Updated: Jan 4
If you've spent any amount of time online, you've probably seen a wide gamut of e-commerce stories. Browse Tik Tok or Facebook enough, and you'll see some people talking about how they're making $100,000 a month off their e-commerce business. Then you'll browse a little bit more, and you'll see someone who's closing up their online shop because there aren't enough sales.
What's the difference? Why do some succeed and others fail?
While it's often impossible to pinpoint a precise reason why some companies succeed, and others fail, it often comes down to one crucial difference: marketing. No matter how excellent your product is, no matter how perfect it is, if nobody knows about it, it won't sell!
Therefore, the best e-commerce companies are also usually the best at marketing. With that in mind, let's explore why some products sell and others don't. We'll also look at how you can get more eyes on your products and get them to sell!
First, a Quick Comment
Some products don't sell because they are of inferior quality, have a low reputation, or don't fill a need. For these products, marketing can only help so much. There are plenty of stories of companies that went under because people avoided them due to low quality. There are equally as many stories of products not filling any particular need and dying off. No matter how well you make a typewriter, it just won't sell as well now as it would have 100 years ago!
Therefore, this guide assumes that you have a product or service that people want - it just isn't getting quite the sales volume that it should. Fortunately, that's relatively easy to correct.
Why Some Products Sell and Others Don't
Assuming that you have a high-quality product with a large market, the question is, why do some products sell and others don't? There are often multiple answers to this question, but generally, the core reason boils down to marketing. Products that sell well have cohesive, well-executed marketing campaigns that nurture the lead funnel from the first contact to the sale.
Most buyers follow a very standard process of evaluating what to buy online. Marketers call this the "marketing funnel." The goal of a successful marketing campaign (and a successful e-commerce business) is to have content and marketing strategies for people at each stage of this funnel to try and progress the prospective consumer to the next step.
Let's explore what each stage is and, perhaps more importantly, what content you can have to ensure that your product is one that sells!
The First Funnel Stage: Problem/Need Recognition
This step is the first one in the sales funnel. Prospective customers in this stage are aware that they need a product but aren't necessarily sure what that product is. Buyers in this stage are typically asking questions. For example, let's say someone wants to hang a picture on the wall. At this stage, they're not asking for Command Strips or hooks. They're simply wondering what the methods are for hanging pictures on the wall.
Sometimes buyers aren't even aware of the problem, and your content will help them see a problem. A classic example of this is the DollarShaveClub.com viral video. If all you've done is walk into Target and pay for expensive razor blades, you might not even know there are cheaper options out there. You might figure all razors are about the same - if you want quality, you have to pay a little more. What this video does is highlight the fact that high-quality blades are available for less, thereby subtly letting you know about a problem you never knew existed (that you were paying too much for razor blades!).
At this stage, buyers are only aware of the problem. They haven't begun to ask questions or look for solutions yet. Therefore, any content you produce for prospective buyers at this stage should be highlighting or explaining to people what the problem is and letting people know that there is a solution to it (even if you don't go into detail about what that is).
The Second Stage: Information Searching
In the next funnel stage, the customer begins to look for answers to their questions. At this stage, the questions can often be quite vague and quite specific at the same time. For example, people might ask what a particular tax deduction is or what a city is like when considering moving. Some people think very specifically (e.g., they'll search for specific cities), while others will more generally pose their questions (e.g., what are the best cities in America?). In the case of the DollarShaveClub.com video, customers might use Google to search for "are cheap razors any good?"
What all buyers have in common, though, at this stage is that they're searching for answers. Therefore, the content you make for this stage should provide those answers. You'll want to have landing pages, videos, and blog posts that address problems that prospective buyers might have. If you've ever gone house hunting, you might have come across videos like "see these top five neighborhoods in Nashville," or "ten fun things locals do in Nashville." This type of video is for someone at the information searching stage. They know they're going to be moving to Nashville (perhaps a new job), and the prospective resident is just trying to figure out a little bit about the areas, what's there, and if they should make a move or not.
Content for this stage of the funnel should not necessarily be trying to sell something. The customer is not ready to buy. They're just trying to get a sense of what is out there and gather more information on the problem. At this stage, they're also trying to figure out ballpark pricing.
Generally speaking, videos and blog posts work the best at this stage of the funnel. Customers will likely go on YouTube and look for answers to their questions, or they might hop on Google and start asking some questions. SEO is crucial for this stage. You'll want to rank highly on the queries and keywords where you believe your product has the highest impact.
This blog post - the one you're reading right now - is for people at this stage. You might be wondering how to boost your sales, and this blog post is telling you some tips on what to do. As all content oriented to people in this stage should be, you won't find a sales pitch in here. However, after reading this, you may move to the third funnel stage!
The Third Stage: Evaluation of Alternatives
Once a prospective customer has gathered all the information, they usually start contemplating what, if anything, they think would be a good fit for their problem.
An example best illustrates this stage. Suppose that you're looking at new cars. You've done some research online and found that SUVs are likely your best bet. You live in a colder climate, so an electric SUV isn't ideal. And you've learned that there are some decent budget-friendly Eco-friendly SUVs.
What do you do next?
You find ones that look good, and you go to try a few out! You head to the dealerships and ask to take a test drive!
Therefore, the best marketing for people at this stage are things that are real and tangible. You're not necessarily looking to make the sale yet. Instead, you're looking to showcase why your company and product is the best out there. Explainer videos are a perfect marketing tool for this funnel stage. You want to show people why your product solves their needs in a better way than others. A short, one-minute video is perfect for that!
If you make t-shirts, you might have an explainer video showcasing what customers should look for in a quality t-shirt (which, of course, your shirt will check all the boxes). If you're selling mods for cars, you might want to showcase what makes particular modifications better than others and, indirectly, why yours are better!
Email marketing also works wonders in this phase. You can ask people to give you their email address and use that for marketing campaigns to keep engaging with prospective customers. At this point, customers have already shown a strong interest in what you have to offer, so email marketing can help give them the information they need to make the right decision.
The evaluation of alternatives stage is when you have the chance to shine. It's when you can put your product in front of a captive audience and let its quality do the talking. Once you've convinced your prospective customer that your product is better than the alternatives and will solve their problem, you'll advance to the next stage.
The Fourth and Final Stage: The Purchase Decision
The fourth and final stage of the buying process is the decision to make a purchase. The prospective customer knows they want to buy something, and they've probably narrowed it down to a couple of competitors.
In this stage, you should use case studies and other methods of highlighting your product to show why it is the one to buy. Now is the time for a sales pitch. The customer has their wallet out and credit card handy. It would be best if you showed them why they wouldn't regret purchasing with you.
Marketing in this phase might have testimonials, saying, "hey, I bought this thing and I really liked it!" Or, you might see a 30-day money-back guarantee or a time-limited discount encouraging people to act faster.
For customers in this stage, you don't want anything that could hinder their buying. You don't want your customer to get sucked into a 10-minute video explaining why your product is the best. Instead, you want to make the purchase decision as friction-less as possible. You want to make it easy for them to give you their money!
Some Other Marketing Tips To Keep in Mind
Understanding the marketing funnel and getting the right content to customers in each stage is your first hurdle in selling a product online. Sadly, without a firm grasp of that, your product will likely sell much more poorly than someone who has an understanding of the funnel. Therefore, if you're wondering why some products sell better, they probably have the right content to push people through the funnel.
However, that's not all you can do!
Marketing is a lot of experimentation. You're going to learn what does and doesn't work by trying something or paying a marketing firm with experience to help you. One thing that you can do, though, is set up experimentation on your site. A/B experimentation is a statistical technique whereby you compare a control group (your current website) with a treatment group (your website with something changed). Your goal is to see if the change improved your conversion ratio.
Little changes to your website can have phenomenal impacts on your conversion rates. Changing the buy button's color can make the difference between someone clicking it and someone navigating away from your page.
What is and isn't successful is beyond this article's scope, but if you're interested in more information on what works and doesn't in terms of site and landing page design, check out Good UI. They have plenty of patterns proven to help you convert more.
You'll also need to consider promoting your site and video content on various marketing channels, including Facebook and Google search. You may need to play around with the videos you have as ads. Ideally, the ones you show should be those that work for customers closer to the funnel's top since that's where most will be. However, you can have targeted advertising that will show up when they've clicked on your site. Have you ever looked at guitars, for example, and seen an ad later for that same guitar you were considering? That's the type of advertising you can do to encourage people to come back and buy your product!
What's the Secret Behind Successful E-Commerce Businesses? Effective Marketing!
The secret that successful e-commerce businesses have isn't that much of a mystery. They understand their customers well and have the right content to show the right customer at the best time. They have landing pages that answer the customer's "why" questions, ads that tell people about their problems and the solution, and have videos explaining why their product beats the competition.
They also experiment and spend money optimizing their campaigns, perfecting their sites, and making finely-tuned repeatable funnels.
There's no secret - just quality content and even better targeting.
That's is a good thing for your business. It means there's a way for you to be successful too!