shopping-cart-ecommerceBrace yourself, this may be shocking: Only 2% of shoppers make a purchase during their first visit to an online store, while 98% abandon shopping carts or continue to browse the web to compare prices and products. That’s a lot of customers exiting the sales cycle unconverted!

These Kissmetrics statistics underscore the uphill battle most e-commerce companies face when competing with other brands for customers’ attention and purchases online. Luckily we have three tricks of the trade that have proven successful in engaging online shoppers and encouraging a purchasing decision quickly and efficiently. Let’s start at the top:

1. Enabling the Talk
An IMShopping survey found a whopping 77% of online shoppers have wanted to speak with a brand representative before making a purchasing decision, and the majority would not recommend a company to friends or family if there was no direct phone number available for contact.

It may seem counterintuitive to assume online shoppers would seek out a phone chat before buying a product or service. But because shoppers place greater trust in companies that offer the option to interact directly with customer service or sales representatives over the phone, voice-based marketing automation tools are a must-have in the e-commerce industry.

Adding a telephone number to online ads, direct mail pieces, social media sites, and throughout a website makes it easier for shoppers to have their questions and concerns addressed directly. Voice-based marketing automation solutions such as call tracking can be integrated into marketing mixes to source each call coming into a brand and determine which channels and campaign initiatives are driving the most leads.

The technology can also provide context of where the shopper was prior to the call to support sales and service representatives as they boost customer satisfaction and loyalty. If all concerns are addressed swiftly through personalized support, shoppers may be more encouraged to purchase on the spot and return for repeat buys in the future.

2. Building a Social Brand
An e-commerce brand must have more than an online store through which to communicate with shoppers and engage new prospects. E-commerce companies should create an attractive, consistent presence on several social media channels to build up a strong consumer base and enable easier “word-of-mouth” marketing from loyal customers.

Channel Advisor’s Facebook Commerce Index report for the fourth quarter of 2013 revealed 655 million fans follow e-commerce brands’ Facebook pages, up from 618 million in the third quarter. As the number of Facebook users following retail brands continues to grow, the Facebook platform itself has continued to evolve to make monitoring and measuring lead generation easier for brands. For example, the latest updates include:

  • Real-time page insights
  • Expanded historical data
  • Custom Audiences to gauge offline sales
  • Page Composer capabilities to share content electronically across channels
  • Mobile app ads to capture new shoppers and convert to sales quickly

These changes allow the company to interact with the customer base frequently while utilizing the sharing functions associated with social media. The new tracking and reporting features enable marketers to measure their success and deploy new strategies to increase online lead generation numbers. Many other social channels offer similar capabilities that e-commerce brands cannot afford to pass up.

3. Preventing Abandonment
Sure, it is important to exhaust all opportunities to attract shoppers to your e-commerce site and keep them there until the purchase has been made. But there are always extenuating circumstances that distract a shopper from completing a checkout and thus they exit the site and abandon the shopping cart. This is so common, in fact, that a comScore study found 67% of all shopping carts are abandoned at one point!

To effectively lower this figure, e-commerce brands can do more than offer customer support throughout a sale lifecycle. Automated notifications can be configured that contact the shopper directly to remind him or her of the unfinished checkout and offer support to accelerate the process. The automated phone calls can be triggered by an abandoned shopping cart, or be sent out to customers regularly to gauge satisfaction levels and collect feedback.

Keeping tabs on customer wants, needs and preferences is key in designing an optimal interface that differentiates from the sea of competitors online. This may mean interacting on the phone, engaging via social media, or broadcasting notifications at key junctures of the purchasing process. But e-commerce brands are in luck, thanks to the latest voice-based and social marketing automation solutions!