9 ways to boost your online sales

Make good use of digital sales channels and see the financial benefits to your business.

The past year has demonstrated how crucial it is for your business to have digital sales channels. However, there is lot of thought that needs to go into making good use of them.

It's helpful to have goals you can measure, such as selling more product or subscriptions. You should also make sure that you measure these goals with your web analytics software.

Here are some basic tips that may prove useful in refining your approach to online sales.

Develop realistic buyer personas +

A buyer persona is a specific group of potential customers, an archetypal person whom you want your marketing to reach.

The trick is to know who exactly you're selling to, so you can appeal to them directly. You can use customer interviews to capture the needs of the main types of customer you seek, and then design your website to meet those needs.

It isn’t perfect, as you won’t have all the information you need. However, it should make it easier for you to profile and appeal to visitors to your website and other digital sales channels.

Characteristics in personas typically include demographic details such as:

  • age
  • gender
  • education
  • occupation
  • location
  • employment status

They will also often include psychographic details such as:

  • interests
  • lifestyle
  • personality
  • values
  • attitudes

Learn more by reading The Buyer Persona ManifestoLink opens in a new window

Keep your homepage simple and don’t confuse your audience +

Based on the customer personas you’ve developed, you then need to give your audiences the information they need. But don’t confuse them with too many calls to action and overload your pages. For example, if you have lots of different products for sale, you need to filter them.

Remember, when it comes to designing a functioning website, a good designer who understands user experience is worth their weight in gold.

Additionally, the closer the customer is to buying from you, the less you should have on your screen to distract them. The Amazon checkout screen is the model as far as this goes, since it just screams…. ‘press the buy button’.

 

Create ways to capture email addresses +

Email marketing can be very effective, but first you need to capture a visitor’s email address. It’s not so difficult provided you offer something of value, such as a newsletter giving the reader useful tips and updates, or a discount voucher.

Alternatively, you can produce a downloadable PDF guide. But make sure whatever you do offer has some perceived value to the prospective customer. The last thing you want is for them to feel you’ve ripped them off purely to get hold of their email address.

Once you have a visitor’s email address, your aim then is to get them to come to your site repeatedly over time. That’s important, as people often conduct research before buying and it’s during such visits that you’ll want to convince them why they should buy from you and not a competitor. You may be cheaper or better, but whatever your ‘value proposition’, you need to make this clear to a prospective buyer. When they are ready to buy, you must also make it easy for them to do so.

Of course, you should also make sure you’re complying with data protection requirements set out in the General Data Protection RegulationLink opens in a new window (GDPR).

Drive traffic and flag them down +

To make sales from your website (known as ‘conversions’), you need to first drive visitors to it and then communicate effectively to persuade those people to buy. As a general rule, the more expensive and/or complicated your product, the more time people need to make a decision.

If you’ve done some work on your buyer personas and know your target audiences, you should have a better understanding of where you must advertise to reach those prospective customers. It then becomes a question of cost and which method will be most effective.

More difficult is how to communicate effectively with the visitors once they arrive. You can conduct A/B testingLink opens in a new window to try and see what works best. Try different photos, headlines and calls to action to determine which method has the most success.

Address objections and build trust +

Prospective buyers will have many questions and reasons that may stop them buying from you. Your site should address these directly, if they aren’t covered in the general content already available. A page of frequently asked questions, and testimonials with real names and photos, might help do this and establish your credibility.

Depending on your business, you might offer a free sample to address any concerns around the product’s quality, in return for a testimonial.

If you can build trust with your audience, perhaps by imparting valuable knowledge to them before they make a purchase, it should make them more likely to buy from you.

Supplying contact details on your website – particularly a phone number and an actual physical address – can also go some way to easing visitors’ concerns about being scammed.

Use social media +

Social media is a great way to create a buzz around your brand and promote your offering to your target audience.

It’s probably best to focus on a few key platforms that you know your target audience is likely to engage with. For example, Instagram is a must if you're seeking to sell clothes to fashion-conscious youthsLink opens in a new window.

You don’t need to spend a fortune with a digital agency to learn how to use social media. Read up on how it works, and learn from friends and family. The best way, however, is to simply sign up to various platforms and give it a try yourself. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes as that is how you learn!

YouTube has lots of useful tutorials on using social media platforms, including this one on how to use InstagramLink opens in a new window.

Optimise for mobile phones +

More and more people are using their mobile phones and tablets to make online purchases, and it’s a trend that will only increase with time. As a result, making the user experience on these devices as straightforward as possible should be a top priority for you.

Google offers a useful guide to building a smartphone-optimised siteLink opens in a new window and even explains 3 ways to implement your mobile websiteLink opens in a new window.

Keep your site up to date +

You aren’t done with your site the minute you hit publish. To remain high in Google’s search rankings and improve your visitors’ experience, you’ll need to consistently maintain your website. Consider adding the following to your to-do list:

  • Use analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, to monitor how people use your site. Website engagement metrics to track include bounce rates, repeat visitors, click-through rates and average session duration.
  • Regularly update your website with quality blog posts, products and promotional offers.
  • Perform regular reviews to make sure all aspects of your website, including internal and external links, pages and plug-ins, are working as they should.
  • Update your ‘About us’ page with new team members or achievements.
  • Actively encourage user feedback — customer insights are invaluable.

Consider Amazon and eBay +

If you’re selling a product, you should also consider Amazon and eBay as possible platforms through which to do so. While the percentage these sites take will reduce your profit margin, the increased turnover may boost your profits overall and help build your brand.

Below is an example of a company that has done just that.

Case study – Taxi Game Ltd

Edinburgh-based Taxi Game LtdLink opens in a new window was founded six years ago as a part-time project selling a taxi-themed general knowledge-based board game created by co-owner Derek Carroll (a former taxi driver) and sales director Gordon Drysdale.

After three years, the business started to really take off and both men went full-time, with serial entrepreneur Lynne Cadenhead providing consultancy and becoming company chair.

In 2017, supported by Scottish EnterpriseLink opens in a new window, the company attended its first Amazon workshop As a direct result, it created a shop registered on Amazon that allows it to sell under its own branding.

The company was then invited to become part of the Amazon vendor programme, growing sales even further. Now Amazon even proactively contacts the company to bulk-buy games in advance of peak seasons.

In 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic, Taxi Game made only 3.5% of its sales online, selling mostly through retailers and sports shops. But by 2020, with lockdown closing most retail outlets, web sales became vital. Fifty-four per cent of the company’s total sales in 2020 were online, with one-third of its total sales coming through Amazon.

As of the time of writing (April 2021), Taxi Game Ltd exports 18 editions to Europe, North America and Australasia. There are plans for the company to increase the scale of its operations much further, with new editions of the games scheduled for later in 2021.

Although Amazon has helped drive volume sales, the company’s best margins come through people buying from its own website. Now the company has built its brand online, its future strategic plan entails developing its website to become its primary sales channel.

Drysdale has this piece of advice for other businesses seeking to boost their online sales.

“Amazon has been a revelation for us. But there is a tipping point from which you need to draw back a bit, because Amazon is very clever at coming up with ways to make money for itself. With a little careful thought and planning, it should be possible to combine sales via Amazon and your own website to increase both margins and sales overall.”

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