Unsurprisingly, there’s been a vast amount of blog posts published on Covid-19 over recent months. Many have offered useful advice on how to adapt your business strategy to survive the current crisis and forthcoming recession (or, worse still, depression). Embracing E-commerce sales has been vital for many.
When Covid-19 hit, we called our clients to discuss how we could help them through the crisis. Sadly, some of our clients in the hospitality industry have been so severely affected that there’s little we could do to help. For others, however, we’ve been able to offer support and expertise to help their business survive and, in many cases, thrive, through the crisis. None more so than for our E-commerce customers.
Retailers have had a torrid time over recent years and, for many, Coronavirus has been the final straw. The list of well known brands that have shut up shop for the last time is ever growing. Those who have fully embraced digital, with a strong online offering and social media following, have fared better than others. We’re still shocked to see some major brands such as Primark miss the opportunity of E-commerce sales, a decision that has cost them dearly.
Back to normality?
With the lockdown easing and many non-essential shops open for business once more, you might think life will return to normal and consumers will come rushing back to your shop. But we’re not so sure. Coronavirus is still around, and looks likely to be for some time to come.
Many shoppers may continue to buy online from the safety of their own homes, rather than facing the risk of ‘venturing out’ to the high street. There’s also a real possibility of a second wave of infection, with the first local lockdown happening in Leicester this week. If more lockdowns are applied to other parts of the country, online shopping will once again be the only option for those living in the affected areas.
So, if you haven’t done so already, now’s the time to make sure your E-commerce site is as easy as possible to buy from. We’ve complied a list of useful tips to help you, so why not run through these and take a fresh look at your site from a customer’s perspective?
Removing barriers to E-commerce sales
If you own a physical shop, you’ve probably spent time putting the necessary social distancing measures in place to make your store Covid-secure. This may have consisted of increased hygiene measures and installing physical barriers (or screens) to help keep customers apart from each other.
But, have you invested any time into identifying and removing any barriers on your eCommerce site? The golden rule with eCommerce is to make it as easy as possible for people to buy from your website. So, it’s essential that you remove any potential barriers that could prevent users from buying. Let’s start with a few of the main ones.
I know it’s hard to believe, but there are still some E-commerce sites operating without an SSL! If this applies to you, get it sorted right away.
Make sure your website offers Guest Checkout.
Forcing users to create an account before buying is a huge barrier. Let the customer checkout as a guest, then give them the option to create an account after they’ve completed their purchase. Explain the benefits of doing so and you’ll have a better chance of them buying again in the future. Oh, and don’t forget to invite them to sign up to your newsletter here too.
It’s fairly common for a user to add an item to their cart, then fail to checkout for whatever reason.
The percentage of abandoned carts can range from 50% to a whopping 80%, which could result in a huge amount of lost revenue. To avoid this, make sure your site has an abandoned cart feature. We like to use Metorik for this. It sends emails to customers allowing them to complete their purchase in just a few clicks, and also offers dynamic discounts.
There’s a huge amount of evidence to show the effect delivery prices can have on conversion rates.
Expensive shipping costs are one of the biggest conversion killers. Try to offer the cheapest delivery costs you can and encourage customers to spend more by offering free shipping on orders over a certain value (£50 is a fairly common amount).
Also, if you can offer cheaper shipping rates than your competitors, make sure you display this in a prominent position so users can see it instantly. Don’t hide your delivery costs until the checkout, as this plants uncertainty in the user’s mind and may prevent them from adding your products to their cart.
It also helps to offer multiple delivery options if you can. Consider different shipping services so that users can choose to pay a bit more to get the goods sooner. Click & Collect is another popular option, if you can offer it.
Try to be as generous as you can when it comes to your returns policy as this can help encourage users to buy, particularly in light of the current situation. If you’re able to extend your returns window from the standard 30 days, do so. Some retailers, such as Boden, offer a 3-month window to return goods. Aim for a similar timeframe if you can.
This one’s obvious, but we’ve got to mention it. In Q1 2020, almost 52% of global website traffic came from mobile devices (excluding tablets). In fact, the figure has been hovering around the 50% mark since 2017, which is why almost all E-commerce sites are responsive.
However, how often do you actually check your site on a smartphone? I mean test the entire user journey on your phone from the Homepage to the order confirmation page? Never? Well you should. When you do, jot down any annoying UX issues, no matter how small.
Even the most minor issue could prevent some users from completing their purchase, and this equates to lost revenue. Once your list is complete, send it to your web agency to work on.
Other ways to increase E-commerce sales
Once you’ve removed those barriers, take a look at these additional ways to boost your online sales.
Offers and promotions
It’s hard to find the time to continually come up with new and exciting offers that entice your customers into buying. However, it can pay dividends, so I’d strongly encourage you to try.
Consider things like discounts, 3 for 2 offers and BOGOF deals, and use prominent positions on your website to promote them, such as the Homepage slider.
If it suits your business and target audience(s), try to create special promotions for key dates throughout the year, such as Christmas, Easter, Father’s / Mother’s Day.
Many retailers have responded quickly to the current crisis, creating special promotions tailored to people being ‘stuck in their homes’. One of our clients, The Black Sheep Brewery in North Yorkshire, was particularly agile as soon as the lockdown started in March. With their popular visitor centre and pubs being forced to close on 20th March, they created a range of online promotions that resulted in these impressive sales statistics in April*.
- Revenue: 2,210% increase
- Transactions: 1,581% increase
- E-commerce conversion rate: 455% increase
- Users: 184% increase
*Statistics based on April 2020 sales, compared with April 2019.
To achieve this, The Black Sheep Brewery sent regular email marketing promotions to their customers. This is still is one of the most cost effective techniques, and we help many clients with this service using our preferred platforms MailChimp and Campaign Monitor.
Do all you can to build your customer database, obviously making sure you adhere to GDPR. You might want to consider running a competition that requires an email address to enter. One of our clients did this recently and increased their newsletter list by over 8,000 subscribers!
Email Automation and Segmentation
To help our clients increase their online revenue further, we make use of Metorik’s other features such as email automation, infinite segmentation, product insights and real-time reports. One example relates to a client of ours that sells performance supplements for horses and other animals. As their product is available in tubs that will feed one horse for a certain period of time, Metorik will automatically remind customers when it’s time to buy more.
This is another handy feature to offer if your site sells products that your customers need to order on a regular basis. To make the checkout process quick and easy, offer a simple 1-click reordering facility. I use this feature when ordering contact lenses and it takes less than a minute.
I’m sure we’re all familiar with subscription-based business models, particularly for consuming media (think Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Spotify, Apple Music etc). But it doesn’t only work for music and film, retailers can also use this model for selling goods.
The main benefit is clear; having customers pay for your goods by a monthly subscription provides an almost guaranteed revenue stream which aids cashflow forecasting.
We use the excellent WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin to help many of our clients create and manage products with recurring payments. It includes renewal notifications and detailed reports that enable you to keep track of recurring revenue, the number of active subscribers, and more.
A/B testing (or split testing) is a method of comparing two versions of a webpage against each other to determine which one performs better. The two variants of the page are displayed randomly to users, and statistical analysis is used to determine which page performs better for a chosen conversion goal. Done properly, A/B testing can be a very effective way to increase conversions on your eCommerce site.
Progressive Web App (PWA)
Whilst developing a native iOS / Android app for your customers may be beyond your budget, turning your site into a PWA is not a major undertaking.
There are many benefits for customers, including browsing your site whilst being offline, push notifications, and device hardware access. These combine to create a user experience that is similar to native applications on desktop and mobile devices. Since a PWA is essentially a website, there’s no need to make your PWA available for users to install via digital distribution systems like Apple’s App Store or Google Play.
Still not enough? Ask your customers
Another great idea is to simply ask your customers what they want from your store.
Lockdown has transformed our internet usage enormously, and there’s plenty of evidence to show how much time we’re spending online. Ofcom recently made the following announcment…
“UK adults spent a quarter of their waking day online during lockdown – a record high”
You can read more in this BBC article.
With many employees still furloughed or working from home, chances are they now have more spare time, particularly if they used to spend hours commuting to their workplace each day. This may increase the chances of them engaging with things like customer surveys, so why not give one a try?
I hope you can apply some of these tips to boost your E-commerce sales. If, however, your website is beyond help and it’s time to start again, then contact us. Our digital team of three web designers and six web developers have considerable experience in creating WooCommerce websites that deliver amazing results. Here’s just a few examples:
- Skinners Pet Foods
- Preview Display
- Black Sheep Brewery
- The Beauty Academy
- Portable Space
With many retailers working on strategies to help them survive the next few turbulent years, investing in a more effective E-commerce sales platform is a no-brainer.
If you think you could benefit from our help, just drop us a line on 01284 830888 or firstname.lastname@example.org