Ecommerce Marketing: Everything You Need To Know in 2021
Ecommerce marketing is a multibillion-dollar industry — just ask Jeff Bezos.
Every year brings another round of closures and a corresponding explosion of online stores.
In the UK, HMV, Toys R Us, and Maplin all seemed untouchable; last year, they all shuttered hundreds of branches or closed for good.
Meanwhile, ecommerce spending grew 15% last year alone. Right now, ecommerce comprises just a tenth of retail spending in the USA:
But it’s hard to misread that trend.
That’s great — except it means e-commerce stores now face serious competition from sites with equally serious marketing game.
Consumer shopping and spending habits change, search algorithms change, and it’s vital to change with them; last year’s good advice could lose you customers and money.
So how should ecommerce marketers go about getting more leads and sales in 2021?
In this post we’ll look at five major areas, explaining how to use paid ads, content, emails, your website and the product experience to market your e-commerce store effectively.
1.How should eCommerce marketers use paid ads?
Over the last year, the problem of fraud in digital advertising has gone from an industry gripe to a front-page story.
The Intelligencer ran a story in December last year asking, ‘How much of the internet is fake?’ In the same headline, the article’s author, Max Read, answered his own question:
‘Turns out, a lot of it, actually.’
The piece served as a roundup for months of increasingly-bad coverage of the digital ad space.
First, you have the US Justice Department’s eight indictments in a $36 million ad fraud case that reads like The Emperor’s New Clothes for the pay-per-click era: fake websites, with fake traffic directed to them by malware.
The only real thing in the equation was the money, stolen from ad buyers who believed their ads were going in front of real human eyeballs, and they had the stats to prove it.
Then there’s Facebook’s notorious video-views issue: not only did the company encourage a potentially-disastrous ‘pivot to video’ at multiple media and content-creating organizations (including e-commerce stores) by providing ad buyers with hugely-inflated video viewing numbers; they may have known about it for over a year.
On some platforms, the problem is so severe that it threatens absurdity.
For a while in 2013, so much of YouTube’s traffic was bots that YouTube workers feared an ‘Inversion,’ in which their spam-and-bot detection systems would begin to recognize bots as real traffic and start automatically penalizing human users.
And YouTube accounts for up to a quarter of all video ad spending in America!
Even if you can say for sure that your ads are in front of real people, you still have the problem of brand protection or brand matching.
YouTube has had trouble here too: remember when Johnson and Johnson, AT&T and Loreal discovered that their YouTube ads were running at the start of white supremacist videos?
YouTube has taken steps to fix that since, but still: Programmatic ad buying can leave brands exposed to unsavory associations.
So what kind of digital advertising is still effective for modern e-commerce stores?
It’s less a question of the type you use, more about how you use it, though we’d caution against relying too much on programmatic ad buying and recommend using ads where you have more control.
Pay Per Click (PPC)/Search ads
PPC ads remain an effective way to acquire traffic for your eCommerce store.
Search ads give you the power to select and sculpt as well as drive traffic and to direct it reliably to specific pages. That will generate sales.
Those are significant advantages over ‘free’ organic search traffic.
Running a product launch, a sale or moving into a new product area?
Those pages might not attract much organic traffic, but PPC can bring the traffic you need.
This approach will be most effective when it’s tightly integrated with your SEO strategy, since the two approaches can work synergistically.
PPC also tends to deliver high-converting, purchase-oriented traffic, and your keywording strategy for your PC ads should be product-oriented.
Someone searching for ‘womens oxford shoes red size 71/2,’ for instance, is probably trying to buy a pair; at the very least, they’re considering it, which is why the search is so specific.
Where they don’t make a purchase, they might still make an ideal candidate for email marketing, which we’ll go into below.
How to make PPC work for your eCommerce store
Conversions are what count, not clicks.
Many businesses will cast a wide net, hoping to snag as much traffic as possible; but if you focus on high-converting keywords with purchase intent in mind, you’re more likely to see a high-ROI PPC campaign.
‘We’ve found that the average company gets all of its conversions from only 6% of its keywords,’ says PPCHero’s Jacob Baardsgaard. ‘The rest of the catch is worthless, but still eats up 76% of the PPC budget.’
It’s obvious, then, that identifying high-performing keywords is the most vital thing you can do for your PPC success.
If you have conversion tracking set up in Google Analytics, or the equivalent in the tool you prefer, you should be able to see which keywords have produced conversions; if you don’t, you can look to audience segmentation instead.
Start with your best leads, then work back from there. If you don’t have keyword information to show how they came to the site, look at the keywords the page they bought from ranks for, and seek to use similar keywords in your PPC campaign.
Remember: the more specific your keywording is, the more likely it is to be effective; you’re looking for that sweet spot where the highest possible proportion of the people who see your ad are good, purchase-oriented leads, not trying to get traffic per se.
This is a two-way street — use PPC data to optimize organic search, and vice versa.
When Adept looked at integrating PPC and SEO in this way, they got a 48% jump in sales — and a 223% increase in ROI.
- Identify high-converting keywords
- If you can’t, identify high-converting audience segments and work back to the keywords
- Integrate with SEO, sharing data and utilizing the same overall strategy
Google Shopping ads — formerly Product Listing Ads (PLA)
Google Shopping ads are premium real estate with plush visuals as compared to text-only PPC ads. Here’s the difference:
PLAs let you do some of the most powerful things you can do in e-commerce marketing: show the user a picture, show them reviews, and show them a price.
For these reasons, PLAs are by far the more effective tool for eCommerce stores.
They make sense if you have a large product range — in fact, they’re specifically there for larger eCommerce stores.
You’ll need a Google Merchant Center account and a Google Ads account to use Google Shopping Ads.
How to ace Google Shopping Ads
- Make sure your images are yours! Don’t rely on manufacturer images, stock photos, or eBay/Amazon images
- Become a Google Trusted Store to increase ranking and click-through rates
- Check your product feed quality. This is of paramount importance: if your data feed and your website don’t match, Google won’t display your product ads.
Display advertising works best when it closely matches customer intent.
Think of an ad for running shoes: displayed alongside a blog post about mortgage rates, it’s merely background; the reader is likely to filter it out and not even really notice it.
This fate befalls other types of ads too. But display ads are particularly strongly affected. Look at this study from NN Group:
The reader has looked at the text they’re actually interested in, and totally ignored the parts of the page where they can expect to see ads.
Crucially, they haven’t looked, determined that content is advertising, and looked away.
Check the heatmap. Knowing they can expect to see advertising content in the sidebar, the reader hasn’t even looked at all.
Now imagine that our ad for running shoes is displayed alongside a piece about running injuries, especially if it leads to a landing page that addresses injury prevention.
Now you’re talking your customer’s language and at the right time.
The ad isn’t an intrusion the reader has to filter out; it’s additional useful information.
This only works when the ads are highly specific with regard to reader interest and intent.
Because of this specificity requirement, it makes sense to use display ads to promote special offers and other events rather than as your daily bread-and-butter advertising fare.
These ads should be targeted by:
- Site demographics: place ads on pages with demographics that match your customer personas.
- Page topics: Place ads based on the topic of a specific page.
- Keywords: Place your display ads based on the keywords on the page.
Additionally, e-commerce stores should seek to leverage the retargeting offered by some ad networks, allowing you to put your ads in front of people who have already demonstrated receptiveness by visiting your website.
Retargeted ads can offer conversion rates up to double those of standard advertising.
How to ace display advertising for your eCommerce store
- Target your personas, starting with demographics, then behavior and interests
- Use display ads for sales, specials and retargeting
- Choose ad networks that let you do all that!
2.Content marketing for eCommerce stores in 2021
When you see ‘content marketing,’ it’s easy to think we’re going to be talking about blog posts.
Big, wordy ones like this one, or little 500-word ones — written content is what we think of first.
But remember, anything can be content. Imagery, video, interactive, and a bunch of different types of written content can all be leveraged to increase your traffic and conversions.
Video content and how to leverage it
Video content is the internet’s favorite kind of content.
It’s certainly marketers’ favorite kind of content. 87% of businesses use it, 83% of marketers who use it say they get good ROI from it and 88% say they will spend more on it this year than last year, according to Wyzowl.
E-commerce marketers can make video work for them in ways that text content can’t.
In addition it’s worth mentioning that 78% of people watch videos online every week while 55% watch everyday.
Text content alone will typically show still images and instructions — watching a video of someone doing the task you’re about to attempt makes it easier to follow along and see the steps that images might miss and text struggles to describe.
Additionally, video can show a product in action in a way that still images can’t convey.
Everybody knows to sell the sizzle, not the steak — no-one cares about food-processor wattage, they care about what it will be like to use the item in their kitchen.
Video lets you show them.
In an industry where marketing constantly has to struggle to overcome the fact that the buyer can’t see, feel or try out the product for themselves, a video is the nearest you can get.
Video lets you walk new purchasers through the setup and maintenance of their new product.
Marketing doesn’t cease after purchase, and feeling a sense of competency about setting up their new product can make your new purchasers more likely to enjoy and recommend the product and the store they bought it from.
It’s also worth placing these videos on product pages for people to view before they buy, especially if you sell something that requires some setup or assembly; anxiety about whether they’ll be able to easily set up or assemble the product will be a major disincentive to purchase, and your video can handle that for you.
This can also be a powerful way of applying your own branding to the purchase of goods made by other companies.
Another possibility is to create shoppable video via Spott.
People prefer watching a video over reading a full article.
You might want to get inspired by some of the best shoppable video examples.
How to maximize video content for your eCommerce store
- Youtube! It’s the second largest search engine, it certainly seems like it confers better search rank in Google search results, and it’s free video hosting. Even if you choose not to use it for your onsite video hosting, put your videos on Youtube anyway.
- Make videos that can do several jobs. A video is expensive: make product videos that double as how-tos or marketing videos.
- Remember it has to be entertaining to your audience — target and segment.
Blog posts — do they have a place in e-commerce marketing?
Blog posts like this one are less likely to affect e-commerce purchasers. Granted it’s 5,000 words, but it’s not the size that makes the difference.
Your audience will read as much as they find relevant and interesting.
E-commerce blogs that have been assembled hastily will usually wind up with some sales-y material and some general news about the space the site operates in.
That and poor writing quality are the two biggest giveaways that the site has a blog because it’s a box to tick, not because there’s a real plan to get new customers and keep the old, using the blog.
By contrast, here’s how an e-commerce site’s blog can work.
Au Lit Fine Linens sells linen bedclothes and other linen furnishings for the luxury market.
Their blog, Between the Sheets, offers their lookbook, but also advice on keeping your bedroom decluttered and bedroom styling ideas from other sources.
All their images are Pinnable too.
Consider this post, ‘What’s the Difference Between a Duvet and a Comforter?’
Here the author explains something that could be quite dry, with some touches of humor and a human voice.
‘If you open a French-English dictionary and look at the word “duvet”, you’ll see that the literal translation is “fluff”, and that’s exactly how we like to think of a duvet.
A duvet is made from two pieces of fabric sewn together and stuffed with any form of insulating material, be it goose down, feathers, or synthetic fibers.
A duvet is fluffy and insulating, and designed lay on top of your sheets and keep you warm at night. Think of the fluffy topper on a hotel bed: puffy, light, and cozy.’
This post addresses a question that the blog’s readership might actually want to know the answer to, and it does so in a voice that will appeal to them.
How to use blog posts to drive traffic in e-commerce
- Aim at your audience. Shoot for a mix of how-to and fun informative material, and see which does best.
- Match your blog’s voice to your brand. Puffy, light and cozy is a perfect match for Au Lit; Caterpillar would want to come at things differently, and so might you.
- Use your blog synergistically with your other marketing channels. Put video up, and include posts in newsletters and other emails.
Interactive content: e-commerce content marketing secret weapon
Shopping in-store is inherently interactive. You can pick things up, turn them over, hold them up to the light, heft them in your hand and try them on.
None of that is possible on an e-commerce site, so we have to offer the next best thing.
Interactive content allows e-commerce sites to let consumers buy the way they want to, managing their own relationship with your content, your brand, and your products.
A good example is Sephora’s Virtual Artist app.
On phone or desktop browser, it allows you to take a selfie, then simulates product try-ons and see how you’d look wearing the product.
Sephora says it’s seen 200 million shades tried on and over 8.5 million visits to the feature.
This type of content is far more expensive than hiring someone to knock out a few blog posts.
But it’s also radically more effective.
It works best when the technology and the process are at the heart of how the company markets itself, less well when it’s a peripheral add-on.
Interactive content doesn’t have to be as complex and in-depth as Sephora’s ap.
It can simply be an interactive video.
Interactive video can increase viewing time by 47%. And when those interactive videos are shoppable, they represent a way to reduce friction in the conversion process and give consumers what they want.
How to do it
- Identify the problem your audience most wants to solve. Sephora lets users try out makeup before they buy online. What frustrates your users and prevents them from buying?
- Create content that lets your audience solve their own problem, in a way that they enjoy. The goal might be to mimic the ‘browsing’ experience of in-store shopping, but depending on your audience, it doesn’t have to be.
- Make your content shoppable! Don’t force users to exit the content they like and trudge through your standard checkout process. Let them buy direct from the video, lookbook or app.
Done right, content marketing can be key to both traffic and sales.
E-commerce sites that have a tight content game get more traffic and more conversions too. A great way to enhance your content marketing is hiring a dedicated content marketing agency to help you with that.
3.Marketing with the product: delivery and unboxing
The way your customers interact with your product can be marketing too.
Actually, that’s an understatement.
It’s true across businesses in general; for eCommerce stores, things are even more sharply skewed.
Repeat customers are just 8% of an average eCommerce store’s customer base, yet they account for 40% of revenue.
Clearly, encouraging such customers is vital.
Encouraging repeat purchases and referrals by making your product super appealing to receive and open has huge ROI.
This can mean a different, more experiential approach to packaging and delivery like re-creating your product’s unboxing experience or adding same-day shipping.
Unboxing: powerful marketing to the purchaser
Unboxing videos are a phenomenon. When I searched Google for ‘unboxing videos’ (from a US server) I got 131 million results:
Youtube has channels dedicated entirely to unboxing — Influencer Marketing Hub has rounded up the top 15 — and two of the top 10 most watched YouTube channels in the US in 2018 were unboxing channels; between them, they’ve racked up over 38 billion views since launching.
Why does anyone care enough to watch a video of someone else unwrapping something they bought?
Because some of the world’s most successful brands understand that unboxing is experiential: a place to add value, not something to be got through as quickly as possible.
(Not sure about that pizza though.)
When people watch unboxing videos, they’re shopping: exploring what it will be like to receive an item they’re contemplating purchasing.
Not always, sure — but 62% of unboxing video views come from people with purchase intent.
One way to get your product on an unboxing video is to pay an influencer to feature you.
But another is simply to focus on the unboxing experience and design your packaging to support it.
Remember the goal isn’t just to appear in videos — that’s a nice bonus.
Rather, it’s to increase the excitement purchase generates in your customers so that they return to you and refer their friends.
One of the brands that does this best is Birchbox: if you’re an eCommerce marketer, I recommend subscribing to their email list and checking out some of their unboxing videos to see just how effective this tactic can be.
Birchbox includes a 10% of coupon, presented as a reward…
…and a ‘menu’ showing what’s in the box.
But there’s another aspect to what’s being done here.
These boxes are doing branding, not just ‘10% off’ marketing. The offer is tied to the social nature of shopping for grooming products.
There are a million ways to do this. No-one can tell you exactly how because no-one knows your brand (or your client’s brand) like you do.
Marketing out of the box: how to win the unboxing game
It’s not just the unboxing.
It’s what’s in the box, and the box itself. Look how the most effective e-commerce marketing brands carry branding and marketing over onto delivery packaging. Dollar Shave Club does it one way:
Way back in 2012, Facebook’s UX and content strategist Jonathan Coleman echoed Dollar Shave Club’s branding, calling their unboxing experience ‘f***ing great’ and explaining:
‘This is exactly what I wanted to see from Dollar Shave Club. Printed microcopy that’s right on brand, makes me laugh, and that aligns solidly with the original video experience.’
Cussing and joking, bright colors and a jokey, ironical take on the golden age of men’s grooming products is a great match for their brand and their audience.
Might not fit so well for yours.
Man Crate does it like this:
Storytelling and branding reinforcing each other, with unboxing placed center stage — in a video just 30 seconds long.
Apple has a different approach:
There’s nothing on this plain white box… nothing that doesn’t scream Apple.
A well-established brand with a particular image — sleek, hyper-modern, understated — can pull this off.
Once again, it might not suit your brand.
How to maximize unboxing for eCommerce marketing
- Remember it’s branding! Communicate your brand identity to your purchasers first and foremost.
- Encourage referral and repeat purchase with catalogs and lookbooks, coupons and vouchers.
- Encourage your purchasers to make their own unboxing videos — a powerful form of marketing that can get you action without you having to do the work.
4.How to use email marketing to drive e-commerce sales in 2021
Email marketing is the secret weapon in ecommerce marketers’ toolkits.
Other businesses can leverage email marketing, of course — and given that it has a higher ROI than search, social or content, they do.
But ecommerce stores have a unique position to play because they have so many opportunities to get in touch with their customers.
You can email customers every time they visit your store, and once in a while if they don’t; every time you get a new product, and every time a product is discontinued; every time there’s a sale, and when sales end.
There are a million more examples, but I think the point is made: these are emails that at least some customers actually want to receive, and done right they can raise conversions not by 20% or 50% but by 200% or 500%.
Email marketing for ecommerce is most effective when it makes use of targeted flows.
No customer who has signed up should ever be off your radar altogether, but they should be on the right flow.
When we discuss email marketing tactics for ecommerce below, we’re talking about email flows; multi-email structures, built in advance, automated, and which allow customers to fork themselves onto new flows by their own behavior.
Here are some of the most effective email marketing flows:
New customer email flows
When a new customer buys something, they should immediately be greeted with a new customer email flow.
A multi-email flow is more effective than a single email, giving multiple opportunities to engage.
New customers can be greeted in various ways.
Tech startups will often greet new signups with an email from the personal address of someone at the company; this can work for ecommerce stores, but so can more impersonal emails that walk customers through using the store and showcase products.
These can be combined with purchase incentives — look at how Forever 21 does it:
It’s all there: urgency, incentive, on-brand styling — and free shipping on orders over £50 to boot.
The rest of the email showcases Forever 21’s products in a single screen:
Simple and effective, this single welcome email could have been stronger if it had been built into a multi-email flow that took advantage of welcome emails’ typically very high open rate and inbox placement to build a relationship with the recipient.
How to make new customer email flows work for you
Shameless plug time.
You can use other email tools. But I’m going to walk you through how to use Moosend to set up automated welcome email flows for all your new customers. It’s not a long walk.
Start by going to the Automation menu:
You’ll see a selection of pre-made automated workflows that just need to be filled in with your content.
Onboarding and new customer emails are at the bottom of the first screen. Welcome emails are at the bottom if you scroll down.
Which of these you choose to use is up to you; New Customer is set up as a single email, while Welcome is designed for signups or more complex offerings where multiple emails might be required. However, they can be used to segment new customers by their responses to the initial email.
New Customer emails work like this:
The default is to respond when someone makes their first purchase, whatever the product, and after a short delay, send an email greeting the new customer.
You can link to emails you’ve already created, allowing Moosend to send them, as well as choosing which email address they’ll be sent from and entering your subject line:
- Subject lines should be short enough to fully display on mobile and support the purpose of the email.
- What are you trying to help the recipient do next? If they’ve made a purchase, what do you want them to do now? If they’ve signed up, but haven’t made a purchase, what should their next step be? Welcome emails work best when they’re part of an email structure that guides the recipient through the maze of your store to repeat purchase.
- Don’t forget that content can start in the first email — this is a great place to include that how-to video!
Browsing follow-up flows
If you have someone’s email address and they visit the store and browse, but don’t purchase, it could be that they were just window-shopping.
Or maybe they found a better deal somewhere else.
But it could also be that they switched devices, or their Uber arrived at work, or any other of a million things that could stop you from finally deciding to buy a scarf, a pair of headphones or a 16-piece screwdriver set.
These people need follow-up emails that remind them of the product they were looking at, offer similar products, and if appropriate, offer them a discount on the purchase.
Check out how Forever 21 does it:
How to win with browsing follow-up emails
Moosend lets you build re-engagement emails that filter your contacts.
The flow looks like this:
When someone on your email list browses a page but doesn’t make a purchase, you can set this email flow to wait a specific time interval, then email that person.
Even better, you can filter contacts, choosing only those who have made a purchase; then you can set up a seperate flow for those who haven’t reached them with different, targeted messaging.
Abandoned cart emails
Abandoned carts cost ecommerce $75 trillion globally every year.
They’re the biggest hole in most ecommerce websites’ funnels.
And cart abandonment is actually rising year on year:
Can abandoned cart emails help to fix this?
Yes. In fact, they are one of the most effective tools for remedying abandoned carts.
Done right a cart abandonment email flow can recoup up to 60% of the lost revenue that abandoned carts represent.
In many cases, carts are abandoned by shoppers who intend to return and finish their purchase but forget.
We’ve found that 45% of cart abandonment emails are opened, 21% get click-throughs and over 10% led to a purchase.
How to make abandoned cart emails work for your ecommerce store
You can send abandoned cart emails from ready-made Moosend flows like this:
- Send them later! Leave a gap so people can get to their destination and get back online on another device. Moosend’s default is 45 minutes — experiment with it as a variable.
- Send an image and a reminder of the item they were shopping for, and make it as easy as you can to return to shopping. I’ve seen abandoned cart emails with links that took you to the homepage. Those carts remained abandoned.
- Use brand-appropriate copy. Sometimes that means two lines or just a handful of words. But if your brand tone of voice is personal and casual, make sure it carries over to your abandoned cart emails. We’re looking for ‘looks like you accidentally left something behind at the store,’ not ‘you have failed to purchase. Please rectify.’
Once you know something about your customers, you can make email offers targeted to their interests.
In the early days of automated email marketing, there were some catastrophic errors where offers were either totally untargeted — Bob, we noticed you’re interested in vegan cooking, so how about 15% off these swordfish steaks? — or too targeted.
Like that time Target’s algorithm accidentally outed a pregnant teenager to her unwitting father.
But when they’re done right these emails can precisely target customers’ interests with products they’re likely to want to view, if not buy, and help drive big ROI increases.
Use Moosend’s readymade Specific Areas of Interest flow to reach out to people whose onsite behavior has shown that they’re interested in specific niches, products or categories, offering them coupons or discounts that you know will appeal to them.
Make your targeted offers count
- Wait! Don’t jump down your audience’s throat screaming ‘10% off!’ Consumers shop in leisure time or when they’re supposed to be working, so afternoons and evenings are likely the best time.
- Match the offer closely. Our choices aren’t random: a woman buying shoes likely has an outfit in mind. A man shopping shirts probably already has the suit. If they shopped peach, don’t give them offers on lime green. Same for tools or anything else.
- Include secondary material further down the email that offers ‘products like’ and ‘goes with’ to capture less focused shoppers’ attention.
5.On-site marketing: make your ecommerce website work for you
- Form design as obstacle to signup
- Flow through checkout and other vital stages
- Sales and product page best practices
- How is all this marketing? Affects SEO, affects customer behaviour
One of the most vital ways you can market is on the site itself.
Flow through the parts of the site that produce the most conversions is about marketing, just as much as paid ads, content or email marketing is.
If you got someone to come to the site, sign up, come back, look at a product page and begin purchase, but they didn’t finish the purchase, you didn’t make any money.
So far, so obvious — though in a world where marketers tend to get hung up on metrics we’re familiar with and forget to look at the bottom line, I think it bears repeating.
But as search ranking algorithms get more sophisticated, onsite behavior feeds back into search, too.
Think about site speed.
There’s a reason Google encourages fast loading times: because customers like fast loading times. In 2018, mobile site speed became a ranking factor; at the beginning of this year, Search Engine Journal called it ‘the next big ranking factor to focus on.’
It’s one of the easiest user experience issues to put a number on, but Google watches UX as a whole through proxy indicators like dwell time.
What can you do to tune your site up so that you get more conversions and Google looks on you with a friendlier eye?
Start with your forms.
If you build it (right), they will complete it: form design and ecommerce marketing
Way too many ecommerce websites have forms that were designed on desktop, and seemingly by the IRS and customs enforcement, working together to trash your day.
Here’s Joel Klettle of Business Casual Copywriting:
How much of this do you really need to know about your customers?
Then there’s a device to consider. In reality, most e-commerce customers are on their phone.
As a sign of how well-served they are, cart abandonment is a full twelve percentage points higher on phones than on desktop.
Things look very different on a small screen, and they work differently too.
Typing takes much longer on a phone, so we should aim to reduce typing.
Fields that the customer’s browser can autofill, like name and email, are less of an impediment, and we do actually need that information.
Fields, where they have to type, should be eliminated if possible.
Here’s Schuh’s form (on mobile):
Choose ‘pay with card’ and you get this:
It’s a single screen, asks only for the info that Schuh actually needs to process the order, and even lets you skip date of birth if you want to.
Moreover, it’s clear and simple on a mobile screen. Therefore it is utterly important to think two steps ahead when considering your mobile eCommerce development.
Also, it’s important to tell customers how much postage they’ll pay as soon as possible.
People don’t like unanswered questions, it makes us anxious.
If I’m OK spending $10.99 but I wouldn’t be OK spending $14.99, I’m in a state of anxiety all the way through your extensive checkout flow, thinking, ‘how much will postage be?
I’ll be OK if it’s $2.99, but I don’t want to pay $3.99.’
How significant is this effect? It’s the number one cause of cart abandonment, itself the number one hole in e-commerce funnels.
What are the lessons here?
- Tell your customers exactly how much money you’re asking them for, as soon as possible.
- Let them easily check out as a guest.
- Make your checkout simple and clear on mobile.
Sort these factors and you’ll see more conversions and likely SEO benefits too.
Email sign-ups on site
Getting people on your email list is a good second best to get them to buy something.
For one thing, it massively increases the chances that one day, they’ll take the leap and become a customer.
That means a sign-up process that’s effective without being intrusive.
How many times have you been on a website, only to have slide-in pop-up obstruct what you’re looking at with a request for… well, who knows, people often don’t read them.
When you put a signup between what people want and them, they tend to respond with a kind of passive-aggressive compliance.
Often they’ll give you their spam email address.
Turns out, a lot of people keep a spam-catcher email address just for signups. How many?
That number seems to be rising all the time. I even have a spam-catcher email address myself!
The effect on your email signup quality is catastrophic.
That’s 9% of signups going to an email address that’s never even checked.
Force people to sign up and this is what you get: nearly one in ten of the signups are totally worthless to you; another two-thirds are grudgingly giving you their second-string address, but they’ll never read your stuff, let alone buy anything from you.
Three-quarters of the signups you get this way are no good to your business.
At the same time, while you don’t want a jambalaya, crazy-Bob’s-carpet-warehouse effect that tries to pester people into signing up, you also don’t want to actually make it less likely.
The signup we want is willing, interested and has that person’s real email address attached so we don’t get big holes blown in our deliverability score, overestimate our true signup rate and have an increasingly fuzzy picture of how effective our signup process is.
Oh, and so we can sell that person stuff too.
How do we do that?
Getting real sign-ups on your ecommerce site
- Base signup request on user activity. If they’ve clicked on at least one thing or scrolled down a piece of content, that’s the time — don’t bundle signup requests with cookie consent, GDPR and other legalese.
Ecommerce websites tend to be huge, with many products. It’s rare to find a website with thousands of pages outside ecommerce; in the industry, it’s normal.
Each new product has its own page. Each old product often does too.
The result is massive sites that can easily get out of hand, and a vast number of pages that have to be created, often fast.
Product pages are the heart of an ecommerce website.
If you sell T-shirts, it’s on the product page for a specific T-shirt that sales actually get made; no-one fills out an order to just get sent a random shirt.
It’s specific product pages that actually make money for your business.
However, they often have preventable flaws that stop them from being anything like as effective as they could be.
Ecommerce sites could often benefit from spending a little time with Screaming Frog, for sure.
Missing or duplicate tags and unoptimized images show up even on large sites, especially if design and SEO don’t really talk much.
But the most important aspects of an ecommerce product page that actually sells are the copy, the description, and the images.
Product pages have to be brand-consistent.
They should pass the ‘user is drunk’ and ‘squint’ test with flying colors — each product page should scream your brand identity off the screen.
They should encourage trust and confidence; people should feel that they trust your brand and your product.
You have to preemptively objection-handle concerns about delivery, fit, pricing and quality in a way that you don’t in a brick-and-mortar store where people can weigh the product in their hand, feel the fabric, hold it up to the light.
Video and multi-angle photography are the gold standards for ecommerce product imagery, but you don’t have to do them to have a working product page that actually converts.
What you do need is several high-quality images, copy that addresses your personas’ concerns and product descriptions that didn’t come from the manufacturer.
Ecommerce product page copy that sells
Product page copy needs to address the concerns of your target audience.
It needs to speak their language, so you avoid talking to 40-somethings like they’re in their teens and vice versa.
And it needs to be clear.
The choice between clear and clever is no choice: consumers are half-reading this on a mobile screen between messages.
They don’t want clever, they just want to know what it is and what it does.
Here’s how outdoors and travel apparel company Rohan handles it:
That single line of copy tells you what it does and what it’s for.
That might be everything you feel you need to know.
But if you want the nitty-gritty — how much does it weigh? Are the seams taped? — there’s more, and it’s easy to find.
Making your product descriptions stand out
Click ‘read more’ and you get this:
This is copy aimed at people who are looking for something to ‘stuff in a rucksack,’ but who also want to know details like ‘bonded peak’ and are happy with terms like ‘face aperture’ for the front of a hood. If that’s not your persona, don’t do it this way — but take from Rohan their clarity and their bespoke product description.
Product descriptions like this:
Are more of a ‘how not to do it.’
Let’s zoom in on the description:
First of all, I defy you to read through that. It is extremely dull. It also includes random technical information — ‘if you want to connect with NG gas, please remove the LPG gas kit,’ so nice to know this stove comes with free alphabet soup — and oddly specific facts, like ‘burner cap: iron.’
It’s not that prospective customers don’t need to know this. It’s that it’s presented in a desultory, careless and very boring way.
Take the manufacturer’s product descriptions and write them out afresh, as if you were talking your ideal customer through the product.
How to create e-commerce product page images that generate sales
Images don’t have to be exciting. It’s like copy: people want to get at the information they want, they’re not interested in fancy effects.
Look at how UK Tool Centre Ltd sells this DeWalt multi-tool set:
A lot of this is right: nice clear button, savings underlined, clear description. But we’re interested in the images. Thumbnails along the bottom are clear enough that you can see which tools are which.
There’s a slider, a shot of each tool, and close-ups of batteries and peripherals:
There’s also a video. Let’s talk a little about that.
Video on product pages
Rather than talking about how to make a good video, I want to briefly talk about how to site and utilize a product video.
In fact DeWalt has it more or less right.
(I swear I’m not on commission.)
It’s prominently sited, in prime position on the slider — but I don’t actually need the video to get value out of the page.
That’s pretty important for DeWalt, because their target customer is browsing this on a toughened mobile device with their feet on the dashboard of a Transit van, on a building site with poor wifi.
If the user must view the video to understand what the product is, DeWalt are going to lose out.
That’s less of a concern if your target audience is IT professionals in Finland, where they have Gigabit broadband. As always, it’s about your audience.
The other no-no is autoplay.
This seems like a great idea to some people — I think it’s the same folks who always want to put a bunch of sliders on a homepage.
And autoplay video has the same effect because it violates the same principle of user experience design: the user needs to be in control.
Make your video clear, short and easy to find, but don’t make users watch it.
Ecommerce is a bigger pie than ever before.
Growing your eCommerce store presents new challenges, but they can be overcome.
Throughout this post, we’ve talked about how to work specific aspects of ecommerce marketing to better effect in 2021.
We’ve mentioned trying to get real email signups, for instance; talked about avoiding autoplaying video like the plague it is; sending emails targeted to your audience’s preferences; or designing your unboxing experience to delight your customers.
But there’s a trend: we have to know the customer well enough to put them in the driving seat. The more you do that, the more your e-commerce store will prosper — in 2021 and beyond.
Resources for further reading: