Getting your first real customer is a significant milestone for every entrepreneur.
But sealing the deal on your first sale takes time and focus. With hundreds of channels and ways to promote your business, it can be hard to find the ones that make the most sense for your business and produce worthwhile results in a short period of time.
It's easy to fall into the trap of endlessly tweaking your store in the pursuit of perfection, instead of investing that attention into the most important activity: getting people to your store.
If you have been making searches on ‘how to increase online sales fast’, this article is for you.
- Why targeted traffic is crucial for new stores
- What to know before you start marketing
- Marketing strategies to get your first online store sale
Why targeted traffic is crucial for new stores
As the owner of a new online store, it's easy to think you’re improving: nitpicking brand colors, flip-flopping on fonts, second-guessing your pricing, and getting caught up in the minor details as you build a business behind closed doors.
Real improvement, on the other hand, is only possible when you expose your business to the world.
You can't know what you're improving unless you establish a benchmark that you can quantify through hard numbers.
You won’t know if there's any interest in your products if you don’t drive traffic. You won’t know if your prices are too high if you don’t drive traffic. You won’t know if your brand resonates with your intended audience if you don’t drive traffic.
That's why traffic is so important!
In this article, we’re creating a checklist of things and marketing strategies you need to explore to drive more traffic to your store, and get that first sale (and many more).
What to know before you begin marketing your online store
Marketing can look different for different companies, depending on their type of business, target audience, product pricing and so on. So you need to go in prepared.
Here are a few things you need to keep in mind at all times:
- Ensure that your store is set up correctly and all the information is up to date before you start marketing. You can use this store launch checklist as reference.
- If a tactic doesn’t apply to your store and what you're selling, skip it. If you’re selling computer keyboards, for example, Pinterest probably won't be your first pick.
- You need to define your target audience and ideal customer persona to identify where your consumers are the most active.
- Set up Google Analytics in advance and keep a close eye on traffic as you implement each marketing tactic. Not everything’s going to work.
- Make sure you have a marketing plan in place before you begin executing these strategies.
Now that we have the deck cleared, let’s begin.
Strategies to get your first online store sale
1. Tap into your personal networks (free)
Many entrepreneurs get their first few sales from their personal connections, and there's nothing wrong with that.
So share your store on your personal Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Snapchat accounts to announce it to your entire network of friends and family.
Consider also emailing your closest connections directly to get the word out about your store's launch.
This is also a great way to get feedback on your store experience as well as products, before you actually start selling to complete strangers.
Here’s an example of a simple Instagram post you can make to announce your new store:
And here’s how you can use your Instagram stories to share something - notice how your friends will also automatically engage with it.
It is important to note that not everyone in your network is going to buy from you, and that’s okay. The idea here is to drive traffic to your new online store and introduce your brand into the digital space.
2. Join online communities and groups (free)
Don't underestimate the value of putting a link to your store in the right place.
Just as how you seek recommendations by posting on groups and communities, you can also drive traffic to your store through them.
Join groups that your target customers frequent and become an active member, connecting with others in the community. After you’ve built up a reputation and created authentic connections, you can share a link to your store, perhaps with a discount code.
Some of the channels you can explore groups on include:
- Facebook (put me touch, online seller groups, etc)
- WhatsApp (for example, community/ colony groups, etc)
Pro tip: Join groups that have members with a specific interest that is relevant to what you sell. For example, if you sell pet supplies, joining dog owner groups will help you drive relevant traffic to your store.
3. Create and populate your social media profiles (free)
You can’t always post about your products and services on your own social media profile.
That’s why you should consider setting up your online store’s own profiles on the channels that your audience is the most active on.
This way you can start sharing product pictures, videos, customer testimonials and other content associated with your business more proactively. But remember, to create a social media calendar for the same so that you remain consistently active on the channels.
Some of the channels we recommend setting up your profile on include:
Note: You do not have to be present on all the social media platforms; you can also start with one and gradually increase the platforms you’re active on.
For example, The Umbrella Store focuses on using Instagram for marketing. The brand simply reposts the same content on other social media platforms to save on time and effort.
Here’s the same post on Facebook:
- How to create a social media marketing strategy
- How to choose the right social media platform for your business
- How to create a social media calendar in 4 simple steps
- Organic marketing ideas for entrepreneurs on a shoestring budget
- How to find the most popular hashtags
4. Explore Facebook advertising (paid)
Organic marketing can take time to get results.
As a growing business, you will soon need to start exploring paid tactics such as advertising on social media as well. One of the top channels we recommend starting with is Facebook.
Owing to its targeting capabilities, it can help you reach a qualified audience in no time.
But before you begin, you will need to clearly define the demographics of your ideal customer, understand the different formats of Facebook advertising and targeting options and create an advertising strategy.
Here are some examples of Facebook ads being run by Bummer.in:
If you’re new to Facebook advertising, here are some helpful resources:
- Facebook ads for beginners: Step by step to creating your first campaign
- Types of Facebook ads to win customers
- Learn Facebook advertising for free (online courses)
5. Start advertising on Instagram
Instagram is also becoming popular as a channel to reach online shoppers.
While you can continue using an organic approach to Instagram marketing, exploring ads will help you give a boost to your efforts.
The platform offers various ad formats that you can use to promote your products, deals, how-tos, customer testimonials and more.
Here’s an example of an Instagram ad being run by Whispering Homes:
If you’re new to Instagram advertising, we recommend the following resources:
- Learn Instagram advertising for free (online courses)
- The beginner’s guide to advertising on Instagram
6. Start running Google Ads
The first thing many people do when they want to buy something is look it up on Google.
Google Ads enables your site to be shown at the top of the page when customers search for relevant terms (also known as keywords).
Google Ads offers a few different options: text ads that show up prominently in search results, and Shopping Ads that show your product photo and price in a more ecommerce-oriented format.
Here’s an example of what Google Ads look like:
If you’re new to Google ads, we recommend going through these resources before you begin:
- Introduction to Google ads (free course)
- Complete guide to Google Shopping to drive traffic and sales
- Ultimate guide to Shopping ads on Google
- Types of Google ads and what to expect from them
- How to use Google remarketing for ecommerce
7. Reach out to bloggers (free/ paid)
Here’s a not-so-well-kept secret about online content: Publishers are always on the lookout for fresh content and stories to tell.
With a solid pitch based on a good story or an interesting product, you can potentially win a spot on a blog or publication that your ideal customers read. Look for publications that overlap with your niche and try pitching them about your brand.
Here are a few ideas for how you can partner up:
- Write and submit a guest post. Share your expertise about a topic, and use your author bio to describe and link to your business.
- Ask for product reviews. Give your product to a blogger for free in exchange for a review.
- Pitch a news story. Use your compelling origin story or unique product as the hook for an interview-style piece.
Whatever you choose, your pitch needs to be interesting to both the writer or editor you reach out to and to their audience.
Consider publications based on the right "fit" first, and look at the size of their readership second.
This may turn out to be a free or a paid tactic based on the publication/ blog you’re reaching out to.
Here’s how HeadphoneZone, an online store for audio products reached out to a media publication called YourStory to promote their brand:
You can read the complete story here.
8. Seek out strategic partnerships (free/ paid)
Partnerships can be a great way to get your products in front of someone else's customers.
The key here is to look for non-competitive and like-minded brands that already attract the kinds of people you're looking for.
It can take some time and luck to find and create these opportunities, but the trade-off is you can get really creative with the nature of the partnership:
- Run a contest with your product as a prize
- Package samples of your product or exclusive discounts with complementary products
- Sponsor an event
- Create a product together
For example, UnPlugged Skincare, a beauty brand, partnered with TEDX MICA as an ‘official beauty and wellness partner’. This strategic partnership helped them introduce their brand to all the attendees, leading to better brand awareness.
9. Work with influencers (free/ paid)
Big brands aren’t the only ones that can harness celebrity endorsements to market their products.
You can work with influencers—creators with sizable audiences in your niche—to tap into an existing fanbase for traffic and get some content created about your products while you're at it.
For example, SheCanHustle, a fashion and apparel brand, worked with an influencer in the art industry, Aprilmoon. The influencer created a video wearing their t-shirt, giving the audience a look at what the merch looks like!
Here’s what you need to keep in mind before putting this tactic into action:
- Define the goals of influencer marketing
- List down what defines an ideal influencer for you (type of content they create, no. of followers, etc)
- Identify the type of content that has maximum influence on your audience
- Create a list of deliverables you’d like from the influencer
- Define your success metrics
- Shortlist influencers based on resources available (free/ paid collaborations)
10. Leverage Pinterest marketing (free)
As per Statista, Pinterest has a relatively low share of about 2.4% in India’s social media market. The advertising feature on the platform is also not available in this demographic yet.
But you can use Pinterest for driving organic traffic to your store with minimal efforts. Here’s how:
- Reuse the creatives you make for Instagram
- Create boards for different product collections
- Share your blogs, lookbooks and other content on Pinterest
- Leverage hashtags similar to Instagram
- Link to your social media profiles or your online store from the pins
Here’s how The Good Things, an ayurvedic supplements brand in India uses Pinterest:
Note: Using Pinterest for organic marketing is a good idea if your products fall under the categories of home decor, food and beverage, fashion and apparel, and similar. The platform is not suited for promoting products like electronics as most users use it for seeking ‘visual inspiration’.
If you’re interested in using Pinterest for marketing, explore these resources:
- How to get more followers on Pinterest
- Useful Pinterest marketing tools to help you level up your strategy
- How a home decor brand drives 93% of its traffic from Pinterest
(BONUS PRO TIP) Don’t just market, measure and optimize!
By this point, hopefully you've tried enough tactics to see a jump in traffic and maybe even some sales.
So now you can begin diagnosing the potential problems with your store by looking at your analytics dashboard (both in Shopify and Google Analytics), as well as the feedback you've gotten from actively promoting your store.
There are a number of reasons customers might not be buying from you and you can make informed guesses based on how your traffic behaves:
- If you have a high bounce rate—that is, visitors coming to your site and leaving immediately—your traffic might be low quality or your store might take too long to load.
- If none of your visitors added products to their cart, it might be that you haven’t achieved product/market fit (in which case you need to find the right niche or try different products). Or maybe they just don't trust your store enough to buy.
- If you have a lot of abandoned carts during checkout, maybe you need to reconsider your shipping.
Based on these learnings, you can start tweaking things about your store and your marketing strategies, doubling down on those that actually get you sales.
You need to get out there to grow
Driving traffic is all about connecting the dots between your brand and your buyers in a world of ever-growing possibilities. That's partly what makes marketing so overwhelming—the fact that there are just so many opportunities out there.
There's no one-size-fits-all approach to this.
Exploring, trying, failing and improving is the only way to find out what works for you.
So get your store out there, because it's the only way to grow.
And if you're still struggling, you can also reach out to marketing and sales experts to help you set up campaigns that work.
People also asked
How can I get more sales online?
To increase your online sales, you will need to create a marketing and advertising plan to promote your products, deals and discounts. From tapping into social media to leveraging marketplaces and even the search engine, you need to explore various tactics based on who you are selling to and where they tend to be the most active.
What are 4 general ways to increase sales?
The most commonly used channels for small businesses to make sales include using social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, groups and communities, popup events and marketplaces. Each of them leverage the already established audience on that platform, but involves effort in creating content that is relevant to that channel.
How do you attract customers online?
There are a number of ways you can entice consumers to visit your online store. Some of the tactics include offering deals and discounts on your products, leveraging influencer/ celebrity endorsements as social proof to promote them, or offering freebies on the purchase made. The idea is to help them see the value behind engaging with your brand.
How can new customers increase sales?
New customers can help you increase sales by proactively sharing their feedback and product reviews. This helps you understand their needs, expectations and experiences better, to offer them better products. In addition to the same, you can also encourage them to refer your brand to their friends and family, creating a word of mouth around what you sell. It’s one of the most cost-effective ways to market your brand as well!