Maximize purchases throughout your online store by helping customers sail through the buying experience. How small, large, intermediate, or advanced businesses can implement six strategies to increase online sales.
As more businesses build and manage their websites, companies have greater control over their web sales and conversions than ever before. However, with more control comes more responsibility. Running a website not only puts you in charge of its design but also tasks you with ensuring that its design produces sales.
If you aren’t sure how to design your site to maximize sales, this article helps get you started. It outlines six essential strategies that business-to-business (B2B) companies can use to maximize ecommerce sales:
- Embrace multichannel shoppers
- Design for conversion
- Streamline customer service
- Use sales psychology wisely
- Retarget shoppers carefully
- Invest in the overall brand experience
Strategy #1: Embrace Multichannel Shoppers
One way to avoid cart abandonment is to ensure that the customer experience is as smooth as possible, regardless of how and where customers shop for your brand.
In a world of multichannel commerce, getting customers to check out quickly has become increasingly difficult. With many devices vying for their attention, shoppers are easily distracted and sent off course.
Here are five ideas to help you serve customers better across all of your shopping channels.
Invest in UX Design & Robust Site Backend
To manage multichannel commerce properly, you must spend time and money to create the right ecommerce environment. Great multichannel experiences are layered, hinging on a robust ecommerce backend, a functional data management system, and great user experience (UX) design.
Amateurish design results in lower brand consideration and conversion rates, while a poorly constructed backend will make accurately tracking sales and customer actions impossible.
Invest in Mobile
More people use smartphones for shopping every day, so it's important to engage with your customers on mobile devices.
To implement a mobile-first strategy, either tweak existing design and content elements or move to a fully responsive site.
Wayfair, a furniture and home decor brand, caters to both the B2B and business-to-consumer (B2C) audience with its colorful web design palette. The brand's mobile site encourages users to download its free app instead of using the mobile site, a step that ensures a user's long-term investment in your brand.
The mobile site design has the same visual feel as the desktop version but adds different calls to action to encourage mobile click-throughs.
Follow Best Practices for Design
Don’t try to be too clever with your navigation and design. Design conventions exist for a reason: they are the result of years of user experience studies.
It is best to be relatively conservative and follow conventions that customers are accustomed to, such as putting a menu at the top and shopping basket in the top right corner and including an “About Us” page.
Observe how popular sites like Amazon offer a clear and instinctive experience. The landing page’s main focus is the search bar, which signals that a visitor should conduct a site-wide search from the outset.
Notice that the shopping cart is clearly displayed, and there’s an option to create an account for a more personalized experience.
React to Customer Behavior
Use tools to track customer behavior on-site. How visitors interact with your site is a form of feedback.
For example, if you notice a high bounce rate for a particular page, pay attention. The user behavior data pinpoints where users drop off your site, allowing you to address poorly performing pages by updating the design, copy, and other usability assets.
Embrace Multichannel Content
Even if you do not sell products directly through content, the resources you produce still have an impact on a customer’s purchase journey. Multichannel content strategy involves creating content that’s useful for customers in formats they find engaging.
Use different media, such as videos, whitepapers, and podcasts, to help explain your products and services. Also make sure that your content balances providing value to customers with calls to action to purchase or download your offerings.
Strategy #2: Design for Conversion
No matter what you’re selling, web design is important because good design helps maximize conversions. Here are two key ideas to help your website work for you.
Optimize for Users
Whether you’re using a DIY website builder or going custom, focus on a clean and simple design that’s user-friendly and keeps your products front-and-center. Easy website navigation is key to building trust, which in turn helps convert prospects into customers.
The key to user experience design and conversion success is speed. Visitors lose patience with a slow website within seconds, drastically reducing conversions. You’re better off creating a simple design that performs well, instead of building a complex site with five or more features that are challenging to update and maintain.
Keep Your Ecommerce Design Updated
Design trends change, and if you don’t keep your website’s design fresh, more agile competitors may quickly steal your market share through advanced SEO strategies, superior social media integration, or better usability.
It’s a good idea to schedule regular reviews of your site to make sure that you stay up-to-date with recent research and findings about design features. Some approaches to regular reviews of your site include investing in external audits, going to conferences, attending webinars, and reading white papers and reports from leading web design research firms.
Another option includes partnering with a web design firm or consultant that can guide you through the process of reviewing your website. If you need a custom solution for your business, or simply aren’t sure where to start, services like Clutch.co, a data-driven field guide for business services, can assist you in finding the right web design agency, tool, or consultant.
Strategy #3: Streamline Customer Service
Make communicating with and buying from your brand as easy as possible.
Even if you’ve done your best to reassure your customers about making a purchase, some will always need more time to think things over. Shoppers commonly want to do research first and come back to complete a purchase later on, so make sure that your customer service is responsive.
Here are three proven customer service tactics that will help you maximize online purchases.
Make Customer Service Accessible
Provide plenty of resources about the products you stock, and make the information accessible in various forms, including support pages, a customer support number, user manuals, and customer testimonials.
Buyers and resource managers may need information on product specifications or pricing to share with senior stakeholders as part of their purchase journey. Therefore, the more resources you make available to customers, the more likely they are to find what they need to complete a purchase.
Encourage Customers to Maintain a Wish List
It’s not uncommon for ecommerce transactions to take a few days to flow from initial research to final purchase. As a result, many shoppers want the convenience of creating wish lists of items to purchase at a later date.
Make sure that you give customers a way to save items for purchase later, and keep their data on file. Nothing annoys busy shoppers like returning to a store to find that they’ve been forgotten and need to start over from scratch.
Simplify Customer Accounts
Did you know that getting beyond that first “sign in” barrier is the biggest ecommerce hurdle you have to tackle?
Make creating an account with you easy – and optional – by allowing customers sign in through social profiles or as a guest.
For example, Spotify allows users to access their account information by logging in with an email address or through a Facebook profile.
Offering two options to create an account and then check out appeals to the customer’s sense of choice. Some customers may prefer connecting their purchases with social media and others may want to keep social profiles separate from purchasing decisions.
Additionally, if a user is taken off course from the purchase flow to create an account, make sure she can pick up where they left off and finish her purchase quickly.
One approach is to provide additional rewards and promotions in exchange for creating an account. Macy’s employs this tactic by reaching out to recent customers over email and offering an incentive for creating an account.
The subject, “Need a reason to open a Macy’s account? We’ve got a few!” peaks a recent buyer’s interest by promising future rewards for simply creating an account.
Ideally, customers should be able to communicate with you through their accounts, making it easier to track past engagement with a particular customer.
Strategy #4: Use Sales Psychology Wisely
Think about how you’re using psychology to convince and convert customers. An analysis of ten consumer behavior studies by HelpScout highlights how to sell more by employing psychological tricks, like playing “Devil’s Advocate,” labeling your customers, and actually admitting to strategic failings.
You probably won’t want to use all of the psychological tools in your sales arsenal at once, but here are some good tactics to keep in the back of your mind.
Learn About What Motivates Your Customers
Sales psychology is not about being cheap or tricking people. It’s simply about knowing what motivates customers.
A variety of factors may drive customers, such as fear, a need to succeed, or a desire to be competitive. Try to get to the bottom of why people are seeking your products or services, and use targeted messaging to appeal to their wants and needs.
One way to appeal to customers is to analyze the problems they are attempting to solve with your product. Address those problems in your copy to get to the emotional root cause of the purchase. Even a boring B2B purchase often has an emotional motivation behind it, whether it’s wanting to be a better boss, feeling more confident, or empowering staff.
Kin, a human resources software company, speaks to the busy business owner or human resources manager about common challenges they face, like getting to know their staff, on-boarding new hires, and engaging employees.
Kin’s copy emphasizes the importance of people, not paper, and keeps the objective “keep your team moving forward” at the forefront.
Instill Purchase Urgency
Encourage customers to make purchases quickly.
Consider how big ecommerce brands like Amazon approach online sales and urgency. Notice that Amazon frequently shows the amount of items left in stock.
Product availability information not only makes shopping more convenient but also encourages shoppers to make a purchase quickly.
Remember though, while urgency can be a powerful sales tool, don't overdo it because customers will tune you out.
Offer Reasons to Choose Your Brand Over the Competition
Be honest about what both your competitors and your brand offer. Customers explore multiple options before making a purchasing decision. But, if you are transparent and honest about how your services compare to your competitor’s, you will reassure customers that they can trust you to help them make an informed decision.
Some brands offer comparison tables or “alternative to competitor brand” pages to explain their offerings in relation to other, similar options.
A great example of this comes from Xerox, which has a microsite that comparing its products to QuickBooks' and explains why Xerox's offerings are better.
Note the “free conversion” call to action, which is directly focused on poaching QuickBooks customers.
Another example, UK appliance retailer Currys.co.uk, uses an automatic pop-up on its site that appears every time a user tries to copy the name of a product, presumably to look for it elsewhere.
The pop-up tells the shopper how Curry's prices compare to other sellers, essentially performing the background research needed to make a purchase decision for the customer.
Strategy #5: Retarget Shoppers Carefully
To get customers to complete a sale, you must strike a careful balance: don’t harass them too much, but try not to take “no” for an answer. Consumers are averse to the barrage of ads inspired by their browsing history, which makes encouraging customers to make a purchase without being pushy no small feat.
Be smart about your retargeting and make the most out of potential sales with the following three techniques.
Follow Up with Customers Who Download Content
B2B sales often include a content element: users download content, such as whitepapers, to learn more about a product, service, or industry before making a purchasing decision.
Follow up with any customer who downloads and engages with your content. The goal for this kind of content “smarketing” (sales + marketing) is to engage customers strategically based on their expressed interest in your brand, so don’t let these opportunities go to waste.
Explore Multiple Customer Targeting Strategies
Explore strategies to deal with cart abandonment. Some tactics include advertisement retargeting, triggered emails, and personalized voucher codes.
Facebook is a great place for re-targeting, but you may be better off sharing helpful resources and curated content from your industry, rather than going in with a ‘hard sell.’ The marketing site, Inbound.org, retargets lapsed community members on Facebook by emphasizing the brand's value: they curate content that's personalized to a particular customer's needs and interests.
Inbound’s ad sits seamlessly in Facebook’s feed and focuses on knowledge and value, not selling. A simple and effective way to make your ad content look more native is to emulate posts people share organically.
Use Email Automation to Address Cart Abandonment
When in doubt, start with email. There are many ways to use email to automate and personalize messages that remind customers about their abandoned carts.
Netflix used this tactic to encourage a past customer to re-engage and re-activate his profile.
Bear in mind though that a lukewarm “please come back” doesn’t always get the job done. Be creative and remind the customer what he’s missing: “Thousands of titles streaming over the Internet.”
Luckily, this kind of targeting is built into most ecommerce environments. For example, the ecommerce email system offered by Shopify allows you to send personalized voucher codes in all retargeting emails, while WordPress offers a variety of email marketing plugins.
Strategy #6: Invest in the Brand Experience
Great brands succeed because of attention to detail. Remember to factor in all of the small customer decisions that build up to a final sale.
Here are some ways to improve your customer experience, even when a sale isn’t directly at stake.
Focus on Customer “Micro-Moments”
From customer support queries to confirmation emails and password reminders, never underestimate the importance of fleeting customer moments that may at first seem insignificant.
Take every possible opportunity to cultivate a positive brand experience. Even small details, like special packaging, makes a big difference.
Natural makeup company, Glossier personalizes every package it ships, including stickers, a signature pouch, and a pink box with a branded message: “Skin first. Makeup Second. Smile Always.”
Committing to forging great experiences behind the scenes, even when you’re not in “sales mode,” reaps significant rewards. Looking to Glossier again, customers who decorate notebooks with their stickers advertise for the brand for free.
Pay Attention to Detail
Microcopy, or the text included on forms, buttons, and footers, can impact conversions significantly. Poorly written or ambiguous contact forms or emails easily confuse users and lead to hesitation that results in lost sales.
Online clothing retailer ASOS offers a great example of how small copy details make a big difference.
The unsubscribe button at the bottom of ASOS’ email footer reads, “Not so keen? Opting out of ASOS A-List is OK… ‘sob.’” The playful copy provides a moment of levity, which by itself, may be enough to stop someone from opting out. And, if the customer leaves, the tongue-in-cheek copy means the relationship remains positive rather than negative.
Final Thoughts & Takeaways
Maximizing conversions is all about listening to users: addressing their pain points and paying attention to how they use your site. Stay one step ahead by creating a conversion optimization strategy that includes embracing multichannel shoppers, designing for conversions, streamlining customer service, use sales psychology, retargeting shoppers, and investing in your overall brand experience.
The six conversion optimization strategies explored in this article work for a variety of audiences and brands. To succeed online, blend each strategy and adjust as you track progress.
Remember that maximizing customer conversions and sales is an ongoing project for any B2B business, a project that involves design, copy and technology.
Your number one rule should be to focus on your customers and keep coming back to the question, “How can I make their online experience better?”
I’ve been helping ecommerce entrepreneurs and businesses grow for a while now, from one-man bands to big multinational brands. I love meeting brands and businesses that are committed to doing things right: giving users great experiences and honing in on key strategies, like UX, content, and social media. It’s all about connecting with customers and doing things right by them. Read more of my ecommerce tips on my blog, or follow me on Twitter.