3 Proven Steps to Increase Online Sales on Any Website (Checklist Included)
Increasing online sales is no easy task. Most expect one “magic bullet” tactic to 10x their revenue overnight, only to find out there’s much more to it than that.
Because quick-fire tips only get you so far.
To really move the needle, these need to be layered on top of a solid conversion strategy.
So in this guide, we cover a three-step formula to increase online sales predictably and consistently. We’ll go into four concepts at the foundation of every high-converting website, before showing you how to apply advanced tactics to a personalized funnel that turns visitors into leads and customers.
Plus, we throw in a one-page checklist at the end so you can easily apply all this to your own site 😎
Step 1: Set the foundations to increase online sales
You can use all the fancy tactics and funnels in the world. But none of them will seriously increase online sales unless you have the foundations right.
Here they are in a nutshell:
- Know your market
- Focus on relevant traffic
- Give them the right message
- Have a compelling offer
1. Know your market
This is the underlying principle that powers every conversion tactic you'll ever use. It's that important.
Yet most people will either gloss over it as a box-ticking exercise, or skip it entirely.
You need to understand:
- Who exactly your target customer is
- The problems and pain points they have (relative to what you sell)
This means conducting market research to build out a solid, documented buyer persona for your ideal customer.
Conducting market research
Your market research can start with something as simple as scouring the internet. If you sell physical products, Amazon reviews can be a goldmine of information.
Let’s imagine you sell men’s watches. Scrolling through reviews on a Michael Kors watch can about what your target market likes:
And doesn’t like:
You can also analyze good and bad competitor feedback on a variety of other review platforms:
But we also need to go much deeper than looking at a few reviews. Which means actively collecting data from your current or ideal customers.
Schedule some 1-2-1 interviews with your best current customers. Or go out and talk to perfect prospective clients if you don’t have any customers yet.
On-site surveys are also an excellent option.
You can easily set this up as a popup hook in the bottom-right using Surveys in ConvertFlow:
Just make the initial popup engaging, and customize the questions to pull as much relevant info from people as possible.
You'll then be able to set the targeting conditions, so it only shows to those who’ve already bought from you:
Pool all your data from:
- Competitor research
- 1-2-1 interviews
- Customer surveys
2. Focus on relevant traffic
It’s almost impossible to sell someone on something they don’t want or need.
If you sell software for B2B companies, driving B2C companies to your website won’t work. If you sell clothing for busy executives, driving soccer moms to your website is a recipe for failure.
Rusty Surfboards, for example, has a great website with a nice $100 discount offer for Memorial Weekend:
But I don’t surf. So if they spent time and money getting me to come to their website, it doesn’t matter what it looks like or how good the offer is—I’m still not buying.
So you need to know:
- What your target market is interested in
- Where they hang out online
Then align all your traffic acquisition strategies to these two points. For example, if you are in the B2B industry, then leads generated from LinkedIn will likely convert better than leads from other social media platforms.
3. Give them the right message
We have the right people coming to our website. Now we need to make sure we’re putting out the right message to resonate with them in a clear, meaningful way.
Again, this comes from our initial research and buyer personas.
Learn why people need your product and the specific problems it solves in their life. Then simply reflect it back to them in your on-site messaging.
Let’s take a look at the messaging we use here at ConvertFlow.
We know the typical marketer or marketing team wants to:
- Increase online sales and conversions
- Quickly launch and test new campaigns
But they also:
- Don’t usually have advanced coding knowledge
- Hate waiting for developers to do it for them
So this is exactly what we address with our messaging across the ConvertFlow website:
4. Have a compelling offer
The final piece of this foundational puzzle to increase online sales is coming up with an offer that actually compels people to buy.
You could be driving super relevant traffic.
And might have nailed the messaging across your site or product page.
But your offer and call-to-action at the end of it has to represent value. Otherwise, people just won’t follow through and complete the sale.
It’s not just about price v product either—your value proposition is made up of a myriad of tangible and non-tangible things.
Nectar Sleep currently sells its standard queen mattress for $799, discounted from $1,198—which is a pretty good price. But, there’s a lot more that goes into the overall Nectar offer.
First, Nectar isn't offering a mattress. It's offering comfort and a better night's sleep:
And on a more tangible level, the offer is taken way beyond simply trading dollars for a product:
Trial it for a year. With a forever warranty. Free shipping and returns. And you can even spread payments over 12 months with 0% interest.
It gets further sweetened on the actual product page, too.
See how Nectar bundles in $399 of "Free Gifts":
And there’s even a chart cementing how compelling Nectar’s offer is compared to its main competitors 🤯
If you happen to be in the market for a mattress, the value represented here is almost too good to turn down. And making people an offer they can’t refuse is a nailed on way to increase online sales.
Step 2: Build a personalized conversion funnel
Every marketer worth their salt will have at some point come across the idea of a standard sales or marketing funnel.
It may look slightly different for each company or with variations in the language used. But the basic flow is something like this:
Or maybe you’re more familiar with the HubSpot “Buyer’s Journey”:
Either way, the underlying concept is the same: If you want to increase online sales, you have to put the right content in front of the right people at the right time.
Most websites are somewhat static 😕
Offering something like an interactive PDF download might be great to engage people in the Awareness stage of buying. But what about someone in the Decision stage? Offering them that same PDF is just taking them higher in your funnel or backward in the buyer’s journey.
You’d never see a car salesperson deny someone a test drive because the prospect hasn’t yet read their ebook on “How to Choose a New Car.” So don’t let your website do this either.
Similarly, you might have different content and conversion offers that are better suited to different buyer personas your product caters to.
Increasing online sales doesn’t come from simply having static web pages, and hoping people find their own way to the most relevant ones. It’s about building a living, dynamic conversion funnel by personalizing the experience for individual visitors.
To help conceptualize this idea, we re-defined the standard sales funnel to create what we call the "Conversion Marketing Funnel":
The general idea is to automate "getting to know" your website visitors so that you can offer them better solutions and more relevant products and services.
The conversion marketing funnel in action
Here are the three broad steps involved:
- Collect data on your website visitors
- Segment your visitors based on that data
- Show relevant offers back to returning visitors based on those segments
If you’re a new visitor to the ConvertFlow website, you may have seen a popup appear down the right-hand side:
This is us beginning to collect data on our website visitors. Meaning we’ll be able to present content and offers that are more relevant and helpful further down the line.
So if someone selects SaaS as the industry they're in, we offer them a SaaS-related workshop as a magnet to capture them as a lead:
Any data collected will be stored via browser cookies (similar to how Google Analytics tracks activity). And then attached to an actual user/contact profile in a CRM, if we collect an email address for them in the session.
From this point on, we can tailor and personalize the calls-to-action across our site by using different targeting options.
So, returning visitors we've already captured as a lead will no longer see the segmentation survey. Instead, we can target them with a highly relevant message according to their interests and funnel stage:
The more specific and personalized you can get in solving someone's problems, the more likely it is that visitors will convert into leads and customers.
ConvertFlow is obviously a SaaS company. But this conversion strategy works the same with other industries, too.
In ecommerce, for example, you might engage and segment someone with a product recommendation quiz.
- Engage potential shoppers with the quiz
- Capture their email to reveal the answer
- Push them to relevant products that you sell
Like this from Amelia Gray Skincare:
The quiz runs through a series of questions to help people determine what kind of skin problems they have. Then, it suggests the best product at the end:
(You can see more on this quiz from Amelia Gray in our recent CTA roundup post.)
This provides a personalized shopping experience in the short term. And in the long term, Amelia Gray can remarket to people based on their individual problems and preferences.
Step 3: Use conversion tactics to increase online sales quickly
So you’ve got the foundations in place. And built a solid conversion marketing funnel.
Now it’s time to increase online sales with some optimization tactics.
Here’s a quick overview of some things you can do:
- Create urgency or scarcity
- Make use of social proof
- Address common objections
- Reduce friction
- Analyze where you’re losing sales
- Save abandonments with a smart exit-intent offer
- Drive more revenue with upsells and cross-sells
Let's have a look at each one in detail 🙌
1. Create urgency or scarcity
Urgency and scarcity are great FOMO marketing ideas for nudging people into a conversion who’d originally been “on the fence.”
- Urgency: Putting a time limit or deadline on an offer. (E.g. “Offer ends in five minutes 37 seconds”)
- Scarcity: Having a limited number of units or offers available. (E.g. “Only three left in stock”)
This is another thing Nectar does particularly well. Not only is their offer well-constructed, but there’s also a clearly defined time limit on it:
Note: Nectar actually use ConvertFlow’s Sticky Bars tool to create the message across the top here 🙌
The key in all of this is to make your urgency or scarcity believable.
Nectar’s deadline is tied to Memorial Weekend, so it all makes sense and seems above board. But too many marketers abuse this tactic with fake countdowns and low stock numbers—make it believable, and it will work.
Check out our retail marketing calendar for more key dates you can use to drive urgency like this.
2. Make use of social proof
You can be a conversion copywriting master and have an amazing product or service. But nothing beats an impartial, honest review in the eyes of the consumer.
Reviews, customer stories, feedback, testimonials—these are all golden marketing assets that can heavily influence conversions, regardless of what industry you're in.
So, make sure you're:
- Regularly collecting them; and
- Showcasing them across your website
Ahrefs does this amazingly well with heavy use of social proof all over its home page.
Firstly, there's a super clear section right in the hero showing off a live number of how many other marketers are signing up, alongside some of the most well-known users:
Further down, there's a carousel of customer feedback—which is even divided up into Ahrefs' different buyer personas:
And then a summary of the product's ratings across different software review sites:
The thing to remember in all this is to (where possible) get your happy customers to do the selling for you. It's much more believable and persuasive to new prospects.
3. Address common objections
Another tactic to increase online sales fast is to address common objections people have to your product as early as possible.
An FAQ section can be a great way to do this in a very direct way. Take a look at this section on the AWeber pricing page:
And Gymshark addresses the “it’s too expensive” objection by offering split payment options:
The key is to know what common objections your target customers have. Talk to your current customers and sales team, and analyze your competitors—then put systems in place to overcome early in the buying process.
4. Reduce friction
Friction occurs when a prospect comes up against an obstacle on the way to making a purchase.
Some friction will always occur. For example:
- Adding payment details
- Filling in a shipping address
- Completing forms to start a free SaaS trial
Things such as these are present for pretty much any online sale.
But the friction is continually being addressed with innovations like auto-fill forms, saving credit card information, and SMS code checkouts:
Companies like Fast even exist with the sole purpose of reducing friction in checkouts:
But, there are also other, less obvious elements of friction that could be occurring throughout your buying and checkout process.
- The process being too long and complicated
- Confusing areas
- Lack of information
- Surprise costs (e.g. taxes and high shipping)
- Untrustworthy website or sign up/checkout process
- Unnecessary steps—like getting someone to connect an integration during a free trial sign up, instead of after it's complete
Regularly go through your buying process to spot areas of friction. Every ounce you can spot and remove could be another notch up on your conversion rate.
5. Analyze where you’re losing people
Relying on your own judgment to spot friction in your buying process isn’t the most accurate way. You likely already know where to go and what to do—so you won’t spot some of the pitfalls others are facing.
Luckily, there are tools out there to help us analyze where people are dropping off.
Google Analytics’ Funnel Visualization is great for this.
This is where you set up a goal (i.e. completed purchase), along with multiple steps on the way to the goal. So, for example, cart > checkout > shipping > payment > completed checkout.
You can then see a full visualization of where people are falling out of your funnel:
People leaving on the shipping page? Maybe you’re charging too much for shipping. A lot leaving on the payment page? You might not have the payment options people want.
When it comes to SaaS, you can set this up in the same way if you have different URLs for different steps in your sign up process.
6. Save abandonments with a smart exit-intent offer
People are sometimes right on the cusp of buying, but decide to abandon at the last minute. All they needed was a little extra nudge over the edge into a conversion.
Follow-up emails, SMS sequences, Messenger and WhatsApp reminders, retargeting ads—these all definitely have their place.
But why wait until someone's already abandoned your website?
An exit-intent popup can be a powerful way to nudge someone into converting at the last minute. You just have to be smart about using them in two ways:
- It has to be relevant to the page the person is looking at
- It has to be instantly eye-catching with an attractive offer
So rather than a plain ebook download, we could save checkout abandonments with a very time-sensitive discount:
Or for SaaS, offer a demo to people abandoning your bottom of the funnel product pages.
This looks simple, but was a really effective exit-intent we used during my time at Veeqo:
Exit-intent popups only show to people about to leave your website anyway. So they can be an excellent tool to reclaim an otherwise lost conversion.
But be smart about what you're offering in each exit-intent.
A returning visitor who's looked through 3-4 product pages might respond well to a demo offer. In contrast, a brand new visitor on a blog post may be better suited to a simple content upgrade.