Running a successful and profitable e-commerce website involves a lot more than just setting up a website and adding some products. Of course you will need to have products that customers want to buy at prices they are willing to pay, and you’ll need to be able to get your site and products in front of the right audience.
While it is possible to generate revenue with just the basic e-commerce functionality, there are some additional features and functions you should be adding to your site if you really want to cause exponential growth on your website. In this article we’ll take a look at 13 different features that you can add to your e-commerce site to help you grow you site by leaps and bounds. These features will cover all different aspects of your site including marketing and customer service.
Long time readers will know that I’m a huge fan of Shopify as an quick and easy way to set up an e-commerce website–in fact, it’s one of the best hosted CMSs out there right now. I’ve tested a lot of of e-commerce platforms and I still continue to make them my go-to source and always recommend it to anyone who asks.
In this article you’ll find links to a number of Shopify apps that can be used to do some pretty cool stuff. You’ll also find links to apps and extensions for other popular platforms like Bigcommerce and WooCommerce. Using the resources and ideas featured in this post, you can be one step closer to having an e-commerce site that maximizes its sales potential.
Allowing visitors to create a wishlist can be a great way to increase sales. Visitors may create a wishlist to simply keep track of products that they are interested in but are not going to buy right away. They may come back to your site later and quickly reference the products on their wishlist rather than searching or browsing the entire site to find them again. Customers may also choose to share their wishlists with friends or family so they can buy gifts that will be appreciated. Regardless of which way the customer uses the wishlist, it is a good way to encourage future purchases.
In order to have wishlist functionality on your e-commerce site, you will, of course, need to have a system that also handles user/customer accounts. Bigcommerce includes wishlists by default. With Shopify there are several different apps that can be used to add wishlist functionality. Shopify Wishlist ($10 per month), and Wishlist ($13 per month) will both get the job done. Another Shopify app, Gift Reggie ($5 – $40 per month), includes gift registration functionality as well as wishlist functionality. For WooCommerce users, WooCommerce Wishlist ($79) will allow you to offer wishlists to your customers/visitors.
What if you could increase the amount of money that your average customer spends at your site? The cumulative effect of this could mean a significant boost in revenue and profit. Offering an upsell (an additional product or a higher-priced product) to your customers either during the shopping process or immediately after checkout can be extremely effective.
Shopify users have a few different apps that allow for upselling in various ways. Product Upsell ($9.99 – $59.99 per month) allows you to create upsells that will recommend related products during the checkout process. For example, if a customer adds a digital camera to their shopping cart, they see an upsell offer asking them if they would like to purchase a memory card to use with the camera. The upsells can be based on the product in the cart, the order price, or both.
Another Shopify app is Unlimited Upsell (free). This app is fairly similar. With it you can create upsell offers based on the products in a customer’s shopping cart.
The last Shopify app that we will look at for upsells is Upsell-by-Email (free). This app will send an email to customers following their purchase, and the email will suggest products based on the purchase that they made.
3. Customer Loyalty Programs
A customer loyalty program is a great way to encourage your customers to make additional purchases. Typically with a loyalty program, the customer will earn points by making purchases or referring friends, and then they can use those points to get some sort of reward like a free product or a discount.
The S Loyalty Suite is available for both Shopify and Bigcommerce ($19.99 – $99.99 per month). With S Loyalty you can set up your own program. It will reward customers for purchases, as well as other actions like social media sharing and referrals. You can manage all the details of the program and the rewards, set up auto reminder emails, and even import past purchases to reward customers for their purchases made previously.
4. Affiliate and Referral Programs
An affiliate program will allow other website owners and bloggers to link to your site and earn a commission whenever a visitor that they referred makes a purchase. Affiliate programs are very common because they are extremely effective at allowing you to extend your reach and get your store and products in front of new customers. From the perspective of the e-commerce site owner, affiliate programs are great because you don’t pay anything out unless a sale is made, unlike other types of advertising which charge you based on impressions or clicks. And affiliates like it because they have unlimited potential and the opportunity to make a lot of money.
Some e-commerce platforms, DPD for example, come with affiliate functionality built in. However in most cases, you will need an app or separate software like iDevAffiliate to manage the affiliate program. Shopify users can set up an affiliate program using either Refersion (free – $179 per month) or ReferralCandy (pricing is per use). Bigcommerce users can set up an affiliate program with LeadDyno (starting at $19 per month). WooCommerce users can use the MagicAffiliate plugin ($89) to set up an affiliate program.
For a more in depth look at earning from affiliate programs, read 101 Ways to Monetize Your Website or Blog.
5. Limited-Time Deals
Daily deal sites like Groupon are popular with buyers because they offer a great value of products. Some e-commerce sites have started using daily deals or limited time deals to attract more sales. Limited time offers are perfect for creating a sense of urgency, and buyers love a great deal.
Shopify users have several different apps that they can use for this type of functionality. Product Discount ($99) allows you to set up and customize limited time offers. You can limit the sale to a week, a day, an hour, or whatever length of time you want. You can create the sale on a per product basis, or you can run a sale on products of a particular brand, product type, or collection. Customers won’t need to use a coupon code and the sale price will be displayed on the site. Daily Deals ($5.99 per month) is another app that allows you to set up limited time deals very easily. With Flash Sale 360 you can easily set up limited time offers and include a visual count down so buyers sense the urgency of the offer.
6. Email Lists
Every e-commerce site should be gathering email addresses from customers and visitors in order to be able to market new products and discounts effectively. An email list can be one of the most valuable assets for an online shop, and it can even make the difference between success and failure.
Your most loyal customers and those who are very interested in your products will be most likely to subscribe to your list, which will make your list responsive to your offers. You can use a service like AWeber, GetResponse, or MailChimp to manage your mailing list, or if your site is built in WordPress, there are several good plugins that can help grow your mailing list. Once you have the list set up, you’ll want to work on increasing signups to grow your list quickly.
The Shopify app Email Pirate ($49.99) allows you to easily create optin forms that can be displayed to visitors when they arrive, as they are browsing, or as the leave the site. Email Pirate integrates with AWeber, GetResponse, and MailChimp, among others.
If you’re using WooCommerce, or any other WordPress e-commerce plugin, there are several plugins that you can use to increase conversions. Both OptinMonster and Popup Domination are extremely effective at helping you to grow your list quickly with popups and other types on optin forms.
7. Customer Reviews
Allowing customers to review your products, and then displaying those reviews on the product page can be an excellent way to encourage more sales. Of course, in order for reviews to be able to help your sales, you will need to have a quality product that is likely to receive positive reviews.
Just think about when you make a purchase at Amazon. Most likely the reviews and ratings from other customers made an influence on your decision to purchase. Imagine if your site had 4 and 5 star reviews for your products and how that would impact others who are looking at the product.
Review functionality is built in to Bigcommerce. Shopify users have several apps that can add this functionality. Product Reviews (free) will allow you to add reviews and pass that review data on to Google to show up in search results. Orankl (free) will display reviews and email customers a few days after the purchase to remind them to leave a review. That email also includes links to related products that might interest the customer. Kudobuzz Testimonials and Reviews (free) will promote customers right after a purchase to leave a review. It will also allow you to gather testimonials from your social media pages. Yotpo Reviews (free) includes some interesting social features. Users can post their review to their social media profiles as well as to yours. Visitors can also see more about the people leaving the reviews, which can increase trust.
Yotpo Review is also available for Bigcommerce users.
8. Motivation and Incentives
Giving visitors and customer some motivation or incentive can be a great way to increase the average purchase amount. Have you ever been on a site and after adding a product to your shopping cart you see a message like “$15 to go until free shipping”? These types of messages can encourage customers to buy more, and all you’re really doing is reminding them or giving a gentle nudge.
Shopify users can use The Motivator ($4.99 per month), which is an awesome app that can bring very effective functionality to your site. You can give messages to customers based on the products that they add to their cart and the price. You customize the goal (like free shipping at $100 or spend $50 and get a free gift), and customize the wording of the message that will be displayed. It will calculate the amount, and tell customers how far away they are from the amount needed.
Promotify ($99 – $249 per month) is another option for Shopify users. This app allows you to offer rewards and perks to motivate customers to buy more. It also includes product review functionality.
Nudge ($19 – $79 per month) is a Shopify app that will allow you to display a message to visitors based on any number of factors. The messages you use can offer coupon codes or give some other type of incentive. The message can be set to be shown to repeat visitors, visitors who came from a Facebook or Twitter ad, people who view a certain product, and visitors who have not yet purchased from your shop.
9. Product Bundles
Offering product bundles is another effective way to encourage visitors to spend more. For example, if they are thinking of buying a product for $25, they may be interested in buying a bundle for $45 that would include that product plus some other things that they could use. The result for you is more revenue and a higher average sale.
Some e-commerce platforms like DPD allow you to create product bundles fairly easily. Shopify users can do this with the help of the Product Bundles ($15.99 per month) app, which will allow you to set up and customize your bundles. When a visitor is viewing the page of a product that is included in the bundle, he or she will see details of the bundle offer below the product details.
WooCommerce users can get the Product Bundles plugin ($49) to accomplish this functionality. It gives you all kinds of options to configure the bundles that you want to offer.
10. Online Chat
Another feature that can help you to make more sales is an online chat that visitors can use to quickly ask questions about your products. Not only is this helpful for visitors, but it can increase your sales by giving you the opportunity to clear up any questions or doubts that customers may have while they are on your site. If they can’t contact you easily, chances are they will not make the effort to contact you at all.
If your e-commerce site is powered by Shopify, you can use the Olark Live Chat + CartSaver app (free – $243 per month). With this app you can easily chat with visitors while they are on your site, and you can also view data about your current visitors and the items that they have in their shopping carts. Olark Live Chat is also available for Bigcommerce users. Olark can also be set up independently of your e-commerce platform, so you can use it with any platform you’d like.
The Zopim Live Chat app (free – $20 per month) is another option for chat functionality on Shopify.
11. Exit Offers
Regardless of how effective your e-commerce site is, the majority of your visitors will leave without making a purchase. One way to improve in this area is to make an offer to visitors as they are leaving your site. If the offer is enticing enough to convince visitors that they should make a purchase, it will have a big impact on your sales.
The Shopify app Exit Pop (free) allows you to create and configure a popup that will be displayed as visitors are about to leave your site. You can offer a discount that they can claim by clicking.
Exit Offers ($9.99 per month) is another Shopify app with similar functionality. When a customer adds an item to their cart and then goes to leave the site without making a purchase, they will be presented with an offer. It could be free shipping or a discount on their purchase.
If you are using WooCommerce or another WordPress e-commerce plugin, OptinMonster is a plugin that allows you to display a popup with exit intent technology. Although increasing email subscribers is the primary focus of OptinMonster, you can also use it to create any type of popup that you’d like so you could include an offer or a gentle nudge to encourage customers to buy before leaving your site.
12. Social E-Commerce
Another way to increase sales is to also offer your products through social media. For example, you could sell products from your Facebook page in addition to directly on your website. With Highwire, a hosted e-commerce platform, you can sell on Facebook.
Shopify also has several apps that offer this functionality. The Shopify app Facebook Store (free) allows you to sell your products on Facebook and also allows your customers to share products with their friends. Facebook Store – Easy Social Shop (free) and Beetailer – Social Commerce Platform (free) also offer similar functionality.
For Bigcommerce users, the SocialShop app (free) allows you to sell on Facebook.
13. Gift Cards
Lastly, allowing visitors the opportunity to purchase gift cards can also be an excellent way to increase sales particularly around the holidays. Those buying the gift cards or gift certificates like it because it is an easy gift idea and the recipients love it because they can get whatever they want.
What Works for You?
Feel free to share from your own experience in the comments, and let us know what you have found to be effective.