How to Grow Your E-Commerce Website Sales on a Budget
An e-commerce website can be an extremely profitable online business, allowing you to sell products that you create or drop ship to all corners of the world. The only obstacle is getting people to find your website and place your offer where they can see it.
So, if you are working with a limited budget you might be very frustrated or even considering giving up. Don’t, because there are plenty of ways to grow an e-commerce website while working with a tight budget.
I’ve worked with several e-commerce websites that were strapped for cash in their early stages, and helped them grow to a point where they can afford to hire my agency for fully managed content marketing and media exposure campaigns. It requires work and it’s not easy, but it can be done. The hard work in the beginning is what separates those that will go on to build successful online businesses and those that will give up like the majority of people that attempt to earn a living online.
On that note, below we’ve detailed numerous ways to grow your e-commerce website on a budget…
You Need One Thing: Traffic
There are all kinds of self proclaimed online marketing experts that all have something to say, but it all boils down to one thing: you need traffic if you are going to increase your e-commerce sales. You can do everything else, but if it doesn’t generate targeted traffic, you are never going to scale your business.
A lot of e-commerce websites will immediately take their entire budget and dump it into paid traffic, such as Facebook ads or Google AdWords. This can work, but it can also fail miserably, because every single visitor has a hard cost associated to it, and you have to convert a specific percentage just to break even and stay above water.
Before you are going to see great results, you are going to have to optimize your entire e-commerce website, from the initial offer, to the funnel, upsells and abandoned shopping carts. This is very hard to do when you are pushing expensive paid traffic right off the bat.
If you are paying per click, your main focus is going to be on conversions and sales, and rightfully so, because you are running down your marketing budget every click. Instead, focus on generating free traffic. This allows you to test and optimize, while any conversions you capture help you to build up more working capital that you can use when you are finally ready to start pushing traffic from all directions, including paid options.
This approach is less stressful, and more effective in the long run, because it allows you to really optimizer your entire sales process for a much higher conversion rate.
Free Marketing Options to Explore
There are several ways to drive free traffic to your e-commerce websites, and while each one requires work, they can turn into long term sources of traffic. Even if you have a healthy marketing budget, you might still want to explore these options. Why? They work.
Start a Blog: This is a great way to attract organic (and free) traffic from the search engines. The key is to target long tail keywords and search terms. Look for low hanging fruit. You need to think logically for a second to understand why this works. If you waste time and money going after a keyword with 10,000 monthly searches you might only get to the number 8 position. What if that only attracts 100 visits a month.
Instead, target a handful of terms that get 100 or 200 searches a month and rank number one for all of them with strong on-site optimization and a few powerful links you can build yourself. Rank for a few dozen terms and you will pull in thousands of visitors month after month.
Guest Post: Reach out to every popular blog and offer to guest post. You have to perfect your pitch before you just start randomly emailing website owners, because they get approached daily and you need to stand out. You can’t write a guest post in a way that promotes your product, but you are usually allowed to put a bio at the end and link to your website.
As long as the article you write is informative and interesting, a large percentage of the readers will click over to your website to learn more about what it is that you do. Guest posting is a great instant traffic generator for new websites.
Start a YouTube Channel: There are plenty of popular YouTube channels that were started as a way to push traffic and generate e-commerce sales. One of the first, and most popular success stories was how Gary Vaynerchuk took his parents wine business and started a YouTube channel called “Wine Library TV” and grew it into a $60 million e-commerce business. Several websites, from makeup companies to heath food websites, have all started YouTube channels to drive traffic to their websites and grow their e-commerce sales.
Start a Podcast: This is a great way to get your business out there, and some websites will benefit more so than others, simply because it’s a format that doesn’t necessarily require the listener to be on his or her computer to engage. Many people will listen to podcasts while driving or working out at the gym.
It’s great for branding, but how you can really leverage its power is by including a coupon code in the intro and ending of each episode. You can also drop coupon codes or announce special offers in the actual episode.
Social Media: This is a no-brainer. You should absolutely have a social media presence for your e-commerce website, and you should spend time every single day trying to pull in new visitors. Get creative and use hashtags to make your social content discoverable, and interact with your followers, encouraging them to share your posts and attract an even larger following.
It’s the little extra effort that pays off on social. For example, if you are posting pictures of items for sale on your e-commerce website, encourage your followers to tag their friends in the image. This introduces them as well, and even if you don’t get sales from the intro, you will more than likely get some new followers.
Contents on social media are also a great way to generate a lot of free traffic as well.
Start a Facebook Group: Facebook is the largest social network. Try to think of some people that you know who aren’t on Facebook. It’s hard, as almost the entire population is connected there. Facebook groups are a great way to build a very loyal community; people who can be turned into customers. Build a large group and then drop occasional offers in there, driving large amounts of traffic to your website.
Host Webinars: Webinars are so popular now. There are webinars for almost every niche, so don’t think that you can’t do one because you have a specialty website or product. I’ve seen webinars for everything, even a “how to mount your flat screen TV” and at the end they were pushing traffic to an e-commerce website that sold a wide variety of wall mounts and hardware for TVs.
Not only is this a traffic generation tool, but you can also build your email list at the same time. You can trigger instant sales, and also build a targeted list to market to in the future.
Time to Spend on Paid Traffic? Try Influencers First
When it comes time to dive into paid ads, most e-commerce businesses immediately turn to Facebook ads and Google AdWords. While these are great options, and many businesses see great results using them, it isn’t the first paid option I would go for.
I would use influencer marketing, simply because you aren’t paying per click/visitor, and if you partner with influencers that have a very targeted and engaged audience it can help your business grow significantly.
Every business is going to want to target different influencers, and it’s important that you look for influencers that can help your business based on their engagement levels and their following, rather than just their follower count. For example, if your e-commerce website sells iPhone accessories, you would be better off targeting an influencer in the consumer electronics space with 50,000 active followers, rather than a model with 200,000 followers. You want to make sure the following your website is put in front of will have a genuine interest in what it is that your e-commerce site sells.
Here is where I find influencers for my e-commerce clients:
Instagram: Instagram is where you can often find the highest rate of engagement, but you have to be careful that you promote the offer the best way. Ideally, you want to have your own active Instagram account that you can have an influence shout out. This will send people to your profile and you will pick up new followers.
You can’t put links in Instagram posts, so the only way to drive traffic is to have the influencer put your link in their bio during the promotion, and reference that in the body of the post. Not all will do that, so consider just having them push traffic to your profile and include a link in your own profile bio. Building your following also allows you to market to your followers on a regular basis.
YouTube: Find a YouTube influencer with a large subscriber base and pay them to do a video about your products. Review videos are very popular and they can push a large amount of traffic to your website.
Make sure you look at the comments in the video to see if they match the video views. If a video shows 50,000 views and only has 2 comments, there is a good chance they are using fake views and subscribers to boost their stats. A strong review video can push traffic to your website over time, as the video creator is able to drop links in the description of the video.
Facebook: Facebook’s organic reach has slowed considerably, so I don’t necessarily seek out influencers on Facebook alone. I will usually look to see if the Instagram influencers I am targeting have a large Facebook following as well, and in the negotiation process I can usually get them to throw in Facebook promotion for free.
Twitter: Twitter is good for some products, and not others. If you are trying to sell large ticket items like electronics, then it’s not the best option. But, if you are selling smaller items and your checkout experience is easy on mobile, Twitter can be a decent option. Twitter can push a lot of traffic with the right influencer, and the rates for Twitter can sometimes be a small percentage of what they are for Instagram or YouTube. It all comes down to partnering with the right influencer and how he or she delivers your message.
Blogs: There are popular blogs in almost every niche imaginable. The popular blogs are monetization machines, so the top ones typically all have a sponsored post option. I’ll give you a great example of how great sponsored content can perform. I have a client in the health and beauty space, and we found a very popular blog that we were able to secure a sponsored post on. For $600 they wrote up a very comprehensive review, complete with images, and then promoted the post on all of their social media accounts and also sent it out to their email list.
Over the next 3 months, that single sponsored blog post was responsible for generating more than $20,000 worth of sales. They owned and manufactured their own product, so the return was very high. That post still pushes traffic and conversions every single month. A home run sponsored blog post like this doesn’t happen every single time, so you really need to post on multiple blogs to find the real gems.
Listen, I’ve consulted with several e-commerce website owners, and some just simply aren’t willing to put in the initial work required to generate traffic without spending money. Guess what? They fail and their websites eventually disappear. There are so many gurus out there that are making it seem like anyone can throw up an e-commerce website and push a button to watch traffic and sales flood in. It doesn’t work that way.
I have even seen e-commerce websites that had large marketing budgets tank and fail because they didn’t take the time to test and optimize their websites. Everything from user experience to sales process and funnels need to be perfected before the traffic faucet is opened up all the way.
I truly believe that working with free traffic in the beginning is the best strategy. Not only does it allow you to grow your business on a budget, but focusing on just traffic generation in the beginning gives you the data needed to make changes for long term success.
If you run an e-commerce website and have some additional tips to share, please leave them below in the comments. Additionally, if you have any questions related to growing an e-commerce website, please drop them below and I will do my best to answer them as quickly as possible.