6 tips for building an effective online retail marketing strategy
An online retail marketing strategy requires the management of a lot of moving parts. Retailers must connect with consumers online and gain their attention with organic and paid search strategies. They must also compete with a host of other retailers who may offer lower prices or faster shipping. The most effective strategies aren’t focused on connecting with customers for the first time. Instead, they’re about making the most of repeat visitors.
One of the biggest challenges to guiding consumers through the online sales funnel is cart abandonment. The current cart abandonment rate hovers at about 75% for online retail sales. There are common barriers during online shopping that keep consumers from moving to sales completion. When planning an online retail marketing strategy, it’s critical to understand, address and resolve those checkout barriers.
Common Causes for Cart Abandonment
The last crucial step within the online shopping journey, checkout, is where most sales are lost. For some reason, before the consumer submits the official order, they often choose to navigate away from the web page. Typically, their failure to make the purchase will fall into one of six categories:
Low buying intent:
This is arguably one of the most common causes of cart abandonment, in that the consumer never intended to make a purchase or wasn’t extremely motivated to buy. They may have added items to their cart out of passing interest or accident, but they had little intention of following through.
Lack of retailer trust:
Trust is an important component in online sales, both in customers sharing credit card data, and having confidence in the efficacy of the product. Without it, consumers are unwilling to purchase products.
Consumers may have multiple windows open as they shop and often seek out the lowest cost option. In this case, they abandon one cart because they found a better deal elsewhere.
Excessive shipping time:
Shipping can be a deal-breaker for customers, especially with powerhouses like Amazon and Walmart offering same-day options. Fifty-six percent of shoppers ages 18 to 34 expect same-day delivery, meaning demand for rapid shipping is only going to grow.
Outside distractions that require an individual’s attention, like a knock at the door or phone call, can keep consumers from finishing their sale. Once they’re off the website, they’ll be less likely to return to make the purchase.
Sticker shock from add-ons:
Taxes, shipping fees, and other add-on costs can significantly increase the price that the consumer initially thought was fair. This is another one of the most common causes of cart abandonment and can damage trust as well.
Retailers must have strategies in place to combat cart abandonment, no matter the reason. In the digital space, there are possible solutions to every one of the above causes that should be part of the online retail marketing strategy.
1: Leverage Limited Time Offers to Encourage Purchase
Consumers who window shop make up the low buying intent crowd. They’re not particularly focused on purchasing anything, so they can be a hard sell. A retailer who understands shopper buying behavior will use this as an opportunity to improve the buying intent of these consumers by leveraging scarcity.
Typically, retailers do this by offering a coupon code or discount that is only available at that moment, but these types of margin-diluting strategies aren’t necessarily required. Amazon’s time tickers and quantity listings underneath each ad are examples of using a non-discount-based scarcity strategy.
The consumer will see a notification if quantities are running low, like “only 12 left, order soon.” Or, they may receive an alert that lets them know they only have so many hours left to order and receive free next or same-day shipping. Both of these small statements let consumers know that time is of the essence, prompting them to take immediate action.
2: Engage in Online Reputation Management to Establish Trust
Lack of consumer trust is more of a problem for emerging retailers than it is for established ones as consumers can easily see evidence that an established retailer is trusted. They look to several avenues both on and off a retailers site to determine the level of trust. Some may include:
An SSL certificate ensures consumers that their payments are secure on a given website. The indicator is provided by the “https” in front of the web address, with the “s” denoting a current SSL certificate. Even consumers who don’t know to look for this “s” will likely receive a warning from their security software if they are on a site without a current SSL Certificate. In some cases, they’ll be blocked from visiting it entirely.
Consumers will check the reviews on a retailer’s site regarding a specific product. However, they’re more likely to look off-site to see the overall reputation of the retailer as they’d expect a more unbiased perspective.
If the consumer wants information on the reputation of a retailer, the first thing they’ll likely do is plug the name into a search engine and see what comes up. If there are sites that mention negative experiences, problems with products or lack of security, they’ll be unlikely to continue on to purchase.
Social media creates transparency for individuals who want to see how retailers respond to consumer criticism, complaints, and questions. This can be a great place for retailers to establish trust by addressing customer issues quickly and openly.
These are the primary digital indicators that will help consumers determine if they can trust a site or not. They may also ask friends and family if they have had any experience with the site before making a purchase. Retailers must carefully cultivate relationships with consumers to create the necessary trust needed for online sales success.
3: Use Rewards to Provide Greater Value to Customers
Nearly one-quarter of online shoppers compare the prices on a brand or retailer’s site to other purchase platforms to see if they can get a better deal. Removing this barrier to purchase is difficult, as the primary factor is often not flexible. Retailers don’t usually want to sacrifice profit so they must find an alternative to keep consumers on their site and reduce their urge to comparison shop.
Retailers can do this by using rewards platforms as a portal to products. This was a strategy that eBay leveraged when working with Shopkick to improve its overall mobile experience. The online retailer used Shopkick’s app as the jumping-off point, where consumers received rewards points (aka kicks) for viewing and purchasing curated products through the app. Through this strategy, eBay increased sales, gained new users, and improved the overall app installation rate.
This also kept consumers from comparison shopping and seeking products elsewhere as receiving the rewards points required entrance through Shopkick. The incentive took the place of any cost reduction the consumers would have seen through comparison shopping, making it a reasonable trade-off.
4: Partner With Third Parties for Faster Shipping
Rapid shipping is no longer a bonus to consumers—it’s a requirement. The longer a consumer must wait for an item, the more likely they will be to abandon their cart. Rapid shipping also improves retention as 75% of consumers report that they are more likely to purchase from a company again after receiving same-day delivery on their first product.
Many retailers are taking a more segmented approach to distribution, opening multiple centers in strategic locations where they can deliver products faster. However, these set-ups are often long, multi-million-dollar endeavors and do nothing to solve lack of shipping channels in the short term. There’s also the issue of grocery items, which consumers typically expect to receive either the same day or within a single day.
An alternative is to partner with a third-party provider like Instacart, Postmates, or Shipt. These third party delivery services do the shopping for consumers, and allow them to quickly receive products without actually visiting the store. Of course, a brick-and-mortar location is a necessity. The same goes for curbside delivery and in-store pickup, which can also be viable alternatives for speeding consumer product receipt. For online-only vendors, using either a shipping service or establishing shipping partners will be a necessity.
5: Make Remarketing Part of Your Online Retail Marketing Strategy
Consumers often abandon their carts if they don’t have the time needed to complete their purchase. Retailers can improve follow-through by taking the complication out of their checkout—for example, by allowing consumers to check out without creating an account and saving payment information for later. However, when that doesn’t work, brands can also look to remarketing and follow-up emails to remind consumers of the product they left behind.
Retailers who make use of follow-up emails should typically plan out three messages that incorporate various conversion marketing elements to encourage consumers to buy. This typically works as follows:
The first email is a simple reminder with a link that the consumer can follow to return to their cart. This one should go out on the same day—or ideally within one hour—of them leaving their cart. This works to get consumers who’ve simply forgotten to check out to return.
The next email should go out 24 hours after the first—or if there is an event like a sale—at the same time the event begins. This can help to encourage consumers who may not have had high buying intent but are still interested in the product.
The third and final email should go out one week after the consumer abandons their cart. This email can include a coupon code, promise of free shipping, or other rewards to drive scarcity and incentivize a return visit.
After the third email, the consumer is unlikely to return, so the retailer will want to move on to warmer prospects. In cases where the retailer isn’t given an email, they can instead look to remarketing to gain a potential customer.
Remarketing software will store session cookies, allowing brands to display ads of the abandoned product on Google, Facebook, and other websites the consumer visits. This will remind the viewer of the product and provide an easy way to return to the site when they’re ready to purchase.
6: Maintain Transparency to Reduce Sticker Shock
When a consumer sees one price on the website, and then a much higher one when they try to check out, they’re likely to abandon their cart and feel misled by the retailer. This is bad for sales and for relationship management. To avoid this, retailers must strive to be as transparent as possible during checkout.
While eliminating unnecessary fees is the obvious first step, brands should also clearly state fees that can’t be eliminated, like shipping and tax. Walmart does a good job of maintaining transparency during the checkout process, as consumers will see the price they pay, shipping options, and estimated tax based on their area prior to entering their information. In addition, the retailer offers free shipping on many of its items to keep sticker shock down.
A strong online retail marketing strategy isn’t just about getting new customers to visit a site—it’s about getting prior browsers to return. These hot leads are more likely to make a purchase as they’re already familiar with the site. Retailers should make it a priority to remove the common barriers during online shopping to encourage sales. With strategies centered on reducing shopping cart abandonment, online retailers can significantly improve their marketing ROI.