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3 Conversion Rate Optimization Tips for Retailers Adopting Digital Sales Channels for the First Time

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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way consumers shop. In this sense, the retail sector has sustained more change than any other industry. In many areas, local shops that once managed pure brick-and-mortar outlets suddenly found themselves forced by regulators to close their doors to foot traffic, while in other areas, people voluntarily chose to shop online, forcing merchants’ hands.

In this climate, only those who transformed to offer omnichannel experiences – with ecommerce shopping cart-enabled websites or social commerce sales channels, along with fulfillment via delivery services or curbside pickup – have been able to thrive.

Once they started to offer pickups and deliveries Toronto-based Great Lakes Brewery was able to rehire much of its laid-off staff. “We were shocked at how quickly it started gaining momentum. It was unbelievable,” owner Peter Bulut told the press. “When life gets back to whatever normal is, we’ll keep going with it.”

Research conducted by Ottawa-based platform Shopify shows that 52% of buyers shifted the majority of their spending online compared to before the pandemic, with 51% indicating they were uncomfortable shopping in a physical store. These findings don’t mean that brick-and-mortar retail is dead, however, with 40% of consumers surveyed by Shopify indicating that they’ve opted for curbside or “buy online, pickup in store” (BOPIS).

First-time online sellers often discover that digital sales channels bring a whole host of conversion rate optimization (CRO) issues. Especially if you’re used to helping customers with their purchase decisions face-to-face, it can be tough to figure out where to begin with CRO.

Here are three tips that will help you increase your online shop’s conversion rates.

Get to know your customer

Your physical store offers you the opportunity to get to know your customer better. The previously mentioned Shopify survey indicates that 61% of consumers still plan on buying from local and independently owned shops in a bid to support small businesses.

Create surveys and reach out to your existing customers to get to know their reasons for shopping with you. Which products do people love the most, and why do they have these preferences?

Also, structure your questionnaires and interviews so that you receive clear answers. For instance, when asking consumers about a product preference, most interviewers provide them a scale from 1 to 10. The numbers in this range will be interpreted differently by everyone. Therefore, stick to 2 or 3 choices when providing customers response options. It reduces the variance in their responses, and you’ll receive a clearer picture of their motivations.

Once you’ve gathered data, you’ll start to see ways that you can segment your customer base according to a few broad categories. Note the common characteristics of these categories and design your online sales channels to appeal to their motivations.

For instance, one category might be consumers aged between 25 and 34 who prefer in-store pickup for certain electronic products. Prioritize these items for in-store or curbside pickup and make sure your website communicates this fact. Older consumers might prefer a certain payment method, so make sure you offer them that convenience. The aim is to optimize your website to appeal to the needs and values of your customer segments.

Analyze available purchase habit data

Smaller retailers have traditionally resorted to doing everything manually, but in a data-driven world, this approach won’t deliver results. At the very least, retailers need Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software that helps them map all data related to individual prospects.

For instance, your CRM software will inform you how often a customer shops at your store, their preferred delivery options, their preferred payment methods, the number of times they abandoned their online shopping cart, and so on. You can then compare your metrics to your competitors’ and evaluate where your ecommerce conversion rate stands.

Digital sales channels are numbers-driven, and it’s possible to scientifically plot your way to the top. By evaluating your metrics against industry-wide benchmarks and competitor results, you’ll know exactly where you stand. Once you make changes to your website, your metrics will reveal how effective those changes were.

Competitor analysis also comes in handy when evaluating traffic sources. All online sellers rely on keyword searches. By examining your competition, you’ll know which keywords are the most profitable for them, which social media channels work the best, and even which ad copy is the most effective.

By emulating the best aspects of your top performing competitors’ strategies, you’ll drive more relevant traffic to your website and automatically increase your conversion rates.

Offer more personalization

Personalization is the key to a great shopping experience. It’s easy to personalize an in-person sales process. However, doing this online requires you to prepare ahead of time. It all begins with data collection and analytics.

Tools like Google Analytics are indispensable these days. These software allow you to view your average customer’s journey. Notice which pages they land on the most and how quickly they click to another page. Which are the most common pages they visit after the first landing page, and how long do they spend on those pages?

An analytics software package can give you a visual representation of how your customer proceeds through your website. Note the places where the largest drop-offs occur and analyze why this happens. The copy on that page might be turning people off, or perhaps the images you’re displaying there might not be attractive enough.

The design elements might also lack the standards that your customers expect. Upon checkout, make sure to offer your customers complimentary products or the chance to unlock loyalty discounts. Connect your CRM to your email marketing software to tailor individual campaigns and offer something to everyone.

Over time, your customers will recognize your personalization efforts and will reward you with their spending. A lot of this process is about testing options. Don’t expect your first design or copy change to instantly yield major conversion lift. Test different versions and run with the versions that give you the best results.

Constant improvement

Optimizing your conversion rate isn’t a one-time deal. It’s a constantly evolving challenge that requires you to test and optimize for your customers. Keeping track of your metrics and measuring conversion rates will give you all the insight you need. Use the right tools, and you’ll position yourself to thrive in the new normal.

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