The eCommerce Explosion

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the eCommerce industry has been booming with no sign of slowing down. That means it’s time for eCommerce website optimization to shine! This article provides actionable tips for how to retain your existing customer base, optimize your eCommerce site, and elevate your brand awareness through eCommerce best practices.

COVID-19 eCommerce Industry Breakdown 

It’s been common knowledge for a minute: There’s hardly an industry that hasn’t been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The global health crisis upended most people’s way of life — but not always in negative ways. The eCommerce industry, for one, became a lifeline for those stuck at home; the massive uptick in online sales meant that many companies needed to up their eCommerce game, or get their feet wet if they wanted to survive the suspension of in-person shopping.

U.S. retailers raked in a whopping $861.1 billion in eCommerce sales in 2020 alone, boosted by an additional $174.87 billion compared to 2019 sales. According to Digital Commerce 360, if not for the impact of COVID-19, it would have taken until 2022 for eCommerce sales to reach that number organically.     

Even after COVID-19 no longer poses a dire global threat and life goes back to “normal,” eCommerce sales are unlikely to let up. More consumers than ever are aware of how easy online shopping can be, and more companies are equipped to leverage eCommerce to better reach their target audiences. That’s why, in 2021 and beyond, harnessing website optimization is the key to increasing and sustaining eCommerce sales. Luckily, the eCommerce wizards at Vital are here to help. 

eCommerce Areas You Should Focus On

Whether you’re a seasoned eCommerce pro or just wrapping up your first year of sales, this post will provide helpful insight on:

  • eCommerce Website Optimization 
  • Brand Awareness
  • Customer Retention

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It’s All About the Data

In order to get the most out of our post you should have at least 1 to 2 years of eCommerce experience, have concrete data on how your shop has performed month over month or year over year, and have the motivation to put in the work to improve your brand. Ideally, you should also be using (or be familiar with) an eCommerce engine like Magento, WooCommerce, or Shopify.

eCommerce Website Optimization Tips

Chances are, if your eCommerce sales are lagging, your products are not the problem. Website optimization could be the culprit; if an eCommerce site is missing traffic from crucial keywords, isn’t mobile-friendly, or seems short on “real” reviews, both search engines and humans can be turned off. Follow our patented (pending) eCommerce Optimization Tips so consumers who land on your beautiful and easy-to-navigate site will be even more enticed to buy.  

Mobile — it’s not just a fad. 

More and more shopping is done on mobile phones now — more than 50%, according to OuterBox! For convenience’s sake, make sure your eCommerce site is fast, mobile friendly, and easy to navigate in all its versions. Familiarize yourself with eCommerce best practices for website and mobile design, and remember that less is more — see the simple (yet attractive) approach Allbirds shoe company took below. web mobile

Optimization is key.

Page SEO optimization is crucial for increasing your site’s visibility. Run a keyword audit, learn which terms your competitors are ranking for, and incorporate them (make it nice) into your website structure and page copy. A well-optimized eCommerce website will rank better in Google, therefore landing in front of more eyeballs. But few are lucky enough to see huge improvements just by changing a few lines of copy. Understanding the needs and challenges of your target audience — and being able to explain articulately and succinctly how your products or services solve those challenges — will lead to huge ecommerce conversion rate improvements. Getting there takes time, commitment, process, and determination.

In icons we trust. 

Display icons and accreditations on your product pages that convey trustworthiness — these can include the Better Business Bureau stamp, the McAfee SECURE trustmark, or the logo from whichever payment gateway you use (below are some examples). But this is only the tip of the credibility iceberg; finding what’s most effective in gaining your audience’s trust will yield improved conversion rates. For example, leveraging (and prominently featuring) testimonials, reviews, partnerships, and privacy policies are all essential items for most websites. The top eCommerce sites are the ones that can simultaneously dazzle and instill confidence.  

Who said what?

Hopefully, if things are working out, there are real people buying your products. Featuring customer testimonials on your site is a valuable conversion tactic, since consumers tend to trust the opinions of other actual consumers. If your sales are B2B, have a spot on your testimonial form where people can add their professional title, which lends their review credibility. Ask each reviewer to upload a photo of themselves with their testimonial, as a face can lend humanity to a name. No robots need apply.  

Look, real humans! 

Lights, camera, conversions. 

If possible, include videos on your product pages that show your products in use. When potential customers can see a product in action before they buy — how it’s handled, how big it is compared to the average person, how exactly it should be used — it can answer questions they didn’t even know they had, and send them running for the Add to shopping Cart button. 

Test, test, test everything! 

And we mean everything: Conduct A/B tests on email subject lines and CTAs to see which version is more effective; test drive marketing campaigns, site navigation, and purchase confirmations internally; even check to see that the little “cha-ching!” sound effect that accompanies a successful sale works before going live. Even minor glitches in site performance can throw consumers off and erode your credibility. The best eCommerce websites are not always the ones with the flashiest design, but the ones that don’t cause visitors any headaches.  

Brand Awareness Tips

Your brand is your company’s identity, but landing on a defined and recognizable persona is only half the battle. Creating and maintaining awareness of your brand can greatly increase eCommerce sales, since the more frequently your ads pop up and the more people are talking about you, the higher your volume of promising leads. Here’s how it’s done: 

Find your unique selling proposition. 

Make sure you can make a strong case for your company’s differentiators. This should be easily summed up in your unique selling proposition (USP), or a specific benefit you offer to your customers. According to Shopify, your USP should be assertive, but defensible; focused on what your customers value; and carry more weight than a simple slogan. Picture a Venn diagram: One side is what your customer wants, the other side is what your company does best — your USP lives somewhere in the middle. Bidet attachment retailer Tushy’s USP makes a bold entrance on their landing page:

Doesn’t get much more direct than that.

Fish for compliments.

Or any feedback, really. Social proof, or social influence, is a huge conversion opportunity for eCommerce sites. Accompany every purchase confirmation with an invitation to leave a review, and encourage customers to share reviews of your products on social media. If you can swing it, incentivize customer feedback and referrals by offering discounts or rewards, like online retailer Massage Chair Store does with their Refer & Earn program. 


Use paid ads to increase brand awareness. 

Paid digital advertising has come a long way — sponsored ads are now so seamlessly integrated into our search results and social media feeds that we barely notice they’re ads. This is a good thing, since people are far more likely to click on something that a) aligns with their relevant interests and b) doesn’t scream “I AM AN AD” straight into their faces. A well-written, well-designed paid ad strategically placed on Instagram or Google is super effective in eliciting clicks and creating familiarity with your brand. 

Don’t mind me, I’m just another cat art post like you like…

Service with a smiley face. 

The quality of your customer service can make or break your eCommerce business. People talk, and are (unfortunately) far more likely to leave an unprompted negative review than a positive one. According to the White House Office of Consumer affairs, the average dissatisfied customer tells nine to 15 people about their experience; Lee Resources finds that unhappy campers are 91% more likely to take their dollars elsewhere. ALWAYS provide great customer service, and be prepared with mitigation strategies in the event of a frustrated customer.  

Customer Retention Tips

In with the old. 

Remember, your existing customers are just as important as your new or future customers. Existing customers can still be delighted by your products, leave positive reviews, and be hooked by strategic marketing campaigns, therefore helping to increase online sales. Plus, it can cost five times as much to acquire new customers as it does to retain your current ones. Treat them as you would the shiny, new customers — like a nice cheese, loyal customers’ buying power can become stronger with age.  

Email marketing for the win. 

Regular email newsletters and marketing pushes can keep your business at the top of your customers’ inboxes, aiding in customer retention and lead nurturing. People became very aware of their inboxes in 2020: From March to April of last year (COVID-19 shutdown ground zero), email campaigns from Massage Chair Store resulted in a 523% jump in visits to their WooCommerce ecommerce store. Proof you can take self care straight to the bank! However, make sure your email marketing efforts are General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)-compliant — using customers’ info without their consent is an instant credibility killer. 

Ship like your business depends on it. 

Because, um, it does. Guaranteed fast shipping is often the dealmaker in a toss-up between two online retailers, and can even encourage a lukewarm lead to press Buy Now (hi, Amazon) simply because next-day delivery is a turn-on. Sprucing up your strategy around last mile delivery from your warehouse to your customer’s doorstep is also key to heading off any potential shipping delays.

Keep your buyer personas up to date. 

If your target market has shifted or expanded in the last year, make sure you know who your buyers are now. Assess your buyer personas on a regular basis, and use them to tailor and tweak your site content so it speaks to your most valuable audiences. Keep your finger on the pulse of customers’ most frequently asked questions, and use your marketing collateral (blog posts, email newsletters, etc.) to answer before they ask. Check out this *chef’s kiss* template from Biz Shakalaka.

We feel like we really *get* Clark.   

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So What Have We Learned? 

The eCommerce industry is only going to grow from here on out, so staying ahead of the trends curve will help your business survive and thrive. The growth in the eCommerce industry may have occurred regardless of COVID-19 — albeit at a much slower pace — so au courant trends like mobile shopping and paid social media ads are the results of a natural evolution. But some hot tactics for improving online sales aren’t rocket science: Best practices like showing love to your existing customers and delivering stellar customer service have been around since before the Silk Road. 

We’re just a humble ecommerce web design company, but we’re pretty confident that if you follow the tips in this guide, your eCommerce site will be poised to survive and thrive through 2021 and beyond, no matter what! Come at us, next ice age. (Actually, wait, no, don’t.)