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Special Guest Aaron Orendorff: 10 Ecommerce Tips So Actionable and Authoritative You’ll Feel Like You’re Cheating

10 Ecommerce Tips So Actionable and Authoritative You’ll Feel Like You’re Cheating

When it comes to ecommerce, there’s no shortage of best practice principles.

Just do a quick Google search and on the first page alone you’ll find over 90 “tips” waiting for you:


Unfortunately, most of them miss two crucial elements.

Action and authority. Surveying the above articles and you’ll find advice like:

“Create a content marketing strategy.”

“A/B test your checkout pages.”

“Optimize your search profile.”

“Recover abandoned shopping carts through email.”

To a certain degree, that’s all great direction. None of it’s not wrong.

But, if you really want to stand out and make an immediate impact on your store's bottom-line … we can do better.

In fact, that overwhelming sea of information is exactly why I decided to interview ten of the greatest minds within the ecommerce world and ask for their simplest, most actionable tip you can implement immediately.

1. Plug the Leaks

Twenty years ago -- when marketers relied on magazines and mail order advertising to grow their businesses --  we didn’t have the precision of analytics we have. As a result, sales funnels hemorrhaged money.

Now things are much, much easier.

With tools like Google Analytics, you can track every single movement your visitors make. With the right training, even your grandma could detect and plug leaks in your sales funnel in less than a day.

The point, however, when it comes to ecommerce is to configure your Google Analytics to identify not so much raw traffic but instead strategic opportunities for growth and optimization.


Shanelle Mullin (Content & Growth)

Focus on where visitors are dropping out of your funnel. That’s where you’re leaking money and where you should start optimizing.

Using horizontal funnels in Google Analytics, you can analyze based on channel, A/B test variation, browser type, new vs. returning users, etc. Pretty much anything you can think of.

This is where conditional (e.g. potential customers) and sequence (e.g. cart abandoners) segments come into play. You can use them to discover points of friction and plug the leak.

Which traffic sources are these people arriving from? What landing pages are they arriving on? Further segmentation will help you answer those questions.

Bonus: You can add any of these segments directly to your AdWords Remarketing List to give your display advertising and remarketing campaigns a boost. You’ll save money and increase conversions by targeting more qualified traffic.

2. Focus on the unboxing experience

A notorious advantage brick-and-mortar stores have over ecommerce websites is tangibility: the tactile experience that comes from physically interacting with products. Wowing a customer is far easier when you can control that sensory experience.

Sadly, while ecommerce stores spend thousands of dollars on SEO, CRO, and a host of other technical acronyms, they almost universally ignore what is -- without question -- one of the most important elements of any successful ecommerce: the human experience.

Are ecommerce stores simply out of luck when it comes to how your product looks, feels, and even smells? Absolutely not.

Shopify Plus

Tommy Walker

Focus on the unboxing experience.

Think about it … unpacking their order is the very first physical interaction a customer has with your brand. And first impression count.

In fact, after reviewing cumulative data, we found that over 50% of online consumers are likely to make repeat purchases from a merchant that delivers premium packaging. Not only that, but nearly 40% of people share images of their orders on social media if it came in an original package.

Obviously, word-of-mouth referrals and positive reviews are huge for attracting new customers. That’s why a killer unboxing approach coupled with a referral program does wonders.

Instead of shipping your products in typical boxes, you should send them in personalized, beautifully-designed packages that include unique elements like stickers, hand-written thank you notes, and free samples of additional products included as special gifts.

3. Hidden Discounts

Nothing kills ecommerce sales quite like hidden fees. This is especially true when it comes to cart abandonment. According to one study, being “presented with unexpected costs” was the number one reason online shoppers gave for leaving “without paying.”

Naturally, this means being upfront about all the costs and fees associated with your product before a customer enters the checkout process.

However, you can easily go one step beyond eliminating hidden fees and do the exact opposite.

Sticker Mule

Jeremy Wick (Head of Video)

Use hidden discounts over hidden fees.

At Sticker Mule, we give automatic discounts based on quantity, number of products in your cart, and an automatic sizing discount. This is especially powerful because we “proof” every order before filling it to proactively identify the best size for each customer’s order.

These features help us delight our customers. The result is lower cart-abandonment and more repeat customers.     

4. Showcase the Brands

Many store owners underestimate the power of an established brand. Even though they’re selling a myriad of products, they hide the logos deliberately.

Big mistake!


Simple: 59 out of 100 people prefer buying from brands they’re familiar to, according to Nielsen’s Global New Product Innovation Survey.

This means making your customer’s choices easy by showcasing the brands you sell is paramount.


William Harris (VP of Marketing & Growth)

If you sell more than 10 brands, use the brand logos in the collection results view. 

We’ve found that people are much quicker to add those products to their cart because they recognize the logo of the brand that they’re interested in.

Any time you can add non-distracting clarity to your images, descriptions, or titles— like adding the brand’s logo— you increase the buyer’s trust in the decision they're about to make, which is ideally adding the product to their cart.

5. Start a Conversation

For most buyers, high prices mean hard decisions. If you’re in the premium-products business, you’ll have to deal with a bunch of anxious buyers who desperately need to talk with someone before completing the purchase.

In the brick-and-mortar world, this is something well-understood.

Just go to a car lot, jewelry store, or real estate agency and you’ll find a dedicated individual -- live and in person -- whose express job is to alleviate the doubts of even the most skeptical buyer.

On the other hand, many ecommerce websites forget that behind the computer screen is a real, living human who isn’t willing to make a costly mistake – like spending a couple thousands of dollars on an item that doesn’t fit their needs.

That shouldn’t be the case.


Andy Crestodina (Founder & Strategic Director)

Sometimes ecommerce means getting the sale online.

But for high-cost, high-consideration products, some visitors may not be ready to buy. That’s why -- if you sell those types of services or products -- instead of “getting the sale” your focus should be on “starting a conversation.”

Adding a call-to-action such as "find a sales rep" or "ask a question" is a great way to make the phone ring. From there, your sales team can consult, add value, and up-sell.

Even if you don’t sell high-priced items, being easy to contact is a huge trust-building tactic.

It's one of the best kept secrets of ecommerce sites. When done well, they drive leads. Sometimes, it takes a salesperson to finish the sale.


6. Leverage Your Customers for Content

Creating new content on a continuous basis is a constant struggle, especially for ecommerce sites with so much else on their plate. It’s totally understandable. Fresh content requires time and money and, sometimes, it’s complicated measuring a direct ROI.

What’s the solution?

Three words: user generated content (UGC).

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, UGC is any type of media created and provided by your own audience. In most cases, this media is created without any expectations whatsoever, which means you can publish that content in a scalable way.

Does UGC really work?

Judge for yourself. According to Bazaarvoice, 86 out of 100 millennials say that UGC is a good indicator of the quality of a brand or service. And not only that, 56% of people say UGC is a major influencer in their buying decisions.

The question is how?

Hammock Town

Luiz Centenaro (VP of Ecommerce)

Get customers excited about your brand and encourage them to submit user generated content through contests, image submissions, personal stories, reviews, and recommendations.

For example at Hammock Town we created the Hammocking Chronicles, which encourages customers to share their “adventures” with our products.

That single post has generated over 60 responses and enough content to fill our calendar for the entire year.

Even better, because user-generated content allows customers to tell their stories in their own words and images the content they produce is far more persuasive and shareable than the usual marketing fare that can comes off slimy, salesy, and self-promotional.

Oh, and did I mention this was all free?


7. Steal Your Competitor’s Customers

In spite of what conventional wisdom says, there’s nothing wrong with stealing … especially if you do it for the right reasons and with the right approach.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about stealing stealing. I’m talking about leveraging your competitor's’ customer base to grow your own.

The truth is it doesn’t matter how big or popular your competitors are. Inevitably they’ll always have unhappy, skeptical, or frustrated customers who want to look for better options.

And that’s where you come in.

However, instead of waiting for dissatisfied customer to wander over to your site on a whim, create content that explicitly calls attention to why your product or service is better than your competitors.


Jason Quey (Cofounder and Growth Strategist)

Have you wanted to steal customers from the hands of your competitors?

They've been burned by the competition. Or they're in the hot seat, looking to solve the problem that's just boiled up. They are primed for what you offer.

Question: What is the first thing you think these customers will do?

Chances are, they will hop onto Google and search for comparison words like "[Competitor] alternatives," "[Competitor] vs," or "[Competitor] comparison"

Now is your time to shine. Why not give these hungry customers exactly what makes you stand out?

By spending a couple hours getting your competitive message right -- built around the brand names of your actual competitors -- you can have an ongoing source of prime customers.


8. Deliver a Fast Mobile Experience

There’s an old proverb that says: “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”

In other words, when everyone else is struggling with a clear disadvantage, even the mediocre are able to stand out.

Why does this insight matter to ecommerce?

Because even though many online stores pay lip service to mobile users, they simply don’t invest enough resources in mobile optimization.

Notice I’m saying “optimization” … not just “having a responsive website.” The difference is massive. ConversionXL recently highlight this divide, “When it comes down to it, the data shows that mobile users just don’t convert the way desktop users do.”

Simply put, companies who take their mobile experience even one or two steps beyond the norm can easily become kings.

Here’s the most actionable way to do that, even if you’re not a programmer.


Darren DeMatas (Founder)

It's no secret that mobile commerce is exploding. Mobile sales are growing 300% faster than desktop. On top of that 82% of buyers consult with their mobile device before they make a purchase.

The problem is users expect mobile sites to perform faster than desktop.

But the reality is most ecommerce sites deliver a poor mobile user experience. We studied 2000 ecommerce sites and found the average Google Mobile SpeedScore to be a dismal 58/100.  Only 68% of ecommerce websites passed Google's Mobile Friendly test.

Ecommerce sites that can deliver a superior mobile user experience will win big.

The lowest hanging fruit on this front is speed, which is exactly why we invested heavily in comparing the load times of every major ecommerce platform. The results will surprise you.


9. Take Advantage of What People Are Saying

One of the things I love about social media is that you can literally eavesdrop on other people’s conversations. The practice of “social listening” allows you hear exactly what people in your industry are saying about you and your competitors … raw and unadorned.

For example, let’s assume you run an online exercise and fitness store. In this case, one of your main competitors would be BodyBuilding.com. Twitter’s Advanced Search lets you survey tweets sent directly to their account:


More than just monitoring activity, however, be sure to check the “Negative” box, this will isolate social conversations so you can zero in on where your competitors are failing and take advantage of their mistakes:


Simply click “Search” and you’re automatically served up a host of real-world complaints and frustrations:

negative 2.png

On top of negative comments, you can also use Twitter’s Advanced Search to enter other people’s conversations at the perfect time.


Mike Kawula (CEO)

Ecommerce site owners who actively listen using Twitter advanced search have huge opportunities. Potential customers are on Twitter desperately asking for help, as we share in Chapter 2 of our Twitter Marketing Guide.

For savvy ecommerce site owners who take the time to pay attention, huge results await.

For example, back in 2013 Gary Vaynerchuck took to Twitter offering a co-working space.  His company was moving and that meant Gary needed office supplies, which I was selling online at the time. So I reached out:

That simple tweet -- perfectly timed and massively relevant -- resulted in close to $10,000 in business (with no discounts as Gary wouldn’t accept our kind offer).

You might be saying, well Mike that was 2013 and Twitter isn’t doing as well in 2016? Again, don’t take it from. May 2nd of this year, he called Twitter search is the best opportunity for business growth. 


10. Connect through Personalization

Did you know that, on average, marketers see a 20% increase in sales when they offer personalized experiences?

Considering that 73 out of 100 consumers prefer to do business with brands that deliver personalized shopping experiences, that’s not surprising.

Instead of constantly optimizing for one-size-fits-all conversions -- A/B testing things like product images, headlines, pricing, and your checkout process -- you should spend more resources optimizing to deliver a personalized user experience.


Nate Checketts (Co-Founder)

While there are many advantages to e-commerce over brick-and-mortar, one large disadvantage is the ease and ability to connect with customers on a personal level. 

Most websites commoditize the experience and optimize for conversions.

At Rhone, we are optimizing for personalization and experience for the shopper. We wanted direct feedback, so we instituted a Shopify App called Yotpo, which allowed customers voices to be heard with respect to all aspects of our business, from our policies to our products.

After a few customers complained about our return policy on sale items, we had an internal meeting and shifted the policy to be more customer friendly. We were able to reach out to those customers who felt slighted and they responded with how “refreshing” it was to have a company that actually listened.

We’ve also instituted a “Rhone Style Quiz” to help us get to know our individual customers better. We can now display customer collections to our customers depending on his or her style preferences. 

Our end goal is to make the shopping experience feel completely tailored to each individual.  Our repeat purchase rates are 3x the industry average and we know that any short term income we may lose, we will earn more long term through loyalty and repeat purchases.

Ecommerce Tips You Can Actually Use

The above tips represent some of the lowest-hanging ecommerce fruit.

While best-practice principles abound, what you really need are actionable insights from authoritative leaders.

Of course, there’s always a chance the big names listed above missed your own favorite tip.

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