10 Tactics to Grow your Online Store Profit in 2010

posted on 16 August 2010 by Alice Thomas

Venda is the world's largest provider of on-demand ecommerce, supplying some of the world's leading retailers and manufacturers, including Tesco, TK Maxx, Superdrug, Sharp and Urban Outfitters.  With such an impressive client list and a great product offering, it goes without saying that Venda really do know a thing or two about online retailing.  Venda's Global Head of Marketing, Andy Houstoun has published a white paper outlining some of the best tactics to grow your online store. Venda surveyed its customer base to find out what marketing tactics their customers were using on their own stores. The results were varied, but Venda has let us in on the top 10 most profitable tactics to grow your online store.   We've discussed and debated this list in the Digital Design team and agree that it contains some of the best, but often, overlooked pointers to success.

Feed Commerce

'Although you should treat your website as the primary portal for your products and proposition, taking your products to where your customers are interacting makes sense.'

A simple way to drive targeted customers to your website is to get your products placed on shopping portals, social networks or shopping comparison engines. There are some great (free) options for doing this with your products- the most obvious being Googlebase, Google's shopping portal. 

Google currently holds 90% of offsite search requests in the UK, and since Q1 of 2009, Google has displayed Googlebase shopping results on the first page alongside natural (not-paid  search), meaning that Googlebase is now an opportunity few retailers can afford to ignore.

The easiest way for most retailers to utilise GoogleBase is through a Google Analytics account, which can be synced to submit listings. 

Think online PR-Think offline PR - Or SEO PR

'A good link from a credible source will not only drive more traffic, but also have a very positive impact on your search engine ranking, both critically important to your online success.'

For any online retailer, search engine optimisation (SEO) is essential. SEO can be broken down into 3 areas: Structure, Content and Authority. 

Structure and Content need to be considered at the point of designing and constructing the ecommerce website, and it's worth finding a web developer with understanding and experience of SEO techniques. Authority will need to be an on-going effort as it mastered through the continuous referencing of your site or products by other sources, resulting in your website being perceived as a trusted and credible source.

Direct Brand Integration with eBay

'eBay is one of the largest online market-places in the world. In some countries over 10% of all time spent on the internet is spent on eBay.'

eBay has been moving away from its roots in auction lots, and diversifying into other avenues of online retail. This year eBay launched its fixed-price clothing category which includes big name brands. Some retailers have been using the site as a way to sell surplus stock for some time, but with the introduction of its fixed price categories, eBay may well become a standard option for online retailers.

'The size of the customer opportunity is too big to ignore.'

Leveraging data or customer behaviour

'With every click, purchase and visit, a log file is written to your server. Analytics companies have learned to translate this into meaningful statistics for you to act on.'

Most e-commerce platforms have some sort of analytics programme (or 'technology brain') built in. However, Google Analytics is available separately to all retailers and offers extremely in-depth reports on your customers' behaviour. Using this data, you can begin practising 'behavioural merchandising', for example easily seeing which products are being searched for but not bought, and which are loss leaders and taking faster steps to fix these problems.

User-generated content

'Word-of-mouth, both on and off site, will sell your product better than you do.'

Increasingly we're seeing ecommerce websites include customer reviews of products, rating options and more freedom for customers to provide public feedback. This might set alarm bells ringing, but if you're confident in your product and allow customers to express their satisfaction with your product, this will translate well to potential consumers.

'Those products that have product reviews have better conversion rates than those without reviews. Venda merchants using reviews have also seen a positive impact as their returns rate decreased.'

According to Forrester Research analysts, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, who co-authored the book ' Groundswell', companies which use customer reviews as standard such as Amazon, 'turn customers into a powerful asset'.

Delivering a rich media experience.

'As broadband penetration increases, online shoppers expect a richer experience on your website. A rich media experience should include more dynamic catalogues, showcasing, more engaging and actionable video, and detailed products shots, with relevant zoom and rotation. This needs to be coupled with rich and informative product descriptions and knowledge written on the subject matter that will help with a purchase decision.'

As in a traditional shop, customers want to get as much information about the product they are going to buy, as they can. They can't try out a gadget, try on a jumper, or taste your food produce, so try to give them as much information as you can. It's worth investing in the best quality photography, video and product descriptions you can afford, using professionals with ecommerce experience where possible.  

Sale by Product Group and Stacked Promotions

'Promotions can come in many shapes and forms but the objectives are simple, to encourage new customers to start an engagement with you, to drive existing customers to ship with you again'

Your ecommerce website should be flexible and updated regularly, meaning that you can run promotions easily and for set periods of time.

Expanding delivery options and regions

Expanding your business's delivery options is one way to ensure that you can satisfy existing customers and potentially recruit new ones.'

Your customers live busy lives and one of the foremost reasons for shopping online rather than on the high-street is convenience. Try to accommodate as many shipping options as you can- this will improve customer retention as well as enticing new customers to shop with you.

Some delivery options to think about are;

  • Timed delivery
  • Split dispatch (for multiple product deliveries)
  • Delivery to different regions

You should display your delivery options as early on in the purchase process as possible. You don't want a sale to be 75% complete and for your customer to find you can't deliver to them. 

Abandoned Cart Conversion

'As a business you should try to engage your customers at every single point in the purchase process to drive a transaction to completion. One of the key lapse points in a website purchase funnel remains the checkout. Even with the ability to provide a checkout that is safe, simple to use, clearly presented and aligned with best practices, the point at which customers have to submit details is where they are most likely to drop out of the process. Take this as another opportunity to re-engage through a process called 'Abandoned Cart Conversion'.

We've all gone through an ecommerce website and put things in our cart only to leave the website when it comes to the checkout. Sometimes it's a checkout that doesn't look secure, sometimes we find out the shipping costs are too high, and sometimes we're just indulging in a bit of 'window shopping', albeit online. For a retailer though, there is nothing as frustrating as abandoned carts -Coming so close to a sale, only to have the customer leave the site altogether. 

By asking for customers' email addresses early in the checkout process, you will be able to contact them with promotions or to find out why they didn't complete the transaction.

Shared Infrastructure on-Demand - Cloud Computing

During busy times of year and sales, ecommerce sites can have increased traffic of such volumes that the infrastructure behind them fails, causing retailers to ask the question:

'How can I cope with the level of demand on my website without having to invest a lot of extra capacity in my hardware and software I might not use for the rest of the year?'

'The answer is to become part of a shared infrastructure. This set-up pools resources across a larger group so that the impact of higher volumes and spikes can be smoothed out across a much larger infrastructure, ensuring that the customer experience is not impacted by the additional volume.'

'As the business grows the IT cost per order decreases; this only applies to technologies that do not contain a revenue share element to their pricing.'

The Digital Design team can offer advice and practical support to ensure that retailers get the best out of their new Powa website. Our services include web design, branding and  search engine optimisation(SEO). We've completed a Powa training course to ensure that we are fully up to speed with their product offering and we can help retailers get their new website up and running quickly and efficiently.