The step-by-step guide: How eCommerce specialists can grow sales with online retailers


Jonathan Burnett  

Previously, Jonathan was the Online Commercial Manager at Tesco, working with brands to create the best customer experience on with the objective to increase their online sales. Jonathan has 20 years retail experience in online, trade planning, category management and shopper marketing.


Growing online sales isn’t always plain sailing. Jonathan Burnett, former Online Commercial Manager at Tesco gives this step-by-step guide to how eCommerce Specialists or eCommerce teams can maximise growth.

1. Get it right first time

Getting a new product line set up may seem like tedious admin but it’s a vital part of setting yourself up for success on the retailer’s site. Historically I’ve seen brands fail to take suitable amount of time to complete these forms, often using industry terminology, supply led product names, abbreviations etc. The downside is your products won’t be easily found by shoppers searching and unnecessary time spent fixing the error after launch. Ensure each product title is signed off internally as a shopper would expect to see it live online before entering into a new product line form.

New product line forms are also the optimal time to use keyword(s) in your product title – the terms your shoppers will be using to search for so your products are easily found. Leave them out entirely, and your chances of being discovered online plummet. Making keywords an integral and prominent part of your product title is essential to win in search. Limit these to one or two keywords ie. usually the product type or else your product title will be too long especially for shoppers using mobile.

Also bear in mind that shoppers use retailer grocery sites not only to order goods but also to browse and research whilst they are in-store so it’s imperative to ensure your products are easily found.


2. Improve product content

If shoppers are undecided and have clicked through to the product page then this is your opportunity to really sell the benefits! Beyond the logo or brand image, product packaging wasn’t created with the online shopper in mind and as the information from the packaging is often transposed into product description fields in product information management services and then onto the product page online it is not necessarily showing what the shopper needs to see in the right order. Therefore, make it structured, make it concise and make it relevant to the shopper ensuring keywords are at the top of the product description to help improve search results. Beware not to include Facebook and twitter addresses in your descriptions as this will only encourage shoppers to move off the retailer site and ultimately lose the sale.   

What are customers really looking for? In these health-conscious times is the product a low sugar alternative, or high in Omega 3?


3. Mobile Hero Images

Research has shown that shoppers look for their familiar products by image first but particularly on mobile, these images need to be instantly recognisable as shoppers scroll quickly down a page. This means variants and pack sizes need to be easily identified and pack shots up to date. It is good practice to make your mobile hero images look like the physical product the customer will receive and be visually compatible with the physical pack shot as the actual packaging the customer will expect to receive at their door to avoid any customer confusion. 


4. Location, location, location

Customers expect intuitive, logical locations to find products. Think about the merchandising of the retailer website as you would a store. Both have aisles and shelves. Milk will obviously be found in the dairy category but what about flour? Would customers expect to find it in bread? Party goods? Baking? Of course one answer is to include flour in all three. This is the luxury of online retail – with theoretically infinite shelf space, multiple locations are an easily realised dream. Be pragmatic and put yourself in the shopper’s shoes – can you find your products? Are they in the right place? Would you expect to find your product in particular complementary aisles?


5. Are the right products in the right stores?

When a shopper is logged into a grocery retailer site, they are linked to a ‘local’ store or fulfilment centre and its product range through their home postcode. The range they see online is the same range in that ‘local’ store and where they will receive their delivery from. To optimise online sales make sure your products are ranged in these picking stores.


6. Substitutions

From a brand perspective, it can be hard to influence the retailer’s algorithm when it comes to substitutions in online shopping. But it’s not impossible to influence their decision. For example, ensure ‘like for like’ replacements are set up before launch so they don’t automatically fall out of customer ‘favourites’. This will give these new lines a great head start. Also, submit a ‘preferred substitutes’ list for your new products as retailer algorithms can take up to 8 weeks to ‘learn’ the buyer’s shopping history.


7. Promotional Planning

Promotions aren’t just for Christmas. There are a whole range of dates across the year where customers will make a sudden rush on some product categories. Identify these spikes in your historical data and plan. Work closely with each retailer to identify opportunities to promote your products – seasonal, sporting and category events, hot weather weekends, cold snaps, Mother’s Day, Father Day etc. Ensure your media is targeted to optimise your return on investment through key search terms, banner advertising, favourite aisle interrupts etc. Also consider what off-site media you will drive to the retailer sites to help increase awareness and sales of product on promotion. For example, tagging your advert to a specific retailer to drive traffic eg. available at Tesco.


8. Sampling – on and offline


Getting new ideas to take off is always a challenge and nothing beats getting a product into customers hands. Both eCommerce and bricks and mortar channels have a captive audience. Amazon recently launched Prime Samples, where subscribers can request health and beauty samples alongside certain shopping items. Look into your customer data and make sure sampling is targeted and relevant. Sampling is an extra cost, you want to make sure you’re sending samples to customers most likely to snap up a full size version next time.


9. Ratings and reviews


Shopper reviews can often be seen as a challenge but particularly in the case of new launches, ratings and reviews act as an automatic barometer for next steps. Review them regularly, treat them with care and take action where necessary. Negative reviews are a barrier to purchase, however they can sometimes provide rich shopper insight to help improve product quality whilst no reviews can often be perceived negatively. Positive or glowing reviews form the basis of fresh marketing campaigns or growing base sales.

Follow all these points and you’re well on the way to maximising the potential of eCommerce success.

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