The purpose of this guide is to help eCommerce brands survive and thrive in the world dominated by giants like Amazon and Farfetch.
To win, you need to be better than they are. Not on everything, but you need to ensure the best user experience and the best performance of all your marketing activities and, most crucially, your website. Also, you need to offer something unique, a personal touch that these eCommerce beasts cannot provide.
Fortunately, there are a lot of tools and best practices that can help you optimize your eCommerce store to stand up to the Amazons of the world and win. And we are here to guide you through them. So, let’s embark on the exciting journey of eCommerce optimization.
What is eCommerce Optimization
eCommerce optimization is a continuous process of analyzing and improving various aspects of an eCommerce business with the ultimate goal of increasing sales and revenue. It includes optimizing user experience (UX), conversion rate optimization (CRO), search engine optimization (SEO), as well as improving customer acquisition and retention strategies.
The usual approach to the eCommerce optimization process involves running experiments. You propose a hypothesis suggesting that a certain change might impact specific critical metrics, implement this change, and test (or conduct an A/B test alongside the previous version) to see if there’s a statistically significant impact on the selected metrics. If there is, you implement the change across the site. Afterward, you proceed to the next hypothesis.
Table of contents
In this guide, you will learn:
- What Can You Offer That Amazons of the World Cannot
- The KPIs and Metrics to Track for eCommerce Optimization
- How to Choose the Right eCommerce Website Navigation
- How to Optimize Your eCommerce Store for Better Conversion Rates
- How to Master SEO for eCommerce
- How to Optimize Ads to Get More for the Same Amount of Money
- Holiday Optimizations: How to Run a Successful Discount Campaign
- The Right Process for Continuous Improvement
- Bonus: Using Amazon as Part of Your Marketing Mix
What Can You Offer That Amazons of the World Cannot
Amazon is a beast. It may seem that competing with it is pointless – Amazon will always have much more traffic, and will be able to offer lower prices and faster shipping. Should you just go to Amazon instead and try to sell there?
Even if you do and find success, they can still clone your product and sell it under the AmazonBasics brand with – yet again – faster shipping and lower prices. But it doesn’t mean you should give up – Amazons of the world (and we mean all big marketplaces that dominate eCommerce across the globe) have their own advantages and weak points. Let’s begin with advantages, so that weak points become more clear.
Pros of Selling on Amazon
Amazon and similar large-scale eCommerce platforms come with quite some advantages. Here are some of them:
- Reach: With millions of daily visitors, Amazon provides exposure that’s hard to match with a standalone website.
- No Upfront Costs & Quick Start: With large marketplaces, it doesn’t take a lot of preparation to start selling. Selling on Amazon requires no upfront costs for website development and allows for a quick start. In contrast, for your own store, even with simple platforms like Shopify or Wix, you’ll still need to invest a significant amount of time and money into development.
- Payment Process Management: Amazon handles payment processing for you, ensuring security and fraud protection. That’s a crucial component, which can be challenging to implement on your own eCommerce website.
- Logistics Management: In addition to payments, Amazon’s happy to fulfill orders for you as well. There are some requirements you need to meet, but once met, Amazon offers a robust delivery network and eases the logistical burden. With your own eCommerce store, this is something that you need to handle on your own.
- Built-in Marketing: Amazon provides sellers with a variety of marketing tools and programs designed to boost visibility and sales.
Pros of Your Own eCommerce Store
Despite Amazon’s benefits, having your own eCommerce store offers unique advantages that can help you outperform even the largest platforms:
- Full Control Over User Experience: With your own store, you have complete control over the user experience – from the website design to the checkout process, to post-purchase campaign management and customer satisfaction handling. This control allows you to create unique, memorable experiences that attract and retain customers. Amazon does not offer the best customer experience – and will never do, due to its size.
- Lower Competition: Amazon is saturated with sellers and products. If you’re selling chairs, there’s a thousand other vendors selling very similar chairs and trying to lower their prices to beat you. Your own eCommerce store faces less direct competition. This enables you to better stand out and capture your target audience’s interest.
- Lower Fees: Amazon charges sellers fees that can eat into profit margins. There are seller fees, marketing fees, logistics fees – and in the end you’re left with very thin margins. Running your own store incurs fewer fees.
- Security from Unfair Practices: Amazon has been known to replicate popular products under its own brand, outcompeting the original sellers. While someone can still try to copy your product sold through your own store, the chances are lower than with Amazon.
- More Advertising Options: With your own store, you have the freedom to explore a broad range of advertising strategies across various channels. This flexibility enables you to effectively reach and engage your target audience.
If, in your opinion, the pros of running your own eCommerce store outweigh the cons, then our guide is for you, because here we explain how to really leverage them.
The KPIs and Metrics to Track for eCommerce Optimization
There are so many things you can optimize in an eCommerce store. But before going down this rabbit hole, it’s important to set up goals and metrics for your efforts, and to regularly check them throughout the process.
Without proper goals and metrics, it’s easy to end up doing random optimizations here and there without any visible progress. While the end goal, of course, is to “sell more”, it’s not a very actionable goal – it doesn’t give you any ideas on how to reach it. If you want to succeed, you’ll need more granular goals and metrics for them.
Therefore, you’ll need to analyze the different aspects of your eCommerce store, carefully choose metrics that you would be tracking, and set goals to improve these metrics.
Metrics to track for an eCommerce store
- Sales Conversion Rate (CR): This is a primary metric for eCommerce – the percentage of visitors who make a purchase. To calculate it, just divide the total number of sales in a given period by the total number of website visitors during the same period, and then multiply the result by 100 to get the percentage. The average conversion rate is different for different industries. In Retail & Fashion, for example, the average conversion rate is 1.7% (according to ConvertCart’s 2023 data), while in Food & Beverage it’s only 1.37%. It is crucial to also understand that conversion rate varies depending on your acquisition strategy and the channels you are using. For example, according to RulerAnalytics’s study, it’s usually lower for organic search than for paid search. Social media has the lowest average conversion rate, but it is also much cheaper than paid search.
- Average Order Value (AOV): This measures the average total of each order. Divide the total revenue from the store by the total number of orders – and you’ll get the average order value. Here, there’s no benchmark, as everything depends on the industry and on the specifics of your niche. For example, Zara and Louis Vuitton have very different AOV, even though they belong to the same industry.
- Cart Abandonment Rate: This reflects the percentage of shoppers who added products to their cart but did not complete the purchase – for whatever reason. Subtract the amount of successful purchases from the total number of carts created, and then divide the result by the very same number of total carts created. Then, multiply by 100 – and you’ll get the cart abandonment rate. It, of course, also heavily depends on the industry, but is usually quite high, and that shouldn’t scare you. In Retail & Fashion, for example, the average is more than 75%. Lowering the cart abandonment rate is one of the typical goals for ecommerce optimization efforts.
- Bounce Rate: This is the percentage of visitors who have landed on your site and then left without any further action. It’s calculated by dividing the total number of single-page visits by the total entries to a site, then multiplying by 100. Lower bounce rates can mean that your ads copy is well aligned with your eCommerce store experience, and that your acquisition channels bring you well-qualified traffic.
Customer Acquisition Metrics:
- Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): This is the cost to acquire a new customer. It’s calculated by dividing total costs associated with acquisition by the total number of new customers, in a specific time period.
- Click-through Rate (CTR): This is the percentage of users who click on a specific link among total users who view the page, email, or advertisement. It’s calculated by dividing the number of clicks by the number of impressions, then multiplying by 100.
- Traffic (Sessions): The total number of visits to your site, aka website sessions. It’s different from pageviews, as during one session a visitor may have viewed multiple pages. But it’s also different from the number of visitors, as one person could visit your store several times. Traffic is typically tracked using analytics tools like Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, or Mouseflow. By extension, you could look at your average number of sessions to assess how many sessions a customer needs to make a purchase.
Customer Retention Metrics:
- Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV): This measures the average total revenue a business can expect from a single customer account. It’s calculated by multiplying the customer value (average purchase value x average purchase frequency) by the average customer lifespan.
- Return Customer Rate: The percentage of customers who have shopped more than once. It’s calculated by dividing the number of customers who have shopped more than once by the total number of customers, then multiplying by 100. Getting the first sale is usually much harder and costlier than a second or third one, so it’s quite natural to care about returning customers. The better the experience the customer had, the more likely they are to return.
- Net Promoter Score (NPS): This gauges customer satisfaction and loyalty. NPS is calculated through customer surveys where they rate how likely they are to recommend your brand on a scale from 0-10. The NPS is the percentage of promoters (9-10 ratings) minus the percentage of detractors (0-6 ratings). NPS is a good indicator of the aforementioned customer experience. If it’s high, it means you’re really pleasing your customers.
- Repeat purchase rate: This is the percentage of customers who make more than one purchase from your store over a specific period of time. This metric is commonly used to measure customer loyalty and the effectiveness of customer retention strategies. A higher repeat purchase rate indicates that customers are satisfied with the product or service and are more likely to continue buying from the same company in the future. Unlike returning customer rate, this metric takes into account the frequency of purchases.
- Return Rate: The percentage of purchases that are returned. It’s calculated by dividing the number of returned items by the total items sold, then multiplying by 100. High return rates indicate the low quality of the products or the divergence of the customer’s expectations and the real product. You shouldn’t try to lower the return rate by providing a worse return policy, though, as it impacts your brand.
- Order Processing Speed: The time it takes from order placement to shipment. This metric can be tracked using your order management system, and the goal is to reduce this time as much as possible. Lower order processing speeds increase customer satisfaction and are a good indicator of the efficiency of your processes.
Of course, there are many more eCommerce metrics for measuring growth. For different optimizations, you will add different metrics to that scope. For example, if we take search engine optimization (SEO), then positions on the search engine result pages for relevant keywords are something that has a huge impact and that you’d better track. If you attract prospects with ads, then it makes sense to pay a lot of attention to metrics such as ad quality score.
But in the end, it all comes down to these foundational metrics listed above – and usually a lot of goals and KPIs are focused on improving them.
Setting up KPIs and Goals in eCommerce
To set up KPIs and goals for eCommerce website optimization, you need to start with clearly defined business objectives. Do you want to acquire more customers, or pay less for each new one? Or maybe you want to increase the repeat purchase rate?? Based on the business objectives, you can select the relevant KPIs. Today, most successful eCommerce businesses are sticking to a bottom-up strategy where they focus their optimization efforts on improving their product pages.
For example, if you want to improve customer retention, focus on using KPIs like Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV) and Return Customer Rate. Or, if your goal is to optimize your ad spend, focus on Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) and Click-Through Rate (CTR) instead.
Once you’ve identified your KPIs, the next step is to set targets for each of them. The modern target-setting frameworks agree that all targets should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
For instance, you could set a goal to increase your Sales Conversion Rate (CR) from 2% to 2.2% over the next quarter, or reduce the Cart Abandonment Rate by 10% within the next six months.
Once your KPIs and targets are set, you can begin your optimizations. It’s important to monitor the metrics you choose on a regular basis. That will help you understand if your strategies are working and whether you need to double down on what you’re already doing or make some adjustments. Then, set new goals – and iterate. This is one of the ways you can outperform Amazon by focusing on user experience and customer satisfaction, ensuring a stable and profitable eCommerce business.
How to Choose the Right eCommerce Website Navigation
The lifeblood of any eCommerce business lies in its ability to provide a seamless, intuitive, and enjoyable experience for its customers. One of the most critical elements contributing to this experience is website navigation. It’s like the road map that directs customers through your online store, guiding them from landing to checkout smoothly and efficiently. A well-architected, thoughtful, and user-friendly navigation system can significantly increase engagement, lower bounce rates, and ultimately, drive conversions and sales.
But before you jump to choosing the navigation, it’s important to set up a clear information architecture for your eCommerce website.
What is an eCommerce Website Information Architecture
Information architecture (IA) is the way your website content and data is organized, structured, and labeled. The goal of every information architecture is to make it easy for users to find what they are looking for and also help you manage the website in a more organized way.
A typical information architecture of an e-commerce site often includes parent categories, subcategories, and tags.
- Parent Categories: These are the broad buckets under which your products fall. For example, in a clothing store, parent categories might be “Men,” “Women,” and “Kids.”
- Subcategories: These are subsets within the parent categories, further breaking down the products into more specific groups. In our clothing store example, subcategories under “Women” might include “Dresses,” “Tops,” “Shoes for Women,” and so on. Subcategories are usually nested: under the “Shoes for Women” subcategory there may be “Sports Shoes for Women”, “Heels”, “Sandals”, etc.
- Tags: These are specific attributes or characteristics that help fine-tune the classification, such as color, size, or material.
Your site’s navigation system should accurately reflect this architecture, allowing users to drill down from parent categories to subcategories and finally, to specific products using tags.
Types of eCommerce Website Navigation
When it comes to navigation, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and different stores can benefit from different navigation systems. There are several types of navigation you can leverage in your e-commerce site:
- Vertical/Horizontal Menu: This traditional form of navigation has main categories listed in a single row (horizontal) or a single column (vertical), often seen in the header or sidebar of a site.
- Mega Menu: A type of expandable menu where many choices are displayed in a two-dimensional dropdown layout. This can be handy for large e-commerce sites with many categories and subcategories.
- Faceted Search: This type of navigation enables customers to refine product listings based on specific attributes, such as size, color, brand, and price. For example, if the user searched for “sneakers”, they would be presented with a menu to choose from sneaker brands, sizes, and colors to further narrow down the selection.
- Semantic Search: It’s an enhanced search method that understands user intent and the contextual meaning of terms to generate more relevant results. For example, a user may search for “sneakers”, but in search results they would also see products that were tagged “tennis shoes”, because the semantic search component understands these are the same.
Selecting the Right Combination Based on Your Needs
Your choice of navigation elements should be guided by your business type, product assortment, and customer preferences.
For example, a vertical or horizontal menu might suffice for a smaller e-commerce store with a limited product range. But if you have a larger inventory with various categories and subcategories, a mega menu could offer a better user experience. For fashion and sports apparel, faceted search seems to be a must-have to provide the experience users expect. But for online grocery shopping, semantic search may be a better option.
You need to evaluate your business’s unique requirements and possibly carry out some A/B testing to find the perfect blend of navigation styles for your eCommerce store.
How to Optimize Your eCommerce Store for Better Conversion Rates
Product page optimization
Product pages are those important touchpoints right before customers make a purchase decision. They need to answer all potential questions a customer might have and establish that your product is worth their investment. A well-optimized product page can significantly improve customer engagement and conversion rates.
Here are the best practices to consider for eCommerce product page optimization:
- Clear and Descriptive Product Titles: The product title should not only include what the product is but also key details that customers might search for, such as brand, model, color, or size.
- High-Quality Images and Videos: Visuals are the first thing customers notice on a product page. Ensure you have multiple high-quality images and a video that gives your store visitors a 360 view of the product.
- Detailed Product Descriptions: The product description should provide comprehensive information about the product, including its features, benefits, and uses. For search engine optimization (SEO), you can use an FAQ section to answer questions about the product and use the relevant keywords.
- Customer Reviews: Customer reviews provide social proof and can significantly influence a customer’s purchase decision. Encourage your customers to leave reviews and ratings on your product pages. Encourage them to provide photos and videos as well.
- Trust signals: In addition to customer reviews, other trust signals such as NPS score, number of likes or bookmarks, as well as number of purchases for a certain product are very important to build trust. Seeing these may encourage customers to purchase the product they seem to like.
- Clear Pricing and Shipping Information: The price of the product should be clearly visible. Additional details such as shipping costs, return policy, and delivery timelines should also be easy to find.
- Clear Call-to-Action (CTA): The ‘Add to Cart’ button should be very clearly visible and easy to access.
By making sure that your product pages adhere to these best practices, you can increase sales conversions. To increase cart value, you can recommend related or complementary products to encourage customers to explore more of your offerings.
It’s also important to understand whether your perception of how the product pages should work is aligned with how your users actually browse through your store. So, make sure to record user sessions and then rewatch their journey and how they interact with product pages. That’ll help you understand if your optimizations are working as intended, and where the pages could use some tweaking to align with your users’ expectations.
Checkout process optimization
The checkout process starts with adding something to the cart and ends with a confirmation page, acknowledging the successful payment and giving the customer all the information about the delivery process for their order. In eCommerce, the checkout process usually consists of six phases:
- Add to Cart
- View Cart
- Account Registration if it’s a new user, Login if it is a returning shopper
- Shipping and Billing details
- Confirmation Page
- Purchase Successful Page
The checkout process is the ultimate barrier between a prospective customer and a sale. Improving each stage can help drive more conversions and increase revenue. With cart abandonment rates averaging about 75% even in high-conversion industries such as Retail & Fashion, ensuring that checkout works like a clock can have a huge impact on your ROI.
A complicated or confusing process can lead to frustration, potentially causing customers to abandon their carts. A well-optimized checkout process, on the other hand, ensures a smooth and seamless transition from browsing to purchasing, significantly improving the customer experience and your conversion rates.
Here are the optimization steps you can take to improve the checkout process and increase conversions:
- Minimize the Number of Stages: The checkout process should be as straightforward and user-friendly as possible. The fewer steps there are, the lower are the chances of users dropping out at one of them. You may even consider using a single-page checkout. If you don’t, consider a progress indicator to show customers where they are in the process.
- Offer a Guest Checkout Option: Not all customers want to create an account to make a purchase – for various reasons, starting with privacy concerns. Offering a guest checkout option can encourage these customers to complete their purchase. In fact, 22% of customers – almost one in four – abandon carts if they are forced to create an account with an online store. So, offering guest checkout could have a huge impact on your coversion rates.
- Display Clear Order Amounts: Any additional costs, such as shipping or taxes, should be clearly communicated upfront. Unexpected costs at checkout are a common cause of cart abandonment.
- Offer Multiple Payment Options: Not everybody is happy with paying by card, so to maximize successful checkouts, consider offering multiple payment options that are popular among your target audience and in your region. Offer options that allow users to pay in several installments, such as Klarna.
- Reduce the Number of Form Fields: Only ask for information that is absolutely necessary for completing the purchase. Long forms can be off-putting and deter customers from finalizing their purchase. Use a form analysis tool to ensure your forms are working properly and determine which fields need to be altered to make forms more efficient.
- Retarget Users That Abandon Carts: If a user abandoned their cart, you can rely on retargeting strategies such as personalized emails or social ads to encourage them to complete their purchase. They may have abandoned the cart not because of frustration, but because they have simply forgotten, and a gentle reminder can save you quite some customers.
Not every eCommerce platform allows you to implement all of these best practices. Or rather, most software-as-a-service (SaaS) eCommerce platforms have their own vision of what’s right – and they don’t allow you to deviate too far from that vision. For example, Shopify conversion rate optimization is somewhat more limited than what an open-source eCommerce platform WooCommerce can offer.
How to Master SEO for eCommerce
According to nchannel, 44% of online shoppers start by searching something in Google. Also, on average, more than 37% of traffic to eCommerce websites comes from search. That likely explains why search engine optimization (aka SEO) plays a crucial role in eCommerce.
If you’re not familiar with SEO, that’s a vast field of knowledge, and to get some understanding, we can suggest this Hubspot’s guide, for example. Here, we’re going to focus on some SEO tips and tricks that are specific to eCommerce.
eCommerce-Specific SEO Tips and Tricks
- Use Amazon’s suggestions for keyword inspiration. Yes, we’re trying to beat Amazon with their own weapon. Amazon has a semantic search that tries to suggest longer tail keywords. For example, if you search for “sandals women”, it would suggest “sandals women comfort” and “summer sandals women” among other things – and these are great keywords to optimize your product pages with sandals for! If you don’t want to do it manually, you can use a tool called Keyword Tool Dominator for this. Also, if you know your other competitors, you can do the same trick with them: look at their search and fish for suggestions. If they don’t have semantic search, you can look at subcategories.
- Use the keywords that describe your product precisely, not the ones with the biggest search volume. For example, if you’re selling Batman underwear pants (480 searches a month for “batman underwear”), a keyword research tool like SEMrush (which you should be using) can easily lure you into trying to rank for a high volume keywords such as “batman pajamas” (1600 searchers per month). But the conversion rate would be lower, as the prospective visitor expects pajamas, but you’re giving them underwear instead. Not to mention that the competition would likely be higher. Make sure that the search volume is not extremely low, though, and also stick with keywords with commercial intent (the very same SEMrush can give you that)
- Choose the right URLs. MOZ suggests that URLs have to be easily readable by humans, so don’t try to stuff them with all the possible keywords. However, do include some relevant keywords – Google takes them into account. Shorter URLs are better than longer ones (human readability, remember?) Finally, use hyphens to separate words in the URLs. So, for our batman underwear, a good URL would look like exampleshop.com/men-underwear/batman-underwear-pants-black. Compare it with exampleshop.com/men/underwear/black/batman-underwear-pants-with-a-spotlight-and-bat/id2128506, and you’ll get the general idea of what’s good and what’s not.
- Have a blog. Yes, despite the fact that your business is selling things to people, making sure that these people get a good impression of what they are about to buy can help. Google itself suggests writing high quality product reviews as a best practice for eCommerce. Note the “high quality” part though: make sure to provide enough information for a prospect to make an informed decision. Also, highlight your expertise, compare the product to its competitors, and provide quantitative measurement data to support your argument.
eCommerce SEO Metrics
Search engine optimization is a costly and time-consuming process that also seems to be infinite – you can never stop optimizing, there’s always something else to do, some more links to add, and some new content to create. And once it feels like you’ve done enough, you can always do some more SEO optimizations based on analytics data. To see if you’re making an improvement with all your optimization efforts, you need to measure them. That means, for SEO you also need some metrics – in addition to those described in the first section of this guide.
Here are a few key eCommerce SEO metrics we suggest you focus on:
- Organic Traffic: As an e-commerce business owner, your aim is to boost your SEO ranking and organic traffic. Want to know the number of people visiting your website from the SERP? The organic traffic metric shows you just that! It helps you identify SEO areas for improvement, like targeting relevant keywords, increasing backlinks, and improving content.
- Keyword Rankings: This KPI measures the position of your website on the SERP for specific keywords. It lets you see which phrases are relevant to your target users and rank high on the SERP. This metric guarantees your site’s online visibility in a sea of digital competition.
- Core Web Vitals: This metric measures three key aspects: your site’s speed, loading time, and stability. By tracking this KPI, you’ll determine if your site is fast, stable, and user-friendly. Ultimately, it provides insights into your website’s UX and the potential impact on search engine rankings. You can use Google Lighthouse to check these metrics (it’s built into the Chrome browser and is accessible through Developer Tools). Also, PageVitals is a service dedicated to checking and improving these metrics.
Other important metrics related to SEO include organic revenue (you need to attribute revenue to specific channels, so the organic revenue you get is from customers who came from search), conversion rate (also, be sure to look at it per channel, because the organic CR may differ from paid social and Adwords), and ROI (consider the amount you spend on SEO versus the organic revenue you receive as a result).
For some further eCommerce SEO reading, you can check out these guides:
- Shopify’s The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Ecommerce SEO as a good starting point
- AHREFS eCommerce SEO: The Beginners Guide adds some good tips about on-page SEO and technical tips.
How to Optimize Ads to Get More for the Same Amount of Money
In today’s multi-platform digital world, successful e-commerce businesses leverage an omnichannel ad strategy. By focusing on creating cohesive and seamless experiences across multiple platforms, you can boost your reach, enhance customer experiences, and ultimately, bolster your bottom line. If only 44% of online shoppers start with Google, where do the others come from?
Yes, it’s ads.
The Key Metrics for eCommerce Ads
Just as with SEO, running ads also requires looking at metrics. Among the metrics we’ve listed in the beginning, the most crucial ones for ads are the following:
- Click-through Rate (CTR): You need to understand which ad brings more visitors to your website.
- Conversion Rate: A visit doesn’t always mean a purchase, and some ads may generate a lot of visits but very few purchases (these deserve special attention: whenever you spot something like that, it means that you need to alter the ad copy or the landing page)
- Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): The less you spend on a successful conversion, the more conversions you can make, and the more money you get to scale your business further.
- Repeat purchase rate: Even though it’s not a metric for ads specifically, it’s closely related to ads. If the repeat purchase rate for a certain ad channel is high, it means that the ad is relevant for the users and the experience they had on your site is well aligned with their expectations.
Best Practices for Running Successful eCommerce Ad Campaigns
- Choosing Your Ad Channels Wisely. When selecting advertising channels, consider the platforms your customers use most, the devices they use for browsing and buying, the number of steps in their purchasing journey, and which channels are generating the most traffic, conversions, and customer inquiries. The top channels for e-commerce businesses typically include Google Ads, Facebook and Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.
- Organizing Ads to Mirror Site Navigation. Align your ad organization with your website navigation for a seamless customer experience. This approach simplifies ad management, facilitates budget control, and offers flexibility for granular ad group and keyword grouping.
- Aligning Ad Copy with Post-Click Experience. Ensure that your ad copy aligns with the experience users have after clicking the ad. Google uses the Quality Score to gauge this alignment, influencing your cost-per-click (CPC) and ad rank. A better alignment can lead to a lower CPC and higher conversion rates.
- A/B Testing Ad Content. Always launch ads in an A/B test format, using the insights gathered to continually refine your strategy. Over time, this will lead to better performing ads and improved conversion rates.
- Adopting an Omnichannel Ad Strategy. Omnichannel advertising enables you to create a unified customer experience across multiple channels. For example, a customer who clicks on your Google Ad might later see an ad for the same product on Facebook, sparking their memory and encouraging them to finalize the purchase. Subsequently, you could retarget them on Instagram with an ad for a complementary product.
- Leveraging Social Commerce and Google Product Ads. Social commerce and Google product ads allow you to showcase your products without users leaving their current platform. This strategy can significantly boost product visibility and create a more streamlined shopping experience.
An effective omnichannel ad strategy involves careful planning, ongoing optimization, and continuous testing. However, the potential rewards – more effective ads, better customer experiences, and increased conversions – make it an essential component of any e-commerce business’s marketing strategy. By taking a strategic, data-driven approach to your ad campaigns, you can unlock the full potential of your e-commerce business.
Holiday Optimizations: How to Run a Successful Discount Campaign
Black Friday is the gold rush of the retail world. However, while for shoppers it’s all fun and games, for eCommerce stores it requires a well-defined strategy and careful preparations. Here are some tips and best practices to keep in mind for optimizing your Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other holiday sales campaigns. Actually, they are valid for any discount campaigns tied to some seasonal shopping events.
Defining the Campaign Strategy
- Define Your Objectives: No, “everybody runs Black Friday promos, we should do it too” is not an objective. Are you trying to attract new customers, encourage repeat purchases, move surplus inventory, or promote a new product line? Now, those sound more like good objectives. To turn them into campaign goals, you’ll need to make them specific, measurable, and attainable. And to make them attainable, don’t try to chase everything at once. Prioritize your objectives based on your overall business strategy.
- Understand Your Customers’ Behavior: While some shoppers wait in line to rush into Walmart and crush everything in their way, others are glued to their screens starting from midnight, and some don’t trust discounts at all. Understanding your customers’ buying behavior and their perception of discounts will help you tailor a campaign that resonates with them.
- Know Your Customers’ Preferred Discounts: Speaking of discount perception – that’s something you’d better know as well. Do your customers gravitate towards percentage-based discounts, such as 50% off, or absolute value discounts, like $30 off? Or maybe a “buy two get one free” deal is more compelling to them. Use this insight to design a Black Friday campaign that will be hard for your customers to resist.
Preparing for the Campaign
A good strategy is a great asset for a successful campaign, but it needs implementation. And there are some things to check so that the implementation doesn’t flop:
- Optimize Your Website: Expect a massive surge in website traffic during Black Friday. To offer a seamless shopping experience, ensure your website is optimized for speed and user-friendliness. After all, your Black Friday campaign is likely to attract first-time customers. If they have a positive shopping experience, there’s a high chance they’ll return even after the sale is over.
- Prepare Your Website for High Traffic: Black Friday is notorious for bringing websites to their knees due to excessive load. Conduct stress tests on your site before Black Friday and make sure it can handle the traffic. A crashed website during the peak shopping hours means lost sales and a damaged brand’s reputation.
- Plan in Advance: Preparation for Black Friday should start months in advance, ideally more than 2-3 months before. This includes planning the discount strategy, preparing promotional materials, optimizing the website, and briefing the customer service team.
- Rescue Abandoned Carts: Despite the excitement, cart abandonment is common during Holiday Sales due to various reasons, like website issues, payment failures, or simply a change of mind. Have a plan to rescue these abandoned carts. You can, for example, send an email notifying customers that the promo is still valid for the items in their cart even after Black Friday is over. This tactic can help recover potential lost sales.
Here are some more tips on optimizing customer experience for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
The Right Process for Continuous Improvement
The key to eCommerce success is continuous improvement. The dynamic nature of online commerce requires businesses to adapt to changing customer preferences, market conditions, and technological advancements. Your eCommerce optimization process doesn’t end after implementing changes; it’s a cycle of hypothesis generation, testing, measuring, learning, and iterating.
We can share the main rule of successful eCommerce businesses with you. It’s pretty simple: consider everything that you do as a test.
Every change made on your website, in your product lineup, or in your marketing campaigns should be treated as a test. The aim is to gain valuable insights and learn from each implementation. Even if you fail – and not all your experiments would be ROI-positive – that’s not really a failure if you have learned something.
So, here’s a framework that you can use to implement this testing approach:
- Come Up With a Hypothesis. Start by developing a clear, testable hypothesis. A hypothesis is an educated guess about what you believe will happen. For example, you may hypothesize that adding customer reviews to product pages will increase conversion rates. The hypothesis guides your actions and provides a benchmark to measure against.
- Implement and A/B Test. Once you have a hypothesis, you can implement the proposed change. But rather than making the change across your entire website, use A/B testing to evaluate its impact. This involves creating two versions of the same webpage: one with the proposed change (version B) and one without (version A). Half your traffic is shown version A, the other half sees version B. By comparing performance between the two versions, you can discern whether the proposed change led to any significant differences in key metrics.
- Analyze Results. After running the A/B test for a statistically significant period, analyze the results. In addition to tracking changes in key metrics such as conversion rate or average order value, use analytics tools such as heatmaps and session recordings to understand how the changes affect customer experience.
- Implement What’s Working, Adjust What’s Not. If the test results confirm your hypothesis and show improved performance, implement the change site-wide. If the results are negative or inconclusive, it’s fine. Use these findings as a learning opportunity to understand what doesn’t work for your customers. Then, adjust your strategy accordingly. We can’t stress that enough: failure is an integral part of the learning process.
- Start Again. After concluding one test, start the process over again with a new hypothesis. As you continue to learn more about your customers and business, you get new ideas to improve your strategies to better serve your customers and achieve your business goals.
Not sure where to start? Here are some ecommerce conversion rate optimization tests that you can try out.
Bonus: How to Add Amazon to Your Marketing Mix
So, we’ve spent quite some time discussing how to fight against Amazon. But… what if competing isn’t the only way? You can still use Amazon as a part of your marketing mix. But you have to do it the right way.
To begin with, it only makes sense with unique products, or at least with a unique brand. If your product or brand does not have a unique selling proposition, it may get lost among the sea of competitors, making it challenging to stand out and gain customer attention.
There are some more factors to consider though:
- Is your product already on Amazon? Oh, you would be surprised, but don’t underestimate the power of smaller resellers. Also, depending on how unique your product is, you can expect to find complete clones or very similar products listed under other brands. If your product is sold on Amazon under your own brand by some 3rd party reseller, you can try to claim the brand back by talking to support.
- How profitable is it to sell your product on Amazon? Remember all those seller fees, referral fees, advertising costs, and delivery fees? Is there anything left after accounting for them? If the margins are too thin, you put yourself at risk by trying to leverage Amazon as a sales channel.
- Is there any demand for your product on Amazon? Assess the demand for your product on Amazon by examining sales rankings, customer reviews, and product categories. Look for products that are similar to yours and analyze their performance. Are they popular? Are customers satisfied with those products? This research will give you insights into the market size and expectations of Amazon’s audience.
- Are you ready for “Fulfilled by Amazon” requirements? If you decide to sell your product on Amazon, you may consider utilizing the “Fulfilled by Amazon” (FBA) service. FBA allows you to store your inventory in Amazon’s fulfillment centers, and they handle storage, packaging, shipping, and customer service. Amazon often prioritizes FBA over FBM (fulfilled by merchants). However, if you decide to go the FBA route, Amazon would expect you to comply with their requirements, such as packaging guidelines, inventory management, and customer return processes. And that could be a hassle.
Finally, if you decide to go the Amazon route, you’ll need to optimize your Amazon presence. Remember all those product page optimizations we discussed earlier? Some of them, such as having high-quality images, detailed product descriptions, and relevant keywords, apply to Amazon listings as well. You can also leverage customer reviews and ratings to build trust and credibility.
Even though this guide’s purpose is to help your eCommerce store stand against Amazons of the world, you can leverage some of the parts to optimize your Amazon presence as well.
While it may seem like eCommerce is super complex and requires a lot of work, in fact, there’s a lot about making sure that you adhere to the best practices, check all the boxes, choose a strategy that works for you, and then continuously improve. Fortunately, there’s a lot of tools out there that can simplify that journey and provide you with shortcuts.
We’ve created a checklist for you that should help you on this journey.