The Retailer’s Guide to E-commerce – Part 1: Getting Website Traffic

As an established bricks-and-mortar retailer, it’s easy to feel lost in a strange new world when you first launch your e-commerce site. But, never fear! Your friendly neighbourhood EPOS solution is here to help.

multichannel retail marketing

As an established bricks-and-mortar retailer, it’s easy to feel lost in a strange new world when you first launch your e-commerce site. Sessions, users, scroll depth, conversion rate – there is a whole new vocabulary to learn when you take that first step into multichannel retail!

But, never fear! Your friendly neighbourhood EPOS & ecommerce solution is here to help.

AirPOS is on a mission to help independent retailers like you see through the tech-speak and apply your finely-tuned retail instincts to this brave new world. We’ve created a series of guides, checklists and jargon-busting aides to help you on your journey.

In this article (the first of two), we’re looking at website traffic, what it is, why it’s important and how to get it.

Traffic is the digital footfall of your online store and just like in any retail operation, the more people who come to your store, the more likely you are to make a sale.

And in e-commerce, you need lots of footfall.

Average conversion rates in a physical store vary greatly (depending on your location, sector and in-store offers). But popular estimates range anywhere from 11-40%. A typical e-commerce store, by comparison, will have a conversion rate of between 1% and 4.5%.

Online shoppers are more likely to browse extensively, compare prices and visit your website multiple times before committing to a purchase. But the first step is getting them there.

How do you know when people are visiting your website?

a man and woman packing orders for their new e-comm store

Most e-commerce platforms have some basic analytics built-in. This software will analyse who is visiting your website, how they got there and a basic view of what they did while they were on your site.

However, for those wanting to get a thorough understanding of their site users, a proper analytics package is essential. Luckily, the world’s leading analytics package, Google Analytics is extremely easy to use (at least for high-level understanding), simple to install and completely free of charge.

Google Analytics requires the addition of a small piece of HTML code in your website’s header but this is made even easier when using a system such as Shopify. You can read their simple guide to installing google analytics for e-commerce here.

Getting familiar with some key reports in analytics will allow you to get a better understanding of your site visitors, the social channels they use and how they interact with your site. Increasing this understanding will help you to make amendments to your site and your strategy to attract more of the RIGHT type of site visitor.

How to generate traffic

The first step when you launch your new website is to tell people and the first people to tell are YOUR people.

Your existing bricks and mortar customers are the most valuable audience for your new website. They know you and trust you enough to have spent money with you already.

  • By the fact that they have shopped in your physical store, you know they are in a convenient catchment area – typically meaning lower delivery costs
  • As they are local, they are more likely to bring back a return in person rather than sending it back via courier, which can cost you money if you offer free returns
  • As they have shopped with you before, they are more likely to be familiar with the reality of your product and know their sizes etc. – therefore making returns less likely and again increasing your profitability and stock efficiency

Overcoming a lack of trust is the biggest hurdle in e-commerce sales, so your existing customers are a vital target segment.

So start with telling your existing shoppers that you’ve launched your site in these seven ways:

  1. Add vinyl to your storefront windows drawing attention to your new website.
  2. Add your website to your permanent storefront signage
  3. Add your website to every piece of communication you produce – advertising, visual merchandising displays, your email signatures, your till receipts, business cards – everywhere and anywhere.
  4. Train your sales team to tell customers about your new website and promote the benefits of your multichannel business.
  5. If your business is listed in any local directories, whether that’s your town’s Business Improvement District website, your local chamber of commerce or the yellow pages – make sure to update them all with your web address
  6. If you haven’t already, create social media profiles for your business and make sure to add the link to your site in your company bio. If you’re selling direct to consumers, Facebook and Instagram are particularly important channels to be on but depending on the type of store you have and your target market, Pinterest, TikTok and Twitter bear consideration (more on social media marketing below).
  7. Update your Google My Business page and make more use of it in promoting both your physical and virtual stores.

How to keep Google (and your digital shoppers) happy

female e-commerce manager busy running her online store

Like all good retailers, all good marketing strategies are multichannel. As your business now exists both online and offline, don’t forget to pay attention to marketing in ‘the real world’ too.

There are plenty of ways to leverage media relationships, advertising and partnerships to market your e-commerce site outside of the strictly ‘digital’ arena.

For now, however, we’re going to focus on digital marketing as it represents the closest step to bringing traffic and sales to your website.

SEO for ecommerce

The first element to get right is to make sure your website will perform well for search engines, particularly for Google, as it dominates search globally.

This is a process called Search Engine Optimisation and there are a few key elements you need to focus on to stand the best chance of success.

If you’re using a platform such as Shopify, most of the very complicated technical aspects of SEO are already configured from the off. But SEO is a process, not a one-time activity!

It’s important to consistently work on your site to improve its placement in search rankings as search engines continually change their algorithms. Being top of the search page this month doesn’t mean you’ll still hold that position next month. Search is, for most retailers, the number one source of traffic, so it’s important to do whatever you can to improve your placement here.

  • Site speed – A recent study has shown that a two-second delay in page load could increase site exits by 87%.

You can improve your website speed by optimising your images for the web (use smaller, compressed images with a white background in jpeg format) and reducing the number of plugins or unnecessary design elements on your site. Simple is best (and fastest).

  • Site structure – Google’s algorithm (the program which decides which sites appear high up on the search results page) is, in essence, trying to replicate the experience of a human being. So one of the core elements it looks for is a clear structure on your website.

When creating your site, platforms like Shopify make it easy to create categories, sub-categories and product pages in a proper structure that makes them easy to find by real human’s browsing the site. This also makes the site easy to scan by Google’s web crawler.

  • Mobile usability – In 2020, 70% of web traffic came from mobile devices, so your site must perform well on small touch screens.

Using a platform like Shopify takes some of the guesswork out of this as it is set up to be fully mobile responsive straight out of the box. This means that the site automatically reconfigures its design based on the screen size of the user.

As you continue to manage your site, be sure to avoid common design mistakes such as making the text or links too small or buttons too fiddly to accurately use with touch.

  • Keywords – ensure that you have category pages that accurately reflect the subcategories and products they display.

Poor user experience can be easily picked up by Google. For example, if you have a page called “Rolex Watches” and when people visit it there are no Rolex watches there, they are more likely to exit quickly. This sends the signal to Google that this is a poor quality website for that particular search query.

The golden rule is: Don’t try to fool Google! Many have tried, all have failed.

Ensure your category pages and header text use terms that people will search for and which accurately reflect the page content. Also, make sure your product titles and detailed descriptions reflect search terms.

You may want to call a particular satchel in a particular shade of blue ‘The Classic Oxford in Midnight Blue Saffiano’ but you’ll get more people to your page if you call it a “Navy Blue Leather Satchel Bag” as that is what people are more likely to search for.

Try to strike the balance between brand language and user language.

  • Local SEO – Local SEO is a subject all of its own but the quick guide is essentially “make sure your location is clear.” Have your full address in the footer of your site so it appears on every page.

Also, ensure your opening times are accurate, your Google My Business page is up to date and you’ve made an effort to appear in local listings pages and guides to the local area.

Google does weigh up business location in its ranking factors, so don’t miss this opportunity by being vague about where you’re based.

  • Internal links – links on your pages to other pages on your site are another ranking factor Google uses to establish how relevant your page is to search queries. So try to ensure you include links to other recommended products, categories and product information on your site.

Google can read every word on your website but it gives more power to words that are hyperlinked, that is text that has links embedded in the text like this.

When creating a link, always hyperlink text that is specific and relevant to potential searches. So rather than saying “to view our new arrivals click here” try saying View our Spring/Summer Shirts collection and hyperlink “Spring/Summer Shirts” as this is more likely to be what your potential buyers are searching for.

  • External links – try to get your website linked from relevant sites wherever you can.  Google interprets sites with lots of ‘backlinks’ as being authoritative and high quality. Try to leverage your advertising spend with any local news titles or magazines into a link from that title’s website – either in a directory, guide or article.

You can also try to build links by offering to create content for relevant websites in exchange for some social media exposure and a permanent link from their website. Just make sure that the site you’re trying to get a link from is popular, high quality and relevant to your business and try to use the tactics above regarding hyperlinked text for maximum effect.

For more detailed SEO tactics head over to our blog ‘SEO for Shopify.’

Google Ads

Google Ads cover both search advertising and display advertising (including video ads on platforms such as YouTube).

Display advertising with Google allows you to place your shop’s ad on major content sites across the world while being highly targeted with who your ad is shown to. For example, Fashionbeans is one of the world’s most popular sites for men’s lifestyle content. You can select this site to show your ads to relevant local audiences, giving you the credibility of appearing on a major site but only paying for ads shown to your local fashionista.

female e-comm manager working at online retail marketing

You can also choose to place your ad on any site that the type of user you identify will visit. So if your type of shopper is generally interested in household gadgets your ad for your household gadget shop could appear on any website he browses such as the football results page or a blog he follows or your video ad might appear before a video from his favourite chef.

Display advertising is closer in concept to traditional advertising – it places your message in front of potential buyers and hopes to distract them from their journey to come to your site.

Google Search and Shopping ads are different types of advertising as they are based on intent.

If someone searches for a product-related term they are likely researching this product and very likely, they are in the market to buy.

If your website is well optimised, using Google search and shopping will allow your independent retail store to stand toe-to-toe with some of the biggest retail brands in the world and as you might be a trusted local retailer, you stand every chance of winning that battle.

And the true beauty of both Google Display and Search advertising is that you only pay when someone clicks your ad.

The trick to advertising with Google is to ensure your ad only appears for the most relevant searches and that your site is working hard to convert every visitor to a sale.

Google Search and Shopping ads are complex to set up and manage and while it is possible to learn this for yourself at no cost, we’d strongly advise working with an expert to avoid wasting your precious budget and time.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is a particularly effective and low-cost way of keeping customers in your orbit and increasing the likelihood of earning a click and a conversion. While many social media posts will only be seen by 2-5% of your hard-earned audience, email open rates for the retail industry are on average around 12-18%.

e-commerce founder frustrated surrounded by wrapped packages

And the power of this consent-based marketing approach shows through in its return on investment. Email is the second-highest converting “organic” traffic source after search/direct traffic, beating social media by a significant margin.

Many digital marketers have been left angry that sites such as Facebook allowed them to build large audiences with paid ads and have then changed the algorithm to throttle their exposure. It has been compared to building a beautiful palace…on rented land…that turned out to be quicksand.

The benefit of building your email list is that those details ‘belong’ to you. Your subscribers have agreed to trust YOU with their information and you can (safely and legally) use them in whatever way you have outlined in your privacy policy.   You’re free to move it between email marketing platforms, to contact them monthly, weekly or even daily without paying extra for the privilege (beyond your subscription to your email marketing platform).

Getting consent to email a customer or potential customers (legitimately and honestly) is essentially permission to market your business to them. This consent is gold dust, marking this buyer out as being highly interested in what you’re selling and motivated to purchase. So treat their information with respect.

Golden rules of email marketing

  • Incentivise sign-ups – reward customers for sharing their data with a gift with purchase, a discount or some other promotion
  • Don’t be scared of pop-ups – Pop-ups were reviled for many years in the world of web development and it’s fair to say they aren’t popular now. But the difference a well-timed pop-up can make to gathering email addresses is significant. Just don’t be too aggressive with their use. Exit-intent pop-ups are a great way to catch someones attention as they leave your site.
  • Be safe – get familiar with the rules about gathering, storing and using your customer data – in the UK the relevant legislation is the GDPR and the PECR. Breaking the guidance in either can result in serious fines as well as irreparable reputational damage.
  • Double-opt-in – most email marketing platforms will give the option for subscribers to ‘double opt-in’. This means that as well as filling a brief form out to subscribe they will have to click a link in an automated follow-up email to confirm their details are correct. Only then will they be properly added to your list. This secondary step will cut the number of people who sign-up to your list but those who do are giving you a solid indicator that they want to hear from you and are therefore much more likely to open emails from you when they start sending.
  • Go easy at the start – after your user has double opted-in they should receive a message immediately to confirm that their registration is complete and if you have offered an incentive, this is the email to deliver that discount code or voucher.
  • Give it a couple of days before you next follow up with a warm and personal message which perhaps gives some insight into the history of your shop or the people behind it. Your next email might be your first product based email but should not be aggressively sales focused or you risk scaring an engaged prospect away before they get to know you. Easy does it.
  • Don’t sell all the time – the end objective of most email marketing is to generate a sale but only sending messages about your special offers or new products is a turn off for most people. Try to tackle common questions you receive in-store, overcome objections, tell the story of your brand, share reviews from happy customers, ask for opinions from your users and then and only then – hit them with an offer.
  • Cut out the deadwood – email delivery software will automatically unsubscribe email addresses with typos or when your emails are bouncing back because the email no longer exists or the inbox is full. However, you should table a few minutes to review and manually clean your subscriber list every few months to keep your data healthy. Identify customers who haven’t opened emails from you in several months and send them a special offer to re-engage them. If they don’t respond, send them another email to let them know that as part of your drive to maintain good records you’re going to remove them as a subscriber and safely archive their data. If they still do not respond, it’s time to do just that.

Continuing to send emails to users who do not open them teaches their inbox that your email is unsolicited. And the more large email service providers (such as Gmail, MS Outlook etc) or corporate firewalls see emails from your domain going into the junk folder, the more your deliverability will fall.

Summary

In this article, we wanted to introduce you to a few key concepts in the world of e-commerce and start where many of your users start – on Google.

Keeping on top of your SEO is good practice and will keep you connected to your online business and in the right habit – which is to continually test, tweak and improve your site.

As well as being your largest source of traffic, Google can be a powerful advertising partner and with an expert’s guidance and a reasonable budget, you can achieve rapid revenue growth for your new e-commerce business.

Finally, email marketing is one of the most cost-effective methods of digital marketing, and gaining the consent of your audience to message them is a ‘golden ticket’ for retail marketers.

All three present an opportunity not to be missed.

In part two of this article, we’ll be focusing on the world of social media. How to successfully build and engage your audience and how to work with influencers.

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