Expert Advice


Online Retailers, Listen Up: Tips for Delighting Shoppers

The Internet has become the world’s largest shopping mall, and the market is continuing to grow. Q4 2011 U.S. retail ecommerce sales were up 14 percent compared with 2010, reaching nearly US$50 billion for the quarter, ComScore recently reported.

Total U.S. e-commerce sales are projected to reach $279 billion by 2014, according to a Forrester forecast.

Moreover, the tablet has emerged as a lucrative shopping device for brands due to its large, sleek screen and easy-to-use functionality. In fact, the average order value (AOV) for shoppers on tablets was $123 per purchase in 2011.

Yet despite this increase in growth and opportunity, many brands continue to overlook simple steps they can take to maximize sales and enhance the online shopping experience.

Here are some tips to improve the performance of your website and increase revenue along the way.

Consistency Is Key

Your website is the first introduction many shoppers will have to your brand, so it needs to immediately convey your story and value proposition. It is also important to maintain consistent messaging and branding regardless of the marketing channel that drives users to your site.

The era of the “one-size-fits-all” website is over, which means everywhere you have an online presence is an opportunity to deliver a unique experience to the shopper. Make sure you echo messages and promotions on the landing page and throughout the user session, whether shoppers are driven to your website from social sites Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest; email campaigns; paid search; or other marketing channels like affiliate or direct. It is essential to provide customers with a shopping experience that is consistent with how they find you.

Stay on Target

Targeted website messages are one of the most effective ways for e-commerce brands to increase relevancy and improve the online shopping experience for the consumer. In order to boost key business metrics like conversions and average order values, you should tailor website messages to defined segments of customers based on whether they’ve shopped with you before, their physical location, previous browsing behavior and more.

Shoppers can tell you a lot by what they browse for online. By tracking anonymous consumer behavior, brands can dynamically display content and offers tailored to an individual’s browsing habits within the current shopping session. The key is to look at what shoppers search for — not just what they buy.

For example, you might display the latest Merrell hiking boots to consumers who have previously searched for hiking gear. Retailers who target promotions based on brand preferences routinely see double digit increases in average order value.

Here are some simple ways to better target website messaging and promotions based on knowledge about the customer:

  • International: When international consumers visit your site from overseas, make sure they know you are open and ready for business wherever they are. Deliver banners or messages on your site that inform them of where you ship, of any flat-rate shipping offers, and whether they can shop in their native currency.
  • Highlight Tax Free Sales: When shoppers visit from a sales-tax-free state, tell them. Although you are announcing a benefit that already exists, research shows that sales tax announcements can significantly increase average order value.
  • Geographic Targeting: Consumers like to shop locally, and you can get an advantage by using the location of a website visitor. A sports retailer, for example, may want to highlight New York Yankees merchandise if a shopper from Manhattan visits their online store. Additionally, national brands can achieve significant revenue boosts by welcoming shoppers from San Francisco with a banner that says “San Francisco’s best source” of whatever that store sells.
  • Weather: “How’s the weather?” may seem like a superficial conversation starter, but when it comes to online shopping, weather-based targeting is a boon to e-commerce. For example, if a consumer in rainy Seattle visits Gap’s website, Gap could offer the shopper a special promotion on raincoats; whereas, someone in Miami who goes to the website may see a message about swimsuits. Same website — different consumer experience.

Calling Attention to Specific Items Increases Conversion

Think about the shopping experience from your customers’ perspective: Rows and rows of products begin to look the same after a while. Sometimes online shoppers need a little push to make a purchase.

Drawing attention to popular brands is a proven way to pique an online shopper’s interest — and encourage sales. And the result of pointing these items out, known as “badging,” can be a significant increase in order value, conversion rate and revenue per session.

Most likely you are familiar with badging even if you never heard the word. If you’ve visited an online store where some products are highlighted by small messages that appear on the product image, then you’ve seen badging at work.

Badging can include tags like “Great for Fall,” “Best-Seller,” or “Top-Rated.” This strategy relies on basic psychology to draw attention to individual items within a group. And it works.

Fixing Shopping Cart Woes

Online retailers have been grappling with shopping cart abandonment for as long as online shopping carts have been around. Yet, abandonment rates have been hovering around 60 percent for many years. That means for every 1,000 customers who put something in their shopping cart, 600 will leave your website without buying anything — this translates to a lot of lost revenue.

By keeping track of which customers add items to their cart and then leave the website, you can store information about those cart items so when shoppers return they can be greeted with a reminder of their items. A little encouraging message can even be added that reminds shoppers to make their purchase “before these items sell out.”

Testing Makes Perfect

With plenty of options for customizing website content, it can be difficult to pinpoint which exact tactics will significantly move the needle on your conversion rates. However, the key to implementing an online marketing strategy that works for your specific business is to always test new ideas, iterate your messages and promotions, and optimize the tactics and campaigns that are proven to drive the best results.

While the above tips may represent different levels of relevance to your brand, all of them should spark bright ideas about how to add and retain more customers, increase relevancy, and improve the shopping experience for your customers.

David Brussin is founder and CEO of Monetate.

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