30 eCommerce Hacks for Your New Small Business [Expert Roundup]Written by Bernard on May 03, 2017
The world of eCommerce is a crucial place for any growing business.
But, with such high sales and such great growth, there’s sure to be huge competition. For the most part, small eCommerce stores will not be able to compete with the likes of Amazon.
However, with the proper strategy, they can find themselves a nice, growing niche.
So, to help you figure out that strategy, we’ve asked some top eCommerce experts in sales, marketing, SEO, pricing, conversion and website optimization for their top eCommerce hacks.
Table of Contents (click to jump ahead)
1. eCommerce Website and Conversion
It is also extremely important that you make your website easy to use and with as little friction as possible to increase your conversion rate.
That way, your visitor will quickly move on to purchasing and you can avoid abandoned shopping carts.
Mara Measor, Co-Founder and Head of Design at Sunbird Creative
Making sure your store can be easily navigated seems obvious, but it’s something I often see lacking when our clients come to us for website help.
While having strong product images (or even better, a video!), compelling descriptions, and reviews are all really important, if customers can’t easily find what the product they’re looking for, all that hard work will go to waste.
Here are three quick little tips to improve your store’s navigation:
- Categorize your products, and use those categories in your navigation. If you’re selling jewelry, categorize them into necklaces, earrings, bracelets, etc.
- Use linked breadcrumbs so visitors know where they are and how to step back. (e.g. Store > Women’s > Sweaters)
- Show similar products. Below your product images and description, show “Similar Products” to guide visitors towards similar products and keep them in your store.
Robin Salter, KWIPPED
Have insiders and outsiders regularly test and critique your site’s user experience (UX).
I’m in charge of marketing for our eCommerce site (a relatively new startup). I know a lot about our target audience, our brand, our messaging—marketing stuff. One unusual afternoon, our customer service reps, who field our inbound customer calls, happened to all be out of the office at the same time.
So, I answered a customer call, which required me to login to and use our site. After some confusion about how to properly navigate the site to find what the customer was looking for, I realized we had some UX issues.
We immediately called a meeting that included sales people, marketing folks, developers and the CEO himself. We put ourselves in our customers shoes and began moving through our site and making mock purchases to truly experience the flow of the site.
Realizing that we (our staff) were all too close to the site to be completely objective, we also decided to have friends and family members test out the site and report on their experience.
Collectively, we identified several bottlenecks and one very serious issue that we later confirmed was killing our sales conversion rate. After fixing the issues our conversion rate soared up by nearly 40%.
Leslie Handmaker, Digital Marketing Consultant
Ecommerce site owners should place an emphasis on page load speed. There is a direct correlation between web page load times and bounce rates.
I worked on an eCommerce site a couple years ago that was on an incredibly slow platform where average web page load speed was over 7 seconds site wide. It was particularly bad on mobile devices.
After we migrated to a new fast loading platform, average page load speed got to 3.2 seconds. Bounce rates dropped by a relative 53%. Because Google rewards fast loading sites with better organic search rankings, our organic traffic went up over 65% literally overnight.
Optimizely has a great case study where a site was intentionally slowed down to test user engagement and page views. You can see the direct correlation there as well.
Leveraging browser side caching, compressed images, and sprite sheets are a few ways to improve load times.
Bradley Shaw, SEO Expert Brad, Inc.
Split-testing or A/B testing is where you create different landing pages with small tweaks to assess the effectiveness of those changes in increasing conversions.
I once had an electronics accessory client specializing in cases that protect smartphones and tablets. We experimented on homepage Call To Actions (CTA) and found that small changes in the copy made a big difference.
‘Shop Now’ equated to an 18% increase in monthly revenue.
Users were 13.6% more likely to click on the ‘Shop Now’ CTA than the original ‘Shop’ CTA. Those users also performed far better across other eCommerce metrics.
The truth is that each audience is unique, your business and products are unique. What works for your competitor may or may not work for you, and the only way to determine what works is through split-testing.
Many tools offer easy A/B testing or split testing. For example, LeadPages makes it easy to split-test different versions of your landing page and to analyze the difference that a simple tweak can make.
Mark Goetze, Co-Founder of Motion RC
One of the most important factors for all websites, especially eCommerce is to optimize for speed with quick loading times.
Google is prioritizing site speed more and more, with factors like your Quality Score and the introduction of the AMP carousel. And in terms of your online sales, if visitors have to wait for the site to load, they will leave.
Your site should load within a second or less – if it takes 9 seconds for your site to load, you are really going to hurt your conversion rate, no matter how much effort you put into your sales and marketing funnels.
When we first launched the new site in April 2016, we made speed optimizations right away. This improved our conversion rate by over 400% in just 3 months!
Ostap Bosak, Manager at Marquis Gardens
Be sure to choose right eCommerce platform, the one specifically built for it.
We used to run our eCommerce on WordPress. Where WordPress is an amazing platform, it was inadequate for our growing online store. As soon as we hit more than 5000 SKUs we started to have technical and management problems.
We switched to Shopify in early 2016, and our problems disappeared. Moreover, our traffic and sales started to grow for no apparent reason.
As we were just discovering the world of SEO, we had no clue that there are SEO Titles and Descriptions, Alt Tags, Schema markup and lots more. The good thing was Shopify had it all, and most of it was pre-built into the system.
As if it wouldn’t be enough reason to love Shopify, our monthly Shopify subscription (including Shopify Payments) costs us less than just the payment gateway used to cost at our old website.
Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound
Include full contact information on every page of your website—yes, every page.
Not everyone enters your site on your homepage and if they can’t find a phone number and don’t think to go to your homepage where it’s listed, they might leave. If they don’t want to order online and they’d rather send a check but can’t find a mailing address, you lose the sale.
Contact info includes a company name, mailing address, telephone number, email address and a fax number if you use it.
Many websites require users to hunt for a “Contact Us” page and fill it in.
Problem is, many people have used these contact forms and never received a reply. If you have a “Contact Us” page, include your email address on that page and give visitors the option of contacting you from the form or their email program.
Website owners, especially small businesses, whine that they don’t include a phone number at their sites “because I don’t want to be called at night.” Turn off your ringer or use Google Voice.
Some complain that “I don’t want my email address harvested by spammers.” OK—use a secondary email address that you check daily. Others don’t want the street address of a home office public “because I don’t want people stalking me.” The solution? A post office box.
Ron Yates, Titanium-Jewelry
Here are some tips that worked for our websites.
1. Have a good About Us page
Especially if you are a small business that doesn’t have a well known brand, shoppers want to know you, and hopefully like you.
People buy from people they like. If they don’t know you how can they like you? Put up picture of yourself and be personable online. This helps humanize the site and improves conversions.
2. Have contact information that is easily found
Post your telephone number either in the header area or your footer, along with your physical address.
This legitimizes your site. So many websites just have a contact form with no telephone number and use a PO Box address. This can seem shady.
3. List your credentials and social proof where easily seen
People like to do business with companies who have a track record of happy customers. So show some testimonials, or put in a review widget from Yelp or another online review collector.
Do you have any industry awards? Show them prominently. Let folks know you are an expert in your field.
Carrie Wood, Chief Marketing Officer at Leaseref.com
Every sales page should have as few distractions as possible. When website visitors turn into customers they should go from a wide variety of choices on your website to very few as you want them to focus on completing the sale.
So buttons that can bring a customer back to your blog, or services page for instance, should disappear. If they really want to abandon the shopping cart journey, they can also hit their back button – don’t give them unnecessary opportunities to turn back.
Everything should also be above the fold if possible – scrolling down the page is another complication that adds friction to the check out process. Everything being above the fold provides a simple and clean experience.
If you have to break up the steps into more than one page, that has actually been shown to increase conversion rates – because customers make micro commitments at each step, so they see the check out process through to the end.
2. eCommerce Pricing and Sales
One of the most important things to do is to look at your pricing strategy and other sales options.
That way, you can help boost your profits by making intelligent pricing and sales decisions.
Brian Mikes, VP of Marketing at Betwext.com
When testing product price, test both higher and lower price points.
Most eCommerce experts suggest that business owners test their prices… and 99% of the examples I see suggest lowering prices. Cut against the grain and test higher prices as well!
Remember at the end of the day, you’re maximizing revenue and profits. What you might find is, a higher sales price brings in fewer customers, but your increase in revenue and profit more than makes up for the dip in orders.
This really applies if you are selling low priced goods.
Sometimes a price point below $5 makes customers skeptical. We noticed an increase in conversion rates when we took an entry level product from $2.50 to $4.50 to $9.
At the higher price points, we noticed increased conversions (over 5%) on the order page. At the end of the day, increasing entry level prices actually brought us more customers, more revenue… and greater profits!
Terence Channon, Principal at NewLead
1. Evaluate the complete fee structure of 3rd party systems
As an example, if you use Shopify payments for taking credit cards, they do not assess you an additional fee.
However, if you wish to use your own merchant account, Shopify takes an additional fee on top of your merchant account for each transaction. The amount of the fee varies by the subscription plan you choose.
Don’t leave money on the table by paying higher fees when you do not have to. Sometimes, upgrading to the package with the higher monthly expense may save you transaction fees to easily offset the higher cost vs. the cheaper monthly plan.
2. Take advantage of search and social selling tools
Google operates Google Merchant Center and Facebook has Dynamic Product Catalog. Leverage these tools. If you are using a 3rd party system, most have built-in support to easily create your product feeds to populate these systems.
Using shopping feeds and catalogs will open up avenues for more product visibility and better presenting merchandise for sale to your customers, particularly on Facebook where you can sell your products directly on the social media giant’s canvas and not require the visitor to leave Facebook.
Najeeullah Babar, President of InterloperInc.com
In eCommerce, like in traditional stores, you need to get in front of as many customers as you can. The more people see your products, the better the chances of your making a sale.
As merchants become a little experienced, they start listing on eBay and Amazon and then Google Shopping and Shopzilla etc.
But synchronizing inventory becomes a headache and if someone orders an item that you have run out of stock on, it quite often ends up in negative feedback, complaints and the marketplace may also lower your rating.
As a merchant you must avoid such situations by using services like uploadmyproducts.com and channeladvisor.com to keep inventory synchronized across multiple platforms.
Joshua Uebergang, Head of Strategy at Digital Darts
My simple and highly effective “hack” is to test pricing. The price of a product either adds or subtracts directly from the bottom-line every order.
You can increase your profits and even order volume sometimes by increasing your prices.
Products with turnover of roughly 100 or more sales per month are the most suited to a test because the volume provides more accurate information.
If the products have relatively high revenue, a price optimization is more likely to impact profit.
A lot of eCommerce platforms have apps, plugins, or software tools to help you test the price of your products. Shopify has Quant Price.
If you’re lost with how to implement this in your eCommerce environment, a simple solution is to make price changes to the product itself for a set period then contrast it to the performance of the old price.
This method is imperfect given the variable nature of traffic sources and seasonal trends, but it’s a simple hack most businesses can benefit from.
3. The Shopping Experience
According to our experts below, one of the best things you can do for your eCommerce store is optimize the shopping experience.
Anubh Shah, CEO and Cofounder of Four Mine
Retailers online need to focus on making an end-to-end shopping experience that provides both all the benefits of in-store and online shopping.
This experience needs to be flawless, convenient to use on all devices and assuage all the pain points one might experience while shopping.
For us the biggest pain point is showing a customer what their ring is going to look like before they make their purchase online. To alleviate that, our Free Home Preview lets consumers sample rings at home before they buy.
They choose 3 styles, preview for 3 days, 100% free of charge and return to us to customize and purchase their rings. The rings are highly realistic, made with a metal alloy and diamond simulants. The replica rings in the preview look nearly identical to the real ring.
Through this service, we alleviate the stress, confusion or uncertainty that can accompany online shopping typically. In this way, they can “try before they buy” and confidently make a purchase online.
Liz Hull, Lead eCommerce Writer for Merchant Maverick
Modern shoppers expect a multichannel shopping experience. They want to find your products in store, on your online shop, and listed on Amazon.
Because most popular eCommerce platforms (Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento) offer direct integrations with marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, it’s easier than ever to begin selling on multiple channels.
However, that doesn’t mean that selling on multiple channels is simple. When you add a marketplace to your online store, you should look out for complications with the following:
- Marketplace rules: Every marketplace comes with its own set of rules. You’ll need to make sure that your products comply with your marketplace’s terms of service. You should also look into related sellers fees to see how much they’ll cut into your margin.
- Taxes: This is particularly an issue when you choose to use a third-party fulfillment provider, like FBA, for your marketplace fulfillment. Storing your products in their warehouses can establish nexus (sales tax responsibilities), which can complicate your tax calculations.
- Inventory mishaps: In general, integrations between eCommerce platforms and marketplaces work fine. However, sometimes things don’t run as smoothly as they should. You should be aware that your inventory might not by accurately synced 100% of the time. Check in every now and then on your stock numbers (especially product variants) to make sure that everything is in order.
4. eCommerce Marketing
How do you get your first and continuing clients? Use these expert eCommerce hacks to boost your marketing.
Gunhee Park, Co-Founder of Populum
Here’s a tip for budget conscious small-businesses that don’t have a lot of money to spend on marketing.
As a bootstrapped company, we focused our efforts on organic growth from the beginning. There are 2 main ways we’ve gained traction without spending any money.
First, and this has been the biggest driver, is through online forums and communities.
For example, we found out there’s a passionate community on Reddit for our industry, and our brand has been active participants in the forum and worked with the moderators of that subreddit to eventually become an “approved” vendor.
You should never be spammy or even directly market on these platforms. Rather, we’ve found that if you provide valuable information and insights, people naturally look for your site.
The second way has been through review sites and blogs. This requires a lot of effort upfront, as it’s hard to get sites to review your product, especially when you’re just starting.
But I’ve found out persistence, tailoring your messages, and being generous with samples can really help you get some early wins.
Zach Pardes, Head of Communications – U.S. at Trustpilot
One of the most overlooked eCommerce marketing strategies might also be one of the most obvious, and yet time and time again brands forget to implement it.
Every business has a built-in team of marketers in the form of their own customers. If you can leverage your existing customers via feedback, reviews and testimonials, you have a clear and direct growth strategy in most cases.
Studies show half of adults under 50 routinely check online reviews before making a purchasing decision, according to Pew Research.
Successful brands are able to proactively acquire fair, accurate, trustworthy consumer feedback and leverage it to increase KPIs such as traffic, clickthrough rates and conversions.
When you consider how much shopping takes place online – some estimates put that number around 80 percent of the U.S. population, with 15 percent of those making weekly purchases – your own customers are an invaluable part of the equation.
Some third-party review platforms, including Trustpilot, have license agreements with Google, making them Google Review Partners. Reviews collected with these platforms can help brands gain Google Seller Ratings, which have been shown to increase the average clickthrough rate (CTR) as much as 17 percent.
D. Dexter Tarbox, CEO of SocianSelect.com
With the market for Instagram Influencers and other brand ambassador programs expected to double by 2019, it’s fairly easy to see that Influencer marketing is an increasingly important tool for young companies in the eCommerce space.
While both traditional online ads and Influencer campaigns allow customers to link directly to the online store, there is a dramatic difference in measurable engagement actions.
According to internal research from SocianSelect.com, engagement with Influencers can surpass the all-format average for digital marketing by roughly 199 times the clicks (approx. 5.94%).
The complexities of managing a social marketing effort can be extremely taxing for small business owners.
Young companies should study their expected ROI and seriously consider using an Influencer Marketing Agency to launch their new brand, before committing their budgets to traditional ad formats (including AdWords –– only 1.91% engagement, or Facebook –– only 0.9% on average).
Neil Mclaren, Owner of Vaping.com
Build an engaged community around your brand.
Most entrepreneurs launch their business, and then search for consumers to buy their products. We did the opposite and created a highly-engaged forum, and then built our business to serve the needs of our community.
By building a community first, it is much easier to interact with potential consumers. It also allows you to gain valuable market research, and generate quick feedback on your products.
Our forum established us as a leading player in our industry, before we even launched the eCommerce side of our business.
By staying active in our community, awareness of our brand grew quickly. Even if you’ve already launched an eCommerce business, find ways to increase community engagement around your brand.
For example—you can create an awesome blog, build a community forum or personally engage with your audience daily through social media.
5. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for eCommerce
The biggest driver of traffic to most eCommerce sites is through search, mostly Google.
Getting your pages to rank with great SEO (Search Engine Optimization) practices will be very important for your sales. Follow these expert tips.
Dan Mallette, InVue Digital
When creating an eCommerce website for a small business, it’s crucial to take the time to learn about eCommerce SEO or speak with a consultant.
Including the right amount of content on the site (from the home page, to the categorical pages, to the product pages) is vital to the visibility of your products in search but there’s a lot more that goes into it as well.
Properly managing product variants such as colors and ensuring your sitemap is properly structured to accommodate your products and most important pages is key to your success in search.
Making it difficult for the search engines to navigate your site will quickly burn out your crawl budget and could prevent pages from showing up at all.
John Caiozzo, Head SEO Analyst at SEO Inc
One simple trick that can improve your bottom line is adding Product and Review Structured Data to your products on your eCommerce site – by adding these Structured Data types you can benefit from increased CTR in the Search Engine Result Pages.
With Product & Review Structured Data, you can directly show potential customers the products price, availability, and review ratings on the SERP’s.
The best part about this simple trick is that there are plenty of plugins, extensions, and add-ons you can install on your site’s CMS that will automatically markup your products with the necessary Structured Data.
Even if you are running a platform that doesn’t have a plugin to automatically add support for those Structured Data types, Google has provided plenty of documentation on the subject and the code can be also be added through Google’s Data Highlighter in Search Console so no coding or back-end knowledge is needed.
David Attard, DART Creations
When you’re reselling products from a popular manufacturer to a local or a global audience, you need to focus both on the look and feel of the product display, but much more importantly, on the SEO for the actual listing.
To have an effective organically ranked listing, you need to create useful content for potential buyers of this product, within or as part of the actual listing.
Rather than just copy straight description from the manufacturer description (possibly duplicated content), it would be ideal if you can actually devise ways in which to include great content around that product, for SEO purposes and really and truly, for the benefit of your customers, which is the ultimate aim of search engine rankings.
As an example, list the pros and the cons of the product, examples of how to use the product effectively, what people say about the actual product.
In essence, write a nice “article” around that product, which is more likely to rank, give the potential buyer the information they need and make the visitor less likely to bounce from the listing.
Keith Brink, Partner at Rinuu
Find out where your competitors are getting all their traffic from! You can use a tool like Serpstat to find out all of the websites that link to your competitors.
Go through those websites and you’ll likely find places that you could get traffic from as well.
As a bonus, developing those links will help you in the link term develop your domain expertise and authority in Google’s eyes, benefiting all future content marketing you do.
Dave Hermansen, Founder of Store Coach, Inc.
These days, websites need to have a solid content marketing plan in order to not only get traffic to their website but to obtain links, which are the key driving force for climbing the search engine rankings.
The first thing that small business owners need to understand is that writing articles about your products, services or your business is the surest way to put people to sleep.
We don’t create any content without first knowing that it has a good chance to get a healthy amount of backlinks because links from other websites to your site are the best way of getting your site to show up higher in the search rankings.
We look for articles that other sites have written that have gotten a significant number of backlinks and that relate to our general niche.
Next, we create a complementary, opposing or similar type of piece that we know would also be the type of thing that would be link-worthy to those sites that linked to the original article.
After that, it’s simply a matter of contacting all of those sites, letting them know how much we like their website and that we have an article we think their readers would enjoy.
Good for readers; proven for backlinks. The perfect marriage of content and SEO!
6. Customer Retargeting Ads
When your customer interacts with your product or your brand for the first time, how will you ensure that visitor becomes a buyer?
Dwayne Kula, Owner of MyLEDLightingGuide.com
Retargeting in the B2B space is a lifeline that many other B2B companies overlook, and that is exactly why we take full advantage of it.
Since our B2B clients often place very high order quantities, each and every new client we bring on board is very valuable. So, by passing them up and not retargeting them we would miss out on a lot of business.
We even find that retargeting on platforms like Facebook work great, even in the B2B world.
Think about it. If someone is more likely to buy from you the more they see your name, wouldn’t you want to be put right in front of them everyday?
By retargeting with ads, you are able to do just that. Even if you are in the B2B niche, don’t pass up retargeting through social media platforms as it really can (and does) work wonders.
Nicole Martins Ferreira, Co-founder of Galleon Co.
If I had to share one of my most profitable hacks from running multiple online stores it’d probably be retargeting.
We like to retarget add to carts and our blog. The ROI is high, the ad cost is super low – which is great for an entrepreneur on a budget.
For those who aren’t getting enough traffic for a great return on retargeting, a little hack I’ve done on some of my stores is writing blog content and mention influencers in my niche.
I then share it on social media, tagging the influencer and it usually gets their attention.
You’ll want to ensure that the influencer is niche specific because if you do, retargeting that audience who viewed your blog will yield great returns.
I was able to achieve a 9x ROI with this—and my store was only two days old!
Matt Silvers, CEO of Seo4anyone.com
Getting a visitor to your site is difficult and costly. But giving up on that visitor when they leave the site without buying is a huge mistake.
Even though the Cost per Acquisition (CPA) of that 1st time customer is typically more expensive than repeat purchases, thankfully tools exist that help bring those visitors back to the site so they can convert to buyers.
These tools are called retargeting tools. The most popular are search retargeting ads and shopping cart abandonment emails.
1. Search retargeting ads follow a user around as she clicks from site to site. These ads can be managed through Google’s Adwords network or another leader such as AdRoll or Criteo.
The ads can be as specific as showing the actual products visited on the website or as general as brand related ads reminding the visitor of the value of that brand. Retargeting ads can even show to users on Facebook and other private networks.
2. Shopping cart abandonment emails send out a series of emails (usually 2-3) after an item is placed in the cart but is not purchased.
These emails are automated and are very cheap to deploy. A discount is typically offered in the final email of the series as a final enticement to the buyer.
The ROI for cart abandonment projects is very high, but this cost must be added to the other costs involved in originally acquiring that customer.
7. Effective Customer Service
Now that you’ve got your clients, it’s important that you keep them happy and keep them around.
Here are some great tips on how to improve your eCommerce customer service.
Cody Clifton, Challenge Coins 4 Less
When you’re just starting out in the eCommerce world, one of the most important elements that will help your business grow is excellent customer service.
Responding to your customers quickly and providing the answers they need in a friendly manner can really help you stand out from the competition.
For example, we currently have a quote system in place on our website where anytime someone requests an online quote for our products, a member of our team will reach out by phone within three minutes.
This shows customers that we value their time and are serious about earning their business. We answer questions and provide important details and information as efficiently and effectively as possible in an attempt to save our customers’ time and money. In terms of scalability, it’s really quite simple.
As the demand for product quotes increases, we hire more resources on our customer service team to handle the additional work.
In addition to Challenge Coins 4 Less, we own over 70 related websites which sell more than 800,000 promotional items like patches, lanyards, lapel and trading pins, and wristbands.
Last year, we hit over $12 million in total revenue, all online. So I’m convinced that our customer service strategy is working.
Zack Drisko, Zack Drisko Agency
This is the part where you deliver awesome, consistent customer service—at scale. What happens when someone buys something from your site? Do they get an e-mail? Is it boring?
Too often, companies don’t use post-purchase e-mail the right way. They give you an order confirmation, sometimes a shipping confirmation, and that’s basically it. No love, no jokes, no interesting stuff to brighten anyone’s day.
Life doesn’t have to be that way.
Use your automated e-mails to communicate all the basics, but also use it to show your personality. When people feel like they’re part of an adventure or a cause or an event, they attach emotions to that experience—and to your brand.
You can also use automated e-mails as a way of getting feedback after the product has been delivered. On the upside, you can score some great reviews or user-generated content for social media.
Also on the upside, you can learn when things were a total disaster, and it gives you a chance to improve upon them. And who knows, your ongoing dialogue could provide the greatest thing of all, a repeat customer.
Remember, it’s usually WAY cheaper to keep a customer than acquire one, so once you’ve got ’em, be cool to ’em!
Gene Caballero, Co-Founder of GreenPal
Here is something that we have done to go above and beyond for our customers for using our service and to ensure they tell their friends and keep coming back.
Upon sign up, our customers indicate if they have pets or not. We relay this info to the vendors so they are aware of any dogs.
We then send dog bones out to our homeowners with dogs along with a Thank You card.
Not only is this very cheap but it lets our customers know that we are listening and that we care. We follow up with an email asking if they received the gift.
Which of these eCommerce hacks have you used? Know of any other great, effective eCommerce hacks? Let us know in the comments below!