In the past, the best way for online stores to grow was to spend heavily on paid advertising. The thinking: get your brand in front of an audience, and sales will just… happen.
But this ecommerce growth tactic is outdated because paid advertising has become outrageously expensive, and many shoppers make purchasing decisions based on customer experience and trust, not ad spend.
Before you dedicate an enormous growth budget to paid customer acquisition, read our guide for more sustainable, customer-centric tips to grow your online store.
12 sustainable ecommerce growth strategies for brands
- Determine KPIs, and reverse engineer your strategy from those metrics
- Create a long-term SEO plan to rule Google search results
- Establish a social media presence to generate more website traffic, social proof, and sales
- Invest in customer service as your top customer loyalty program
- Implement live chat to boost customer satisfaction and sales
- Automate time-consuming tasks
- Find profitable niches to expand your business
- Form relationships with influencers in your industry
- Pick the right digital payments platform for your store
- Use ecommerce advertising to expand your reach (but carefully)
- Realize the power of email marketing
- Create a conversion rate optimization (CRO) plan
1. Determine KPIs, and reverse engineer your strategy from those metrics
You can’t really develop an ecommerce growth strategy without knowing how to know what needs improvement. Without solid key performance indications (KPIs) as a benchmark (and a signal on where to improve), your growth strategy will be little more than guesswork. Pause on the “growth hacking” until you have solid data.
Measuring your KPIs can help you answer questions like:
- What made your store successful in the first place?
- What efforts haven’t been paying off?
- What revenue-boosting strategies work best?
KPIs every ecommerce business should track fall into four distinctive categories:
- Monetary indicators: Tracking profit and revenue and increasing return on investment
- Customer indicators: Regulating the number of former, current, and future customers
- Purchase indicators: Analyzing people that have attempted or made a purchase
- Conversion indicators: Assessing the number of people that have converted
Any customer service platform worth the price will help you track key KPIs. Gorgias, for example, provides revenue statistics, real-time support performance data, and up-to-date customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores.
Benefits of tracking ecommerce KPIs
Tracking KPIs requires you to acquire new tools, learn how to use them, and train your employees. Is tracking KPIs really worth your investment? Here are a few reasons why tracking KPIs is worth the effort:
- Provides you with a complete, objective overview of your goals and progress
- Gives you a benchmark for your current ecommerce sales, conversion rate, and more
- Gives you the ability to make more informed decisions based on data
- Allows for a evidence-based employee management and evaluation
- Guides you to new ways to optimize brand exposure, lower bounce rates, improve click-through rate (CTR), and more
Want to know more about tracking ecommerce KPIs?
Keeping track of performance can help you bring your business to new heights. If you’re interested in knowing more about KPIs, how they can help you, and which ones to track, read our guide to ecommerce KPIs.
2. Create a long-term SEO plan to rule Google search results
Organic search (when people use a search engine like Google) is the #1 source of traffic for ecommerce. One of the reasons for this is the fact that people, especially young people, actively ignore paid Instagram and Facebook ads. (Plus, those tactics are wildly expensive.)
That’s why your store needs search engine optimization (SEO). Specifically, you at least need to optimize your homepage and product pages to ensure your store is a top Google results when people are online shopping for the kinds of products and services you sell.
And, if you have the bandwidth, consider launching a full-fledged content marketing program (with blog posts and other educational content) to get even more eyes on your ecommerce site.
While most SEO refers to Google searches, online stores also have to think about marketplace SEO. If you sell on Amazon, for example, you’ll want to optimize your product descriptions to show up at the top of relevant search results.
Benefits of ecommerce SEO
Is SEO really that great of a marketing campaign? Do its benefits apply to small businesses? Let’s take a look at some of SEO’s biggest benefits:
- Allows you to stay competitive despite the increasing number of new ecommerce brands
- Lets you compete with large corporations despite a modest marketing budget
- Helps you bring a steady stream of shoppers to fill your marketing funnel (in other words, attract potential customers)
- Significantly lowers your pay per click (PPC) costs while allowing you to continue attracting customers
- Creates lasting (and compounding) value, whereas paid ads quickly become irrelevant and ineffective
Want to know more about ecommerce SEO?
You can optimize your ecommerce website for search with a few quick wins, but the best SEO strategies are long-term marketing investments that compound over time. Check out our posts on ecommerce SEO:
- 10 Step Guide to Ecommerce SEO
- Shopify SEO Guide: How To Optimize Your Shopify Store for Organic Traffic
- How to Boost Sales with Blog Content for Ecommerce Brands
3. Establish a social media presence to generate more website traffic, social proof, and sales
A 2021 Forbes survey of 6,000 shoppers found that about two thirds of shoppers use social media as part of their online shopping routine. They either discover a brand through its social posting, check out the Instagram for product photos, or look through customer conversations in the comments.
Check out how CROSSNET uses social media cross-marketing to grow their audience:
Not only can social media persuade your target demo that you’re the right store for them but it can also expose your business to customers you didn’t even plan on targeting. In addition to retail sales growth, it will help you expand to markets you haven’t even thought about.
Benefits of social media marketing
Of course, having a page/profile on all of the more popular social media platforms is a must nowadays. But should you continuously invest in social media marketing? Consider this:
- Brings in more traffic to your website and increases online sales in the process
- Increases conversion rates by helping you create relationships with followers
- Builds trust with your target demographic and boosts brand loyalty
- Leads to better customer satisfaction rates through direct dialogue (when you perform social media customer service)
Want to know more about social media marketing for ecommerce?
If you want to read further about how your store could benefit from social media marketing or know more about the best strategies, we recommend you read our article on the topic. There, you’ll find out everything you need for a winning social media strategy.
4. Invest in customer service as your top customer loyalty program
Without your customers and their loyalty, your business wouldn’t exist. Simple as that. Focus on providing incredible customer service, and you’ll see increased customer satisfaction, more testimonials and customer referrals, and higher retention and repeat purchases from cusotmers.
32% of shoppers say they would no longer shop with a brand they loved after one bad experience, according to PwC’s Future of CX report. You don’t have to worry about “delighting” every customer. But you do have to provide quick, effective service (and a great customer experience) to build trust and keep customers from shopping with your competitor.
Want to learn more about growing through customer experience? Check out our CX-Driven Growth Playbook, a compilation of 18 tactics from top ecommerce brands to raise your revenue by up to 44%.
Benefits of ecommerce customer support
Without a question, investing in customer support is a must. Here are some of the benefits you can expect when you start investing in providing a great customer experience through service:
- Gives you a direct communication channel with shoppers (to receive feedback and product reviews)
- Establishes a reputation as a caring brand that takes good care of shoppers
- Provides a chance to upsell customers (when the time is right)
- Gives you a chance to answer questions, handle objections, and remove any other barriers to a sale
- Integrates easily with other channels, especially intimate and high-touch channels like text marketing
- Lowers shopping cart abandonment rates significantly and helps with cross-selling efforts
Want to know more about ecommerce customer service?
Your business heavily depends on a great customer experience (and customer satisfaction rates staying high). While chasing after new customers may seem like the fastest way to grow, investing in customer service is your best bet for sustainable growth.
5. Implement live chat to boost customer satisfaction and sales
Live chat is one of the best ways to provide in-context, efficient customer service. We also find that Gorgias customers who use live chat can increase conversion rate through the channel by proactively offering discount codes
Live chat also allows your customer service agent to serve multiple customers simultaneously. And, when you use self-service portal and chat contact form, you can offer live chat support even when you don’t have a human agent to staff the channel.
Here’s how shoppers can use the self-service portal to answer their questions — in this case, track and update their order — without interacting with an agent:
Benefits of live chat for ecommerce
Unlike physical stores, most online stores provide limited communication options to their visitors. A customer can’t just walk up to you and ask you a question. Live chat offer that. And live chat can facilitate sales, just like a physical attendant who can answer questions and give product recommendations in the moment. Here’s what can live chat do for you:
- Saves your customer service agents and buyers precious time
- Enables customer service agents to serve several people at the same time
- Gives shoppers relevant recommendations and solutions to their problems (unblocking sales)
- Proactively reaches out to customers during the checkout process to reduce cart abandonment
- Provides additional options for customer self-service
Want to know more about live chat for ecommerce?
Live chat bridges the gap between real-world and online retail by enabling you to help your customers in real-time.
6. Automate time-consuming tasks
As your business grows, you’ll only take on more time-demanding tasks. On their own, these tasks are harmless. However, they can quickly swell and distract you from higher-impact projects in your growth strategy.
Thankfully, tasks like customer segmentation, order tracking, and many parts of your digital marketing (like creating social media posts) can all be automated. With the right tools by your side, you’ll ensure that your business stays profitable.
That’s why 89% of businesses already automation some parts of their growth tactics, according to a 2019 survey from Automizy.
Benefits of ecommerce automation
Small tasks can consume a lot of your time. What can you do with all of that free time? Here’s what ecommerce automation does for you:
- Helps you manage your inventory much easier and ship products faster
- Offers better customer experience with better response time, shipping, and returns
- Allows you to focus on more complicated aspects of your operation and improve ROI
- Improvers customer service with automated letters and email responses to inquiries
- Makes social media marketing a lot easier by scheduling posts on multiple platforms
Want to know more about ecommerce automation?
Ecommerce automation is a broad topic. You can automate elements of your digital marketing, your customer service, your administrative tasks the build up here and there.
7. Find profitable niches to expand your business
In ecommerce, a niche is a specific segment of the retail market’s target audience interested in a particular product type. Niches can be narrow and wide. A wide niche would be beauty products and a narrow niche would be male, eco-friendly care products.
Some of the top ecommerce niches in 2022 include:
- Next-generation beauty products
- Next-generation phone accessories
- Vape products
- Lighting decor
- Tools and hardware supplies
If you want to expand your business, it would be smart to find a particular niche to target. These are trending niches, but you should expand wherever is most relevant to your existing brand and customer base. By targeting a specific group of customers over the long haul, you can more easily establish yourself as the go-to brand.
Benefits of finding a profitable ecommerce niche
Trying to please everyone is a recipe for disaster. Finding a niche and sticking to it will help your business with:
- Attracts a group of people that is willing to pay more and stay loyal to a brand
- Helps you stand out among your competitors by having a more unique (and desirable) offering
- Lets you stay on top of current trends and staying in touch with young consumers
- Lowers your costs of advertising and helping attract new people more easily
Want to know more about profitable ecommerce niches?
Expanding into a new niche is no small decision. You have to ensure the expansion makes sense for your existing customers and brand, as well as your future growth goals.
8. Form relationships with influencers in your industry
According to 2021 Statista data, nearly 35% of social media users were either likely or extremely likely to purchase a brand’s product or service because an influencer promoted it. Ecommerce influencers are one of the best ways to increase exposure for new products (or to new audiences).
Below, you can see how Princess Polly partnered with an Instagram influencer with over 11,000 followers to increase brand awareness and bolster social proof:
These people are the ones you need to partner up with. Regardless of your ecommerce industry or the niche you’re targeting, certain influencers can help you improve sales.
Not even your geographical location makes a difference. There are influencers in North America, Latin America, and even in the Asia-Pacific region — there are plenty of high-impact influencers in China. There are also influencers on every social media platform, from TikTok to LinkedIn.
Working with an influencer can expose your brand to the global ecommerce market and boost your marketing efforts beyond your wildest dreams. If done correctly, partnering with an influencer can expand your social reach, ensure growth, and improve your bottom line.
Benefits of teaming up with influencers
Although “influencer marketing” is a recent phenomenon, people have been using the influence of others to sell products for decades. Another way marketers describe this is “social proof.” Here’s what you can expect from it:
- Builds trust between you and your customers in a short period of time
- Gets more people to know about your store, offering, and brand message
- Helps your content strategy reach new levels and attract more people than ever
- Provides content and value to your target demographic on a regular basis
- Reaches audiences you haven’t even thought about and sending them your way
Want to know more about influencer marketing for ecommerce?
Influencer marketing is one of the best growth hacks for ecommerce stores, thanks to the wide reach of influencers and the impact they can have on brand exposure and product awareness.
9. Pick the right digital payments platform for your store
Consumer behavior has changed drastically over the past decade. Just 10 years ago, a vast majority of consumers couldn’t imagine going shopping without any cash on them. Today, most people are more than glad to go cashless.
According to 2021 data from Statista, digital wallets and credit cards are by far the most common ways to make purchases . Online payment apps like Venmo and Paypal aren’t far behind.
Merchants that want to expand their businesses need to offer seamless payment options to their customers. Having the right platform will speed up the entire purchase process for both local and international customers alike, all while making them feel 100% safe. Fortunately, Shopify, BigCommerce, and other major ecommerce platforms offer multiple payment options.
Benefits of having the right payment platform
What’s the preferred platform for your audience? That’s the question you need to answer. Here’s how using the right payment gateway helps your business:
- Allow customers to open accounts on your website without entering too much data
- Accept multiple payment methods through a simple, single integration
- Enable cross-border payments, helping you reach a worldwide consumer base
- Speed up transactions and increasing customer satisfaction rates in the process
- Increase security levels and helping you gain the trust of first-time customers
Want to know more ecommerce payment platforms?
Offering the right payment methods could make or break user experience and customer trust.
10. Use ecommerce advertising to expand your reach (but carefully)
Pay per click (PPC) advertising is a form of online advertising in which the business owner pays a certain amount of money every time a consumer clicks on their advertisement.
There are plenty of platforms you can use to host your ads. This includes search engines like Google and Bing, social networks like Facebook and Instagram, as well as popular websites like TechCrunch and Search Engine Journal.
Benefits of ecommerce advertising
SEO might be a more cost-effective way to market your business, but paid advertising is a great way for quick bursts of growth. Here are the benefits of paid ads:
- Target highly specific groups of consumers
- Give you an additional source of website visitors besides SEO
- Help you track your ad spending exhaustively, to the last penny
- Save your money until you start seeing new visitors and real results
- Allow users to adjust their ad strategy and spending on the fly
Want to know more about pay per click?
For most players in ecommerce, paid advertising is a strong strategy. (Of course, it can never replace customer experience.) If you choose to invest heavily in pay per click advertising, you must make sure you understand your customers to advertise on the right platforms to the right targeted segments.
11. Realize the power of email marketing
Even though some people think that email marketing is on a decline, that’s not even close to the truth. Failing to invest in email marketing would be a huge mistake. The fact of the matter is, without email, your sales, user engagement, and returning customer base would drop.
In a 2020 survey from Litmus, four out five growth marketers said they’d rather give up social media than email. Email may be old-fashioned, but it’s not out-dated. You check your email most days, don’t you?
With email, you’ll be able to directly reach your customers and serve them weekly content, without relying on social media algorithms. Not only that but with retargeting, you’ll be able to lower your cart abandonment rates significantly and increase conversions in no time.
Benefits of email marketing for ecommerce
Paying more attention to your email campaigns comes with a lot of pros and a very few cons. Here some of the benefits you can expect to experience:
- Gather actionable feedback from large groups of customers
- Send your subscribers fresh content weekly through newsletters
- Mail discount coupons and other rewards to loyal customers
- Retarget customers that have left your site without making a purchase
- Lower cart abandonment rates and reactivating inactive customers
Want to know more about ecommerce email marketing?
Is email marketing something you want to get into? Do you know how to start building a list of leads? What do you want to accomplish with your strategy?
12. Create a conversion rate optimization (CRO) plan
Ecommerce conversion rate is the percentage of website visitors that make a purchase. Have a low conversion rate? In the world of ecommerce, that’s nothing out of the ordinary. Most US ecommerce websites have a conversion rate between 1% and 2%.
Of course, the rate varies greatly between different sectors. Some ecommerce niches have rates as high as 4.9% while others have as low as 1.4%.
All of this doesn’t mean that you should be satisfied with your rate. Your website can always use some conversion rate optimization. How can you boost your conversion rate? In many ways actually, some of which include:
- Avoiding lengthy sign-up forms
- Allowing shoppers to buy without registering
- Placing CTA buttons in all of the right places
- Sending cart abandonment emails
Don’t underestimate the power of CRO. By improving your conversion rate by a percent, you can double your revenue.
Benefits of boosting conversion rates
Dedicating a certain amount of time each week to conversion rate optimization can make your business strategy more effective. But there are lots of other CRO benefits:
- Learn more about your regular customers and their shopping habits
- Boost store revenue by running ads based on your customer insights
- Lower customer acquisition costs and improving the average order value
- Improve SERP rankings and exposing your store to a brand-new audience
- Make more informed business decisions and taking only calculated risks
Want to know more about ecommerce conversion rates?
Conversion rate optimization is a full-time job at some companies. But even if you can’t hire a CRO specialist, you can (and probably should) make a plan to ensure as many visitors as possible end up making a purchase.
13. Invest in product photography to improve sales
As an ecommerce store owner, your job is to sell products. And when customers can’t pick up and hold your products, your product images become paramount.
Nowadays, consumers are being bombarded with visual content. Social networks, streaming platforms, and forums, all thrive from visual content. With so much visual content on the Internet, consumers now ignore most things that don’t tickle their imagination right away.
The Social Ms reports that 67% of potential shoppers say image quality is an important. Think about it: would you trust a brand with low-quality product photos?
That’s why you need to take steps to ensure that your products are looking crisp. Whether this means hiring a professional to handle the work or taking things into your own hands is all up to you. Just make sure that your visuals are on high quality and show the product in its best light.
Benefits of investing in product photography
Organizing a professional photoshoot is not a small task to tackle. A lot of time and money goes into photo sessions. Here are a few reasons why you need to focus on product pics:
- Allows consumers to have a better perception of your products
- Helps mobile shoppers have a better view of your product offering
- Improves the speed of trust, making the shoppers trust you right away
- Increases the conversion rates by helping customers make quicker decisions
- Strengthens your business’ brand identity and separating you from competitors
Want to know more about product photography?
Product photography can be a significant investment, so it’s important to hire a great product photographer at the right time.
Provide the best customer experience possible to maximize ecommerce growth
Ecommerce growth is a complex beast. Whether you decide to invest in PPC, hire a product photographer, or start working on an email marketing strategy, one thing is certain: your customers always come first.
You need to keep your customer service at a high level, in order for your business to continue growing. And you can’t possibly do that without the right tools.
Gorgias is a customer service platform built specifically for ecommerce. Gorgias users provide more efficient (and satisfying) customer service, generate more revenue, and get up-to-date support and revenue data from the tool.
If you want to see how Gorgias can help your ecommerce business grow, check out our customer story on Ohh Deer, a small business that used Gorgias to generate $12,500 per quarter through customer experience.