Ecommerce has been growing steadily for the past few years, gradually displacing traditional retail sales and becoming the default way that most people (especially the younger generations) purchase items. That is until late 2019, when lockdowns around the world forced most people indoors and made physical retail a rarity.
The pandemic accelerated the adoption of ecommerce, with consumers buying $861.12 billion worth of goods from U.S. merchants in 2020 — a dramatic increase of over 44% from the previous year, and the highest annual growth in at least two decades.
Obviously, any business that hadn’t been fully present on the internet would have lost a significant number of sales during this time. Even if a business got a website up and running quickly, they would likely be lacking the marketing presence to maximize sales. The trend toward ecommerce will certainly continue, and each day brings new opportunities to optimize your strategy, get your products before as many potential customers as possible, and convert them into repeat customers to boost your bottom line. Here are three tips to do just that.
1. Implement social commerce
A lot of people live on social media these days, for better or for worse (an average of 1,300 hours last year, to be specific). That represents an opportunity for business owners to leverage the advertising tools on the major social platforms to make their offers to potential customers, but many people are desensitized to advertisement and will often simply not see them.
That’s where social commerce comes in. It’s native advertising that is designed to integrate with the platform seamlessly and look like just another post (with the legally required notices, of course). The posts also have interactive features that allow users to make purchases right from within the app.
This approach has two benefits. First, because the ads are unobtrusive, people are more likely to engage with them and learn more about the product, leading up to the purchase decision. Secondly, the engagements (likes, retweets etc.) with the posts serves as social proof that encourages others (up to 71%, according to a study) to engage with the posts themselves — and even to make purchases. When implemented properly, social commerce runs as a cycle that consistently accelerates customers through the sales funnel and helps to keep them safe.
2. Implement user-generated content
Content produced by your brand can have a very strong impact on a customer’s buying decision, but it’ll almost always be less than the impact that could be had when the customer sees your product being endorsed by another customer. According to Salesforce, 54% of consumers prioritize online reviews and recommendations from their peers when making buying decisions.
One of the most famous user-generated content campaigns was the “Share a Coke” campaign by Coca-Cola that generated millions of photos of people with bottles bearing their names. Brands like Urad have also used customer testimonials to great effect. Those campaigns tend to go viral easier, and they serve to establish the idea that your product is used and loved by a lot of customers, which in turn leads to FOMO (fear of missing out) among other potential customers.
3. Use email effectively
Although there has been a lot of talk about how email is going out of fashion, it still remains very high on the lists of the most effective channels by which businesses can engage with their customers. According to a study carried out by Forrester Research, although digital marketers spend around 17% of their budgets on email, it contributes 24% of revenue — making it a significantly higher ROI-generator than many other channels.
To get the most from your email marketing efforts, it’s important to go beyond merely blasting out emails to your list. Begin by establishing segments among your list based on a variety of factors such as how the customers/leads were acquired, their search history, whether they’ve added items to their cart, and then sending them emails based on their specific characteristics. The more granular you are able to get, the more personalized the emails will feel, and the more likely they will be to convert the recipients.
Ultimately, marketing is going to be one of the key differentiators among the troves of ecommerce businesses being started in every sector. Without being visible to customers, there will be no sales, regardless of how good the products are. By using these strategies to find and connect with potential customers where they spend their time, you’ll be on track to making the lasting connections necessary for acquiring and retaining loyal customers.
This story originally appeared on Entrepreneur