7 Lead Generation Tips for Ecommerce

Man looking at smartphone

Lead generation has been around for a long time within sales. But for ecommerce, the practice is leaner and more agile. When we think of a sales funnel from a traditional sense we think of a sales person emailing, calling, and setting up meetings in person with a lead. For ecommerce lead generation this funnel process is less labor intensive. 

After all, ecommerce stores bend over backwards to avoid putting prospects through “multiple sales stages” before they convert. Chances are that your products, prices, store, and mindset are designed to trigger sales right now.

Passing leads on to the sales team? Please. Let’s pass them on to the checkout page.

In this article we will look more closely at why lead generation for ecommerce is unique, and describe ten tips for generating leads – and sales – for your online dropshipping store.

What is Ecommerce Lead Generation?

Lead generation in ecommerce is different to the traditional sense. For starters, the “e” in ecommerce means there probably isn’t a physical store to visit. What’s more, the deliberation involved with buying something in a brick and mortar store is sometimes much greater than the deliberation involved with buying something online. 

For instance, customers prefer to go to the store to buy a car. The cost is high and you want to test drive it before you buy it. On the other hand, it is quickly becoming the norm to buy clothing online, especially everyday clothes that don’t cost much. This is because the cost is relatively low and you have the ability to return items in exchange for another quite easily.

In ecommerce, lead generation might start with a Facebook ad and end 90 seconds later on a checkout page.

What is a Lead?

Before we race ahead with tips for lead generation, let’s take a moment to make sure we’re all on the same page about what a lead is.

Regardless of your industry, a lead is somebody who has shown an interest in your brand, products, or services. There are lots of different actions people could take to be considered a lead. A lead for the automotive industry might have played around in a virtual showroom designing their dream vehicle. Lead generation in finance might involve interacting with an online loan calculator. And of course people who visit a car dealership or bank branch could also be considered leads.

There are some shared traits between the traditional concept of leads and the ecommerce concept of leads. Here’s what they have in common:

👉Awareness is Step 1: No matter what industry you’re in, a lead has to know about you before they can become a lead. Brand awareness is where it all starts. Search engines, advertisements, and word of mouth should kick off this process.

👉Leads must be convinced: Whether you sell consulting or kitchenware, there is a transition phase between lead and customer. Sometimes that transition happens in seconds, inspired by something like a discount code, and sometimes it can require weeks worth of discussions and adapted budgets. Either way, lead + eureka moment = customer.

👉 Content catalyzes this process: Content can play a vital role in generating leads and nurturing them. Need to generate traffic to your website or store? Well, the more content you have floating around – whether it’s blog posts, social media, YouTube videos, or something else – the better chance there is for someone to stumble across your business. As for convincing leads to become customers, well, what better way to flex your expertise than by getting that expertise into consumable formats.

So yeah, there are similarities between traditional leads and ecommerce leads. But they only extend so far.

After all, it’s unlikely that a car dealership would ever get a newsletter signup, shoot out a 10% off discount code via email, and close a deal later that day. But that’s exactly how it works in ecommerce, where lead generation moves at digital speeds.

But Who is Your Lead? 

No two leads are the same but they should have certain things in common that would signify to you if they are a good lead for your business or not. For example a home decor shop might get ten newsletter signups in one day. Of these signups, eight are men and women between 30-50 years old who are doing home renovations, one is a student completing a project for college, and another one is browsing for ideas for a home they haven’t purchased yet. The first eight signups are leads that could purchase from the company in the coming days, the student might never purchase from the company, and the person browsing for ideas could purchase in the coming years, but not right now. Of these ten people, nine could be seen as leads — people who will purchase a product from the company — and one is not a lead. 

So who is your lead? Your lead is someone who is interested in buying something from your business. Normally creating a user persona that highlights common traits for your customers is a good way to identify your leads. Outlining the average age and gender of a customer, their reason for buying a product from you, and their general demographics can help you qualify leads that could in to your website so you know which visitors are worth spending time following up with. 

Now let’s dig into ten tactics for ecommerce lead generation, and look at how you can turn your leads into customers.

10 Lead Generation Tips for Ecommerce

1. Write Valuable Content

Ecommerce trends differ from traditional trends in many ways, but the main reason that people like to browse the internet is because they can find information easily. Use this to your advantage by researching what people want to know about your product or company and create content around this. 

How do you find this information out? By looking on forums, competitor websites, and using tools like Answer the Public. Once you have identified questions to answer you can decide to create a FAQ page, or write articles about each question separately through starting a blog.

Answer The Public - Free SEO Tools

But what is the absolute value in spending time creating content, you ask? Creating valuable content that your potential customers want to know about means that more people will find this information out on your website and more than likely buy from you. Being the industry leader in information on your product will also build trust which we will talk about the value of having later in this post.

Content doesn’t just mean articles. Content can be a wide range of formats like eBook, Video, Podcast, Infographic, etc. The possibilities are endless and if the search intent is there you can recreate content in many different formats to get your business in front of more people. 

You could tease out findings from a new study in an article, but hide the actual study behind a paywall, or you could summarise a podcast in a short video that requires your email address to receive a unique link to listen to.

2. Take Advantage of Cookies

Website Cookies increase Lead Generation - a Cookie

Let’s start with one that is more valuable for ecommerce than just about any other industry: taking advantage of visitors’ cookies.

In a very real way, every visitor to your website is a lead. You can retarget visitors on Facebook, Instagram, and AdWords based on nothing but the cookies they receive when they land on your site. Be sure you have a privacy/cookie policy if you will do this so you know you are in compliance with regulation worldwide.

These cookies let you retarget people who have visited your store – people who, by definition, have shown interest in your products. When you retarget someone on Facebook, you are a few clicks away from a sale.

Cookies aren’t perfect. Lots of people block cookies, plus cookies eventually expire. But cookies are still a valuable lead generation tool that let you take advantage of ecommerce’s quick sales cycle.

3. Build Your Social Following

If visitors are leads because they have shown interest in your brand, the same can be said of your social media followers. The distance between a lead and a sale is way smaller than the distance between a wannabe homeowner and a house. As a result, social media is a tool in ecommerce that can be used in a way that traditional industries simply can’t.

Someone following you on social media has put themselves within a couple clicks of a purchase. Traditional lead generation requires filling out forms, downloading content, and so on. Clicking the “Follow” button removes a lot of that clutter. So get followers! There are lots of Shopify plugins out there to increase your social media visibility on your website:Series of social media buttons for ecommerce lead generation

Your business might not be on a lot of social media platforms. You’re not alone – neither are some huge brands. You can be smart and only target social media platforms that your target audience use regularly. This makes adding your social media links to your newsletter and email campaigns as a great way to gathering followers as you know your readers will be on these platforms. 

Giorgio Armani Lead Generation Buttons

While on the subject of social media, make it as easy as possible for people to get back to your store to make a purchase. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter give you chances to send people from your social media profile right back to your store.

All of your followers are only a few clicks away from a conversion. Their proximity to a sale is at least as close as a more traditional lead who downloaded a white paper. In addition, you have a direct line of communication with them. 

4. Offer Discounts and Deals

Leads are valuable for your store — they invest in your business. So it’s a good idea to return the favor and give something valuable to your potential leads. One effective way to do this is offering discounts to people who are willing to fork over their email address. In exchange for an email address, you could offer a percentage discount, free shipping, or a free addon with their next purchase.

Lead generation layer from Under Armour

Pop Ups might not be popular, but free stuff is. Hooking up a visitor up with a freebie is a great way to generate leads. There are numerous Shopify apps you can use to trigger these sort of email-for-discount lead generation activities, including Product Upsell, Justuno Conversion Suite, and Pop-Up Window.

5. Get Those Emails

In the example above, the goal was to get an email address and nothing else. This is another reminder of how different ecommerce lead generation is compared to more traditional methods.

For example, in enterprise software, tactics would never start and stop with an email address. When you have to pass your leads on to the sales team, it looks like this:

Example of an eCommerce Lead Generation Magnet

Unlike other industries, ecommerce lead generation doesn’t require getting a visitor’s life story. Just get the email and get straight to their inbox with your deal, products, and content.

Getting an email right away is also huge for reactivating customers who abandon their baskets before pulling the trigger on a purchase. Basket abandoners are already leads and have even flirted with a purchase. If you have their email address, you can help push them over the finish line.

Shopify lets you customize your abandoned cart rules and messages:

Shopify backend for customizing forms

Thanks to freemium email marketing software, email marketing is cheap, if not free. You aren’t paying per click like you are with social or search ads, and because the recipient has given you their email, they have expressed at least some willingness to engage with your brand. In other words, they won’t mistake you for a spammer.

Some ecommerce marketers fret about their emails ending up in Gmail’s “Promotions” folder. Don’t lose sleep over that. Emails that land in the promotions folder are less likely to annoy your leads, plus it’s not like Gmail hides promotion emails. They are just filed away. The promotions folder won’t destroy your lead generation email campaigns.

6. Take Care of SEO

With ecommerce lead generation, you don’t need to hold a lead’s hand during a multi-week sales process. But you do need to get them to your store. After all, lead generation tactics like offering discounts and collecting email addresses won’t work if, you know, there aren’t any visitors at your store. And SEO can be vital for generating traffic that you can turn into leads and, hopefully, turn into sales.

It’s a huge perk of ecommerce lead generation that you don’t have to write white papers or hold webinars, which are often required to generate leads in other industries. But still keep an eye on SEO. Your product descriptions, metadata, and blog posts should all be treated as lead generation magnets. There is lots of helpful content out there about how to optimize your store’s SEO.

7. Design for Lead Generation

There are some simple design steps you can take to support your lead generation efforts.

For starters, incorporate calls to action. CTAs are anything that encourages your visitors to do something – anything, in other words, that invites your visitors to take action. Use CTAs. Lots of them.

There is a reason that just about any section you add to a Shopify store lets you easily add a CTA button:

Adding button to Shopify store

Let’s look at Hubspot, which literally wrote the book on lead generation. Heck, HubSpot wrote an ebook about writing a lead generation ebook. In other words, they know a thing or two about lead generation. And their homepage is filled with strategically placed CTAs:

HubSpot homepage

Pay attention to your favorite stores and see what kind of CTAs they use. You’ll find lots of active verbs and not a lot of adjectives. Keep it short and punchy to peak your visitors’ interest and get them clicking.

Along with CTAs, another good lead generation tool is exit intent layers. These are the ones that fire when someone is leaving your store. There are lots of different kinds of lead generation exit intent options. Sometimes companies will use them as one last chance to offer visitors content:

Exit intent layer with content offer

You can also incorporate lead generation exit intent activities disguised as games. Here, for instance, a popup floats in from the side whenever a visitor is about to exit.

Exit intent game

This looks like fun – and all you have to do to play is give your email! Once you do that, the wheel activates and you can redeem your prize. The visitor gets 10 percent off, and you get their email.

Exit intent discount

8. Optimize For Mobile

Mobile website browsing has skyrocketed over the past five years and it is continuing to grow. If you are planning to build lead generation on your ecommerce store, try optimizing your site for mobile. This means making sure that all buttons are clickable on many different screen sizes, content is easy to read without needing to zoom in on it, and scrolling is not too much for visitors. 

A great way to test if your site is optimized for users, aside from Google’s Mobile Friendly Test, is to user test your test with real visitors. Invite five to ten people into your office and ask them to do simple tasks on their phones. Ensure that going through the purchasing process is one of these tasks to make sure the process is smooth on both mobile and desktop.

9. Be Trustworthy

Earlier we talked about how you need to nudge people from the lead stage to the customer stage. One great way to do that, especially in ecommerce, is to design for trust. What does that look like? There are a few simple things that you can do:

Include shipping information. Unless your store is called Amazon, people might have questions about shipping. Lack of certainty about an order – how long it’ll take, how much it’ll cost, and so on – is a barrier for a lead to convert into a customer. So give your potential customers everything they need. Drop a “shipping” link into your navigation and your footer, and have a comprehensive page answering the questions that might get in leads’ path to conversion:

Shipping FAQs for conversions

Include contact details (and answer when people write). A no-brainer, sure, but this is vital. Even if a lead doesn’t reach out with questions – and if your store is designed beautifully, there might not be questions – you can still give people the chance to get in touch with you. Giving them direct access to your inbox will let them know that there is someone on the other end of this store who cares about their experience. (Plus, uh, someone who contacts you instantly becomes a lead!)

Include robust product information. Another blocker is removed when you make sure there are no questions about your products. Product descriptions are great SEO juice, sure, but they’re also valuable for giving leads a warm, fuzzy feeling that makes them comfortable converting.

10. Create Partnerships

Working with similar brands, influencers, or affiliates can help to increase lead generation from an audience that you were unable to reach before. Choosing the right companies to partner with can be hard though as you want to make sure the affiliation doesn’t have a negative affect on your brand. 

Partnerships can work in many different ways but normally you and your partner will work together on a project and equally promote it to your own audience, mentioning each other were necessary.

GoPro and Red Bull did a great partnership starting in 2016 where Red Bull ambassadors using GoPro equipment to capture footage of their daring feats. These activities motivated similar minded Red Bull drinkers to purchase GoPro equipment to film their stunts, and vice versa.

GoPro and Red Bull Partnership - Ecommerce Lead Generation TipConclusions on Ecommerce Lead Generation

Alright, so now we know why lead generation for ecommerce is unique. We also have some concrete steps we can take to optimize our own lead generation efforts. Before you take off to start generating a bunch of new leads, here are a few key takeaways:

  • Ecommerce lead generation is different than lead generation in other industries – and that’s a good thing for us! Collecting a lead’s email puts you a couple clicks away from a sale. Gaining a social media follower does the same thing. Ecommerce moves at warp speed.
  • You can adapt your lead generation tactics to take advantage of ecommerce’s short sales cycles. Instead of asking for a visitor’s email, name, company, industry, country, and so on, just get that email. You can also offer deals at different stages, such as when a visitor gets to your site or when they abandon a basket.
  • SEO and page design are vital even if they seem like no-brainers. Making sure that visitors can find your website – and making sure there are plenty of CTAs to click on when they get arrive – will enhance your lead generation efforts.

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