Creating an Everyday Ecommerce Site
Will Your Visitors Return Day After Day?
Around the same time that the United States fell into recession and once-extravagant consumers no longer shopped for extravagant luxury items, several new ecommerce companies launched, selling…luxury items. While this might seem counterintuitive, these businesses stepped into the market at the right time, with just the right selling strategy.
With a flash sale business model, companies like Gilt Groupe, Rue La La, and Hautelook began offering designer fashion and luxury goods at deeply discounted prices, for a limited time. Would-be shoppers can only access the products if they’ve first become “members” of the site. They then receive daily emails alerting them when a new sale is beginning. Members rush to the website, eager to steal a deal before the products are all sold out.
Discounted designer clothing, jewelry, and luxury home goods proved to be something of a hit with cost-conscious consumers, and many copycat businesses quickly followed suite. Sales at these sites happen daily, and while shoppers are informed of which designers will have sales going on any given day, they don’t know what items will be sold or what the prices will be. This piques consumer interest. Combine that interest with both the promise of savings and a tinge of cutthroat desire to buy the best products before anyone else, and you end up with fashion junkie visitors who come to your website every single day.
I recently came across an article by Joshua Porter on building everyday apps. According to Joshua:
“An everyday app is one that is used every day (or most days) by its users. This means that each and every day they do something with the app.”
Few apps are actually used every day, and few sites are visited every day. As much as we’d love to think that online shoppers are so intrigued with our products and services that they keep coming back to our online storefront day after day, the reality is that for many verticals, few customers even return once a month. The sites that do manage to bring in repeat visitors on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis usually have business plans or product lines that play into this frequency. They may offer daily new products, weekly sales or discounts, or subscription services on items you might need on a monthly basis. Even if your business isn’t destined to be an everyday site, you might be able to incorporate some features to make it a “more-often” ecommerce site.
Create a community for your visitors and people will have a reason to return to your site, even when they’re not going to buy. Diehard Wooters might not think twice about visiting Woot at least once a day or once every few days, but they didn’t become diehard fans purely from a love of random gadgets. Woot, the “One Day, One Deal” site does just that, they only sell one product each day (unless you count the fact that there are actually several Woot variations, like Shirt Woot and Wine Woot).
While innate curiosity might get a visitor coming back several times, it’s the social community that hooks fans in and keeps them active with the site, even if today’s product isn’t something that interests them. Woot products come with humorous descriptions, and they show the stats on how the product is selling – including how long before someone first completed a purchase, what quantities people are buying the item in, and how many other Woot purchases the various buyers have made. The first person to buy the daily deal is announced to the world, with a link to that member’s profile. Woot members can also join in a daily discussion surrounding the item, and like other forums, many members are longtime staples. There’s nothing like peer pressure to get someone buying.
Show Something New Every Day
It’s easy to get people checking in with your brand on a regular basis if what you’re selling happens to change every day. A bit like Woot, daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social offer special coupons and discounts for local products and services, but customers have to act fast because most deals disappear after only one day. Potential customers won’t find every deal of interest to them, but if they want to catch the good ones they need to come back day after day. Because Groupon and Living Social offer daily emails and mobile phone apps, many customers might be checking in with the brand on a daily basis even when they don’t return to make a purchase.
Fresh merchandise is a good way to entice many shoppers back to your site, but not everyone has something new to announce each day. Delight bridged the gap by offering daily “delights” for one item on their site each day. The merchandise isn’t necessarily new, but every day Delight features a special or discount for one specific item. Customers can choose to opt-in to the Daily Delight emails to receive updates every day about the featured product. If the item is something that truly tickles their fancy, they have until midnight to make the purchase.
Have Lots of Browse-Worthy Information
Dominate with content and visitors have something else to seek out besides your products. A lot of people visit Amazon. Most people probably don’t visit on a daily basis, though some do. Many of us probably find ourselves on Amazon’s site because Amazon has managed to own a corner of just about every market. From baby food to blow torches, Amazon’s got it.
Large product catalog aside, Amazon has amassed a large amount of interesting content unique to its site. Have you ever gotten lost in Listmania madness? You find one book that looks interesting, and then you check out a list to see if anyone has mentioned something else that might interest you. You see several new books, read a bit about them, and then before you know it, you’re off looking at another list. What about the “So You’d Like To…” feature where Amazon citizens can put together their own guides, complete with product recommendations and advice.
And did you know that there are communities on Amazon? People from all over can get together to discuss topics related to their work or interests. Amazon also has lots of customer reviews. The product reviews alone have made Amazon the first stop for product research for many consumers. With all the unique user-generated content, it’s easy to see why many people turn to Amazon when they’re starting some research or looking for new information. Even if Amazon’s product catalog was only half the size, Amazon and its users create enough new and interesting content each day to keep many people coming back to visit on a regular basis.
Play with Emotions: Incite Lust, Greed, or Competitiveness
Not all purchases are rational and sane. If they were, the number of product returns would surely dip. In fact, very few of our collective purchases are actually for items we absolutely need. While I wouldn’t recommend making the Seven Deadly Sins your marketing playbook, creating an addictive desire for your products and your brand will bring some visitors back to your site on a regular basis.
Companies like Gilt, Rue La La, and Hautelook have capitalized on our addictive tendencies and keep some visitors returning every single day. These flash sale stores, and the others that emerged following their success, typically offer deep discounts on designer goods: things that we want but usually can’t have. Sales are short, often only lasting a day or two. This adds a greater level of urgency to any purchasing decision, and suddenly, would-be browsers are turning into buyers. On top of this, quantities are limited for many products. If you’re not one of the first to get to the site when a sale begins, there’s a very good chance that the gorgeous dress you never knew you wanted is already sold out. Customers return, in part, because they’re out to beat the masses in the purchase of something lust-worthy and crave-inducing.
When it comes down to it, you don’t have to be an everyday ecommerce site. Very few businesses will see success if this is where their ambitions lie. However, do try to incorporate some of these features into your site, and you may start to see visitors return on a more frequent basis.
Photo from Flickr user Andyhay.