Sales volume from e-commerce alone reached over $431.6 million in the US in 2020. That’s an increase of almost 20% from 2019. But experiencing a similar boost in sales for your own business takes more than riding the wave of increasing internet revenue. The good news is that if you want to see your sales increase 20%—or more—over the next year, there are plenty of strategies and online tools to help you reach your goal. Here’s some advice on how to grow your business online.
What are some general strategies for increasing business?
If you’re looking to increase your sales (and who’s not?), there are a few things you’ll need to do. First, you need to identify your target audience and ensure they can easily find your product or service. You’ll also need to differentiate your offerings from those of your competitors and create a simple, user-friendly buying experience for your customers. Whether your small business is entirely online or you have a brick-and-mortar store, the following strategies will always be applicable and can help you achieve a variety of sales goals.
Understand your target audience
Business owners often find themselves so focused on selling the best solutions that they don’t spend enough time thinking about who they’re selling to. A great product can still generate lackluster sales if you don’t make branding and marketing decisions with your target audience in mind. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you determine how to promote your product or service to customers:
- How does my product or service fit into their lifestyles?
- What are the pain points in their personal or professional lives that my product can address?
- How can my product increase or enhance their leisure time?
- What other products and services do they spend money on, and how can I take advantage of their general buying habits?
- If my product or service isn’t their first choice, what is and why?
In effect, you want to take an imaginary seat in front of your target audience and get to know them on a personal level. One way to do this is by hiring a market research company. They’ll perform interviews, conduct surveys, and study the marketing landscape to give you the data you need to increase your sales. But before paying for professional assistance, consider how you can use something already available to you: analytics.
Use analytics to understand how customers find your product or service
With tools like Google Analytics, you can research and leverage the paths users take to get to your online store. For instance, say you sell DJ equipment, and you’re getting a lot of traffic to your store because of a blog post about a popular musician that uses your products. To capitalize, you might consider publishing your own articles about your products and the musicians that use that, or teaming up with the blogger to form an affiliate marketing relationship.
If analytics show that you’re getting the bulk of your traffic from ad campaigns on certain social networks, you could invest more in those particular channels, building on your success.
Analytics can also reveal weaknesses in your marketing, particularly if you’ve invested in a certain approach or platform but haven’t seen results. This information is valuable because it can help inform how you allocate your marketing efforts and funds in the future.
Identify what makes your service or product unique
While investing time and funds in a complete branding campaign is a valuable endeavor, starting by focusing on what differentiates your product or service from others can often help you boost sales. By emphasizing what makes your offering different, you can attract customers looking for those specific attributes.
For example, maybe you own an ice cream shop and offer unusual flavors, such as saffron or olive oil. You might want to market those flavors more than your common flavors, like chocolate and vanilla.
Emphasizing unique elements of your product or one-of-a-kind items could even be more effective than offering discounts or promotions. Remember, the key is to give customers what they want. Some people want a unique, high-quality product or service more than a discount on their purchase. Touting what makes your product different can help you boost sales with these groups.
Offer multiple payment options
When you offer several payment options, you automatically remove buying obstacles for many people. Some people, for example, prefer to use online payment methods like PayPal more than credit cards. Others prefer direct bank withdrawals. Do some research into how your target audience likes to pay for your product and consider adding any options you don’t already offer.
Simplify the checkout process
A simple checkout process increases sales by shortening the time between adding an item to the shopping cart and completing the transaction. This lessens the chances of the customer getting distracted or going elsewhere to buy a similar item.
One way to keep a customer on track is to include a guest checkout option on your site. Your online shoppers likely already have an account established with one of your competitors, such as Amazon. If they have to spend several minutes filling out a lengthy form, giving a lot of sensitive information, they may give up and choose to go to your competitor for a quick, easy checkout. By incorporating a user-friendly, seamless sales infrastructure, you can make it easy for your customers to purchase your product—and increase your revenue.
How can SEO increase sales?
SEO can boost your sales by bringing more potential buyers into contact with your content and, consequently, the things you sell. Here are some tactics you can use to improve your SEO.
Use non-branded keywords
A branded keyword includes the proper name of your business, product, or service. For example, “Ford trucks in Connecticut” is a branded keyword because it has “Ford” in it. “Trucks in Connecticut,” on the other hand, would be a non-branded keyword.
Branded keywords perform well because when people search for your product or service by name, they’re shown results that take them straight to your website. But non-branded keywords bring in customers who aren’t already familiar with your business or what you offer.
Use long-tail keywords
Long-tail keywords are those that are significantly longer than what most users type into a search engine. For example, “San Diego ransomware recovery services” is a long-tail keyword. For companies in San Diego who have been targeted by hackers using ransomware, this may be a far more effective keyword than “ransomware recovery.”
This is because with “ransomware recovery,” your content has to compete against that of hundreds of other companies providing this service. However, when your potential customers narrow down their search with additional terms, your long-tail keywords may align with their specific needs, enabling you to capture more customers—and more sales.
Additionally, people who use specific phrases usually know exactly what they’re looking for—and they’re often closer to making a purchase than folks using more general search phrases. So, by optimizing your site with long-tail keywords, you’re bringing yourself closer to people who want to buy what you’re selling.
Optimize your site for mobile
More and more people are accessing the web and making online purchases using their mobile devices. Consider using a tool like the Mobile-Friendly Test from Google to make sure your site is mobile-friendly and easy to navigate across all of those devices. Google and other search engines can spot sites that work well on mobile devices and send mobile searchers to them. Here are some attributes you want the mobile version of your site to have:
- Blog posts that are broken up with images instead of consisting of large walls of text
- Pages that load quickly
- Forms that are easy to fill out
- The option to save partially completed purchases for later
- The most important information above the fold on your pages
If you’re not sure how well your mobile site is performing, you can also use an analytics tool to check your mobile conversion against your desktop conversions. If you’re getting a lot of traffic from mobile devices but significantly more conversions from the desktop version of your site, you might need to optimize your mobile site to improve the customer experience.
How can CRO (conversion rate optimization) increase sales?
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) involves taking steps to improve the number of visitors you convert into paying customers. You calculate your conversion rate with a straightforward formula:
total number of conversions / total number of visitors = conversion rate
For example, if 2,000 people visit your site in April, and 70 of them make purchases, your conversion rate would be:
70 (conversions) / 2,000 (visitors) = 0.035% (conversion rate)
To increase your conversion rate, you should:
- Put the most compelling information about your product or service front and center. You want your customers to see what makes your business valuable or unique from the moment they engage with your content. Use images to showcase your product from different angles, with close-ups of details and people using it.
- Make sure potential customers know that your business is trustworthy and that your products or services will improve their lives by allowing and encouraging customers to leave reviews. Solicit testimonials from previous clients and clearly display your contact and support information so customers know they can easily reach you if they have any questions or comments.
- Make sure your website is secure. Use Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificates and display your security badges. The more customers trust your site, the more likely they’ll be to make a purchase.
- Offer special promotions—such as time-sensitive discounts or free shipping—to provide the last push to get customers to convert. Sometimes a buyer needs a little nudge to purchase, and promotions are a great way to persuade them. If you offer deals, however, be sure to mention them where customers will see them. For example, if you have an online store and you’re offering free shipping, don’t just mention it exclusively on the product page. Instead, prominently advertise the offer on a landing page or in a home page banner, giving it more visibility and increasing the chances for conversion.
How can paid marketing increase sales?
Paid advertising increases sales by enabling you to connect directly with your target market. To better understand the power of paid digital marketing, it may help to compare a simple form of traditional advertising, like putting up a flyer at a bus stop.
If you were to make a flyer advertising dog-walking services and put it up at a popular bus stop, hundreds of people might see it every day. However, how would you know how many people in your target audience—people with dogs who need someone to help walk them—actually noticed the flyer?
Now, imagine you found a bus stop used exclusively by people who own dogs. On top of that, it’s dog owners who work at least 8 hours a day, so they have dogs that would appreciate the opportunity to go for a stroll outside. If you had to pay $10 a week to put a flyer up at that bus stop, would you? Definitely.
That’s how paid marketing works. You can choose the people you want to target and pay a service to show them your ads. Then, based on their online behavior, the paid marketing service puts up ads at the right time to increase the chances of grabbing the attention of potential or current customers.
You can use the paid ads services of the big search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Or, you can enlist the services of marketing agencies that have experience optimizing paid marketing channels to get the best results for their clients.
To get the biggest sales boost from paid marketing, you can try:
- Relevant keywords: Choosing the right keywords to use on your site can increase sales because platforms like Google use them to ensure your ads are seen by people searching for that exact word or phrase. If your keyword matches a search term, your ad may pop up on top of the results page, being the first thing your potential customer sees after searching.
- Google Ads: With Google Ads, the platform places the ads where interested people are likely to see them, and then you pay each time they click on your ad. This is called pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. According to recent statistics on PPC campaigns, people who visit a site after clicking on an ad are 50% more likely to buy something.
- Social media: Social media paid marketing channels are highly effective because they use your target market’s profiles and behavior on the platform to decide where to place your ad. This makes it more likely that your ad appears for people who want your product or are in a position to purchase it.
A powerful platform to increase customer engagement
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