Grow your online sales as a creative product business

Catherine Erdly is  a small business consultant, independent retail expert and membership host of the Resilient Retail Club.  You’ll find plenty of brilliant free resources on her website.

She is also author of Tame your tiger:  how to stop your product business eating you alive

 

As creative product  founders, growing online sales will be on your mind constantly and it’s easy to get caught up devising various tactics on how to do it. In my opinion there are four key ways to grow your online sales. Execute these well and you will get results. 

 1 Customers you’ve yet to meet 

To increase sales, you need to attract more potential customers to come to you. More traffic to your website, more followers on your social media platforms, more email sign ups and ultimately more visits to your shop – on or offline. 

You need a flow of fresh customers coming into a business at all times. Getting more people to come is not easy and can often be expensive. 

However – there are lots of ways you can drive more people to your business! Get your name out there – whether that’s through PR, making sure your SEO is up to date and working effectively, or organising a collaboration with another business to get in front of their audience too. 

If you want to drive more sales you need more customers. 

2 Convert, convert, convert 

The second way to grow your sales is to get more of the people who are coming to actually buy, or in other words, increase your conversion rate. 

What’s your conversion rate now? How many people on average connect with your business and then make a purchase? If you had 100 people visit your website and two of them made a purchase, that’s a conversion rate of 2% which is the average for online shops. 

For context – with a physical retail space – between 30% to 50% is typical. So if you have 100 people come into your shop, you would expect that between 30-50 of them would buy. 

So you need to aim for the average and if you’re already there then you can improve! There are lots of ways to improve conversation rates but I think it falls into two main categories. 

Number one – Is there enough information for the customer to easily see in order to make their purchase? It’s always a good idea to review your online shop user journey and/or your customer experience in your shop. 

Secondly – people won’t convert to customers if you’re not selling what they want or your stock is not ‘fresh’. 

Reflect on who your customer is. Trail new products. Review your offering to ensure it meets the needs and wants of your customer – especially your loyal tribe. 

3 Big spenders 

The holy grail is to increase your transaction averages. Get people to spend more each time that they connect with your business. Take a look at your average transaction value or your units per transaction, or the average selling price of the product that you’re selling. 

If you can increase those you will grow your sales – if you have the same number of people coming to your shop, converting to purchasers at the same rate but spending 10% more – that is a low cost way for you to grow your sales. 

As always there are lots of tactics to do this. You can bundle products together, or come up with other ways to encourage multiple purchases . 

However, my top suggestion is this – offer great customer service. The personal touch that independent businesses can offer will set you apart and by making sure you are meeting their needs and offering up other products that they will love, you can help grow your sales. 

4 Loyal tribe 

The final way to grow your sales is to get people to come back and shop with you more often. Make your business the go-to gift buying option for your customers. 

Creating a loyal tribe will grow your sales and also create a lot of quality marketing for you through customer recommendations. 

It’s important because returning customers on average spend around 67% more than people who were shopping with you for the first time. 

Loyalty and encouraging loyalty is a really crucial way for you to grow your sales and again, it doesn’t cost you any money to acquire these people. They’re already in your universe. 

It costs seven times as much money to acquire a new customer as it does to keep an existing one. So are you looking after your existing customers? Are you reaching back out and engaging them? Are you coming up with some way of building loyalty into your business? 

What if you’ve not sold online before?

Fear not – there are many lessons from your offline sales that can be applied to online selling – whether it is through markets, events or pop-up shops.

I want you to think about a few key ways in which you can take learnings from your offline sales. If you are somebody who is good at selling offline – good at selling at events, markets, pop-ups – chances are you’re going to be able to replicate that online. 

Ask yourself ‘why do you believe you’ve had success selling offline?’ How that works when you’re selling in store and to think about what is it that makes it effective for you to sell face-to-face. It usually comes down to two things: 

Passion 

You are able to portray your story, your passion for your product and the thinking behind your business to the customer face-to-face. When somebody approaches your stall or somebody walks into your store, what do you tell them? And you will know, because if you think back you’re probably saying this a hundred of times in a day. 

When you look at your online presence, whether that’s your product descriptions, your website, your ‘about’ page or your social media – do you talk about those same things? 

I’ve looked at people’s websites and there is often very little to read about their ‘story’ – but when I talk to the business owner, they tell me incredible stories about how they started the business, what the motivation was, how hard they work to get the right product, how the spent time finding brilliant partners to manufacture the product or to purchase from, and yet those stories are not visible on their website or on the social media. 

Think about what you say to your customers when you’re with them face-to-face and ask yourself, are you saying those things to your customer online? 

Also, can your customer see you? Can they see your face? Can they hear your voice? Are you visible? Customers experience that human connection when purchasing face-to-face so you need to replicate it online – include your photo, hone your writing so it sounds like you – show them who the business is. 

Touch

Customers being able to pick up and feel a product is key for offline selling. When you think about your product – is it the smell, the touch, the size, the colours? How can you replicate that online? 

Include photos that show every angle including the bottom, zoom in on details. Videos are powerful – you can really go into detail and explain the product and the customer experience will be as if they are holding the product themselves. 

Are you giving sufficient information in your product listings – weight, size, colours, materials, scents – the list goes on and potential buyers love this detail. 

If the product is made from particular materials, ingredients – can you link to another page with more detail on this? Perhaps the manufacturing process and why it’s important. 

So those are two really important considerations. If you can move to online selling – and I recommend it – think through all the lessons you’ve learnt through selling offline as you will be able replicate successes online – in fact doing that will be key. 

5 top tips for selling your products online 

So now I’ve convinced you to sell online – it’s only right that I share with you my 5 top tips! You might be trying to get more traffic to your online shop or you’re wanting to replace sales that you might otherwise have taken at markets, events or festivals. Whichever it is – here are my quick 5 top tips. 

  1. Tell your story online

If you can sell person to person, if you can sell it events and fairs – you can definitely sell online. Recognise that you’ve already got the tools that you need to make it happen. 

The story you tell online is the same as the one as you would tell face to face at an event – there isn’t a potential customer you wouldn’t talk to who visits your stall – it needs to be the same for your online shop. 

Tell them about the products, how you started your business and mostly share your passion for your products. Use video to tell stories – you are ‘virtually’ chatting directly to your online visitors in a personable way. 

You will have many stories to tell which provides lots of rich content to connect with your customers. Tell them how you make your products, how you source them, how you came up with your ideas and how you started your business. 

  1. Repetition

If you were selling at a market you would tell a visitor to your stall the story about your business, you would tell it again to the next visitor – you’d do hundreds of time at one event – it’s should be the same for your online customers. 

People who follow you on social media, who visit your website will only see and read a small percentage of your content. So you can repackage the same ‘story’ again and again. There’s a statistic that says you need to say the same thing seven times before people even realise that they’ve heard it from you. So don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. 

  1. Enthusiasm

If you don’t get enthusiastic about your product, then who else is going to get enthusiastic about it? Let your passion for what you do shine through – just like you would face-to-face. 

When your telling your story and creating content show the excitement and love you have for your product – it will entice and excite your customers and those types of customers buy. 

  1. Go to your customers

It might seem obvious – but go where your customers are. Are they on Facebook? Instagram? Pinterest? LinkedIn? Are they somebody who’d like to read an e-newsletter? 

You need to know this so if you’re not sure where they are, simply ask them. 

If you don’t know where they are you’ll be spreading yourself too thinly to try to reach them. You want to be where they are and concentrate your efforts there. 

  1. Clear call to action

Sharing your story is key, sharing your passion vital but then you are going to need to ask them to buy something. 

For about 20% of your posts have a clear call to action; go to my website, dm me to purchase. So ensure you go through all your content and decide which clear call to action makes sense for each post. 

What to do when you’re having a sales slump 

So far I’ve talked about my tips for  increasing your sales – but what if you’ve hit a sales slump? Most product businesses, probably all product businesses, will go through highs and lows. It’s what you do as a creative product business owner that matters. 

Take a break 

If your sales are not where you want them to be, the first thing is – don’t panic! Understandably for independent product businesses when sales aren’t great it can feel personal – what if no one likes my products anymore or worse me or the business! If your mindset is heading that way then it’s time for some perspective. 

We’re not very good at taking break but this would be an ideal time to do just that – and with that you’ll gain a little external perspective. Can you go and spend time with family or friends? Can you carve some time for yourself to recharge – if you can recharge you’ll be energised and able to go back to your business with a curious mindset. You need a clear head to reflect back on what’s worked well by looking at your business as objectively as you can. 

Reflect then review 

Get your analytical head on and look at your business to try and work out what’s going on that’s causing lower sales. So, for example, is this a seasonal low? Most businesses will have a very busy November and December, then January will be naturally quieter. Start to learn what the natural rhythm of your business year is. If you look back at last year, was this a good month for you and not so much this year? The majority of product businesses are seasonal. So if you’ve got that data where you could look back at last year, then you can totally switch your mindset again so that you can understand this is a quiet time for the business. 

If it is seasonal, that will be a huge weight off your shoulders and you can then see it as an opportunity. An opportunity to focus on that long list of important tasks for your business you are always too busy to get to. Sales planning, forecasting, social media plans, content production – the list goes on! 

What else could be happening? Have a look at any data that you can get your hands on. For example, there’s a big difference between lower sales because people aren’t coming to your website verses people are still coming at the same rate but now they’re buying less. Those two things point to two different problems. If not as many people are coming, then you need to look at your outreach to customers – your email marketing, social media – maybe you there was a brilliant piece of pr coverage and now the sales conversion from that is tailing off, looking at what you can do to drive more people to your point of sale is vital. 

If as many people are coming to your website as before but they’re not buying as much, then review your website. What products have you got displayed? Does the layout need updating? Are many items ‘out of stock’. By identifying the problem you can then find the right solutions. 

Product strategy 

The best sales strategy is a great product strategy. If your sales are disappointing, have a look at what was driving them by product previously, what was your best seller last month when sales were higher – are they still in stock? Have you made any major changes to your product offering – any items discontinued that were selling well and the new versions have not picked up those sales? 

In contrast it might not be that you’ve brought something new in, maybe you haven’t brought in enough newness. So, for example, people do like and respond to new products. If you’ve noticed your sales declining over a certain amount of time, it’s worth checking this. 

When was the last time you brought in something new? When was the last time you effectively started a brand new conversation with your customer and showed them something different? 

These are all things for you to review when you’re looking at a sales slump. 

What next? 

You’re in this situation. You’ve done some analysis, you’ve taken a break and feel recharged and ready to move forward. I would suggest that you simply brainstorm 25 different things that you could do. 

So why 25? Well, it helps you  think of more than just the obvious and forces you to expand your mind, expand the possibilities of what you could do. Once you have done that, then pick one. Pick the one that’s most exciting to you, that looks most interesting and that you feel you could get your teeth into and start there. 

It comes down to you being really dedicated to finding what’s gonna work, whether that’s putting new products in front of your customers, trying new ways of doing things, revitalising your social media content, giving your customers a reason to come back and start shopping with you again and of course hooking in new customers. 

So if you find yourself in the sales lull, don’t panic – get curious! 

 

 

beepurplebusiness

Helen Carley • 04/04/2023


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