Why your online store won’t generate sales and how you can fix it
Is your online store struggling to generate sales? Here’s how to create an online marketing strategy that can attract customers at each of the five stages of the buying life cycle.
The popularity of online stores has risen significantly in recent years which means if you have one, the level of your competition has grown too. So it’s not surprising that a question I often see asked in the Flying Solo forums is ‘how do I generate sales in my online store’.
In order to answer this, we first need to talk about the five stages of the buying life cycle:
- Awareness/Problem Recognition: Your customer has identified a need for which they need a product or service to solve.
- Information Search/Consideration/Comparison: Your customer is searching, evaluating and comparing products and services that can provide a solution to their problem.
- Preference/Intent: Your customer has developed logical and an emotional reason towards purchasing one solution versus another.
- Conversion/Sale: A customer has purchased your product or solution.
- Retention/Review: A customer reviews their purchase which ideally leads to fulfillment, customer satisfaction and repeat purchases.
So how do we create an online marketing strategy that targets all of the stages?
1. Use content to attract visitors at each stage
44% of online shoppers begin by using a search engine. – HubSpot
For online stores, search engine traffic consistently delivers visitors that convert at higher rates than other marketing forms. Yet search engine optimisation for online stores is often an afterthought and something considered post website launch.
"Businesses owners tend to focus solely on generating the sale but then completely ignore the critical pre-purchase stages that lead to the sale."
How do you fix this?
- Optimise your website structure (URLs, categories and products). This should be built in from the start. For example, if you are selling an LCD TV with the product name ‘SONY-KDL3w700C-32’ then you would ensure you have a category called ‘LCD TVs’ and be sure to title the products page with something that has ‘SONY-KDL3w700C-32’ in it. The url structure for this product would then be yourdomain.com/lcd-tvs/sony-kdl3w700c-32. A very SEO friendly domain that beats yourdomain.com/sony-tv.
- Ensure the onsite web copy is highly relevant(unique product and category pages)and continuously evaluate this.
- Participate in ongoing content marketing (via product reviews, comparisons, blogs).
Want more articles like this? Check out the business websites section.
Let’s take a look at some search examples:
- “lcd tv” –This is a broad and generic term which may be used by customers in the Awareness and Consideration stages above. You can attract visitors via this search by having ‘LCD TV’ as a category in your online shop.
- “compare flat screen tvs” – The customer has identified potential models of interest and wants to compare which model is best for them in the Consideration and Comparison stages. You can accommodate these people via content marketing; by having a blog post that does this kind of comparison for example.
- “Sony KDL32W700C 32” – The customer is performing a very specific search indicating a much deeper level of interest which may indicate price or spec evaluating in the Preference and Intent Stage. It’s essential that the product page includes comprehensive product information (something we will discuss in greater detail below).
2. Gain trust by addressing your customer requirements
Trust is earned not given – Unknown
Word of mouth is brilliant; I think we can all agree on that. It’s brilliant because of the inherent trust we gain from being referred from a trusted source.
This scenario is much harder to reproduce online. Customers don’t trust you any more than they do the neighbour that’s three houses down. You can gain trust by first addressing your customer’s specific requirements. These might be:
- Demonstrating product knowledge – What does it do? How does it do it? Why is it better?
- Demonstrating experience – Is this business I’m buying from more experienced and knowledgeable than others?
- Security – Is the website safe to buy from?
- Policies – Can I return something or get my money back?
- Reviews – Are there legitimate reviews and testimonials?
- Preference – Does this site provide me with something that others don’t?
- Contact – Are you easy to contact? Do you provide direct contact details?
- Price – Do you provide more value for money?
Too many online stores are simply copying the product description from the manufacturer therefore providing no reason for a customer to make you their preference.
3. Help your customers to remember you by continuous re-targeting
“Content marketing is not about converting the first click, only foolish humans think it works like this” – Rand Fishkin
How often have you wanted something, known exactly what it is that you wanted but you simply didn’t have the money to afford it at the time? Our customers can be the same and we need to understand that the first click to our website is often just the beginning.
The issue is that humans by nature are also very forgetful. For example humans can be terrible with names and even though you make an amazing first impression your customer might still forget your name.
We don’t have a digital business card so how will they find you if they do forget? There are a number of ways we can do this online:
- Paid re-marketing – Create a website audience and promote adverts to visitors that have already visited our website using Facebook or AdWords.
- Email marketing – Provide visitors with a reason to sign up to your mailing list i.e. “Join up and receive our detail buyers guide to buying the perfect LCD”.
- Connect via social – Encourage users to connect to social platforms for discounts and detailed product reviews
- Content marketing – Continue to create high value content that attracts them again and again.
When our customer is ready to buy we will have earned the trust and will be front of mind. Your aim is to be where your customer will be.