Looking for a complete ecommerce checklist that will help you to grow your online business? Look no further.
You’ve built your ecommerce store, found customers who enjoy your products, and accelerated operations, until…you hit a plateau. At some point, every small business and large business starts seeing sales slow down.
It’s not because you’re doing something wrong, but rather, a natural part of the business process, where you inch closer to claiming your complete portion of the market. But what can you do after that? You can’t sit around and accept stagnant sales forever. This is when you must learn how to grow your online business.
Growing your online business requires critical thinking, data analysis, and venturing into new territories to discover fresh moneymaking opportunities. And occasionally, it means identifying the marketing, optimization, and advertising elements that you’ve neglected.
If you’ve reached that point of slowing sales, and you’re ready to boost profits once again, you’re in the right place.
In this guide, we explain in-depth, actionable methods and tips on how to grow your online business.
Keep reading to revitalize your ecommerce store!
20 Best Ways to Grow Your Online Business
From building a stronger brand to finding VIP social influencers, there’s a wide range of proven methods for expanding upon your current business and using tactics you haven’t yet explored.
Go through the tips below, and mark down the ones that could assist in growing your online presence.
1. Find a Way to Take Your Niche and Form it into a Memorable Brand
When you start a business, everyone talks about finding a niche. And if you’ve had success with an ecommerce site, you’ve probably already established a niche. Whether that’s selling smaller gardening tools to city dwellers, or purses that look luxurious but are actually affordable, your niche drives sales. Why is that? Because a niche is simply an answer to a need in the marketplace. You’ve answered the call for something that was missing, or perhaps you solved a problem that was in need of fixing.
However, that can only get you so far. There’s a difference between selling a niche product and selling a brand. Target is a brand. Loyal shoppers go there because it’s Target. It’s reliable, well-priced, and that red logo is oh so inviting.
We can say the same about McDonald’s. Not only can people identify a McDonald’s from miles away, but they can expect the same reliable burger and fries whenever they go through the drive-in. McDonald’s is a brand because it’s memorable, but also due to its reliability. You know the fries will taste the exact same every time. There’s no worrying about receiving a slightly too cooked (or too rare) burger because it’s so standardized and built on delivering exactly what the customer expects.
An online store establishes a place in the market by targeting a niche. A brand, however, comes with trust, recognition, and reliability.
This is where every online merchant needs to sit down and re-assess everything they know about their company.
What do customers see when they land on your page?
What are their emotions while shopping on your store?
From the immediate glance at your logo to the time it takes to check out. Those are all aspects of your brand that get remembered by customers.
Although this is more of a self-reflective tip on how to grow your online business, here are ways to establish a memorable brand for your online store:
- Assess, and potentially change, the visual aspects of your online business; figure out which emotions are felt from different colors. Are you selling outdoorsy products with a modern-looking, blue logo? That may need some rethinking. The same can be said about typography, email notifications, banner imagery, and blog posts.
- Make your business a customer support icon, where customers are wowed at how responsive and helpful you are.
- Build a persona around your company through music, characters, a brand “face,” or even a specific voice in your content (like quirkiness in blog posts and on social media accounts).
- Position your brand as a leader in a certain space, like how news outlets try to make sure they’re number #1 in the rankings (and they market it like crazy when they achieve such an honor).
- Maintain a level of consistency to build trust, like through guaranteed shipping times, standardized products that never change, or a high level of quality control
- Establish a culture of excellence, where you’re known for winning awards, providing the most professional experience possible to customers, or selling the highest quality products on the market (like how there’s a perception that Apple sells higher quality goods, which they do, but not as much as people think).
2. Connect With Your Target Audience on Their Terms
Connecting with your target market isn’t only about writing up a customer profile and trying to make your products for that particular profile.
It’s about understanding the customer through their shopping habits, surveys, and online activities.
This way, you’re not only connecting with customers on the platforms they enjoy—like social media platforms or email—but you’re identifying with their preferences.
Take Subaru, for instance. Subaru began running a digital marketing campaign that catered to outdoorsy people. Even though their cars are not much different from any other SUV, they successfully identified with campers, vagabonds, and hikers through imagery of Subarus driving through rivers, next to mountains, and up to camp fires.
That’s one way to identify with your customers, but they took it a step further by acting on something that is dear to the hearts of travelers and outdoors enthusiasts. Subaru has regularly partnered with the US National Park Service for online marketing campaigns, and they commit to contributions to the parks, or to help with preservation efforts. As you may surmise, actively contributing to a cause that customers love is a different level of connection. Customers look at the brand as “like them,” or “getting it,” rather than a company that simply sells products they enjoy.
3. Ramp Up (Insanely Useful) Content Marketing Efforts
When learning how to grow your online business, content marketing always seems to end up in the conversation. And that’s great, but it’s tough for online merchants to actually sit down and create useful content. After all, they are running businesses.
Therefore, we have two tips to get you over that hurdle:
- Hire someone: you’re an entrepreneur, not a writer, artist, or videographer; even if one of those is your hobby, you’re better off outsourcing that to someone who can put all of their time into it.
- Make your content insanely useful: too many online stores pump out half-hearted blog posts to hit the right keywords they need to drive traffic; instead of sticking to that rehashed formula, think long and hard about what your customers might actually find useful. Could you make short video tutorials on how to use your products? What about social media marketing that shows your products in action, prompting others to desire those same experiences?
4. Tap into Video Marketing and Video Product Pages
One way to learn how to grow your online business is to improve marketing with video. It’s possible to put together stunning videos for your homepage welcome banners, social media posts, and even a YouTube page for tutorials.
Ecommerce, in particular, has the unique advantage of actually needing videos, considering an online store lacks so many aspects of retail that people miss. And since you have product pages on your website, there’s a great opportunity to provide videos alongside your product pictures for more of a 360 degree, in-action view of your products. This helps in somewhat replacing the advantages of retail, where a customer can more closely examine an item before buying.
5. Find a Handful of VIP Influencers
Influencers come in many forms, but you can usually find them on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. In addition, it’s wise to seek out bloggers and YouTubers who have built large, industry-specific followings that may relate to your online business.
The key here is to identify influencers who you can pay as brand ambassadors, but primarily those who:
- Already offer content that may be of interest to your customer base
- Can seamlessly include content about your product without it feeling “forced”
- Have large followings that actually engage with the creator
You can research and reach out to influencers on platforms like Buzzsumo, NinjaOutreach, Hashtagify.me, and Google Alerts. Then, you can partner with a handful of influencers to run test promotions. Measure those campaigns to see which influencers provide the best return for your business, and turn those influencers into your VIP partners. They’re the ones that you can always turn to for boosting sales and acting as a true brand ambassador who’s enthusiastic about your products and showing results when it comes to a return on investment.
And don’t feel bad cutting ties with those influencers who fail to provide such returns. Be as honest as possible with the influencers as to how much you can pay them for promoted content, and specify that you’re willing to run a paid trial campaign to see if you’re a good fit for each other.
6. Partner with Complementary Businesses
Partnering with another business works similar to partnering with an influencer, except instead of dealing with a content creator, you’re working with another online store. Although it’s not as common to partner with a direct competitor, it’s possible. However, you’re more likely to find success with ecommerce stores with similar customer bases, often landing in the same, or a parallel, industry.
An outdoor apparel brand, for instance, may team up with a company that sells camping gear; their products are from the same industry but don’t overlap entirely. A partnership like that allows each brand to leverage the other’s customer base, since outdoorsy people need both clothing for camping and gear like tents, sleeping bags, and lanterns.
Co-branding partnerships come in many forms.
Here are some suggestions:
- Hold a sweepstakes, raffle, or competition where customers of both brands sign up. You can give out merchandise from each company as prizes, and both brands benefit by potentially accumulating email sign-ups and social media follows.
- Offer limited edition items from a co-branded collaboration. This is common in the fashion industry (but is possible anywhere else) where a specialty designer works on a product to sell for a major retailer.
- Run events or popup shops where your company and partner work together to provide a unique experience to customers.
- Market products alongside those of your partner. This plan goes both ways, where you include mentions to the partner’s items in marketing materials like blog posts, email newsletters, and social media posts, with the expectation that your partner returns the favor. This is like an endorsement from one company to another, and it works rather well when your customer bases overlap.
- Share resources to decrease marketing costs and only focus on what you do best.
- Expand a category or product with add-ons from your partner, or with entirely new products that go well with what you already sell. One way of doing this is by simply swapping products (acting as suppliers) and selling each other’s inventory on your own stores.
Some examples of famous co-branding campaigns include Nordstrom and 11 Honoré, Adidas and Peloton, and Target and LEGO. Each combined relationship allowed both brands to expand into a new submarket and reach customers who simply needed another level of trust to start buying.
7. Diversify with New Inventory, Services, Digital Products, and Pricing Models
Diversification is perhaps the quickest way to bring in a new revenue stream. That’s why it’s so important to consider when learning how to grow your online store.
Diversification means that you look outside your current inventory, even outside your current industry, to see if there are ways to make more money. Think how Amazon now delivers prescription medications, or how Uber delivers food to people on top of acting as a cab service.
Look into these options when trying to diversify your brand:
- New inventory
- Services to complement products
- Digital products like eBooks, photos, or podcasts
- Online courses
- Alternative pricing models like subscriptions, monthly boxes, or pricing plan upgrades with more products or features
8. Get a Killer Social Media Person
Social media is often an afterthought for small business owners, or they don’t know how to make it a natural part of their marketing plan.
If you’re still trying to figure out how social media plays into your business growth strategy, approach it as one of the best business growth options available.
However, we’d argue that the best social marketing strategy is to hire someone. It takes a certain amount of flair and creativity to truly connect with followers of a brand, so you want someone who’s sole focus is social media.
9. Make Your Mobile Sales Funnel Perfect
Mobile sales are increasing on a regular basis each year, so it’s essential to optimize your mobile sales funnel. Who knows, you may find that that’s what’s holding your company back from boosting sales.
Here are some steps to optimize the mobile sales funnel:
- Run tests on all devices, clicking every possible button on your site, but using tablets and phones
- Cut out as many steps as possible, seeing as how it’s much harder to navigate an ecommerce store when on a smaller device
- Make sure everything is mobile responsive
- Ensure the call to action buttons are large and immediately clickable (you don’t want customers having to scroll down on a smartphone to click a button)
10. Offer Exemplary, and Unique, Customer Service
We can all take advice from Zappos (or at least when it was a smaller company) when it comes to customer service. The brand was known for sending out free gifts to random customers, providing free returns and shipping, and running a customer support team that was friendly and whimsical.
It’s not always easy to thrive in the customer service realm, but boy does it pay off. Customers remember when they have a great customer support experience, and they’ll tell their friends and family about it.
11. Take Email Marketing to the Next Level
Email marketing should be part of your business growth strategy from the beginning.
If you still need to focus more on email marketing, here are tips to get started:
- Place email list subscription forms on your homepage, in the sidebar, in the footer, and somewhere within the checkout module
- Include a checkbox for paying customers to automatically enroll in your email marketing campaigns within the shopping cart
- Automate much of the email marketing process with pre-made campaigns; use these for confirmation emails, receipts, birthday messages, holiday wishes, and more
- Run consistent newsletters to share information about your company, seasonal promotions, and blog posts; keep the emails as regular as possible, like once a month or week
12. Don’t Forget About Organic Search Engine Traffic
Organic search engine optimization starts by selecting one of the best ecommerce platforms for SEO. Systems like Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento, and Wix offer built-in SEO marketing tools for boosting organic search.
Some built-in features may include:
- Custom navigation links
- Independent page URLs
- Custom meta descriptions
- Social sharing buttons
- Custom image alt tags
- Much more
Improving organic search results requires the optimization of your on-page SEO, like targeting certain keywords when writing product pages and blog posts. After optimizing, the SEO becomes more passive (unless you add more content that requires optimizing).
13. Run A/B Tests and Analytics Reports for Data-driven Decisions
Slumping sales could mean that you need to utilize more advanced analytics tools to better understand how to improve your business.
On-site testing—with heat mapping, user tracking, and A/B testing—is a sure-fire way to get a glimpse into which parts of your site work well (and which parts fail). You can also run these types of tests for email marketing campaigns.
We also recommend going into your ecommerce platform’s analytics module to run forecasting reports. Use these to predict outcomes for the near future, and align any tests you ran to see if analytics change after new strategies are implemented.
14. Run a PR Campaign to Participate in Online Communities
Many ecommerce shop owners shy away from online communities due to their “unforgiving” nature. It’s true; you may end up on a place like Reddit and get called out for certain business practices, or for not answering questions the right way.
However, a planned PR campaign for online communities makes for a stronger strategy.
This way, you prepare for the potential questions, know your business’s strength and weaknesses, and talk it through with someone else on how you plan to reply to tough questions.
When establishing a PR campaign, consider places like Reddit, Discord, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, and any industry-related forum online. Post in advance that you intend to hold an AMA (Ask Me Anything), or call it something else if you’d rather not make it a free-for-all.
15. Make Abandoned Cart Messages Irresistible
The best abandoned cart messages are:
- Relevant to your brand (perhaps whimsical, professional, sporty, etc.)
- Customized and personalized to connect with the customer
- Include the products that were left in the shopping cart
- Offer discounts or incentives for potential customers to come back and finish shopping
- Share customer support resources and social proof to further convince customers to return
The plan is to make abandoned cart emails as irresistible as possible. Obviously, you can’t cut entirely into your profit margins, but think about discounts, or value added promotions, to make customers feel obligated to finish their purchase. Examples include free shipping, BOGO offers, small gifts along with their purchase, and discounts for their current cart or a cart in the future.
16. Launch an Affiliate Program with Easy Links and Payouts (and desirable commissions)
Affiliate marketing expands your brand’s reach with help from content creators and other brands who refer your products to customers. It’s like a reward system for references, and with the wide range of affiliate plugins available, you’re able to almost automatically build a network of affiliates who rave about your company.
To begin, we recommend learning about ecommerce affiliate marketing. You’ll focus on areas like:
- Building a strong commission structure
- Finding affiliates
- Focusing on high AOV products
- Creating text and banner ads
- And more
You can then launch your own affiliate program with an affiliate plugin or app (there are many available through Shopify and WooCommerce), or consider signing up for any affiliate network, where affiliates reach out to you and sign up for the program. Examples include Clickbank, ShareASale, and Impact Radius.
With an affiliate program set up, your network becomes a collection of brand ambassadors who tell their own followers and customers to purchase from your store. The systems automatically pay out affiliates, and you have a passive customer acquisition program that rarely needs modifying.
17. Boost the Performance of Your Website
Website performance depends on your ecommerce platform, its hosting, and a myriad of other elements like the size of the images being used to the bulkiness of plugins installed.
The issue with website performance is that merchants often don’t notice that they have slow loading pages. So, it’s a good practice to check your site performance every month or quarter to ensure that customers aren’t driven away due to laggy checkout modules or slow-loading product pages.
Use tools like GTMetrix and Pingdom to evaluate your site’s performance, and to see areas to improve.
After that, use our guide on how to fix performance issues on slow sites. This way, you can rest easy knowing the frontend and backend of your online store has the optimization necessary to keep customer happy.
18. Run Campaigns with Scarcity Involved
Scarcity taps into the strong human emotion that we can’t miss out on something (fear of missing out).
You’re able to grow your brand by using scarcity in a number of ways.
First, you might consider displaying low inventory labels to show customers that they may not be able to get a product if they don’t act fast. Some brands take this to the next level by manufacturing scarcity through “flash sales” or temporary promotions.
Essentially, you’re saying that users can obtain a deal if they purchase an item within the next few hours or minutes. That creates a sense of urgency, pushing them to buy. It's one of the best methods on how to grow your online business.
19. Leverage Social Proof
Social proof involves taking your current online praise and presenting it so new customers can see why they should purchase from your brand.
Examples of social proof include:
- Product reviews listed on your website, particularly underneath the products they’re about; these are some of the most powerful forms of social proof, since it’s like hearing a recommendation from a friend or family member (people are more likely to buy something when a number of other people say they like it)
- Brand reviews and testimonials in all forms, from written quotes to video testimonials
- Counters for how many social media, YouTube, podcast, or blog followers you have
- Popups that show when customers purchase something from your store
- Displayed badges that signify that your company has certain business credentials, or just that your website is secure
- Celebrity endorsements; it doesn’t have to be a celebrity, but at least someone who’s credible in the industry (like how they often use dentist endorsements to sell toothpaste)
- Earned media mentions, like links and quotes from magazine or newspaper articles
- Displays on how many people have bought a product; this plays into the FOMO (fear of missing out) strategy, where consumers don’t want to be the only ones not experiencing something great
With social proof scattered throughout your website, you’re able to passively boost confidence in your brand and, in turn, learn how to grow your online business with minimal ongoing effort.
20. Pay for Ads (Highly Optimized and Targeted Ones)
The ad world is a constantly evolving game, which can pose trouble or opportunity for your brand. From one perspective, you may run into changing advertising rules, like how we see with Facebook Ads on a regular basis. In that case, you may find that your target marketing options are highly limited when compared to what they were before. However, these changes—and the new platforms that emerge with advertising systems—make for excellent opportunities to re-assess your previous advertising campaigns.
The goal is to avoid, at all costs, an advertising campaign that’s not optimized or targeted. It’s easy for beginners in the ecommerce space to simply pay a certain amount of money for Facebook or Google Ads and hope that it works. Yet, a skilled online marketer knows that you must:
- Run multiple ad campaigns at the same time (with slight differences) to see which ones perform the best
- Optimize ad campaigns using professional design tools, by hiring an agency, and incorporating visual media
- Target as much as possible, since sending an advertisement out to millions of general consumers is a recipe for failure
Ideally, you have a marketing expert run these campaigns for you. They’ll optimize, track, and target dozens of campaigns at the same time so that you’re not throwing money in the wrong directions.
Are You Ready to Grow Your Online Business?
Learning how to grow your online business requires thinking outside the box. You must explore new ways to get past the usual practices you’ve used to increase sales because, at some point, those particular sales tactics will hit a plateau; that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll see a decline in sales, but there’s little you can do to continue increasing sales.
We recommend starting with one of the tips above that are most convenient for you. Are you familiar with building strategic partnerships with influencers? Well, perhaps reaching out for co-branding opportunities will work out as well; you already have experience contacting people for similar partnerships.
From boosting your content marketing efforts (with insanely useful content) to launching an affiliate program, this list of 20 methods to grow your online business is sure to set you on the right path to continued success.
Have you attempted any of these tactics on how to grow your online business? If so, share your experiences in the comments section below. Which ones worked the best?