profile pic

by Eric Sharp on October 28, 2015

Topics: Business, Conversion, Inbound Marketing

How to Increase Online Sales - 2 Fundamental Tactics for Every Website

Add more products. Upsell. Offer free shipping. Run sales & specials.

Ah yes, the generic “Ecommerce Tips” that spits out universal advice that works for some businesses. I’m sure you’ve come across a blog like that recently.

But, what if you’re selling a single product? Your thin margins don’t allow for free shipping? Your niche, high-end product never goes on “sale”? Your business probably has just enough uniqueness to leave you searching for ways to increase online sales at a more fundamental level.

“There has to be a way without altering my business, right?”

There certainly is.

Every website — regardless of offering — can adopt two proven tactics to driving more online sales:

1. Improve Conversion Rate
2. Increase Traffic

Tactic #1 – Improve Conversion Rate

increase-online-sales-via-conversion-memeWebsite conversion rate is a hot topic these days.

A recent study reported that “What’s your conversion rate?” has supplanted “What do you drive?” as today’s most popular pickup line.

(I can neither deny nor confirm the validity of this study)

Seriously, conversion rate is a big deal. Improve it by even 1% and you’ll see a difference of hundreds or thousands of dollars (millions on major retail websites).

Even if you dabble in your analytics, you know a low conversion rate is holding you back from increasing your online sales.

ecommece-conversion-rate-chart
Ecommerce Conversion Rate = (# of ecommerce transactions / visits) * 100 [img credit: Quora]

How an improved conversion rate translates into dollars

Let’s say your website receives 1,000 visitors every month, offers a $100 product and you own a 1% conversion rate. Your data would look like this…

VisitorsProduct PriceConversion RateTotal OrdersTotal Sales
1,000$1001%10$1,000

Now, let’s bump your conversion rate to 2% and see what happens…

VisitorsProduct PriceConversion RateTotal OrdersTotal Sales
1,000$1002%20$2,000

$1,000 more in sales without increasing traffic! By improving your conversion rate, you’re maximizing your website’s efficiency with its existing traffic.

Simple enough, right? There’s much to conversion rate optimization (CRO), but here are some tips.

3 tips for approaching CRO to boost online sales

  1. Stay away from a “magical” conversion rate number
    Saying you arbitrarily want an 8% conversion rate is just silly (and setting you up for failure). Conversion rates are highly contextual. Think of the dramatic difference in conversion rate between BlueNile.com (selling diamonds) and ChiTownClothing.com (t-shirts). Instead, focus on incremental improvement month-to-month.
  2. Don’t start changing stuff without a plan
    Could you make design and content adjustments and see a DROP in sales? Absolutely! Know why you’re making specific changes and prepare for A/B testing.
  3. Don’t buy into myths
    Green buttons convert better than red buttons! Oh geez. Just ignore this type of noise and focus on legit advice (e.g. improve website speed, use quality product images, etc.)
green-button-vs-red-button
More times than not, sweating the color of your call-to-action won’t move the needle on your conversion rate. Proper contrast is the more important detail to focus on. (img src: Servage Magazine)

If you’re looking for more actionable advice, read ConversionXL’s Ultimate Guide to Increasing Ecommerce Conversion Rates.

Tactic #2 – Increase Traffic

When people ask “How do we increase online sales?”, they typically think website traffic is the easy solution.

I understand that — it’s the simple correlation to make. The more eyeballs on your product, the more orders you’ll get? Right? Well, kind of.

increase-online-sales-via-traffic-meme

Just because you pump traffic in, doesn’t mean online sales automatically go up. If that traffic isn’t quality traffic, your sales could actually show no change.

Similar to how conversion optimization could backfire, the same could be said about more traffic to your website.

If you’re strictly selling Chicago Bears T-shirts, but you start receiving additional organic search traffic related to Chicago Bears Tickets, is that good? Of course not. You want potential customers looking for $25 year-round products, not $300 seasonal game tickets.

This additional traffic won’t bring in more sales (or save your SEO company from getting fired).

How an increase in traffic translates into dollars

Now that we know it’s all about QUALITY traffic, let’s see how more traffic drives more online sales.

This example is receiving 5,000 visitors monthly and generating $10,000 in sales…

VisitorsProduct PriceConversion RateTotal OrdersTotal Sales
5,000$1002%100$10,000

Instead of improving conversion rate, let’s boost the traffic (“Visitors”) and see what happens…

VisitorsProduct PriceConversion RateTotal OrdersTotal Sales
7,500$1002%150$15,000

Cha-Ching!

Assuming these 2,500 additional visitors is quality traffic, a website can expect to receive an additional 50 orders and increase sales by $5,000 a month.

Now, this isn’t an exact science. If conversion rate fluctuates, which it will, your total sales will fluctuate too. But, this framework does work. I’ve seen it with my clients.

3 tips for increasing traffic to boost online sales

  1. Focus on QUALITY traffic
    There’s that word again. Ensure your marketing channels (e.g. search engine, paid, social) are sending the right kind of traffic
  2. Send traffic to more than just product pages
    “Smart Marketing is about Help not Hype” suggests Jay Baer in his book Youtility. If all your marketing campaigns are funneling potential customers directly to product pages, you might want to read his book.
  3. Step on the gas in marketing channels that have a higher conversion rate
boost-website-sales-high-converting-marketing-channel
Is a certain marketing channel driving a higher conversion rate? Generate MORE of it!

Should I execute these tactics separately or together? Which one comes first?

You can prioritize one or the other in the short-term, but the best way to increase ecommerce sales year after year is by doing both.

First, discuss scenarios such as:

  • “If our conversion rate improved by x..”
  • “If our traffic increased by x..”

Then, choose the tactic that looks to have the greatest ROI. Maybe it’s just about traffic for the first 3 months, and then you improve conversion rate. Or, vice versa.

If website adjustments come with a heavy price tag and take months to do, maybe you start with traffic. If the challenge of increasing traffic sends you into a tizzy, redirect your nervous energy on improving conversion rate.

Your Formula will be slightly unique

The formula month-to-month is a little different for every business, but the goal isn’t: increase online sales and make a lot of people happy!

If you’ve found success on prioritizing traffic or conversion rate first, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Good luck!

Author Info

profile pic
Hey there, thanks for reading! My name is Eric Sharp and I’m the Founder of ProtoFuse. Learn more about me, follow me on Twitter or find me on Google+. Oh, and I’ll call you family if you’re a Chicago Bears fan. Daaa Bearsss.
  • Some great points here. Great article. Thanks for sharing

    • Thanks! Appreciate you taking the time to read.

  • I am totally agree with you that not all traffics are good for you. And if not all traffic is good then its difficult to increase the conversion rate of your business.