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3 Powerful Ways To Increase Online Sales
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March 2014. Executives from Marks and Spencer gather for an important meeting. They’re about to see what impact their new website has made on sales. The company has spent 3 years and over £150m redesigning the site, and it was launched in February. So, what do the numbers say? 

Someone get Marc on the phone,’ an anxious voice insists. ‘There’s been a problem.’

In the weeks after the launch of their new website, Marks and Spencer’s online sales flopped by 8.1%. Customers deserted the stylish new site in droves, rejecting the video content and glossy magazine visuals. Issues with usability undermined the familiar brand-values of consistency, reliability, and trust. There were other problems, too:

  • Existing customers had been forced to re-register
  • Copy updates (such as changing “My Basket” to “Your Bag”) had caused confusion
  • Useful information about deliveries and payment had been removed

By the time they realised what was happening, Marks and Spencer’s marketing team were watching thousands of customers defect to rival stores. 

Marks and Sparks: Pre-2014 Website

how to increase online sales

  • Clear navigation structure
  • Delivery information visible on home page
  • Familiar eCommerce features 

Missing A Spark: Post-Relaunch 2014

how to increase online sales

  • Visual icons are missing 
  • Products are not displayed in the visuals
  • Important information has been removed

The story of Marks and Spencer’s website disaster should not be taken as a warning against trying to optimise your website. The most successful companies are also the most prolific tinkerers. However, there are one or two important lessons to learn: 

  • Evolution, not revolution. Incremental changes based on a test-and-learn philosophy are safer and more powerful than gut-instinct redesigns. 
  • Loyalty before leads. If you have reliable customers, keeping them should be your priority.
  • Trust Data, Not Experts. Design changes might feel like a matter of opinion, but they don’t need to be. If you have a chance to use statistical testing, it could save you from disaster. 

There are 3 powerful ways that every marketer can increase online sales. Your focus should be on traffic (page views) spend (average order value) and rpm (repeat customers). 

1. Volume + Quality: How Traffic Increases Online Sales

At the top of your sales funnel, you need to bring purchasers to your door.

To do this, you need to know who your customers are:

  • Understand their priorities (what matters to them, and how do you address those things?)
  • Segment according to purchasing persona (do they have a practical mind-set, or are they an emotional shopper?)
  • Identify their pain-points (are they paying too much, wasting too much time or struggling with a frustrating process?)

Once you know who your customer is, you can optimise your content for the solutions they’re seeking.

Your marketing mix should contain a blend of:

  • Content Marketing – get your message out and connect with new buyers by blogging, offering guest articles, and creating unique content on other sites as well as your own.
  • Social Media – build a community around your products and create a sense of connection. Make people want to be part of something, to be ‘in the know.’

    how to increase online sales Zappos on Instagram: pets, potties, what’s going on? Not sure, but it looks fun, and I want to be part of this when I buy shoes… (Image Source: instagram.com)

  • Pay-Per-ClickDrive the right people to your sales page, at the right time for them. You can do this through ads on other sites, including Facebook, Google, and more.

    increase online sales I’m not convinced Facebook knows my style (Image Source: facebook.com)

  • Referral Programs Leverage existing loyalty to find more customers like those you already have. Do this by offering a great service and customer experience in the first place, but also by rewarding that loyalty with discounts or direct payments.

    TransferWise Send Money AbroadIf you like us, please tell your friends! (Image Source: transferwise.com)

These options cost money, particularly the last two, so monitor outcomes carefully to ensure good ROI.

Do you want fries with that?

Of course you do! Better yet, let’s bundle a deal which includes a drink and a dessert. You might not even have felt like eating all that, but it makes a nice overall package. 

When you’re planning an up-sell, keep in mind the time-tested 60×60 rule. According to this principle, customers will increase their order 60% of the time for up to 60% of the original purchase price.

Increasing your average order value (AOV) is an easy way to increase your online sales. It costs you nothing in advertising, and it often improves the customer experience. 

So, sell the burger first… then offer the fries.    

How The Masters Do It

The 60% rule works at any price point, even with big-ticket items like cars. The original purchase establishes a strong framing effect that makes later buys seem like a bargain. 

One company that knows all about this, is Apple.

increase online sales Apple ‘fries’: Accessorise your purchase (Image Source: apple.com)

Before you get anywhere near the checkout with an Apple product, you’ll be invited to add all sorts of pricey extras. 

They could have included them in a single package but, instead, they wait until you are thoroughly primed to say, ‘oh, go on then!’

Extended warranties are a familiar example of this, and it isn’t just traditional retailers who play the game…

Low-cost airlines add huge amounts to the average order value by “unbundling” travel services and then selling them back to you. Once you’re on the plane, it seems like a good idea to take a bag with you… 

The final (and perhaps most obvious) way to increase online sales is to persuade your existing customers to return and spend more.

It’s much  cheaper and more effective to keep customers happy than it is to acquire new ones. The good news for online sales is that this is far easier to do online than on the high street.

You have contact details for every one of your purchasers. You may even have details for leads who haven’t bought yet. All you need to do is look after them. 

Keep Them Coming Back For More

  • Offers and Promotions – you can target up-sells and adverts based on previous buying behaviours. Amazon does this better than anyone, offering their customers deals on supplies that they are likely to be running low on. Amazon also retains information about your favourite brands, celebrities and your online behaviour. The best thing about this strategy is that, if it makes your customers’ lives easier, they will thank you for it!
  • Lock-in Deals – another thing Amazon does exceptionally well, is to give special deals to loyal customers. For example, a Prime subscription provides free next-day shipping for the full duration. Next time you’re shopping for toothbrushes, lightbulbs or revision cards, you’ll know exactly where to go…

    increase online sales

  • Removing Friction – allow returning customers to re-use shipping and payment details, store previous orders to speed up a weekly shop, or curate a ‘favourites’ list. As Marks and Spencer learned to their cost, customers value convenience and clarity above all else. Amazon’s one-click ordering is about as simple as it gets.

None of the changes discussed in this article require big design budgets.

In fact, it could be a huge a mistake to drop thousands on a major redesign, as that confuses and alienates your core customer base.  

Traffic generation does need some investment but, once you have prospects on your site, it costs nothing to build the average order value or the return rate.

To increase online sales, you need to know your customers. You need to understand what they want, and to make decisions on that basis. Finally, you need to be willing to experiment.

Remember the Agile approach

  • Make a hypothesis (“Free shipping for orders over £20 will increase my AOV”)
  • Record your baseline data (current AOV)
  • Make changes one at a time 
  • Analyse outcomes (Are people ‘going large’ to qualify for the free shipping?)
  • Rinse and repeat 

Keep an eye on the metrics that matter, and you’ll find it easy to increase your online sales. 

Benjamin Ligier

by Benjamin Ligier

Benjamin is a CRO Expert at Convertize. He is passionate about design, web marketing and consumer psychology.

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Benjamin is an expert in A/B testing and conversion rate optimisation. He works on testing and design.

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