January 13, 2021
Case Study

6 Ecommerce Lessons: Your marketing peers share their hard-earned online retail wisdom


While holiday shopping gets all the bold-faced headlines recently, don’t overlook evergreen ecommerce tactics that can power your company’s sales throughout the year.

In this article we bring you your peers’ hard-earned ecommerce wisdom to help spark your next great idea for using live chat, interactive buttons, A/B testing, and so much more.

Read on for examples from Wix, a nonprofit, online footwear store, B2B ecommerce site, jeweler, and an online coffee store.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

6 Ecommerce Lessons: Your marketing peers share their hard-earned online retail wisdom

This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

Lesson #1: Customers don’t just choose a product; they choose a company to buy it from

Ah, the physical world. When a new customer shops for a product in a store, they’ve already made a crucial decision. They’ve chosen that store. And inside that store, they are surrounded by many reassuring reasons why they should purchase there – from high-end displays in a jewelry store that connote trust to giant posted placards about return policies in a discount store that relieve anxiety.

But ecommerce shopping is often the opposite. Many new customers choose the product first, and only happen into the store. They look for a product in a search engine or a product catches their eye on social media…then they end up in your store. Often, they are in multiple different stores at the same time with multiple tabs open in their browser all featuring the same product at other stores (can’t do that in the physical world).

So not only does the ecommerce site have to sell the customer the product, they have to sell the store as well.

“Your copy on this page needs to help me draw a sense of certainty inside that not only is this the right product but you are the right company,” said Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director and CEO, MECLABS Institute, in the video The Essential Messaging Component Most Ecommerce Sites Miss and Why It’s Deterring Your Customers from Purchasing (MECLABS is the parent organization of MarketingSherpa).

“Flint made a really good point which I’ve always resonated with. [Here is] a good example of how we give a strong reason for buyers to choose our company. It’s something we’ve been doing for the last six years,” said Will Ward, CEO, Translation Equipment HQ.

“The translation equipment industry is a jargon-laden industry where the customers have no clue as to what they need. More often than not, they end up buying either equipment that's too expensive or something that doesn't even really suit their use case,” he said

Ward claims Translation Equipment HQ is the only company that sees itself as consultants first and then as sellers. On the right-hand side of every page, there's a small image of Ward with a message telling visitors they can contact him for help. A toll-free number is provided along with an email address.

Creative Sample #1: Webpage for translation equipment company

Creative Sample #1: Webpage for translation equipment company

Ward says he designed the homepage to look more like a blog than an ecommerce site. It’s basically an open letter to customers relating why he started this company.

Creative Sample #2: Homepage for translation equipment company

Creative Sample #2: Homepage for translation equipment company

“These tactics have helped me humanize our brand and differentiate from the competition. It's almost impossible to buy from our store without establishing a personal connection. For a B2B ecommerce company, there is nothing like it as a lot of our leads are referrals from existing customers,” he said.

Lesson #2: Live chat can make or break your sales

Here is a quick lesson based on data from the Wix network of more than 500,000 online stores worldwide.

“Sites that offer live chat get eight to 12 times higher gross merchandize value (GMV), and those that recommend products to customers via chat generate 71% more sales,” said Liat Karpel Gurwicz, Head of Strategic Marketing, Wix.

Lesson #3: Enable real, human conversations on live chat

“Thanks to improved messaging and a better web experience this year, we have started to see sales grow exponentially. One of the biggest lessons Kuru Footwear learned this year – and one that can benefit other e-commerce businesses – is how to balance growing sales while simultaneously keeping inbound contacts down,” said Ben Devey, Senior Manager, Customer & Employee Experience, Kuru Footwear.

(Editor’s Note: You can learn about one of KURU’s messaging improvements in Mini Case Study #5 in Ecommerce: 10 mini case studies of successful marketing for online shopping).

Kuru switched to a customer service platform that shows all customer interactions in a conversation thread instead of separate tickets. This approach allows customer service reps to see a customer’s entire conversation history, no matter what channel they come from, in a single view providing more context, less repetition, quicker responses, and a more human, personal touch to customer service.

It also allows a customer-centric view of customer interactions. “It’s the difference [between] seeing how many customers are contacting us versus just the total number of contacts,” Devey said.

The online footwear store has also set proactive triggers to target specific pages on its site, where the team knows customers have a higher intent to buy. “We can help be that difference to get them through our purchase funnel,” Devey said.

Creative Sample #3: Footwear company webpage with proactive triggered chat

Creative Sample #3: Footwear company webpage with proactive triggered chat

Kuru has realized an 18% increase in conversion when the team chats with a customer.

“The future for ecommerce companies is for the contact center to become a revenue center,” said Joseph Ansanelli, CEO, Gladly, Kuru’s customer service platform.  “We’re seeing that happen today with many of our customers from Crate & Barrel to Andie Swim.”

For example, Ansanelli says Crate & Barrel is doing millions of dollars annually through chat sales alone. 

And to drive efficiency, Andie Swim is offering consumers the ability to help themselves at the point-of-purchase. This has led to a shift in the ratio of customer contacts to orders — dropping 50% from 0.6 to 0.3.  

Lesson #4: Keep on iterating – the journey never really ends

In conjunction with its PPC agency, Fenton launched a split test of individual landing pages for each of its gemstones. They needed to communicate as much information as possible in these landing pages, since these prospective customers arriving from generic terms may not be aware of the Fenton brand.

Creative Sample #4: Previous (control) landing page for jeweler

Creative Sample #4: Previous (control) landing page for jeweler

For the new landing page, the team wanted to clearly communicate the jeweler’s “create your ring” process. “So we opted for a step-by-step illustrative guide with clear, pithy copy,” said Jerome Brustlein, COO, Fenton. “We also wanted to showcase our beautiful rings, so we selected a GIF with a number of lifestyle shots to illustrate a range of different angles.”

They created a number of illustrations about the simplicity of the jeweler’s process at the bottom of the landing page under the heading “We Like To Make Things Easy.” “[It’s] there to alleviate any concerns or worries that prospective customers may have instantly,” Brustlein said. “The bottom section of the page is a range of Trustpilot reviews along with curated imagery, designed to add social proof and also give them a real-world view of what the process of ordering a Fenton ring feels like.”

Finally, to improve conversion rate, they added a “We Also Have” carousel with a curated range of different gemstones to ensure that prospective customers have a range of widely varying options in case the first gemstone they land on isn’t quite the one they desire.

 Creative Sample #5: New (treatment) landing page for jeweler

Creative Sample #5: New (treatment) landing page for jeweler

The new (treatment) landing page had 400% more transactions than the previous (control) landing page during the A/B testing period.

“I think using a mix of the left and right side of the brain is vital when A/B testing. Listen to data, but also trust your eye, intuition and qualitative feedback from your customers, then continue to iterate by recording landing page testing sessions and see where the pain points lie. We do monthly Hotjar sessions with internal project teams across marketing, design, development and UX to keep on iterating. Basically, the journey never really ends,” Brustlein advised.

Lesson #5: Do everything you can to rescue customers who have abandoned their purchase right before closing

Cafe Last soft-launched its online store in Fall 2020 and had its revenue double each month:

  • September 2020: $18,461
  • October 2020: $35,459
  • November 2020 (by November 20th): $41,043.10 (Expected to be $61,564 based on projections)

From this rapid growth, founder Graham Cooke’s top ecommerce lesson is, “Do everything you can to rescue customers who have abandoned their purchase right before closing. At this point, you have already paid to acquire the customer, either through paid traffic or content marketing. Try your best to push them through and convert. Any customers you can convert just add to your bottom line and expand your margins.”

“The obvious way to do this is through email marketing, but SMS marketing works extremely well. In fact, I believe there is a synergy between the two,” he said.

Creative Sample #6: Abandoned cart email for coffee retail website

Creative Sample #6: Abandoned cart email for coffee retail website

The online coffee store’s abandoned cart campaign has recovered $43,966 in revenue. “Revenue that could have simply disappeared otherwise,” Cooke said.

They have had the best success using the following intervals: five minutes, 1 hour, and 1 day. “However, it is definitely worth split testing because you may find different results work better for your brand,” he advised.

Lesson #6: Little usability tweaks can go a long way

Visitors to the Starlight Children’s Foundation website would click a “Donate” button, which took them to a page where they have another option of clicking to donate once or donate monthly. Then, the donation process would start.

Creative Sample #7: Previous donation landing page for nonprofit

Creative Sample #7: Previous donation landing page for nonprofit

The team decided to improve the user experience by removing that page entirely. They made the Donate button an interactive button. Hovering over the button presents a choice of donating one-time or monthly. Users can easily click their preferred option and begin the donation process. 

Creative Sample #8: Interactive donation button for nonprofit

Creative Sample #8: Interactive donation button for nonprofit

After making the button interactive in early 2020, putting users through less steps, Starlight saw a 146% increase in traffic to their monthly donor page in the first few months.

“One of our goals for our website is to convert one-time donors to monthly donors, so anything we can do to highlight that option and make it easy is a plus. Little usability tweaks like an engaging donate button go a long way – always keep an eye out for small ways you can move your donor journey in the direction you want it to go,” said Aimee Finn, Director of Digital Campaigns, Starlight Children's Foundation.

Related resources

Research-based Ecommerce Swipe File – 25 valid marketing experiments to give you ideas for your next A/B test

Ecommerce: 10 mini case studies of successful marketing for online shopping

Ecommerce Marketing Research: To be truly successful, you must step out of the ecommerce bubble

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