at all.
The product pages are worse. There is too much content everywhere you lay your eyes on, that is off-putting.
You must 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.
10. Bring up the site seals/trust badges
Your security seals are tucked in a corner and not serving their true purpose.
You need to bring them up and make them prominent so when a customer visits your website for the first time, they look at the seal and feel confident to buy from you.
Why and how to apply:
a) They create a good first impression
When people come to a website, they depend on visual cues and their gut feeling to determine if they want to stay put.
Having security seals that are prominent and well-situated is a visual indicator that a website is secure and they can trust you.
Baymard explains, “The average user’s perception of a site’s security is largely determined by their “gut feeling” — which beyond how much they trust the brand is to a large extent — observed to be directed by how visually secure the page looks.
A visual clue that during testing also proved effective at increasing the perceived level of security (and adding robustness to the encapsulation) is the use of “site seals”, such as trust badges, SSL seals, and similar symbols suggesting trustworthiness.”
Here’s an example of Blue Fountain Media with a split test before and after adding trust seals and how that affected their sign-ups.
This is before they placed the badge on the site.
This test variation is after they added the badge:
Adding a trust badge made people more comfortable to submit their personal information that led to 42% more sign-ups for the brand.
b) They’re most effective for a small or medium-sized company
Companies such as Google, Amazon, PayPal, may not require trust seals. But for the rest of us, it’s a highly effective tool.
Having a trust seal or badge from a third-party can help you build credibility.
Trust badges such as Norton, McAfee, Verisign, Trustee, work as a credibility lender, and let you borrow their trust and recognition.
When a customer comes on to the page and looks at the verified seal, it gives them confidence to buy from you.
c) “Norton secured” is ahead in the rank
About 37.1% of people trust Norton Secured more than other seals.
d) Place security seal next to the credit card details
Customers are most concerned about security when it comes to filling in their credit card details.
18% percent of users abandon their cart because they don’t trust the site, as per Baymard Institute.
You could have placed trust badges all over the site, but the only place it truly matters is next to the credit card section—because that’s where people decide if a website is secure or not.
Those websites that make the payment section separate see a higher conversion rate than other sites.
Look at how this site, NewEgg, places a seal on their billing page:
If you employ these tricks rights, there is a huge chance you can see a quantum jump in sales over the next year.
Get a kick-start on this now, and you can find yourself miles ahead of the competitors by the next year.
All the best!