In 2023, ecommerce stores face a bundle of challenges in the form of rising ad costs, mounting customer expectations, and ever-shifting spending habits. But challenges for the entire industry open a window of opportunity for savvy businesses.
To navigate this rapidly evolving market and position themselves for success, it is essential for today's online stores to rethink their ecommerce strategy — specifically, to match investments in customer acquisition with investments in customer conversion and retention.
One way to think of this new strategic approach is by rethinking the traditional sales and marketing funnel. Rather than working down the funnel toward one sale, brands have to think about moving customers through an experience — from awareness to conversion and retention — to maximize the lifetime value of each customer (LTV).
Below, we’ll highlight 12 important components of a successful ecommerce strategy. While no blog post could ever tell you how to run your business, you’ll learn some high-level mindsets and actionable tactics to incorporate into your 2023 ecommerce strategy.
What does an ecommerce strategy look like in 2023?
As you put together an ecommerce strategy, consider three fundamental questions:
- How do I bring people to my website?
- How do I get them to place an order once they’re there?
- How do I maximize the lifetime value (LTV) of each customer?
Let’s break those down: First, getting people to your website. Ecommerce businesses still need to focus on growing their online presence and boosting brand awareness with marketing campaigns like paid ads, social media marketing, content marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO).
However, a lot is changing for ecommerce stores in 2023. This is where the second and third questions come in. Due to increased competition and higher marketing and advertising costs, customer conversion and retention are the new battlegrounds for ecommerce.
This starts by prioritizing the customer experience. Customers have increasingly come to value a smooth, engaging, and personalized customer experience throughout the entire customer journey, just as much as the quality of the product or service they are purchasing.
42% of customers say they're willing to pay more for a friendly, welcoming experience, and 65% say that a positive experience with a brand is more influential than great advertising.
Finally, the last question: Focusing on customer retention has now become just as important for ecommerce stores as customer acquisition. This is due in no small part to rising customer acquisition costs that have made attracting new customers increasingly expensive.
Repeat customers are also much, much more valuable than first-time shoppers. 300% more valuable, thanks to behaviors like:
- Placing repeat orders
- Placing orders with higher average values (AOV)
- Referring friends and family to your store
- Posting about your products on social media
- Writing product reviews for your website
With that in mind, let's take a look at 12 key components of a successful ecommerce strategy that are sure to help you form more positive, revenue-generating relationships with your customers.
12 Key components of a successful ecommerce strategy
- Develop your buyer personas with existing customer data
- Plot your buyer's journey through the four key stages
- Be bold with your ecommerce marketing strategy
- Personalize the customer experience to drive revenue and repeat business
- Make customer service one of your ecommerce superpowers
- Run constant tests to optimize your conversion rate
- Find ways to boost average order value (AOV) like subscriptions and upselling
- Collect and display social proof like reviews and user-generated content
- Use high-quality images and superb descriptions for your products
- Expand your social media strategy for social commerce
- Support social media login features
- Continuously collect data and iterate on your ecommerce strategy
1) Develop your buyer personas with existing customer data
One great way to make sure that everyone in your company understands your brand's target audience and how to market to them effectively is to use your existing customer data to develop buyer personas.
These buyer personas can serve as a helpful resource for guiding other elements of your ecommerce strategy. Whereas buyer personas of yore focused solely on artificial demographic information (like fake names and fake children), great buyer personas should focus more on elements of the target market that influence purchases:
- Pain points
- Ideal outcomes
- Buying considerations
2) Plot your buyer's journey through the four key stages
Ecommerce stores need to understand the journey customers go through before purchasing a product and carefully design each phase of that journey. This ensures that you can create an optimized sales funnel for your ecommerce site and is one of the most important keys to ecommerce success.
Again, the experience you provide customers is key here. While a traditional buyer’s journey indexes entirely on marketing channels — a customer will see an influencer marketing post, click through to a landing page, sign up for email campaigns to learn about new products and special offers, and eventually make a purchase — the reality is much more complicated.
Customers expect smooth, fast, and informative experiences at each stage of the journey. The good news? By providing great customer experiences, you can do much more than close one sale — you can boost order volume, promote repeat purchases, and drive much more value out of each customer.
The four key stages of an online shopping customer journey that you will need to plot out and optimize include:
This stage of the customer journey is when customers first discover your brand and its products. Most customers will be looking to learn more about your brand during this phase and will be browsing your blog posts, product descriptions, FAQ pages, and other educational resources.
During the consideration stage of the customer journey, customers have identified a product they would like to purchase and are mulling over their decision. They may research the specific product they're considering further in this stage or compare it to offerings from other brands. Throughout the consideration stage, it's important to utilize strategies such as email marketing and retargeting to keep your brand and products at the forefront of the customer's mind.
The decision stage is when customers decide whether to purchase the product they are considering. Given that online shopping cart abandonment rates sit at around 70%, this is also the stage of the customer journey where many would-be customers turn back.
Once you've attracted a new customer and guided them through the three previous stages, you should shift your focus to retaining them and maximizing their lifetime value.
This starts by continuing to offer an excellent experience to your existing customers. You can also leverage cross-selling and upselling to extract more value from your existing customer base, soliciting feedback and reviews, and more.
“Consumers are being more picky with their purchases as cash simply isn’t stretching as far, so brands will have to work harder to prove their value. Businesses themselves are also having to navigate smaller budgets, so with customer acquisition prices soaring, it makes sense to switch the focus towards existing customers.”
— Georgie Walsh, Content Marketing Manager at LoyaltyLion
3) Be bold with your ecommerce marketing strategy
If you want your ecommerce store to stand out from its competitors, you need to make a lasting impression. And no one has ever made a lasting impression by repeating the same, tired messaging as everyone else.
Don't be afraid to be a little bold with your ecommerce marketing strategy, and try to develop campaigns that are creative and unique. To learn more about executing a bold and creative marketing strategy, check out our blog post on 13 unique ecommerce marketing strategies.
Retention has been the talk 2022 but I only see it becoming more important in 2023, with brands seeking out ways to truly differentiate their retention experience. It's not enough to have just a post-purchase flow, what are you really doing to personalize the customer experience from order #1 all the way through the course of their life with your brand.
— Brandon Amoroso, Founder and President of Electriq Marketing
4) Personalize the customer experience to drive revenue and repeat business
In 2023, creating personalized customer experiences is one of the most impactful ways to convert potential customers into paying customers. It's also key to creating experiences that drive customer loyalty and retention. One study finds that 70% of marketers using advanced personalization see an ROI of 200% or more for their efforts.
There are a lot of different ways that you can go about creating personalized customer experiences. Using customer data to create personalized marketing messages, offering customers proactive and personalized customer support via live chat support, and sprinkling specifics in your customer messages are just a few ways that ecommerce stores are able to leverage personalization.
Check out our article on the ultimate guide to personalized customer service to learn more about how to create an impactful, personalized customer experience.
5) Make customer service one of your ecommerce superpowers
One crucial element of a great customer experience is excellent customer service. Given that 54% of customers will leave a brand after just one bad experience, great customer service is vital for promoting customer retention.
So what is it that defines great customer service? At Gorgias, we have identified the five elements as being the most important characteristics of excellent customer service:
- Speed: You don't want to keep customers waiting, making it essential to offer fast first-response and resolution times
- Convenience: Focus on creating low-effort customer experiences by making it as easy and convenient as possible for customers to find the answers they need
- Helpfulness: Above all else, your customer support agents and resources must be able to address the questions and issues that customers have
- Friendliness: Your customer support agents directly represent your brand, and you need them to be friendly and non-confrontational at all times
- Feedback-focused: Customer feedback is an invaluable resource for further improving the quality of your brand's customer support
By providing a plethora of cutting-edge customer support tools and capabilities, Gorgias' industry-leading customer support platform enables brands to improve all four of these key customer service considerations.
📚 Recommended reading: For a more in-depth analysis of what defines excellent customer service (and how Gorgias helps brands make customer service one of their ecommerce superpowers), check out this article on 20 customer service best practices.
Along with focusing on these four key elements of great customer service, it's also important to design a customer service process that includes omnichannel support options, self-service options, and personalized customer service:
Offer omnichannel customer service
Omnichannel customer service entails offering support via multiple channels such as email, SMS, live chat, and social media.
By providing multiple ways for customers to contact your support team, you can make your support services more convenient and accessible. While omnichannel typically indicates digital channels like email, SMS, and social media, it can also apply in store, too:
“As brick-and-mortar storefronts open up again, a unified customer service across all channels will be important. The unification of systems, operations, experience, and service with composable architectures will set a brand up for success in the next decade to come.”
— Steve Krueger, CEO and Founder at JIBE
Provide customer self-service
Self-service cuts the amount of effort customers have to expend way, way down. These solutions also help reduce your support team's workload by eliminating many would-be support tickets, freeing your agents up to focus on more complex and pressing tickets.
Insist on personalized customer service
Personalizing your customer support services at every opportunity by leveraging customer data to create personalized messaging will improve customer satisfaction and boost your retention rates.
6) Run constant tests to optimize your conversion rate
When optimizing your store's conversion rate, nothing is more important than continual A/B testing. A/B testing entails comparing the results of two different marketing approaches or messaging (for example, two different versions of the same ad or marketing email) and using the data you gather to constantly optimize your ecommerce site.
“Conversion rate is arguably the single most important metric in ecommerce: Without a high conversion rate, all your web traffic, brand awareness, and marketing dollars never turn into revenue.”
— Catherine Lambert, Marketing and Partnerships at Swanky
You can use this strategy to optimize everything from product descriptions to email marketing messages to PPC ads, and it's one of the most impactful keys to ecommerce success.
7) Find ways to boost average order value (AOV) like subscriptions and upselling
We've already discussed how rising customer acquisition costs have made it increasingly important for brands to extract as much revenue as possible from their existing customer base. Along with promoting customer loyalty, one effective way to generate more revenue from your existing customers is to boost AOV via subscriptions, upselling, and cross-selling strategies.
Consider a "subscribe and save" option
Amazon is one example of an ecommerce company that utilizes the "subscribe and save" model to generate more revenue from its customers.
By allowing customers to subscribe to your products or services and receive a discount, you can generate a more reliable, recurring cash flow from your company's repeat customers.
Take a look at how OLIPOP offers a 15% discount for customers who opt for a subscription:
Lean on upselling and cross-selling
Upselling is defined as convincing customers to purchase a more expensive, upgraded, or premium version of the product they've chosen. Meanwhile, cross-selling entails recommending customers products related to the product they've already purchased.
Upselling and cross-selling are both effective ways for ecommerce brands to increase their AOV and can be employed by providing customers with personalized product recommendations based on their past purchases.
8) Collect and display social proof like reviews and user-generated content
Social proof (like user reviews) provides customers with peace of mind and can go a long way toward eliminating any hesitations about purchasing from your brand.
Product reviews and testimonials, social media posts from customers, and customer messages are all examples of user-generated content that you should strive to collect and display across your website, product pages, and marketing materials.
We love how Loop Earplugs leverages customer testimonials on their website to boost online sales with the power of social proof:
Politely requesting reviews in your post-purchase emails, incentivizing customer reviews with discounts or freebies, and simplifying the review process are a few effective ways to collect more of these valuable social proof resources.
9) Use high-quality images and superb descriptions for your products
Your product pages are the endpoint of the most crucial stage in the customer journey — the decision stage, when customers decide whether to purchase your product. This makes optimizing your product pages with compelling descriptions and high-quality images essential.
Along with boosting your conversion rate, providing quality images and descriptions of your products also improves customer satisfaction and reduces support tickets by ensuring customers know exactly what it is they are purchasing.
10) Expand your social media strategy for social commerce
Social media marketing is something that every brand should take advantage of.
Along with leveraging social media platforms for digital marketing tactics like content or influencer marketing, you can also leverage them as platforms for both sales and customer support.
Selling on social media
Social commerce, which turns your social media accounts into ecommerce sales channels, makes it even more convenient for customers to place a purchase.
Social commerce is all the rage right now, so platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook are offering more and more tools for ecommerce brands to set up and manage shops directly on their social media pages.
These social commerce stores present an excellent opportunity to engage and sell to customers at the places where they are already spending the majority of their time online. And that kind of convenience is always great for user experience and, in turn, conversion.
Providing customer service via social media
The biggest tenet of providing customer support via social media is giving customers the option to contact you via social media messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger.
Gorgias helps make social media customer service convenient for your support agents by enabling them to respond to customer messages across multiple channels from a single dashboard.
You can also utilize social listening tools to provide proactive customer support to customers who mention your brand in posts or comments.
11) Support social media login features
Social media login is a feature that enables customers to create an account on an ecommerce website/log in to an existing account using their social media login. If you've ever been prompted to create an account with a website using your Facebook or Google log in, then you've already seen this feature in action.
Social media login features eliminate the hassle of creating a new account and can thus eliminate a significant barrier that might otherwise prevent customers from converting. As for how to add this feature to your ecommerce website, the exact process will depend on the specific ecommerce platform you're using. Search for “social login [ecommerce platform]” to find apps that will enable this functionality for website visitors.
For example, One Click Social Login is a Shopify app that enables social login.
12) Continuously collect data and iterate on your ecommerce strategy
The data you collect from your customers is your company's most valuable asset and should serve as the North Star for your ecommerce strategy in 2023 and beyond.
Throughout your marketing, sales, and customer support processes, you should prioritize collecting customer data and feedback and use it to optimize those same processes. This starts by utilizing tools that provide robust data and analytics.
For example, Gorgias' data and analytics features enable brands to automatically capture a wide range of data and provide powerful insights like customer support metrics and the support team’s impact on the company's revenue.
Likewise, Gorgias integrates with a wide range of ecommerce tools to pull customer data — like past orders, order shipment , loyalty data, and more — into the helpdesk. This way, your agents don’t have to switch tabs to get important context and information to personalize the conversation.
Never sacrifice customer experience and loyalty for short-term revenue
The importance of the customer experience is by far the biggest takeaway of our guide to a successful ecommerce strategy, and it's something you should never sacrifice for short-term revenue.
Going the extra mile to keep your customers happy (such as replacing a lost package) may cost a little in the short term — but might also pay off tenfold in the long run through repeat purchases and referrals.
If you want to start creating an optimized experience for your customers that will drive customer loyalty and grow your store's sales, Gorgias can help.
To get started leveraging all of the powerful customer support tools and features that our industry-leading customer support platform offers, be sure to sign up for Gorgias today!