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How to improve user engagement in an online store

Plan on running an online store? Then you better learn how to tackle user engagement with due care and attentiveness.

As of 2023, it is estimated that online sales will account for 22% of all retail purchases. So, if you plan on running a successful store in the near future, you'd be smart to consider the online store option. Unfortunately, creating an engaging online store is easier said than done. So, we will use this article to outline key elements necessary for sizable user engagement. With luck, these should help you set up a thriving online store and yield ample revenue.

Different ways to improve user engagement

Before we begin, we would strongly recommend that you also research marketing related to running an online store. Even if you have the most engaging online store in the world, it won't do you much good if people can't find out about it. Just like having top-notch marketing will only bring mediocre results if you don't make your store engaging. These two simply need to go together. So, do yourself a favor and study up on modern marketing if you haven't so far.

Work on the customer conversation

Running an engaging online store isn't simply about offering products to customers. Yes, you do need to invest in proper store design and set up various payment methods. But, the crux of whether or not customers will find your store engaging is dependent on your ability to communicate with them.

A happy customer using a phone for shopping, showing the main goal of user engagement.
Engaging stores always find ways to establish a conversation (no matter how rudimental) with their customers.

If you can actively engage in a conversation with your customers, you will succeed on multiple fronts. For instance, you will:

  • Make your customers feel that their input is important.
  • Learn about their wants and needs.
  • Help establish your brand as their go-to option.
  • See if they have any ideas for store improvement.
  • Fix any mistakes that might have flown under your radar.
  • Work on customer loyalty.

As you can imagine, tackling all of these properly goes a long way in establishing a long-term relationship with your customers. Furthermore, the customers you do have will be far more likely to do business with you, and not simply go through your store.

The one potential mistake we would like you to avoid is being too pushy with your attempt to strike up a conversation. We all know those websites were a "helpful" popup that ruins our experience. Such "conversation starters" not only hurt the design of your store but also work against establishing a rapport. Carefully consider when in the customer journey should you attempt to give advice, or ask whether the customer needs any help.

Shorten the checkout process as much as possible

The time between picking an item, and checking out is the time customer has to change their mind about the purchase. The longer that time is, the greater the odds that they change their mind. So, if you wish to have an effective store, you need to make the checkout process as smooth and quick as possible. Don't make any superfluous offers or try to gather customer data. Instead, have your customers insert card data, and be done with the purchase. Once they've checked out, you can look to engage with them more directly.

A customer filling in info on the checkout page.
The fewer clicks your customers need to reach the checkout page, the better.

The only exception from this is if the customer can get a better deal for an item. If you are running a discount for a similar item, or if the customer can gain more from bundling up multiple items, you should inform them. But, it is paramount to see how well your notifications are received, and whether they are hurting or helping your store. At the end of the day, your top priority is to avoid being annoying.

Introduce customer reviews

Before they make their purchase, your customers will likely want to know what other people think of your product. While you can sing its praise, or try to showcase reviews from professionals, these are unlikely to do you much good. After all, the only people that customers trust are other customers. So, if you wish to improve your store, introduce customer reviews.

There are a couple of ways in which having customer reviews benefits your store. First, it gives customers unbiased info about your product. Secondly, it gives customers the opportunity to voice their satisfaction (or lack thereof) with your product. Know that even having negative reviews is better than no reviews, as you'll at least have the chance to address them. Answering reviews is another, quite natural way to strike up a conversation with your customers. And seeing how those opportunities are difficult to find, you should keep them in mind. Finally, having customer reviews shows that you have confidence in your brand. By showcasing what customers have to say you are showing that you stand behind your store and that you are willing to tackle criticism if it comes up.

Offer seasonal discounts

We all like to pay a fair price for a decent product. By doing so we know that see support a capable merchant and that we are helping a hardworking person make a livelihood. But, if there is something that customers value even more than paying a fair price, it's getting away cheaply. So, all things considered, don't shy away from offering seasonal discounts. Especially for loyal customers. This will not only do wonders for your marketing but will also revitalize your store. The increased flow of customers will bring their fair share of reviews, requirements and complaints, which are all opportunities to strike up a conversation. Seasonal discounts give a clear incentive to your customers to revisit your store on a regular basis.

A surprised woman looking at a tablet.
Seasonal discounts give a clear incentive to your customers to revisit your store on a regular basis.

Make full use of social media

Trying to run an online store without a good social media presence is a fool's errand. Yes, you can technically only focus on SEO. But even in this regard, social media is simply too powerful of a tool to ignore. If you haven't so far, we would advise you to research social media carefully and see how to approach it in a well-planned fashion.

For instance, the one thing we would advise you to avoid is using all the available social media platforms at the same time. While it may seem intuitive to cast as wide of a net as possible in order to capture as many customers as you can, doing so can be counterproductive. Namely, the best course of action is to focus on a single platform and make your presence there top-notch. Figure out what your target demographic is most likely to use, and focus on integrating your store with the platform as much as possible. By doing so you will have a much easier time tracking customer metrics and outlining necessary improvements (if need be).

Optimize your store for mobile users

You might be surprised to learn that 49% of online customers do their shopping exclusively with their phones. This means that half of your customers will be smartphone users. Therefore, it should be fairly obvious that optimizing your store for mobile devices is a must. You cannot seriously tackle modern user engagement if you don't make your store mobile-friendly.

A customer using a phone to make a purchase.
49% of online customers do their shopping exclusively with their phones.

Doing so is twofold. Firstly, you need to make sure that your website is mobile optimized. While there are tools that promise expert optimization, we would encourage you to seek out a professional. Ideally, you will build up your website with mobile devices in mind. That way you can enjoy customers from multiple platforms from the get-go.

Secondly, you ought to consider investing in an app. This is especially important to remember if you run a store where customers will return fairly often (selling food or clothes, for instance). If you give your customers an incentive to install your app, you can have far greater control of what they see and when. Furthermore, while they are in your app, they will only focus on your brand. While having them on an online browser may have them compare you to other stores.

Offer a loyalty program

A good way to improve the engagement rates of your customers is to have them feel connected to your brand. The most straightforward way of doing so is to simply offer a loyalty program. If they choose to subscribe to your brand, your customers will be far more invited to make comments, supply data and recommend improvements. Mind you, the loyalty program itself shouldn't bring you any revenue. Instead, it serves to bring your customer closer to your brand and make them feel as if they are a part of it.

Create engaging content

All the customer engagement strategies in the world won't help you much if your content isn't engaging. Namely, what a lot of store owners fail to notice is that the content you put out is the driving force between your customers engaging with you. For content to be engaging, you first need to make it interesting for your customers. This means:

  • Picking the right subjects.
  • Going over them in ample depth.
  • Ensuring that the information you provide is clear.
  • Connecting the provided content to your brand.

With such content, you should have a fairly easy time gaining users' interest and having them actually engage with your store. Mind you that written content doesn't have to be your sole option.

A person using an online store with visual representations of products.
Online stores make great use of visual content in order to make their products more alluring.

You can also use videos, animations and web stories to help nurture users' attention. Web stories in particular have seen tremendous success in online stores, which is one of the reasons we've connected to Shopify. You can even look to add interactive elements to your content, as to guide them to the sales part as quickly as possible. All in all, having well-crafted content is paramount if you wish to run a decent store and tackle marketing with any measurable degree of success.

Ask for customer feedback

Once your customers finish an interaction with your store, ask them to leave feedback. Either a review, an email or a simple comment can be all the engagement you need. Namely, by doing so, you will again bring your brand closer to your customers. After all, in order to leave feedback, they need to consider your brand and put into words how satisfied they were with it. So, don't let a satisfied customer slip by. If they left an email, consider sending one asking how satisfied they were with the purchase. If they answer, you will effectively start a conversation.

Final thoughts

All things considered decent user engagement is not something you achieve by mere chance. Stores that have good engagement rates work hard to figure out their customers. This allows them to better optimize their online shop for better engagement. So, the better you can understand your customers, the better results you will see.

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