How to Sell in E-Commerce. Old-School Tips and Tricks

Sales have changed a lot in the last 10 or 15 years. Long gone are the days when it was WHOA for a business to have a web-page. The internet is an important part of our daily lives, and all the more entrepreneurs are focusing their efforts online. The internet has given a marketplace to everybody willing to sell. There’s more competition than ever in the world of e-commerce. 

Statista says that in 2018, US online retail sales of physical goods added up to $501 B and are expected to exceed $740 B in 2023. And the purpose of every e-commerce marketer is to build up traffic, conversions, and get higher revenue. In short, getting their share. 

However, it can be difficult to decide on which marketing tactics to try, there’s so many of them. The common conception is that every entrepreneur willing to become and stay successful needs to keep away from the old-school sales techniques. It’s true that some of the classic beliefs like selling to anyone with a pulse, smooth-talking and being over-enthusiastic are now obsolete and inefficient. 

I like to question everything. And lately, I have started to think whether some age-old truths can be applicable in e-commerce. And as it happens, they can! 

Let’s review 10 old-school selling tips and the ways you can use them for your e-commerce website.

1. Get and remember customer data

Be interested in your clients. Your business depends on nothing else but their trust and good attitude. Sure, you aim at getting higher revenue, but if you don’t take an interest in your clients, your business isn’t likely to stay. Treat them like real human beings who they are, not a faceless crowd with pocketfuls of money. In the words of Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and the world’s richest person,

“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”

Personalization is the core. In e-commerce, it generally suggests presenting individualized offers and recommendations. There are e-commerce solutions and tools out there like OptinMonster, Monetate, Barilliance, etc., created to make clients’ experience more personalized. 

As stated in the report by Accenture, 91% of buyers are more inclined to buy from firms who remember them and give appropriate propositions. And 83% of them don’t mind sharing their data for personalized contact.

The majority of large online stores today provide their customers with “Style With” and “Others also bought” sections. But I’d like to show you a case of real personalization – an online service ”Stitch Fix” that goes beyond.

They don’t guide you on what things you’d like based on your search history, it’s actually personalized to your taste, the price range you’re comfortable with, and style preferences. Real-life stylists handpick items just for you and your family. They are then delivered to your door for you to try them on. You can keep the items you like and post back the rest free of charge.

And you don’t even need a subscription. Way to go!

2. Listen more than you talk

“My advice to all interviewers is: Shut up and listen.”

–Errol Morris

That tip is just as useful for e-commerce marketers. Listening is one of the major factors which define the successful salesperson, whether in the past or today. The main issue here is to pay attention to people’s wants and needs.

Which website would you favor more – the one that flashes ads and special deals the second you’ve reached it or the one that lets you look around and leaves you some space? There’s a phenomenon known as “banner blindness” when people ignore ads. Most banner ads are boring, irrelevant, and intrusive. That’s why people are finding their way around.

Of course, to deliver the message is the job of every salesperson. But talking about e-commerce services or products before knowing what the customer needs is putting the cart before the horse. 

One other aspect of good listening skills is actually listening, but a social one. It’s exactly what it sounds like: monitoring what people are saying about you on social media or checking on what’s trending in general.

People don’t bother phoning nowadays, they text. According to a survey conducted by OpenMarket, 75% of millennials (that is, people aged between 18 to 34) chose texting over talking. Engaging in social listening makes sure that you’re able to deal with any problems, in real-time, and offer customer service right away.

3. Look your clients in the eye

Eye contact creates a sense of connection and trust, but you don’t have to understand it word for word. 

Make your site appear trustworthy by ensuring a few things. Add icons that tell your site is trustworthy, like a reputable domain and SSL security. Cybersecurity is the main concern for the consumers of today. They estimate that a whopping 46% of Americans have been a victim of credit card fraud. 

Also, your website should have a Contact Us page that lists the ways a visitor can contact you: phone number, address, email. As for me, if I don’t see this information on a store’s website (even if I don’t intend to use it), then this particular company is either suspicious or they are not interested in me contacting them if something goes wrong which is also not very promising.

Another way to instill trust and make a sort of eye contact is to use video demonstrations and customer testimonials with photos. Research shows that 91% of 18-34-year-old consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Especially if they contain photos. Collect photo reviews from your happy clients, strengthen your brand image and boost sales with strong social proof.

4. Be patient

“You buying or not? I don’t have all day.”

Think of more tactful ways of leading your customers towards making a buy.

Customer relationships are fragile. Just as a tender seedling isn’t ready to bear fruit right away, potential customers may not be ready to make their move. Yet.

Still, try to reduce abandoned carts rate – the percentage of abandoned carts is about 70%. That’s three out of four carts! 

Statistics say that 34% of cart abandonment happens when potential shoppers are not ready to buy. Many of them come to an online store to window shop. 23% have issues with shipping. And 15% say that they have abandoned their cart to go shop offline.

It’s a good idea to address as many doubts as you can. Some shoppers who abandoned their carts could have been reminded to finish their purchases. Persuade them with gifts like an extra discount or free shipping.

You can reduce the frequency of abandoned carts with an appealing email recovery campaign.

E-commerce email solution

A pic by Aerostate

5. Know your product inside out

Fine product photos, explicit descriptions, and calls-to-action will help ensure that a customer chooses your offer. Have in-depth knowledge of your products.

A well-designed e-commerce web page should have detailed information about the product. It’s the content that informs customers about your product’s assets.

Product photos help your customers form their first impression. So make sure they are high-quality and relevant.

In 2017 Wyzowl revealed that 79% of consumers would use video to get product information than read the text on a page. For instance, I would never buy a device more complex than, say, a hair-dryer without understanding how it works and how it looks like on the video. And if an online store doesn’t offer product videos, I’d move on to YouTube. And since I’m no longer on that website, I’d buy this device from somewhere else. 

Using videos in e-commerce web design

Experiments. Kimon Online Store #09 by Stanislav Krishtal

6. Don’t talk trash about other companies

Unless it’s spectacular brand wars like Audi vs. BMW or Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi, trash-talking your competitors is not beneficial to your business. The above examples are witty, amusing and imaginative and in reality, were useful for both sides. However, in general, pointing out flaws in others does not give you strength. It only hurts you and your business. Better preserve and even build up your brand’s reputation by learning how to adopt an ethical approach.

Another downside? By pointing out the flaws of your competitors, you could make consumers wary of your industry as a whole and make your business unattractive. Like if someone says that there are so many flaws in buying shoes from Zappos, then maybe I shouldn’t make online purchases altogether.

There are, however, some examples of e-commerce companies jabbing at each other. Like in the funny exchange below between Amazon India and Flipkart (one of the biggest Indian e-commerce companies) incited by the Reddit India. 

E-commerce marketers ethics

7. Don’t tell customers things they want to hear

This may be an unexpected remark, but what I mean is to not gloss over the reality. Stick to honesty as your guideline. Be straight about the prices and don’t try to hide them or make it difficult for visitors to find it on your site.

This rule also applies to shipping. Studies show that displaying shipping information too late in the sale process leads to increased cart abandonment rates.

Customers won’t spend the time searching your site for the useful info, they’ll abandon their order and hop on to a rival’s website.

Accurate and full descriptions. Product descriptions should be as detailed as possible to avoid confusion.

Detailed refund policy. The more detailed your refund policy, the more likely customers are to commit to a purchase.

Include shipping details. Do you offer next day delivery? If you do but you charge an extra fee for it, make this clear. 

E-commerce website design

Skate Store Decks Page Preview by Shakuro

8. Keep your store clean and simple

Use clean and simple website design to convey the message of clarity and convenience. 

Everyone at least once in their lifetime has been to a store that’s cluttered, disheveled, and has an unpleasant atmosphere. In contrast, imagine a store that is clean, spacious, and has a very comforting feeling, like an Apple Store. It’s much more enjoyable to be in the latter.

Web design is integral in creating an e-commerce website. Well-made e-commerce website design is all about the right combination of colors, fonts, images, and words to sway visitors into making a purchase. Its purpose is to attract potential customers, provide good user experience and present your business as best as possible.

Make the content of your website scannable. Research by the Nielsen Norman Group shows that most website visitors only read about 20% of the text on any given web page. They simply scan the text searching for key information without reading every word. So if you want to reach your aim, it’s a good idea to make your content scannable.

An example of e-commerce website design

Street Fashion Store Animation by Shakuro

9. Practice the Golden Rule

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Put yourself in your client’s shoes and imagine whether you like using your website, and what point you’d better work on more. Watch for the newest trends and apply the ones that may prove valuable for your business.

There are numerous useful techniques you can apply to make your interactions with customers more rewarding, like improving email campaigns or embedding social media posts. But there’s one main thing you should concentrate on to get as many customers as possible.

Make use of the digital agencies services and optimize your website for mobile, make certain it’s fully responsive. Having only a desktop-friendly website means you may miss out on a whole lot of prospective customers.

According to eMarketer, last year mobile sales accounted for nearly 40% of all retail e-commerce sales in the US, and it will rise up to 53.3% by 2021.

Responsive e-commerce website design

Furniture Store Responsive Design Flow by Shakuro

10. Always follow up

Following up is an excellent sales technique. It shows customers that you still care about their satisfaction, even though you’ve already received their payment. Just because they completed their purchase or didn’t buy at all, they shouldn’t be left alone.

Send the thank you email, give post-purchase coupons. Offering a discount coupon sometime after the initial order is placed when a buyer has already received and started using their purchase.

A study made by Return Path says that post-purchase emails have a particularly high subscriber engagement rate in comparison with other kinds of emails. For instance, post-purchase emails produced the highest read rate of 44%. 

E-commerce mail design

Swissline mail design – 2 by Monika Nowakowska

Summing it up

Selling feels different online than it does in offline stores, but some of the notions remain the same. It’s all about psychological understanding, contact, and building a relationship. 

Remember Michael from “The Office”? Despite his endless buffoonery, he’s actually a great salesman. In Season 2, Episode 7 “The Client” he and Jan meet with Christian, a potential client who’s likely to become very important for Dunder Mifflin. Jan wants to get straight to business, but Michael persists in making jokes and personal discussions. Jan is frustrated, but, in reality, this way Michael’s forming a personal connection, and, lo and behold, he closes the deal.

I tried to re-imagine these old-school marketing tactics and figure out how they can be used in e-commerce. Try following them one at a time if you haven’t already. Then analyze and decide on which tactics worked best. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

“If you double the number of experiments you do per year you’re going to double your inventiveness.”

–Jeff Bezos

Mobile app development
Making apps stay on peoples' phones.
Written by Kate Shokurova
October 10, 2019

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