From Brick and Mortar to Online Sales: Bridging the Gap Between Offline and Digital Marketing

Brick and mortar retailers often hit roadblocks when trying to expand the success of their in-store business to an online audience. And marketers don't make it easy for them, they make it dangerous.

High Risk Value Proposition Offers

If you have an email address and a social media account, no doubt you've heard from myriad offers of value propositions to increase your online sales. Choosing one of these offers can be overwhelming, but just wait…

Typically business owners who participate in such programs get buried in the information and work involved. It's rare to find tools that improve sales results as promised at a rate that makes it worth the investment.

Welcome to the Funnel

From your traffic channels, to your landing page, to your checkout page, …marketers will tell you to build out your funnel to encourage strangers to become users and encourage users to convert to customers.

If you're not sure what a funnel looks like, then just look around because you're in one. From the paid social campaigns that introduced you to the marketing product you're considering, to the social proof in the form of customer testimonials that encourage you to trust them, to the email whose amazing opportunity takes you through their landing page, pricing page and ultimately their checkout pages, you're being guided through their funnel. Even that discount code that expires soon is designed to give that little push of anxiety engineered to encourage users like you to move to the next stage of the funnel. And you thought you were talking about increasing your sales, but really it's a conversation about you parting with your money.

Question Any Money Back Guarantee

I've been told about guaranteed results in sales calls many times, and I sometimes see it the sales copy on a landing page. But, there's no money back is guarantee on the results that matter: online sales.

One marketer (who's services I purchased) offered a guaranteed 2X refund on their product if they didn't deliver a sale by a certain date. But what they didn't mention is that there was a huge list of deliverables they never mentioned, which customers would have to produce to be eligible for the 2X refund. This marketing product fell far short of its promises, and none of the stated iron-clad guarantees from their sales collateral applied.

Why the Long Contract?

Any good relationship, personal or business, has an equal share of potential risk and reward for both parties. But what's the benefit of a long contract to you? Maybe there is one, but often you're locked into something for a year that is expensive even if it works.

A lot of programs with longer term contracts are time consuming to setup and complicated to use. Their sales team doesn't mention this. Many business owners will pay up front for one year, at the end of which they have not finished setting up the marketing program fully, and they turn it off.
If you're considering a program that needs your commitment for a year, consider hiring someone internally to fully implement and manage this system. It's likely close a full-time job, at least at first. If it's not feasible to have someone on your team be responsible for it, then maybe consider it isn't the right system for you.

Go Beyond the Sales Copy… Check Their Terms & Conditions

The information in the sales copy is not your contract. Take a look at the terms of their services. You'll usually find a link in the footer of their website that'll take you to paragraphs of legal jargon, which is what you are actually committing to. It might be worth a read.

I was considering hiring a coaching company through a connection I made on the ClubHouse app in the summer of 2021. When I asked for additional information about claims that were made in the sales call, it wasn't provided, and I thought I should look a little deeper, so I checked the terms and conditions and found the most aggressively one-sided legal document I've ever seen, which included the following:

"Any sample materials, descriptive matter, or advertising… …will not form part of the Contract or have any contractual force… (the company) have the right to make any changes or alterations to the nature, scope, and content of the Products and/or Services… …the company gives no warranties of any kind, whether express or implied… …And, the (autopay) Fees will remain payable by the Client notwithstanding any decision to cease using the Products and/or Services. …And, the Client hereby grants (the company) a royalty-free…non-exclusive perpetual license to use any intellectual property rights of the Client… …directing traffic to a webpage that contains any reference to (the company) is STRICTLY prohibited. (The company) will be the sole arbiter as to what constitutes a violation of this provision. This action will result in immediate termination of the Products and/or Services without any refund to the Client."

Who would ever agree to this? No one.

Same As the Old Boss

Even the good ones that promise to boost online sales can often legitimately deliver traffic to product pages, but fall short when it comes to producing enough sales conversions to justify the substantial investment in time and money.
They create a self-perpetuating cycle in which the latest solution becomes the new problem, which leaves the retailer blaming themselves and wondering:

Transferring Brick and Mortar Success to Online Sales: Bridging the Gap Between Offline Retail and Digital Marketing

First a bit about me: I offer conversion optimization coaching/consulting services to small business owners & their teams who are committed to maximizing the effectiveness of their online businesses. Typically we start with Shopify & Google Ads and then expand to other sales channels, as we bridge the gap between your offline retail businesses and your digital marketing. With decades of experience in marketing design, online advertising, and brick and mortar retail, I have a unique view of the myriad marketing options available to retailers. Combined with a healthy dose of well-earned skepticism of any new solution's value proposition. I'm your creative partner.

Take Control of Your Online Business

My goal is to put you in control of your online store, with your hands on the levers that drive sales online.

  • Finding clients though social media, SEO & Google Ads;
  • Enhancing customer trust by communicating your unique specific benefits;
  • Optimizing your product pages;
  • Improving the checkout process;
  • Identifying and eliminating friction to increase your online sales.

Let's get started… Below are some of my tried and true go-tos for how to increase online sales.

Think Beyond Your Existing Customers

Marketers will tell you that it costs less to get a repeat sale from a past customers than a first sale from a new customer.

This may be technically accurate, but it's a flawed argument, because people who have never purchased from you before represent a vastly larger potential market of online shoppers. So are you interested in investing your marketing budget to a repeat sale or to get more customers?

Satisfied Customers vs. Potential Customers: An Unfair Comparison

Gauging the cost of acquiring increased sales from past customers who are delighted with your store to the cost of marketing to the world is an unfair and misleading comparison.

Your existing customers have already been through all the audience subsets of your sales process, while new prospective customers are just starting on this journey. Here are the subsets of all potential customers:

  • Subset 1: Everyone - I know, …not a subset. Your best customers used to be part of the vast group of people who are potential customers who have never shopped from you before and have never even heard of you.
  • Subset 2: Your Target Audience - A smaller list who makes up the target audience identified in your market research. They are your best potential customers, based on factors like geography, interests, age, gender, family, career, education and more, but they have never heard of you.
  • Subset 3: Target Customers Who Are Aware of You - A small subset of your target audience have heard of you, but have never visited your shop or engaged with your online store.
  • Subset 4: Engaged Shoppers - An even smaller subset are potential customers who are engaged with your store. Maybe they came into your store and left with some of your marketing materials, they subscribed to your email marketing campaigns, clicked on your paid ads, followed one or more of your social media accounts. They may have added items to their cart in your online stores, started the checkout process, and even filled out their credit card details, only to abandon their cart, and didn't buy from either your brick and mortar or your online stores.
  • Subset 5: Existing Customers - The subset of your target audience who have shopped from you already. They could be new customers, but this group also includes all difficult customers.
  • Subset 6: Satisfied Customers - Existing, high customer satisfaction accounts who are delighted with your store. These customers spend the most and sing your praises. Ah, they make my heart sing!

Lower Cost Per Sale, but No New Customers

Comparing the market investment and conversion rate of Subset 6: Satisfied Customers to Subset 1: Everyone doesn't make any sense. Of course it costs less to encourage customers who already love your store to make another purchase than it does to launch an effective marketing strategy for people who have never even heard of you.

Although I always wonder if past customers were likely to buy anyway, I do think it is valuable to market to your past customers to make sure you stay top-of-mind. That said, if your goal is to increase online sales, then the potential revenue from new customers is vastly higher so that ought to be your main focus.

Measure Online Sales

The majority of marketers promise results in the form of impressions and clicks. They might even be able to deliver on that promise and send huge traffic to a specific landing page or your homepage. But what is a visitor worth to you if they don't buy?

Your goal is online sales, so it's important to measure and optimize for metrics that represent actual revenue, and not just eyeballs and clicks.

Measure What Matters

Vanity metrics like visitors to landing pages, social media followers or email subscribers can be great measures of engagement, but they don't represent money in your pocket. If you're a small business owner, who's ass is on the line, the only conversion rate you care about is how many people moved through your landing pages all the way through completing a purchase in your shopping cart.

If You're Getting Sales, You'll Have Lots of Clicks, Impressions & Engagement.

Even when a sales person knows I specialize in increasing online sales, they'll often tell me that the most important thing is the volume of impressions and clicks, because that grows brand awareness.

My response is to ask if their boss feels the same about them having calls like the one we're having. Is it good enough if I'm just aware of their company? Nope, they get paid for getting sales.

Sales Equals Engagement, While Engagement Doesn't Equal Sales

A lot of traffic doesn't equal sales. What's the value of a 1,000,000 eyeballs… nothing unless someone makes a purchase.

Engagement, clicks, likes, shares and subscriptions to email marketing all happen when you increase sales. For each sale you get from your marketing, you'll have lots of everything else.

Measure Conversion Rates On Sales, Not Clicks

Your sales conversion rate is a representation of everything that matters. You don't have time for extensive analysis of all your analytics. Watch your website's conversion rate metrics for increasing sales and you'll know the health of your online business in a few seconds.

How Much Are You Willing to Pay for a Thousand New Visitors Who Will Never Buy Anything?

Most often marketers don't track and report the conversion rates and value of online sales directly related to their efforts. Business owners have no way to track the effectiveness of the value proposition they've agreed to. It's not that they can't be measured - They just aren't.

What Gets Measured, Gets Managed

Your marketing results are dictated by what you choose to measure. If you're not measuring whether your marketing strategy is producing sales, then the best you can do is try to lower the cost per engagement, and cross your fingers.

If you're a small business owner, you don't have money to waste. If you're not increasing sales, then what's the point? It's time to start looking at metrics that track what you sell online, and confidently attribute credit to whichever campaign those online sales came from. It's the only way to make sure your marketing is being maximized for sales online instead of something you don't really care about.

Maximize What's Working to Further Increase Sales

If you measure sales conversion rates, and your metrics show some marketing campaigns that boost sales online, focus your efforts on those winning campaigns to find ways to further improve their effectiveness.

Eliminate Wasted Investment That Doesn't Increase Online Sales

At the same time as you boost online sales by maximizing what's working, eliminate marketing activities that underperform and waste your time and money.

Expect Most Marketing to Produce Zero Sales Online

Why should you not expect most marketing tactics to increase online sales? Isn't this a defeatist attitude to go into a new initiative?

The truth is the vast majority of marketing efforts produce no sales at all. …Zip. …Zero. …Nada.

Most marketers focus on getting people to click on your ads, and ignore tracking the real results of those clicks: online sales.

According to eMarketer, more than 60% of ad money is wasted because there is no way to track whether someone who saw the ad actually bought anything.

Expecting no sales isn't defeatist… it's realistic.

Being realistic doesn't mean marketing isn't worth the effort. It means that we need to consider time and investment we're willing to risk and be ok with losing.

Expect to Fail to Produce Online Sales, But Don't Give Up

When business owners start to measure campaigns with sales conversions instead of clicks, they can get pretty discouraged.

If your marketing strategy hasn't lead to more sales online, that doesn't mean you shouldn't have tried.

To boost online sales, you will need to wade through a lot of online marketing opportunities until you find one that connects you with that new potential customer.

I'd Rather Have One Winning Campaign Than a Full-stack of Losers

There are many marketing options, including the following:

  • Social media marketing
  • Personalized email automation
  • Upselling during the checkout process
  • Online loyalty programs
  • Affiliate programs
  • Paid ads
  • SEO

Each of these required an investment in resources, time and optimization. Each one needs an initial investment, testing and optimization. Don't spread yourself too thin.

Start small with one opportunity and test your results. Once you think you're on to something that'll get you more sales for a reasonable price, stick with it and improve it.

Stop throwing money at paid ads and social media posts that get website visitors and social media followers who will rarely, if ever, buy your products.

Turn down any marketing products that offer a money back guarantee, because you won't get your money back. Instead, choose marketing that you're willing to lose money on while you test it, and then go all in when you've found what works.

Once you've mastered one channel, apply your winning formula and apply it to another channel, and so on.

Increase Online Sales by Optimizing for Online Sales

As obvious as it sounds, most marketing strategies don't focus on activities that increase sales. There's a lot of buzz about how companies can improve their online presence and expand brand awareness, but not much talk about the only result where the rubber meets the road: to measurably increase sales through your online store.

What is "Optimization"?

The action or process of making something as fully effective, perfect, or functional as possible.

In our case, our goal is to increase online sales through experimentation, eliminating waste and maximizing opportunities that present themselves.

4 Categories of Advertising Optimization

If you think about your current online marketing optimization, you'll fall into one of the following 3 categories:

No optimization at all

What this looks like is a business owner who is not measuring anything, trusting the “experts”, and hoping for the best.

Optimizing for cost-per-click (CPC)

If no online sales are being recorded, then the best you can do is optimize for more eyeballs for the same budget by lowering the CPC.

The trouble with optimizing for cost-per-click is that it's a race to the bottom. You could be getting lots of clicks, but if they're not resulting in sales, you're losing money.

Measuring online sales results without optimization

This is common when a business owner first starts to track how much their marketing dollars actually increase online sales for the first time. Word for word, what I hear regularly hear is, "Oh my God, we're losing money. Turn it off!"

Optimizing for online sales

Business owners who are using the data produced from marketing campaigns from producing online sales to improve their conversion rates and eliminating wasted spend. Optimization results in increased online sales at a lower cost per sale. Optimizing for online sales continues to improve results and boost online sales over time.

Want To Increase Online Sales? It All Starts With the First Sale

I often hear business owners say, 'You have to spend money to make money'. That may be technically true, but typically spending money doesn't lead to making any sales at all. As mentioned above, most marketing campaigns are a waste of your hard-earned cash.

You're on the hunt for more ecommerce sales channels for your store, showing search or social media ads may get your landing page a bunch of engagement. But engagement is a far cry from a boost in online sales. Spending your budget in a way that measurably completes the checkout process with a purchase visible in Shopify and/or Google Analytics is what we're really interested in.

Until we get the first sale, we're optimizing for reduced costs

We can't increase sales if we're not getting sales. We can reduce the cost per engagement over time, but we need that checkout process completed to optimize for more sales. We can't get our first sale until we spend some money. Here's the top-level process:

  1. Identify your online sales channel opportunities.
  2. Choose the one marketing channel you wish to focus on.
  3. Confirm that you are ready to measure your results with a simple process.
  4. Initiate a series of experiments on that channel, setting a budget that is high enough to get results, but is also low enough that you're not precious about seeing an immediate result.
  5. Analyze the results of your experiments, and use that data to guide changes which increase sales and eliminate waste.
  6. Repeat your analysis to see if your changes increase sales or not, and then do it again and again.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer for how to increase online sales, but the elements are the same, regardless of the brick and mortar business you're in. It starts with understanding your current opportunities for sales online, then taking the needed steps to measure results, and then running experiments to confirm what gets sales online. Trust it's an ongoing process that should be tweaked as needed to continue increasing online sales.