Here are 5 sales lessons from the biggest online retailers

The biggest online retailers have spent millions of dollars and many years fine-tuning their sales strategies. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some kind of insight into their techniques?

We’ve put together a list of the top tools, lessons, strategies and tips from the most successful ecommerce players in the game.

Read on to learn what ideas you can take from the big fish and apply to your own store.

1. Create scarcity

Scarcity is a common tactic across all types of retailers. You’ve probably seen it implemented before on Amazon, the world’s biggest online retailer. If you’ve shopped on Amazon, you might have noticed something like this on the product pages:


So why does scarcity work? Because it creates a sense of urgency that motivates people to take action now. In fact, when we’re confronted by scarcity, we’re hit with a psychological trigger that tells us the rarer something is, the more desireable it is.

2. Let customers know they’re safe

It’s no secret that there’s been a collapse in trust across the globe—from government to businesses. And that means you need to take extra steps to reassure your visitors.

Because when they get to your site and don’t know who you are or what you stand for, they’ll assume they can’t trust you. That’s why you need to get ahead of the pack.

Take a look at how Newegg, a successful electronics retailer, eases their customer concerns:


This is their checkout page, where customers can immediately learn what is going to happen to their data, how it is kept and stored, and what Newegg’s return policy is.

This kind of upfront behavior from a store disarms customer concerns, making them more likely to buy from you.

3. Show progress in the checkout process

There’s a little saying that goes something like this: “A confused mind always says no.”

Basically, this means you need to persuade people by eliminating uncertainty. One of the easiest ways to do this is by adding a progress bar to your sales funnel. This lets people know where they are, and more importantly, how much longer they have left before they’ve completed their purchase.

Take a look at how Crate & Barrel does it:


This paints in no uncertain terms a picture of a) where you are and b) what’s going to happen next.

And this has real value. According to Baymard, 27% of consumers have abandoned their cart due to a long or complicated checkout process. Do yourself a favor and keep yours short, and let customers know where they are in it and you’ll increase your sales.

4. Offer free or flat shipping

Here’s a not-so-fun fact: 44% of consumers abandon shopping carts due to high shipping costs. That is a lot of missed business.

And while not everybody can offer free shipping—especially retailers selling big, heavy items that would put them deep in the red if they freighted them for free—customers love it. And you’d be surprised about how affordable free shipping actually is, especially considering that you’ll often see a sales boost when you do it.

Check out this post on Shopify’s blog that runs you through free shipping and returns, and makes a convincing argument for why they’re worth it.

If you can afford it, advertise the heck out of it throughout your website and shopping experience, the way Nordstrom’s does:

Tip: If you can’t afford full-on free shipping, then consider offering free shipping for orders over a certain threshold. Not only will you make customers happier, you’ll also increase your average order value when customers add on smaller items to hit the threshold.

5. Don’t force customers to create an account

As you’ve probably figured out by now, the best way to increase sales is to reduce friction. One of the most common ways companies increase friction is by forcing customers to create an account before they complete their purchase. The result? Lots and lots of customers who never follow through on the sale.

But accounts, and the data they provide, are valuable, right? Of course. And some stores may feel that account creations is so crucial that it’s impossible that they delay it.

Others may decide that the number one priority is streamlining the sale. If you’re in the second camp, there’s a solution for you.

Ask them to create an account after they buy. Look at what Barnes & Noble does:

You can purchase as a guest, but then offer them an incentive to come back if they create an account (like a discount, or free shipping).

Wrapping up

Simple changes and adjustments to your website can make a huge difference. Whether you have a small to medium ecommerce business or are just starting out, these simple tips that the biggest online retailers use can help make your ecommerce store a success.