Tony is the Chief Marketing Officer here at Sales & Orders, along with heading up the inbound and customer marketings teams, Tony also oversees partnerships and branding for our award-winning company and platform.
We’re just going to come right out and say it:
Driving more and more traffic to your website is a must if you want to succeed in the world of ecommerce.
In fact, driving traffic to your ecommerce site is so important that most retailers see it as their second-highest priority with regard to marketing:
And, well...this just makes sense.
After all, you can’t spur your on-site sales numbers if you’re not driving potential customers to your site, right?
Luckily, there’s no shortage of ways to attract new and existing customers alike to your ecommerce website. In this article, we’re going to dig into the most common ways to do so—and provide a number of resources to help you get started with the strategies that will work best for your brand.
Before we dive in, though, let’s break down the key reasons driving traffic to your site is so important in the first place.
4 Additional Reasons to Drive Traffic to your Ecommerce Website
Like we said, the most obvious reason you want to drive traffic to your online store is to (hopefully) get your visitors to purchase your products.
Still, while this may be the ultimate reason for getting visitors to your site, there are a number of less-obvious benefits for doing so.
(As we go through the following list of benefits, note that each is in direct contrast to the experience you’ll generally have when selling your products on a third-party marketplace or other such website.)
Maintaining Ownership of Branding
In the ecommerce world, the importance of strong, consistent branding cannot be overstated.
According to data collected by Venngage:
- 77% of marketing leaders say a strong brand is critical to their growth plans
- 90% of users expect companies to have the same branding across all platforms/channels
- Consistent branding across all channels increases revenue by 23%
For online retailers, there is no better way to ensure this consistency than to get your target audience to navigate to your website.
Take a look at the following product page, for example:
On its own ecommerce website, Skullcandy is able to inject its branded “feel” throughout its product pages (and other parts of the site, as well).
In contrast, check out how the company showcases this exact same product via Amazon:
In terms of branding, it looks...well...just like every other Amazon product page.
(The same drawback applies when discussing the idea of promoting your brand on social media. While you can certainly tailor your content to fit your brand’s aesthetic, said content will still be “wrapped” in the social media platform’s branding, overall.)
Now, this isn’t to say that selling on Amazon is a bad thing
(It’s not—and neither is being active on social media. We’ll talk more about both in a bit.)
The point is, your audience will never be able to truly experience your brand if they only engage with you through a third-party website. That said, it’s vital that you do whatever it takes to get your customers to navigate to your actual website on a regular basis.
Creating a Direct Line of Engagement and Communication with Your Audience
Piggybacking off our last point, your website often serves as the most direct means of engagement between your team and your audience.
This communication can take a variety of forms:
- Unfiltered on-site content
- Mailing list registrations
- On-site live chat and chatbot software
Now, when we say “direct,” we simply mean there is no “middleman” through which information passes from your team to your audience or vice-versa. As the examples above show, engagement doesn’t have to be in real-time in order to be direct—it just needs to be unfiltered and authentic.
To illustrate this point, think of the confirmation emails you get after ordering a product from Amazon:
These emails are, of course, sent by Amazon—not the actual seller. While there certainly are ways to forge a more direct line of communication with those who purchase your products on third-party platforms, the fact remains that it’s much easier to do so once they navigate to your actual website.
Again, the same applies when engaging with your audience via social media: While most social media platforms do allow for direct engagement between both parties, you still need to operate within the confines of the platform in question. In such cases, the middleman still exists—no matter how transparent their filter may be.
Maintaining Ownership of Your Data
This is a big one:
When your audience engages with your brand through a third-party, you’ll only be privy to the data that said third-party agrees to provide you.
To be sure, most platforms do provide a ton of data regarding audience engagement, purchasing habits, etc.. Still, you stand to gain much more information from those who actually interact with your ecommerce website.
For example, when selling on Amazon, you’ll have access to audience data such as keyword usage, clickthrough rates, and some conversion metrics...but you won’t be privy to information such as time on page, referral sources, and other such information that you would have had your audience visited your actual website.
What’s more, the type of data third-party platforms allow brands to access is constantly in-flux. While we’re likely to see these platforms release their hold on said data as time goes on, online retailers will always be at the mercy of third-party sellers in this regard.
Again, this issue can be mitigated by making your ecommerce website the main point of contact for your audience—while still taking advantage of other platforms in a more tangential fashion.
Creating a Unique Customer Experience
All of the benefits we’ve discussed so far add up to the fact that getting your target audience to visit your ecommerce website is the best way to create a truly unique, branded experience for them.
Again, since you nearly have free rein when developing your online store, you’ll be able to tailor it specifically to your audience’s needs and expectations. With online merchandising being as important as it is in terms of differentiating your on-site experience from your competition, you’ll want to take full advantage of every opportunity you have, here.
(Source / Again, Skullcandy’s fully-branded website serves to create a truly unique experience for its audience.)
We’d even argue that getting your target audience onto your site is the best way to expose them to all of the other channels you operate on, as well.
In this case, the idea is that engaged site visitors will be more likely to follow the brand on Instagram than vice-versa (i.e., those who engage with the brand via Instagram might not be as likely to navigate over to the company’s actual website unless they absolutely have to).
Taking this a step further, you can promote each of your other channels all at once via your ecommerce website. For example, ASOS’s website makes it easy for visitors to quickly navigate to the brand’s Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat channels:
Is it possible to use these other platforms as a springboard to more in-depth engagement for your audience? Absolutely.
But it’s definitely not more efficient than using your website as the foundation of your branded experience.
So, once more:
If you’re not getting your target audience to venture over to your online store, you’re almost certainly missing out on some major opportunities to engage with them in a variety of meaningful ways.
That said, let’s now take a look at what you need to do to generate more traffic to your ecommerce website.
3 Prerequisite Steps for Driving Traffic to Your Online Store
While our focus today is on driving more and more traffic to your ecommerce website, this certainly isn’t the end goal.
Your ultimate goal is twofold:
- To enhance your customers’ experience with your brand
- To increase sales and revenue numbers
While increasing web traffic is a necessary step toward accomplishing these goals, this isn’t to say that these outcomes are guaranteed just because more people are visiting your site. To be sure, if your website doesn’t offer that which your audience expects from your brand, the number of visitors your site generates isn’t going to matter.
That said, let’s go over three key factors to consider before you start making moves to drive more traffic to your ecommerce website.
Understand Your Audience’s Needs and Expectations
To be blunt:
If you don’t know what your audience expects once they land on your website, there’s no way for you to give them what they want.
While your target audience’s specific needs and expectations will be unique in many ways, there are some overall necessities your website should provide, including:
- A user-friendly and technically-sound UI
- Comprehensive information about your products, services, and overall company mission
- Detailed multimedia content showcasing your products and/or services
- Customer reviews, testimonials, and other such social proof
- Optimized site search and navigability
Again, how these features manifest on your ecommerce website will depend on what your audience is looking to get from their on-site experience.
What we will say, though, is that your goal should be to ensure that the experience you provide goes above and beyond that which you provide on the third-party channels we mentioned earlier.
In other words: Use your website to provide an experience that your customers simply cannot experience anywhere else on the web.
Know Your Competitors’ Strengths and Weaknesses
In order to know that your website provides your audience an experience they can’t get elsewhere, you need to know what other brands in your industry are providing their audience.
There are a number of ways to do this:
First, you can simply check out your competitors’ websites, yourself. As you comb through the various sections of their sites, think about what they do well—and not so well—with regard to the factors we mentioned in the previous section. Of course, you’ll want to be as objective as possible, here: The goal is to apply what works, and improve what doesn’t, in a way that aligns with your audience’s expectations.
You also want to look for any social proof you can dig up regarding your target audience’s experiences with your competition’s websites. This may involve engaging with said audience on social media, unearthing mentions of competing brands’ websites on the web, or checking out any awards other brands in your industry have earned in recent years.
Finally, you’ll want to check out the many third-party competitive analysis tools to assess the various aspects of your competitors’ websites. These tools can help further your understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each of these sites—and enable you to make informed decisions when making improvements to your own ecommerce website.
Understand the Value You Bring to the Table
Once you have a better understanding of your audience’s needs—and how your competitors are catering to these needs through their online stores—you’ll need to take a look inward.
- How does your website meet, exceed, or fall short of your audience’s expectations?
- How does meeting or exceeding these expectations improve your audience’s view of your brand?
- How does the value you provide your audience via your website better enable you to reach your business goals?
Like we said earlier, generating traffic to your website doesn’t mean much on its own.
Rather, it’s what this spike in traffic leads to that actually matters. As long as it leads to a positive experience for your audience that, in turn, leads them to conversion...well, that’s exactly what you’ve been aiming for from the get-go.
3 Ways to Drive Organic Traffic to Your Online Store
Organic traffic is that which is earned without directly paying for visibility or engagement.
While there are a number of ways to generate organic traffic to your online store, we’re going to focus on three of the most effective means of doing so.
Content Marketing and SEO
No doubt about it:
Content marketing and search engine optimization are the most impactful ways to generate organic traffic by today’s standards.
As we’ve discussed before on Sales & Orders’ blog, on-site content marketing involves:
- Creating Pillar Content and Content Clusters: Pillar content being longform, foundational articles that touch on all areas of a given topic—which in turn link out to more focused articles on each subtopic discussed in the “pillar” post
- Creating 10x Content: Creating content that is much, much higher in quality than any other similar content on the web
- Repurposing Existing Content: Creating multiple versions of similarly-focused content in different formats, so as to allow for maximum engagement from audience members with different preferences
You can also employ the tried-and-true tactic of guest posting. The basic premise of guest posting is that you create content to be published on another company’s website whose audience aligns with yours in some way or another.
For example, (brand) wrote the following blog post for (brand):
Since (guest poster) sells (products), it makes sense that they’d want to get noticed by (publisher), since it’s likely that many of (publisher’s) audience would be interested in purchasing said products.
Now, guest posting has evolved quite a bit in recent years. By today’s standards, you’ll often see brand representatives appearing in various podcasts, videos, and other multimedia content to be published on a partner company’s website.
As we alluded to earlier, the main thing to keep in mind is your audience’s preferences when it comes to such content. Put simply: Be where they are, in the format they use to digest the content they engage with.
You also want to consider contacting other brands who may be interested in creating guest content on your site, as well. In turn, they’ll promote this content on their website (and elsewhere on the web)—exposing their audience to your brand in the process.
The old saying “content is king” holds true. If you can create informative, engaging, and enjoyable content for your target audience, they’ll have no reason not to take a closer look at what your brand has to offer.
To be sure, just because an individual visits your site once, that doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to come back.
In fact, even your long-time customers can lose interest in your brand—if you’re not doing something to keep them engaged.
Which is where email marketing comes in.
As we’ve discussed before, there are a number of ways to use email to engage—and re-engage—your audience in order to get them back on-site.
These methods include:
- Welcome emails for new mailing list subscribers
- Lead-Nurturing email drips, providing new subscribers with information about your products or services, and overall brand mission
- Confirmation emails to be sent after an individual makes a purchase
- Upsell/Cross-Sell emails for customers who have made recent purchases
- Cart Abandonment emails, offering nearly-converted customers a chance to pick up where they last left off
- Feedback emails for customers who have more in-depth experience with your brand
- Re-engagement emails to be sent to once-active customers who have since been “incommunicado” for an unusual period of time
Whether sending additional content or personalized offers to your audience, you absolutely need to be using email to keep them coming back to your site as often and frequently as possible.
Social Media Marketing
While the advent of social commerce has made it possible for your company to actually sell products on your social media profiles, you still want to also use your social media presence to get your followers to navigate to your website.
(Remember: You don’t just want to use your site to make sales—you want to use it to enhance your customers’ overall experience with your brand.)
That said, you need to build a bridge between your social media channels and your website—and make clear to your audience why they should cross it.
To start with, your social media channels should be used to introduce your audience to the informative, engaging, and entertaining content your site has to offer. For example, IKEA uses its Twitter account to promote content showcasing products that fall under specific themes:
Similarly, you can use social media to point your audience to content, contests, and other branded experiences they can only experience via your website:
In some cases—such as with Facebook—you can even create targeted posts aimed at getting specific audiences to click over to your online store. (Source)
Not only can this help drive targeted traffic to your website, but it can also act as a “dry run” of sorts for your paid advertising efforts (which we’ll discuss momentarily).
As you surely know, there are many ways to engage with your audience on social media for a variety of purposes. But, if your goal is to get your audience to navigate to your website, your best bet is to hook them with your social media content that promises an even more engaging experience once they engage further.
4 Ways to Drive Paid Traffic to Your Online Store
While the above methods can allow you to drive traffic to your site at minimal cost, it will take a fair amount of time for you to start seeing the intended results from these efforts.
If you’re looking to immediately drive traffic to your online store, you’ll want to choose from one (or more) of the following paid options.
Approached strategically, paid advertising can lead to major exposure for your brand almost instantaneously.
For ecommerce companies, there are a number of platforms available to advertise on.
First, there’s the big one: Google. Through Google’s Ad platform, you can promote your products in multiple ways, including:
- Text-based Google Ads
- Product-focused Google Shopping listings
- Third-party websites belonging to Google’s Display Network
(Source / Every listing shown here is a paid advertisement)
You can also use social media to target (and retarget) specific audiences, based on their personalities, interests, and behavior.
For example, ice cream giant Ben & Jerry’s uses Facebook to promote its dairy treats:
While recipe provider Purple Carrot uses Instagram to get its brand in front of a targeted audience:
As we mentioned above, you need to be strategic in your approach for your ad campaigns to effectively drive more traffic to your online store.
- Targeting the right audience, on the right channel, with the right message
- Optimizing the various elements of your ads for your intended audience
- Assessing your bidding strategies over time as you learn what works best
While getting your ad campaigns just right will take some time, you’ll be able to gauge your results almost instantly—allowing you to make improvements to said campaigns just as quickly.
Comparison Shopping Engines
You can also pay to promote your products on a variety of comparison shopping engines, as well.
These websites—such as Google Shopping, PriceGrabber, and Shopzilla—allow consumers to view similar products offered by multiple brands, all in one single place. These platforms then allow the consumer to quickly navigate to the retailer’s ecommerce website by engaging with the product listing in question.
Similarly to using PPC ads, you’ll need to be strategic in your approach to promoting your products on comparison shopping engines. While each CSE is unique in a variety of ways, the guidelines for using them remain the same:
- Know which platform(s) your audience uses
- Know which platform(s) are best for promoting your products
- Know how to optimize your product listings and bidding strategies on the platforms you use
If you’re looking for a way to get your brand in front of a pre-created, already-engaged audience, influencer marketing is the way to go.
Typically, influencer marketing is done via social media. The basic premise is that your brand will work with a well-known individual or brand to promote your products to their audience. To do so, your influencer partner will create authentic content featuring your brand’s products, then publish said content on their social media channels.
For example, in 2017, Target partnered with social media star Zach King to promote the retailer’s various fashion items:
While influencer marketing can be used to promote your brand in a variety of ways, it’s important to keep your marketing and business goals in mind when developing your strategy for a given campaign. For the purpose of driving traffic to your site, you’ll want your influencer to take a similar approach to the organic methods we mentioned earlier.
So, they might create short “teaser” content to be published on their social media channels—then work with your team to create more in-depth or fleshed-out content to be featured on your site. Or, your influencer may demonstrate how they use your products, then simply point their audience to your website for more information.
Check out our ultimate guide to influencer marketing for more on how to implement it into your overall marketing playbook.
Sponsored content refers to content created by your brand that is then published and promoted by a third party in exchange for payment.
Unlike straight-up advertisements, though, sponsored content has the appearance of being “normal” guest post-style content—while still clearly being labeled as a paid ad.
For example, Sleep Number once created a sleep-related article and quiz to be published on Huffington Post:
In similar fashion to organic guest posting, the content certainly served to engage Sleep Number’s target audience, and get them to navigate to the company’s actual website. In contrast to the organic method, it was (presumably) much easier to get HuffPo to feature the content by paying the publisher for the ad space.
Driving Traffic: Just the Beginning
As we begin to wrap up our discussion here, it’s important to keep in mind that driving traffic to your online store is merely a means to a much more important end:
Enhancing your customers’ experience with your brand, and nurturing them toward conversion.
While we’ve discussed a number of effective ways to get your target audience to click over to your website, these efforts will all be for not if you don’t follow through in providing massive value to your newly-engaged prospects.
If you are able to follow through with the initial promises you’ve made to your new audience, though, the spike in traffic you’ll soon experience will almost certainly lead to even greater things for your company.