Building an online store

21+ Ways to Boost Sales by Optimizing Your Online Store

10+ min read • Jun 29, 2020 • Jesse Sumrak

Launching an online store is the first step. If you haven’t established your digital presence yet, take a look at our in-depth All-in-One Guide to Taking Your Business Online. 

Next comes the fun part—optimizing it. Whether your digital sales have plateaued or you’re just looking to keep the momentum going, we have plenty of tried-and-true tips and tricks to boost your online store’s potential.

We’ve organized these tips into the following categories:

  • UX (User Experience)
  • Pricing
  • Promotions
  • Automation

We recommend looking through the list and picking ideas you haven’t tried yet. Don’t get too excited and implement everything at once—that’ll prevent you from learning which tactic influences your sales. Look at your analytics now and record your current status, then measure any changes after you’ve experimented with a new tactic. One idea at a time.

Optimizing your online store is an ongoing process, so reference this list whenever you’re looking to try something new or refresh what you already have. Remember, your store can always be better, so keep pushing for progress.

Elevate Your User Experience (UX)

Ultimately, customers make purchases based on only a few factors. However, who they buy from is largely determined by what UX a brand delivers.

Imagine walking into a brick-and-mortar store looking for a specific T-shirt, but you can’t find anyone to help you. Many people will leave to look elsewhere, but a select few will stick around and try to find it in all the clutter. Once the select individuals find what they’re looking for, what happens if they can’t find a price tag, have a question about a product, or can’t locate the checkout counter? They’re probably going to leave—and they likely won’t come back.

The same is true for your online user experience. Close to 90% of online consumers state that they’re less likely to return to a site after they’ve had a poor experience. Your online store needs to be optimized to create a seamless reading, shopping, and buying experience.

Here are a few ways to elevate your user experience:

1. A/B test everything

A/B testing is the art of changing various elements of your website to see which version resonates best with your audience. For example, you might test whether saying “BOGO” or “Buy One, Get One Free” leads to more clicks. Or you might test whether a green button generates more traffic than a red button.

Barack Obama’s team estimated that nearly 30% of their email list and some $75 million in money raised during the 2012 election was a direct result of their successful A/B testing.

Remember to only test one element on a page at a time so that you can know which action influenced the change.

2. Revamp your CTAs

Your CTAs (calls to action) are what you’re asking your customer to do: “buy now,” “click here,” “sign up.” Often, CTAs become an afterthought, but these slogans are the most important elements on your entire page.

Ditch the common phrases and let your brand shine through with some more compelling, aggressive CTAs:

  • Grab Your Free Copy Now
  • Register Before It’s Too Late
  • Send Me the Hottest Deals

A/B test your CTAs to see which ones resonate with your customers. Their reactions will influence your future approach, but you won’t know how they respond until you try new ideas.

3. Harness the Power of Color

Color goes beyond unifying a brand and creating an attractive website—the colors you choose can also influence how people perceive your brand. Different demographics (gender, age, culture, etc.) associate colors with different meanings. Using the colors that resonate with your audience and validate their feelings can drive conversions. 

Experiment with new colors and color combinations in your online store to see its impact on click-through rates.

4. Design Intentional Above the Fold Content

Above-the-fold content is the first thing your visitors see without having to scroll. Often, it’s just a header image, half a product, a navigation bar, or other elements. You have fewer than 8 seconds to compel and retain your audience—every scroll counts.

A fantastic online store without quality above the fold content is like a brilliant book with a horrendous cover—nobody is going to give it the time of day. Try using different above-the-fold-centric layouts that highlight captivating copy or CTAs that drive action. See if your changes improve on-page time and click-through rates.

5. Simplify Your Search and Navigation

Try to limit your primary navigation bar to 6 or fewer categories. Overwhelming your visitors with too many options is a surefire way to ensure they leave your site. IKEA would have the same effect if they didn’t have you walk through their predetermined maze.

If you don’t have a search function yet, include one. Test it yourself to see if it helps you to find the content or products you’re looking for, and position it on the page to make it easy for visitors to find. Not all built-in search bars are very helpful, so you might have to use a more powerful search platform, like Swiftype.

6. Optimize for Mobile

Users on mobile are 5x more likely to abandon a site if it isn’t mobile-friendly. And that’s bad news if you’re looking for sales because 79% of smartphone users made a purchase using their mobile device in the last 6 months.

Mobile use is only going to grow. Make sure your online store is optimized to serve this large, valuable audience. If it’s not, you might need to make some tweaks—or a complete overhaul—to make your site mobile-friendly. Catering to mobile devices is no longer a bonus—it’s a necessity. 

Test New Pricing Strategies

Price is arguably the most important factor in a customer’s buying decision. Think about it—even if you’re loyal to a brand, need their product, love their color options, and are given all the customer support you need, you’re still not going to buy an item if its price tag climbs above your budget or if you believe it’s priced too high.

Everyone wants the best deal, and that’s why top-notch pricing can make all the difference in your online store. Get your pricing strategy right and that might be the only differentiating factor you need to rise above the competition. Get it wrong, and it won’t matter how innovative, revolutionary, or downright necessary your product is—nobody is going to buy it.

Experiment with the following pricing tactics to see what drives sales while returning a healthy ROI:

7. Nail Your Shipping Strategy

Shipping might seem like an operational afterthought, but it plays a big role. Optimizing your shipping can boost your ROI, increase your repeat customers, and prepare your business for epic scale.

Consider offering free shipping when a customer spends above a certain threshold, or provide flat-rate shipping that incentivizes customers to fill their cart to avoid having to pay for shipping again in the near future.

There’s no clear-cut answer, so you’ll need to experiment to see what resonates with your audience. Take a look at our Quick Guide to Nailing Your Shipping Strategy for more ways to store, pack, and ship like a pro.

8. Incentivize Bulk Purchases

Volume discounts can encourage customers to buy in bulk. Some products just aren’t worth buying in single units (toilet paper, batteries, staples, etc.), so consider providing bigger packages or multiple units at a discount.

While you’re at it, display the cost savings so your customers know the value of increasing their order size. For example, if a product costs $80 but the customer can get 3 for $200, make it simple with a quick explanation like “Save $40 when you buy 3.”

9. Maintain Competitive Prices

Setting your prices is never a one-and-done task. You’ll need to monitor the competition continually and adjust your price points to remain competitive.

Sure, if you have the reputation of a brand like Apple, you can charge practically whatever you want for a product, regardless of what the competition is doing. If you’re not Apple, however, you’re going to need to go head-to-head with your competitors.

10. Execute Penetration Pricing

If you’re introducing a new item to your product line (or if an old one never took hold), consider a penetration pricing strategy, which attracts new customers to your product by introducing it at a super-low price. This low price lures customers away from competitors and gets them acquainted with your brand. Later, once you have loyal customers, reviews, and a proven product, you can raise prices to normal levels.

11. Offer Good, Better, and Best Options

Tiered pricing is when you provide your products or services at different price points by expanding or tiering your quality and features. For a basic example, you could sell a premium cotton/poly-blend collared shirt for $30, the same T-shirt without the collar for $25, and a cotton-only collarless shirt for $20.

12. Provide Payment Plans

If your product has an inherently intimidating price tag (such as hundreds or thousands of dollars), consider payment plans. Breaking down purchases into bite-size payments is sometimes all your customers need to swipe their cards.

Plus, payment plans allow you to increase the price equivalent to the length of the plan. For example, Steve Chou (a successful self-made entrepreneur) sells one of his online courses on the following plan:

  • 4 payments of $225
  • 10 payments of $99

Despite having to pay an extra $100 over the length of the plan, 90% of customers chose the 10-payment option.

Get Creative With Your Promotions

Promotions are a powerful way to boost sales and raise your online business’s profile. However, you have to find the right promotional balance in order to drive consistent revenue without losing a sense of urgency.

Take Kohl’s, for example. If you’re not a Kohl’s fan, chances are you at least know someone who is—and you’ve no doubt heard about their “big savings.” Well, every day is like a storewide sale at Kohl’s, so the deals never feel special. That’s what you want to avoid with your promotional campaigns.

Here are a few fun ideas to test and cycle through with your online store:

13. Test Discounts

BOGO (buy one, get one), 50% off, 2 for $3—there are plenty of ways you can discount your online store to incentivize shopping. For example, research shows that a double discount (like 20% off and an additional 25%) yields better results than a one-off 40% discount (even though it’s the same bargain). Experiment with different discounts to see which ones entice your customers.

14. Stimulate Sharing

Offer discounts to your current customers and those they recruit to buy products. This strategy not only incentivizes sharing—it also gets both parties to shop ASAP in order to claim a discount. Sharing discounts can introduce you to whole new audiences through word-of-mouth marketing, a powerful tactic that markets your business semi-organically with little-to-no amplification.

15. Encourage Subscriptions

The subscription-based model has grown 350% over the last 8 years, and for good reason. With a subscription model, you only have to sell to a customer once to earn their repeat business. Look at your product line and see if it makes sense to sell any items or services on a subscription plan.

16. Create a Sense of Urgency

Urgency drives purchases—it’s as simple as that. Here are a couple of ways you can add urgency to your online store:

  • Occasionally provide time-sensitive deals: When there’s a limited time to claim an exclusive discount or gift, customers will be motivated to shop now to seal the deal.
  • Only offer a limited quantity: Customers will take less time to shop around when they sense they need to act quickly in order to seize a deal. With time-sensitive deals, they usually know how much time they have left, but with “limited stock,” they have no idea when their peers may swoop in and claim everything.

17. Free Samples

Free. Everyone loves free. Consider adding free samples to purchases so buyers can get familiar with your other products. Or, if your products are a bit bulkier, consider adding single units or serving sizes so customers can give it a try.

For example, Myprotein’s primary protein products come in 2lb to 11lb bags, but those sizes are a little bit much for someone only looking to sample a new flavor or blend. To alleviate that issue, Myprotein sells smaller single-serving packets that are easy to add to your cart if you’re curious about trying something new.

18. Cross-Sell 

If you sell more than one product, look for easy cross-sell wins. When a customer adds a product to their online shopping cart, recommend other relevant items that might pair well with it. 

If you’re selling, let’s say, a bike, then your customer will also likely need a bike lock, a helmet, chain lube, extra tire tubes, and other biking necessities. Offer these additions on your product pages or at checkout to make your store the one-stop shop for all of your customers’ relevant needs.

Use Automation to Deliver the Right Message at the Right Time

Automation can help reach customers at exactly the right moment, streamlining your customer lifecycle and making connections when it’s most important.

While the word automation might sound intimidating, it’s not rocket science. Here are a few quick and easy ways your online store can benefit from the wonderful world of automation:

19. Send Abandoned Cart Emails

Studies suggest that global cart abandonment is around 75%—that means that only 1 in 4 customers finish a purchase after adding items to their cart. Whether it’s due to shipping fees, checkout complexity, or slow website speeds, customers often show interest and then leave before they’ve submitted their credit card digits.

To alleviate this issue and capture that business, implement a well-thought-out abandoned cart email strategy. First, you’ll need to collect customers’ email addresses before they disappear by using captures like exit-intent popups and discount codes. Next, you’ll need to send follow-up emails to those addresses—remind recipients that they haven’t completed the purchase and offer them something to entice them back to purchase (a coupon, 15% off, free shipping, etc.).

20. Segment Your Lists

Segmentation is critical to automation: you want to hit your customers with the most relevant information and offers, and you can’t do that unless you segment your emails.

What’s segmentation? Segmentation is when you send targeted messages to a group of similar individuals rather than all of your contacts. You can segment by demographics, behaviors, psychographics, or with any other data you have about your audience. 

For example, when you send an email campaign urging recipients to buy the newest Ford F-150, you’ll get a few buyers. Once someone has made the purchase, there’s no point sending follow-up emails urging this shopper to grab the deal on the latest F-150—the customer has already bought the truck. Now, it’s time to segment this part of your clientele into a new email stream, maybe one that offers truck maintenance plans or accessory installation services.

21. Personalize Your Interactions

Start simple—if you can add your recipient’s name to an email campaign, that’s a great first step. Find ways to continue personalizing your interactions. If a customer indicates interest in a certain product line you offer, narrow your ads and email campaigns to selling one line in particular. Personalization is all about showing your customers that you know them, you care, and you’re offering them something they need.

Your Upgraded Online Store Is Just an Optimization Away

And there you have it—21+ ways to take your online store to the next level. If you’re looking to boost your sales, increase your profit margins, and win more customers, these are the tips to make it happen.

Remember to roll out these tactics one at a time. Be patient and wait to see the results—it might take weeks or months before you harvest the fruits of your digital labor.

Small improvements can lead to big results over time, so don’t be afraid to tinker with the nitty-gritty details of your site. Before you know it, you’ll have an efficient, polished online store that converts like a well-oiled machine.

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Jesse Sumrak

Jesse Sumrak is a Social Media Manager for SendGrid, a leading digital communication platform. He's created and managed content for startups, growth-stage companies, and publicly-traded businesses. Jesse has spent almost a decade writing about small business and entrepreneurship topics, having built and sold his own post-apocalyptic fitness bootstrapped startup. When he's not dabbling in digital marketing, you'll find him ultrarunning in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Jesse studied Public Relations at Brigham Young University.