Just for a second, close your eyes and think back to December 2019. You’re sat in a nice, warm pub or your local coffee shop without a care in the world – enjoying the fruits of your labour (in festive moderation of course).
What if someone would have sat down and told you that the next two years would bring challenges including a global pandemic and the tragic human and economic costs of conflict in Eastern Europe?
You’d probably have refused to believe or ordered another strong drink.
But it doesn’t stop there. In the wake of these ongoing pressures businesses are now faced with disruption to supply chains, increased costs to shipping and not forgetting the gargantuan energy bills hitting both consumers and business alike – even the treasured local boozer could be at risk!
Although times are tough, it doesn’t mean you should be thinking ‘why even bother?’ when it comes to your online shopping operation. Despite having an impact on your customer’s wider buying habits, there’s still a decent return on investment to be made with the right approach to your marketing.
Brand marketing vs. search marketing
In a world of increasingly tight margins around your acquisition costs, it’s even more important than ever to ensure your SEO & paid ad strategy is focused on what converts well and ultimately makes you the most money.
This is reflected in how ad spend is split as these pressures bear down on budgets. Social platforms, which mainly focus ads on demographics, tend to see downturns in this brand-based advertising.
On the other hand, marketplaces such as Google and Amazon which are driven by keyword-based searches experience growth at the same time – given the higher buying intent associated with customers directly searching for your products.
As such, you should be focusing your marketing efforts on keyword searches to maximise the results from your online campaigns.
Increasing your Customer Lifetime Value
It’s easy to focus your eCommerce online marketing strategy around acquisition of new customers, which is of course really important. However, encouraging and incentivising your existing customers to spend as much money as possible has the exact same impact on your profits – usually more cost effectively too given they’re already bought in!
Whilst not directly SEO work, a decent digital marketing strategy should be looking at a range of tactics to increase the lifetime value of your customers:
Email marketing & personalisation – Whilst most eCommerce operations will be doing this to some extent, think about how this can be improved. Personalised headlines and customised products based on past purchases can literally double your open and click rates, so you really should be taking every opportunity to customise your shopping experience to every one of your unique customers.
Make your returns process easy – Let’s face it we all hate product returns, but you shouldn’t hide from them. 51% of US customers avoid purchasing from online shops if they don’t offer free returns.
Delivery loyalty incentives – In the same way your ‘new in’ section drives repeat busines, the way you structure your delivery payments can also keep users coming back for more. If you operate in a high competition industry, offering users competitive rates to buy annual delivery can mean that they don’t stray off to your competitors. Think your own mini version of Amazon Prime, which can also be used to up your order values.
Build a brand identity – It can sometimes be a longer game for customer acquisition, but brand marketing is great for getting your customers returning for repeat sales. For example, a huge 77% of customers are concerned about the environmental impact of the products they buy online.
Smooth customer onboarding & reorders – They say you only get one chance to make a first impression. This is even more true online when ‘Option B’ or your competitor’s website is only a few clicks away. Therefore, you need to make it easy to both sign up as a new customer and make repeat purchases. Tools like postcode lookups or wider data validation using phone numbers can speed up the process, particularly for larger purchases where you’re asking for additional information.
Continuous customer feedback – Not just for the benefits of improving your customer service, but also the essential fact that customer generated content like product reviews increases your sales rates. User generated content can also be used to populate your wider social channels, building trust and credibility.
The underlying point here with all of this is you should be taking a full look at the process of what life’s like as a customer of your business – not just how you get them through the door.
How can my online shop increase sales? With better traffic
When it comes to maximising the number of sales you see via your website, driving as much relevant traffic as possible is always at the centre of your digital marketing success.
The best way to do this is to focus on your product range or highly tailored product information given this is more likely to be searched by customers with more intent to purchase, further of the way down your sales funnel.
If we were to take the example keyword ‘Hammer for Sale’, a competitive keyword with lots of search volume. This may all seem great on face value; however this is quite high up your potential customer’s sales funnel given there’s lots or variables within and it could be more specific.
If you compare this to ‘16oz Fibreglass Claw Hammer for Sale’ you can see that this is a much more targeted search keyword, which is also likely to have a lower level of competition around it. You’re also more likely to see conversions or sales from this keyword, given it’s a more specific search term.
Technical SEO for eCommerce
There is a sizeable list of technical SEO elements all websites need to consider, falling under the umbrella of Core Web Vitals or the essential metrics Google measures as part of their ranking algorithm. According to Google there’s three main sections within this:
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Measures loading performance.
First Input Delay (FID): Measures interactivity on loading.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): measures visual stability on loading.
When it comes to eCommerce all these factors apply to the same extent as a lead generation website, focused on enquires. However, because of the wider structure of your eCommerce shop some of the features you need to include can cause additional challenges.
For example, having loads of high-resolution images directly stored on your website can cause page bloat and slower load times. Even if you’re working with a platform that automatically compresses them, such as Shopify, it’s best practice to do this before uploading as they can usually be made smaller. The ultimate solution is to store them externally using a platform like Amazon Web Services (AWS) for delivery.
eCommerce canonical URL structure
Another additional technical challenge for eCommerce shop owners relates to your URL structure for the large number of variants of the same/similar products you naturally have in your site. Bear with us, it gets more interesting.
Firstly, Google hates duplicate content and ranks sites/pages with duplicate content lower in their rankings.
At the same time, they also see each of your product variants as a separate page. This means that the red, yellow, and blue versions of your most popular t-shirt can all be classed as duplicate pages. Multiply this across your entire product range and you can start to get dips in your rankings.
What’s next for my eCommerce digital strategy?
Despite appearances, the future’s bright for online retailers and with increased risk and pressure comes increased opportunities too. It’s easy to focus on your potential loss of customers and not the ones who now might be looking to make their next major purchase online rather than through more traditional channels.
To make sure your site is ready to capitalise on these opportunities you can request a free site SEO audit, which will outline the specific keywords that will help your site grow over time.