While we’ve touched on trust issues in some sections above, there is an important way to foster trust that needs more detailed explanation: leveraging your existing customers.
By getting your existing customers to provide reviews of your products and your customer service, you give prospects insight into how the product works for their peers. Reviews are the easiest way to achieve social proof — but successfully soliciting them can be tricky.
First, you need to motivate your customers to take the time to provide a review, which can be tough. You need to convince people to invest their own time in something that is beneficial mostly to you. If you want your customers to do something for you, you need to provide something in return.
You might offer customers who leave a review certain incentives (e.g. a lower price, free items, free shipping, or other direct benefits). These benefits can entice customers to provide feedback, but they produce additional costs for you.
You can also attempt to provide the perception of benefits — those that while not tangible, will still make your customers feel they’re achieving something. For example, you can give customers feedback on how helpful their review was to other shoppers, or create a ranking system that advances users as they provide more and more reviews.
One note about this: An achievement system should establish clear rules for how users can advance. A properly established achievement and review system not only provides you with proof that your products are useful to your customers, it also increases customer engagement with your brand and grows customer loyalty.
To get more reviews, don’t ask customers to go through a multi-stage process. If they click on “Yes, I want to review the product,” provide them with a single-screen form to grade your product and write as long a review as they want to. Follow our form guidelines to provide the best possible user experience here.
Ideally, each review should also contain information about the customer who wrote it. If you allow customers to provide some basic information, you can enable prospects to sort for reviewers who are similar to themselves, making the reviews they read more relevant. For example, if you sell cameras, and Joe Prospect wants to buy a camera to take family photographs on vacation, reviews by other customers with families will be more relevant to Joe.
You also need to make it easy for prospects to read the reviews, and make sure reviews are visible at the point in the purchase process where they can have the greatest impact.
Match your prospect’s frame of mind, and place product reviews at the correct position in the customer journey. Placed correctly, the right review has the power to allay doubt and tip prospects into a purchase decision.
Let’s back up for a second and review the customer journey:
- New customers reach your website and begin searching for a reason to buy your product.
- If they have not heard of your site or brand before, they’ll first look for information to confirm they can trust you (this is where the visual look and content of your site come in).
- Once they ensure your business is legitimate, they’ll seek a product that can solve their problem.
In this next phase of information-gathering, product specifications are crucial — and so is including reviews of each product on its dedicated product page. One big mistake ecommerce stores often make is to lump together all of their product reviews and display them without any regard to what product the prospect is viewing.
Finally, you need to establish an internal system to react to customer feedback.
The capstone of a good review system is how you handle feedback from your customers. Customers will provide their honest views on your products, and they may have negative opinions. Handling these gracefully and respectfully goes a long way toward creating a positive brand reputation.
Social networking provides another venue for customer feedback. By establishing your business pages on the usual social networks, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and others, you can take advantage of a ready-made, familiar mechanism for sharing feedback.
Plus, when customers share information about your products publicly on social networks, all their friends and connections on that network can see. You can benefit from this increased visibility and gain new prospects when customers’ friends see their reviews.
Create more repeat customers to grow revenue
Increasing conversion rate is only a narrow definition of the true aim of the optimization process. Through optimizing conversions, the real goal is to increase a site’s revenue.
One of the best ways to do this is to increase the amount of money the average customer spends on your website. This indicator is called “customer lifetime value,” and by growing it, you can virtually automatically increase revenue without changing anything else.
Research shows that return customers are likely to spend more and convert much more easily than new customers. Therefore, a simpler way to grow revenue is to try to get as many customers as possible to return and buy more products from your site.
Is creating repeat customers easy? Not always. Let’s look at a few ways to entice customers to return to your store and grow their customer lifetime value.
LCV generator #1: Loyalty programs
Large brick-and-mortar shopping chains have long used a method called “loyalty programs” to increase the likelihood of a repeat purchase. You’ve undoubtedly seen this in the form of various point accumulations, tokens, loyalty cards, punch cards, special rewards, and so on. The idea is to get the customer invested in the idea of receiving rewards for purchases.
Some rewards take the form of tokens or points that can be exchanged for a lower price on selected items. The more products the customer buys, the better off they are.
Loyalty programs work, but there’s an even better way to secure customer loyalty and engagement.
Use the advantages of running an online store and social channels to create a group of like-minded people: a community.
Community creation is another step you can take toward engendering customer loyalty and increasing engagement. Communities work best for niche products, but you can create them for any type of store. The point is to create an environment where your target audience will gather, exchange information, and promote your products to new customers looking to solve their problems.
Your store community must be lively and engaging to succeed. It’s not something you can create overnight, and it requires a lot of effort to maintain. But the beneficial results of a successful community will far outweigh the effort you put into building it.
Not only does community increase engagement, it also provides you with a free source of qualitative data. Community discussions will help you anticipate the needs of your customers in advance and create more accurate buyer personas — not to mention it’s nice to have a marketing channel right there when you need it.
The great advantage of a community lies in its ability to connect you to your target audience. And a vibrant community has a good chance of attracting new prospects, as well as growing traffic to your site.
Grow revenue through upsells and cross-sells
Let’s say a prospect comes to your store looking to buy a laptop.
She looks at various options, and finally finds a device she likes enough to buy.
She goes through the checkout process with no problem, and successfully buys her computer.
If the interaction goes this way, your store just missed a low-hanging opportunity to increase revenue.
Many purchases — especially more complex or higher-ticket items like electronics — offer clear opportunities to persuade customers to buy additional items or upgrade to different options.
For example, as this customer decides on the laptop she wants to buy, you can offer upgrades to it: e.g. more memory, a larger hard drive, or a better graphics card. This technique is generally known as upselling.
Upselling can take place during the process of purchase, since upgrading a product doesn’t lead to distractions for the prospect.
Here are the steps to optimize the upsell process:
- Provide an easy, clear, and distraction-free way to upgrade the product as the prospect starts their journey through the funnel.
- Clearly state the benefits the prospect will get from the improved product.
- Using personalization, you can offer prospects different types of upsells. For example, if we know that our laptop buyer is a graphic designer, we might focus on upselling her a faster CPU that will make her work easier.
- Check your analytics to find out which step in the process carries the best chance of an effective upsell.
Cross-selling is another technique to make customers spend more. Unlike upselling, which upgrades or improves the product in which the prospect is already interested, cross-selling attempts to sell products that complement that product.
For example, a cross-sell for our laptop example might be a backpack for carrying the laptop, or a mouse or printer. Another example of an upsell would be offering prospects gloves if they bought a winter cap or scarf.
Because cross-selling adds a completely separate product into the process, it can cause distraction from the main goal if introduced too early in the funnel. Considering a new product can drive a prospect away from a purchase they were already almost done with.
That’s why cross-selling should generally take place at the end of a transaction. Once the customer completes the transaction and pays, then offer other products. The risk of distracting your customers is thus reduced.
It’s also worth noting that you can provide prospects with cross-selling opportunities in the form of “Related Products” before they even begin a transaction. Think of this like a navigational aid that offers your prospects an alternative to the product they’re viewing.
Here are a few steps you should follow to optimize your cross-sells:
- Analyze the conversion process carefully to find out where cross-selling can be most effective, and make sure it doesn’t distract your customers.
- Take advantage of personalization here, if possible, to make recommendations based on what you know about customers. That way you can make relevant cross-selling offers, increasing the chances prospects will go for them.
- If you do offer a cross-selling option during the checkout process, provide as much information as possible along with an “Add to Cart” button, so the prospect doesn’t need to navigate away from the conversion process.
Improve your marketing efforts
Traditional methods of growing revenue and turnover also apply to ecommerce stores. Your acquisition strategy should focus on creating strong online positioning and differentiating your store. Your store should be immediately recognizable and distinct from your competitors.
Design can make a difference. Your website should look professional and be simple to use, while your copy should be engaging (even fun). A customer-centric orientation and excellent customer service will increase the probability of word-of-mouth marketing. You can also use PR strategies to generate interest and awareness of your store.
Put your customers to work for you
Don’t forget that happy and enthusiastic customers will do some of your marketing for you. In fact, they can become your greatest single marketing asset. For example, Apple has an enthusiastic following that’s willing to accept mistakes (and sometimes even goes to the extent of rationalizing them). This is a result of Apple’s great customer experience and commitment to customer satisfaction.
Create strong online positioning and branding to differentiate your store from competitors, generate PR, increase word-of-mouth, and grow market share.
As a second step and an upgrade to any existing loyalty programs, you can start a referral program. Reward your existing customers with additional benefits if they bring in a friend who purchases a product. By using your community or existing social networks, you can easily enable existing customers to share products with their friends, and you can track referrals using dedicated links, coupons, or similar tracking methods.
This is another way to obtain social proof, and it will carry more weight, since the recommendation will come from a friend or relative, and not an anonymous person.
Implement refer-a-friend programs that generate new customers — and customer testimonials — through positive word-of-mouth.
Nurture visitors with educational content
Not all of the visitors who reach your website will arrive with the intention to buy. Some of them may be merely researching products or seeking information before making a purchase in the future. Their interest at this stage can be nurtured, which is the actual name for this concept: “lead nurturing”.
For example, if you have a website selling TVs and a visitor reaches your website with the goal to research TVs, but without the intent to purchase one immediately… what should you do?
You could create an email series that provides relevant information about TVs over a certain period of time, building up the visitor’s motivation, gaining their trust, and providing them with firsthand information about types of TVs, ideal sizes, accessories, and other important information that can make customers more interested in your offer.
As the Harvard Business Review puts it:
“Remarkably few suppliers in business markets are able to answer those questions. And yet the ability to pinpoint the value of a product or service for one’s customer has never been more important. Customers — especially those whose costs are driven by what they purchase — increasingly look to purchasing as a way to increase profits and therefore pressure suppliers to reduce prices. To persuade customers to focus on total costs rather than simply on acquisition price, a supplier must have an accurate understanding of what its customers value, and would value.”
You need to provide your customers with enough information about your product(s), and this info needs to be relevant to both the product and to your customer’s stage in the purchase process.
Going back to the TV set example, your emails might explain what screen size best fits different rooms, what “screen resolution” means, what type of picture technology is better, etc. Providing this information will help a visitor both learn from you and push them closer to a purchase.
At every point in your customer’s experience and interaction with the website, you should be providing valuable information. Using email allows you to present this info directly to the consumer, without depending on the chance that they’ll find it on their own.
When you send educational content, make sure you’re targeting only customers who expressed actual interest in your offer by signing up for your email list. If you decide to email addresses of previous customers or registered users, make sure the information you provide is actually relevant to avoid annoying them.
Thanks to the advent of social networks, your website and email list aren’t the sole methods available for lead nurturing. You can further engage and nurture leads and prospects through social media. By tracking what your prospects and leads are doing on your website and providing relevant information through social networks, you can increase the likelihood that they will eventually purchase your product.
Ask yourself: what did they already download, what pages do they visit the most, what are they talking about on social media sites, and have you identified any of their pain points? Compare this information to past prospects to develop hypotheses on what they need to do or know next if they were moving towards a purchase.
You’ll also want to include offers in your lead nurturing emails. When you do, you provide prospects the opportunity to reconvert and tell you more about themselves.” – Impact
Profit from lead-generation and email-nurturing programs for visitors who are “still researching”.
Leverage the power of experimentation
Online stores have an advantage over brick-and-mortar stores in that it’s easy to conduct experiments to check the effectiveness of every aspect of your business process. A/B testing provides a way to either refute or prove the changes you make to your website in terms of marketing and sales.
How to start targeting and experimenting with your marketing
Your marketing campaigns should never be a “shot in the dark”. Put another way, you should always make sure that your marketing is directed towards your ideal customers.
By using analytics and qualitative research (including insights from any communities you build), you can get a pretty good idea of who your ideal customers are. Then, you can design a marketing campaign that will target exactly those customers.
And timing matters. When you catch your prospects at the proper moment in their quest to fix a problem, you increase the likelihood they will buy from you.
The same is true for serving clear and relevant content to prospects: the likelihood of getting conversions increases. In fact, studies have shown that relevant and clear ads that lead to a landing page aligned with the prospect’s expectations can increase conversions up to 50%.
By using A/B testing, you can significantly reduce the risk inherent to new marketing campaigns. When you know what marketing message will best resonate with different segments of your prospects, creating excellent marketing campaigns is easier, and the campaigns themselves are more successful.
Experimenting with content allows you to further iterate your marketing until you bring it to peak efficiency. This will also lower marketing costs, increase the ROI of every marketing activity, and allow you to outpace your competitors — all of which are good news for revenue.
Tie all your sales channels together for clear oversight
The great thing about online tracking and campaigns is that they can readily be adopted offline. When you discover what works well online, you can use the same concept for your offline marketing campaign. Using certain tools, you can now even track the efficiency of your offline campaigns.
Of course, if your business also operates brick-and-mortar stores, your offline stores can benefit greatly from any improvement in online stores. Knowing your customers online means you will know more about your offline customers too. Using the insights derived from detailed observation of online customers, you can improve the marketing and sales process offline and grow the brick-and-mortar aspect of your business.
- Reduce advertising risk and marketing risk. Before a new campaign goes live, find out if it will increase — or reduce — sales.
- Improve the return on investment (ROI) from existing advertising and marketing budgets.
- Speed up time-to-market. Reduce the time it takes to plan, test, get stakeholder approval, and then launch new marketing initiatives and messaging.
- Take advantage of multi-channel tracking, attribution and experimentation. Transfer winning online campaigns offline.
Take the optimizer’s approach to growing your product line
Increasing sales requires a systematic approach to every facet of your sales and marketing process. Conversion optimization, customer research, and testing are easily applicable to introduction of new products.
Using CRO methodology, you can improve products’ placement on the page, the copy and visual content you use to present them, and the marketing campaigns you use to acquire new customers. Together, these approaches can do a lot to reduce visitors’ perceived risk and increase your overall sales.
Another way to grow your business is by introducing new products to your store.
When you introduce a new product to your store, you first need to develop a unique selling proposition. It needs to be, as we have seen, clear, relevant, and unique to that product. Differentiate it from other products on your website, and use headlines and descriptive copy to point out its benefits. You’ll also need to add a new product page, whose design should be consistent with your existing product pages.
To promote a new product, use your existing resources. Try to identify previous customers who might be interested in this product, based on their previous purchases or activities on your site. This way, you increase the likelihood that a new product will find buyers from your existing customer base.
Testing and experimentation can also help you establish the best possible price for a given product. Test different price ranges and formats, and you’ll discover the price that drives the largest amount of conversions.
Keep in mind that the company that started the ecommerce revolution is still the leading online business: Amazon. It’s built on experimentation, and it remains one of the foremost ecommerce pioneers thanks to constant testing.
- Test new products and services — and marketing campaigns — by leveraging analytics, research, and experimentation.
- Test and optimize pricing models. Promote the most popular and profitable products across channels and devices with minimal drop-out.
- Identify opportunities for growth that need no additional budget.
- Create a culture of customer-centric decision-making. Know when and how to A/B-test marketing propositions.