Lead generation for ecommerce belongs to the same species as lead gen for automotive, finance, and [insert 20th century industry].

But ecommerce is leaner and more agile than just about any other industry.

When we think of a traditional sales funnel, we think of a sales person emailing, calling, and setting up meetings with a lead. For ecommerce lead generation, however, this process is much less labor intensive. 

Indeed, ecommerce stores bend over backwards to avoid putting prospects through a long sales funnel. 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 10 tips for generating leads – and sales – for your online dropshipping store.

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What is Ecommerce Lead Generation?

In ecommerce, lead generation is anything but traditional. For starters, the “e” in ecommerce means there probably isn’t a physical store to visit. What’s more, deliberating whether to buy something in a brick and mortar store is often a more lengthy, complex process than deciding to buy something online. 

While customers prefer to go to the store to buy a car due to the high cost and the desire to test drive it beforehand, buying items online, such as clothes, is quickly becoming the norm. This is because the cost is relatively low and returning or exchanging items is often easy to do.

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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 make sure we’re on the same page about what a lead actually is.

Regardless of your industry, a lead is someone who has shown an interest in your brand, products, or services. There are many different actions people could take to be considered a lead: 

  • A lead in the automotive industry, for example, might have played around in a virtual showroom, designing their dream vehicle. 
  • Whereas lead generation in the financial sector might involve a potential customer interacting with an online loan calculator. 
  • More traditionally, individuals who visited a car dealership or a bank branch could also be considered leads.

There are some shared traits between lead generation for both ecommerce and more traditional businesses. Here’s what they have in common:

👉 The first step is awareness: No matter what industry you’re in, a lead has to know who you are before they can become a lead. Brand awareness is where it all begins. 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 being a customer and becoming a lead. Sometimes the transition happens in seconds, inspired by something like a discount code, and sometimes it can require weeks of discussion and adapted budgets. Either way: lead + eureka moment = customer.

👉 Content catalyzes this process: Content can play a vital role in generating and nurturing leads. Need to generate more traffic to your website or store? Well, the more content you have floating around – whether blog posts, social media, YouTube videos, or something else – the better the chances that someone will discover your business. As for convincing leads to become customers, what better way to flex your expertise than by translating your knowledge into a readily consumable format?

So yes, there are indeed some similarities between traditional and ecommerce leads – but they only extend so far.

Just consider how unlikely it would be that a car dealership would get a newsletter signup, shoot out a 10 percent 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 at least have certain similarities that would indicate whether they would be a good lead for your business or not. For example, a home decor shop might get 10 newsletter signups in one day. Of these signups: 

  • Eight are individuals between 30-50 years of age who are doing home renovations. 
  • One is a student completing a project for college.
  • 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. The student might never make a purchase, and the person browsing for ideas could purchase in the future, but not right now. Of these 10 people, nine are leads who could potentially purchase a product from the company, and the student is a dud.

So who is your lead? Your lead is someone who is interested in buying something from your business. Creating a user persona that highlights your customers’ common traits is a great way to help identify your leads. Outlining the average age and gender of a customer, their reasons for buying a product from you, and their general demographics can help you qualify leads

Now let’s dig into 10 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

One of the main reasons people browse the internet is because they like to access 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 what your customers are looking for? By looking on forums, competitor websites, and using tools like Answer the Public. Once you have identified the questions you want to answer, you can create an FAQ page, or start a blog and create articles surrounding each question topic. Answer The Public - Free SEO Tools

But what is the absolute value in spending time creating content, you ask? Creating great content that your potential customers want to read means that more people are likely to discover your website and therefore buy from you. Being the most informed industry leader where your product is concerned will also build trust, which we will talk about later.

Content doesn’t just mean articles. Content includes a wide range of formats like ebooks, videos, podcasts, and infographics. The possibilities are endless and if the search demand is there, you can recreate the same piece of content across many different formats to get your business in front of more people. 

Further, you could tease out the findings from a new study in an article, but hide the actual study behind a paywall, or you could summarize a podcast in a short video that requires an email address to receive a unique link to listen to. These are all great ways to foster lead generation and retention.

2. Take Advantage of Cookies

Website Cookies increase Lead Generation - a Cookie

This tip is more valuable for those operating in ecommerce than just about any other industry: Take advantage of your 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. However, be sure you have a privacy/cookie policy if you want to do this so that you are in compliance with the worldwide regulations.

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

Cookies aren’t perfect. Lots of people block cookies and they eventually expire. But cookies are still a valuable lead generation tool that lets you take advantage of ecommerce’s quick sales cycles.

3. Build Your Social Following

If visitors are leads because they have shown an interest in your brand, the same can be said of your social media followers (Instagram followers, Facebook followers). In these instances, the distance between a lead and a sale is way smaller than, say, the distance between a wannabe homeowner and a house. As a result, social media is a tool that ecommerce can use in a way that traditional industries simply can’t.

Indeed, 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 more followers! There are lots of Shopify plugins out there to help you increase your social media visibility.

Series of social media buttons for ecommerce lead generation

However, your business might not be on a lot of social media platforms. You’re not alone – neither are some huge brands. This is an opportunity to play it smart and only target the social media platforms that your target audience uses regularly.

Giorgio Armani Lead Generation Buttons

Consequently, adding your social media links to your newsletters and email campaigns is a great way to gather followers as you know your readers will already have accounts on these platforms. 

While on the subject of social media, make it as easy as possible for people to return to your store to make a purchase. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter give you the opportunity to do this.

Don’t forget: 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 just downloaded a white paper. However, you have a trump card as you also have a direct line of communication with them. 

4. Offer Discounts and Deals

Leads are valuable for your store as they invest in your business. Therefore, it’s a good idea to return the favor and give something of value back to your potential leads. An effective way of doing this is to offer discounts to those 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 exclusively to get an email address. This is another reminder of how different ecommerce lead generation is compared to more traditional methods.

For example, in enterprise software, lead generation 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 an email address will do. This allows you to get straight into their inbox with your deals, products, and content.

Getting an email right away is also huge for reactivating customers who abandon their baskets before committing to a purchase. Basket abandoners are considered leads as they have flirted with your product. If you have their email address, you can help push them over the finish line. Just make sure that your email capture campaigns are in compliance with regulatory guidelines like GDPR

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’ve 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 promotional 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 such as offering discounts and collecting email addresses won’t work if, you know, your store doesn’t have any visitors. SEO can be vital for generating traffic that can turn into leads and, hopefully, sales.

A huge perk of ecommerce lead generation is 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, who literally wrote the book on lead generation. Heck, HubSpot even 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 only a few adjectives. Keep it short and punchy to pique your visitors’ interest and get them clicking.

Along with CTAs, another great lead generation tool is exit intent layers. These are the ones that fire up when someone is leaving your store. There are lots of different kinds of lead generation exit intent options. Sometimes, companies will use them as a 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 pop-up floats in from the side of the screen whenever a visitor is about to leave.

Exit intent game

This looks like fun – and all you have to do to play is enter your email! Once you do so, 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 increase lead generation on your ecommerce store, try optimizing your site for mobile. This means making sure that all of your buttons are clickable across many different screen sizes, content is easy to read, and scrolling is effortless.

A great way to test if your site is optimized for users, aside from Google’s Mobile Friendly Test, is to grant real visitors access to your user test. Simply 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 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 reply when people write to you). 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 may indeed not be any 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 a human behind the store who cares about their experience. (Plus, of course, 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 converting appealing.

10. Create Partnerships

Working with similar brands, influencers, or affiliates can help to increase lead generation in 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 had a great partnership starting in 2016 where Red Bull ambassadors used GoPro equipment to capture footage of their daring feats. These activities motivated like-minded Red Bull drinkers to purchase GoPro equipment to film their stunts, and vice versa.

GoPro and Red Bull Partnership - Ecommerce Lead Generation Tip Conclusions 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, however, here are a few key takeaways:

  • Ecommerce lead generation is different from 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 their 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 arrive – will enhance your lead generation efforts.

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