Practical Tips to develop user engagement for e-commerce website

User engagement is very important for e-commerce websites.

User engagement leads to repeated visits  >>>>>> Repeated visits leads to brand retention >>>>>> Brand Retention leads to brand loyalty >>>>>> Brand loyalty leads to more sales, leads & high Customer Life Time Value … $$$

Examples are better than words.

Check out the analytics report of an e-commerce website which has got high user engagement:

user engagement

Check the average time spent on the website. Check the bounce rate and pages/visit. Yes it is an e-commerce website.

 

Check the percentage of returning visitors. Check the revenue generated by returning visitors . Yes it is an e-commerce website. You better believe it.

Check the percentage of returning visitors. Check the revenue generated by returning visitors . Yes it is an e-commerce website. You better believe it.

 

days to transactions

Least amount of consideration is involved during product purchase when people trust your brand. This is what happens when people heavily engage with your e-commerce website.

 

average order value

Check the ‘Average Order Value’ of the e-commerce site. (In case you think the website sells low price items)

Following tips can help you in building user engagement for an e-commerce website:

#1 Start a blog/forum on your e-commerce website

You need a platform where your target audience can participate on your website.

What can be a better platform than a blog or forum where you can engage with your clients on a regular basis. Moz.com is a brand because of its blog.

Use a platform for your online community with which your target audience is familiar, and which is SEO friendly.

I recommend using:

Develop high-quality content for your blog  

Content is king and will always be.

Content can be in the form of an article, image, video, podcast, etc.

As long as you ensure a regular flow of high-quality content that satisfies the needs of your target audience, you will get user engagement for the foreseeable future.

#2 Get Audience/Build Community

If people don’t care about what you say or write then why they will bother to comment or participate on your blog/forum?

To get an audience you need three things: targeted traffic, authority, and a platform (where you can demonstrate your authority).

If you are already getting tons of targeted traffic, then you can use your website’s blog/forum as your platform. If not, then you can choose popular blogs or forums in your industry as your launchpad. For example, Linkedin has a lot of big niche communities and you can establish your authority thereby demonstrating your subject matter expertise.

Do guest blogging on popular websites.

All these activities can later help you in building an audience for your own site.

#3 Develop a community which does not revolve around your brand

Develop a community (like a forum) that does not revolve around your brand instead talk about your industry or the topics your customers really care about.

Unless you are a very big brand like iPhone or Dell, nobody would care to talk about your brand or next new product.

So if you sell cycles, you should develop a community that revolves around the benefits people get through cycling, such as good health, increased stamina or you can discuss topics on road trips, etc.

Avoid pushing new product announcements/offers all the time through your social media accounts. This is a fire shot way to lose an audience.

moz.com, tor.com, naturescapes.net are a good example of online communities that revolve around the topic their target audience really cares about and not the products they sell.

#4 Build activity. Stimulate discussions/participation.

Nobody likes to sit in an empty auditorium no matter how grand it is. The same analogy applies to your website.

You may have the best design and tools in your niche but if there is little to no users activity on your website, then your target audience won’t participate.

So if you have a forum with zero discussions and zero topics, then it will most likely remain the same.

Don’t expect people to dive into your forum and start launching thread after thread.

You need activity in order to generate activity

It is a vicious circle. As a webmaster/community manager, you should take the initiative and start new threads. Make this your habit and do it daily. At least one post every day.

Replies/responses are also equally important. Here your employees/colleagues can come handy. Request them to write their reviews/opinions about the topic being discussed.

Gradually inactive members will start participating. An active community will draw new members and you can expect even more participation.

If you won’t communicate with your target audience then they won’t participate or stop participating

To develop user engagement, you need to communicate with a lot of members of your community at least occasionally if not daily.

Managing and engaging with the target audience can be a full-time job in itself. It is not something which can be done in an hour or two or in your spare time.

That’s why you need a dedicated resource, a professional like a community manager who loves interacting with people, who can retain and recruit new members.

Develop content that encourages participation.

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Ask a lot of questions

The majority of people register on a website and then abandon it. This is because nobody cared to engage with them. Make sure their first visit is not their last.

Ask open-ended questions from your new members which encourage a response.

  • What is your opinion about …….?
  • How did you start in this industry?
  • How did you find us?
  • Ask people a lot of questions about themselves.
  • Introduce new members to existing members.
  • Encourage old members to welcome new members.
  • Encourage new members to participate by asking their opinion on current hot topics in your community.
  • Invite them to the groups they might be interested in.

Spend more time engaging with the new members than with the existing members.

#5 Build a recognition system

People participate to get recognition and to increase their status in a community.

You can provide this recognition in terms of loyalty points and virtual ranks.

Recognition System used by forums.seochat.com

 

moz-points

Recognition System used by moz.com which sells SEO software.

 

Participation Recognition mail sent to me by Developer Shed team (people behind seochat.com)

Give recognition to active members. Interview them and publish the interview on your website. This will also create a desire for new members to be featured.

Give some control/power to your long time members, like make them moderator or community manager.

 #6 Make your website community centric instead of product-centric

Most e-retailers work with the mindset of business first and community later and develop electronic brochures instead of a highly engaging e-commerce website.

People rarely purchase on their first visit to your site and there is a high probability that they won’t make a second visit if your site lacks user engagement (unless of course, you are a very big brand like Dell, Apple, Microsoft, Nike, etc).

You need to make your website community centric instead of product-centric.

Let me give you some examples.

Let’s start with moz.com. This company started as a blog and then gradually built a business around its community.

The result? It has now more than 20,000 paying customers. Even today their website is still community-centric and not product-centric.

Other examples of highly successful community-centric e-commerce websites:

naturescape

Community Centric design of naturescapes.net which sells photo accessories. A very successful e-business.

 

tor

Community Centric design of tor.com which sells science fiction and fantasy books. A very successful e-business.

#7 Think outside the box

Many e-retailers complain that their industry is boring or intellectually primitive so there is no scope of engaging with the target audience.

Actually it is all about your perception and how creative you can be. Things that look boring to you may be of great interest to someone else.

Say you are in the plumbing business. Now can you develop plumbing communities? Yes, you can.

Check out these websites:

  • www.worldtoilet.org/ (official website of “World Toilet Organization”)
  • www.susana.org/ (official website of ‘Sustainable Sanitation Alliance’)
  • www.unicef.org/wash/
  • www.toilettwinning.org/
  • www.asiacleaningjournal.com
  • www.ecosan.org/
  • www.makingcitieswork.org/

The list is endless.

All these organizations improve toilet and sanitation conditions worldwide. They have members throughout the world.

They can also be your potential linking partners if you run a plumbing site.

#8 Be human

Following activities make your business very much inhuman:

  • You believe in sending automated messages to your subscribers/clients.
  • The only thing that you have on your ‘contact us’ page is an e-mail address or PO box number.
  • You interact with your community through your company name.
  • There is no human touch in your business operations and after-sales services.

All these activities lead to credibility issues and eventually little to no user engagement and sales.

Following activities make your business very much human:

  • Show that you are as real as real can be.
  • Publish your team and store (if it exists) photos on your website.
  • Provide your complete physical address with a location on Google Maps.
  • Interact with your community as a living person, not via an avatar hidden behind your company logo.

 #9 Run contest and survey on your e-commerce site

Contest and surveys are a great way to build user engagement and brand awareness:

10 Companies That Hit the Bullseye With Online Contests – mashable.com

Just make sure that your contest/survey is relevant to your niche.

#10 Use high-quality images on your e-commerce site.

An image catalog is more appealing and enticing than a text-based product category page.

So spend some money on high-quality images.

Here is an example of a good product category page:

#11 Organize Community Events

Organize community events like offline meetups, webinars, seminars, online chats, conferences, workshops, etc which revolves around your community’s interest and likings.

Customers talking to you face to face, develop a stronger bond with your brand. This is equivalent to developing the same bond through several years of online interactions.

Again a good example is moz.com. They organize webinars, meetups, office tours, and seminars for their members. No wonder they have 200k+ blog subscribers and 20k+ customers.

Another example is naturscapes.net. They organize workshops in the offline world.

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Himanshu Sharma

Digital Marketing Consultant and Founder of Optimizesmart.com

Himanshu helps business owners and marketing professionals in generating more sales and ROI by fixing their website tracking issues, helping them understand their true customers' purchase journey and helping them determine the most effective marketing channels for investment.

He has over 12 years of experience in digital analytics and digital marketing.

He was nominated for the Digital Analytics Association's Awards for Excellence. The Digital Analytics Association is a world-renowned not-for-profit association that helps organisations overcome the challenges of data acquisition and application.

He is the author of four best-selling books on analytics and conversion optimization:

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