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Five Common Roadblocks to Online Sales Growth

By Shaun Tinney
5 minute read | Last Updated: June 14, 2016

After the way is paved for a great customer experience, look out for these obstacles to revenue growth.

Creating a website that is designed for the end consumer is a difficult process for most companies. Many of the insights we’ve written address specific challenges companies face creating a customer experience that boosts sales. Still, even after those challenges are addressed, there are still formidable obstacles that can your online sales growth.

Here are five of the most common obstacles we’ve seen hurt online sales growth after a great customer experience is in place:

  1. Lack of management buy in for ongoing improvement
  2. Inventory & stock issues
  3. Inconsistent ad spend
  4. No ongoing promotional plan
  5. No personalization strategy

1. Lack of management buy in for ongoing improvement

Some companies still treat their website like a commercial or mail catalog: an opportunity to capture their customer’s attention and hopefully some of their cash. This is the old way of doing things, a holdover from the print and network television era of advertising that is not effective online, but still pervades the management team mindset.

The clients we’re able to get the best results for have full buy-in from their management teams to test new initiatives and make rapid changes to their site content based on the results of user testing and/or data analysis.

Many of our clients don’t start out with complete management buy-in. Often this buy-in is earned through small victories and proof of process.

If your management team does not understand or agree with the process of trial and error as the only path to real understanding and online sales growth, it will be difficult to grow sales. Limited buy-in usually results in poorly aligned budgets, inadequate internal resources, and a lack of management’s commitment to a strong customer experience online.

2. Inventory & stock issues

Many companies allow their retailers access to purchase their entire stock without setting anything aside specifically for sale online. Meanwhile, digital teams are expected to hit aggressive online growth targets for online sales. At the company management level, the dots must be connected between selling more products and having more products to sell.

While inventory planning seems like an obvious tactic, many companies only realize during the busy holiday season that they’ve only got a handful of their top selling products available for sale online, and it often takes months to restock.

Inventory planning needs to account for purchasing variability from marketing efforts, site improvements, and seasonality. To plan for these variables, marketing and finance teams must connect regularly throughout the year to ensure inventory planning is aligned with sales goals, and adjusted for short-term sales fluctuations.

3. Inconsistent ad spend

Spending money to drive targeted traffic often accounts for a strong percentage of the sales that occur online. Even if you’ve just spent a lot of money to create a new site, it’s important to preserve the momentum you’ve potentially created by continually investing in driving traffic to your site.

We have seen companies cut or reduce their monthly ad spend as a means of saving money and then wonder what happened when their traffic dries up along with their online sales. Do not reduce ad spend (especially without refocusing those efforts to another channel driver), and if you do, do not be surprised when the sales drop along with your ad spend.

If you are focused on continually increasing conversion rate through a better customer experience, the ROI on your ad spend will consistently increase. That extra revenue can be continually reinvested to create a revenue-positive feedback loop.

4. No ongoing promotional plan

A stale site is just that. If your returning customers come back to the same content for months, they’ll start to get the impression that there’s nobody home at your company, nothing new, and no reason to come back. It’s vitally important to stay connected to what matters to your customers throughout the year, and keep your company site updated to keep your products relevant to their stories.

At the very least, changing out the content on featured promo areas on your homepage is essential to keeping things fresh. This requires paying regular attention to your content strategy, evaluating what is working and what is not. For instance, if you know that running a shipping promotion to boost your average order value will generate an additional $30,000 in monthly revenue, you will know where to turn when you need to grow sales. Work to build up a playbook of effective content changes, promotions, and email strategies to keep your site fresh and top of mind for your customers.

5. No personalization strategy

When everyone sees the exact same promotions and content regardless of whether they have visited before, filled out their information, or made a purchase, opportunity is lost. Overcome this obstacle by providing a personalized experience to your returning customers.

Start by serving returning customers with the content they previously viewed or complementary products for past purchases. Progress to remembering their preferences, their size, and go from there. Personalization is not technically difficult to implement, but it requires a few things:

  • A dedicated approach to customer-first web design and content creation
  • Paying attention to analytics and the will to make changes that the data tells you to make
  • Your site should act like the barista who remembers your coffee order every morning and serves it to you without having to order

Websites that remember and serve their customers with personalized content will emerge as the true champions of customer service, and will have the greater online sales growth to show for their efforts.

Unlock online sales growth

Keep these potential roadblocks to online sales growth in mind when you’re planning your site support budgets and staffing needs. It’s very common that a few people are tasked with managing everything digital within a company. Those digital magic workers are likely to be stretched so thin by the most important tasks of the moment that they’re blindsided by the roadblocks when they appear.

A little planning goes a long way. Plan to experience these roadblocks at some point, and you’ll stay ahead of your competition