The Ultimate Ethical Ecommerce Sales Guide

ethical ecommerce sales guide

If you want to make money online, then setting up an ecommerce store for your business is the best way to get started. But, if you want to generate ecommerce sales and boost your profit, then simply setting up an online shop is not enough. Marketing your store is where you can make sales happen.

In this sales guide, we’ll teach you how to step up your ecommerce store step-by-step, as well as looking at what you can do afterwards to generate more sales for your business. And whilst things like SEO, marketing and data analysis will make a big impact, it’s also important to not forget about some of the fundamental ethical issues that arise from ecommerce. 

If you already run a sustainable and ethical ecommerce store, then it’s likely that you’ll already understand the importance of tackling these issues. If you’re yet to dive into the world of online selling, then you need to start by understanding the ethical and environmental implications of your business.

Once you’ve finished our ultimate ethical ecommerce sales guide, you’ll be able to turn your business into an online powerhouse that not only generates sales, but upholds ethical practices too.

Step 1: Setting up shop

One of the first steps you should take, if you haven’t already, is setting up your ecommerce store on Shopify. There are many ecommerce platforms available to business owners, and you may already be using one of these. 

Shopify eclipses all of these, as it is flexible, simple to set up, and gives you the ability to grow your business over time. If you haven’t already got a store, then choose Shopify. If you have one, consider moving it over.

Why Shopify?

You might be questioning why you should choose Shopify if there are loads of other ecommerce platforms out there? Aside from the fact that it’s the preferred platform for thousands of companies, Shopify is equipped with multiple features you can use to nurture and grow your business online, such as:

  • Scalable solutions: Shopify is a very flexible platform, whatever size your business may be or the stage it’s at. It can meet the needs of brands that are just starting out all the way up to a multinational business who fulfill thousands of orders every day. With Shopify, you’ll never have to worry about your ecommerce store holding you back as the possibilities are endless.
  • Data at your fingertips: Shopify has an easy-to-use back-end dashboard that allows users to have whatever information they need, instantly. It also is designed in a way that almost anybody could use it; the dashboard can produce detailed ecommerce sales reports, and easily allows you to manage customers, orders and products without even typing a single line of code!
  • Multi-channel selling: With Shopify you can sell your products in multiple places at once, such as Amazon and Ebay, whilst still controlling your inventory, order and customer management in one place!
  • Cost: Shopify has a price plan to suit budgets of every size. Prices range from $29 per month (that’s around £22) for the ‘Basic Shopify’ plan up to $299 per month (approx £236) for their ‘Advanced Shopify’ plan. You can upgrade, cancel, or downgrade your plan at any time, if you pay on a per month basis. The only other fees are the ones that Shopify charge on your turnover and payment gateway.

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Focus on your customer

After you’ve set up your Shopify store, you need to focus on your customers. You need to think about what conscious modern consumers want from a business like yours, and how you can use this information to grow your brand reputation and generate profit.

Know what consumers want

We’re increasingly seeing ethics and values take centre stage in the world of ecommerce. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the impact their favourite products have on the environment, and are therefore embracing more sustainable and ethical alternatives. 

Younger generations, especially those who fall under the terms ‘Millennial’ and ‘Generation Z,’ are pushing retailers to take extra responsibility for the effect that their business has on the environment. Becoming a more sustainable and/or ethical business is not only beneficial to the planet and the people who live on it, but it can also enhance your company’s brand image, helping you open up new markets and opportunities. 

However, you need to make sure you’re not just ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ of a certain type of trend. Understanding what your business’ purpose is beyond profit is crucial to the success of your brand. The modern consumer is not daft; they can spot the difference between when a brand is being genuine or when they’re faking it. Make sure you know what values your brand stands for, and then build your business around these core ethics. Anyone can build a copycat version of a well-known brand, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be successful.

Research demographics and produce customer avatars

Knowing the opinion of your target audience will reveal key truths about how you should run your business. That’s why customer demographics are such an important part of marketing research. When done correctly, they can provide you with a great way of judging which demographic of the population would be a good target for a particular type of product or service. Demographics can reveal not only who your consumers are, but what makes them tick!

Once you’ve researched your customer demographics, you can begin to form customer avatars around them. This is a phrase that is used to describe the fictional, generalised representation of the different buyer personas most likely to purchase from you. These are some of the things you should know about your fictional buyer when building their persona:

  • Approximate age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Job
  • Hobbies
  • What they do on the internet

Building customer avatars isn’t hard, but it also isn’t something that should be skipped when you’re putting together your marketing plan! Ultimately, you need to know how your products or services will add value to every single one of your customers’ lives.

Customer feedback

If you’re in business, it’s likely that you already know the importance of customer feedback. The same applies to ecommerce sites, as it is one of the most persuasive methods to improve your store’s marketing. Without getting quality feedback, you won’t be able to create customer loyalty. Similarly, if you don’t get negative feedback, you’ll never know how to improve your service or products. Value your customers by asking for feedback so you can keep them engaged with your brand, as well as using it to improve your product or service.

Should you be thinking about recommerce?

If you’ve committed to becoming or turning your brand into a sustainable ethical business, then it could be worth thinking about setting up a recommerce scheme. As we already mentioned above, consumers are increasingly looking to reduce their own consumption and help combat the impact their shopping choices have on the environment. 

The recommerce market refers to the buying and selling of pre-owned goods. Shopping secondhand is not a new concept, but more and more ecommerce retailers are looking to add it to their business model. Some big name brands, especially within fashion ecommerce, have launched their own online recommerce schemes. 

For example, Patagonia has a separate website called ‘Worn Wear,’ where customers can buy secondhand versions of the brand’s clothing as part of their ‘ReCrafted’ collection. Outdoor retailer REI has just announced a new recommerce scheme which encourages customers to trade in their secondhand lightly-used gear in exchange for a digital gift card.

Both are great examples of brands sticking to their values and putting their money where their mouth is. Consumer’s have recognised and celebrated the brands’ efforts for it.

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Step 2: Create an effective integrated marketing plan

After setting up your business on Shopify, creating customer avatars and understanding your brand’s core values, the next step is to create an effective integrated marketing plan. 

With all of the noise online today, it can be challenging to get someone’s attention, and transforming that attention into a long-term customer relationship is difficult, but not impossible! With an effective integrated marketing plan, you can achieve this.

Marketing on purpose, instead of ‘pot-luck’ marketing, is the major difference between having an integrated marketing plan versus not having one. Not only does it assure that your brand’s message is being delivered to your target audience, but it also gives your business the ability to highlight its unique selling point (USP) and core message. So how do you do it?

Awareness, Consideration, Purchase

Firstly, you want to focus on strategies for each step of the buyer journey. The buyer journey is the buying process that consumers will go through to become aware of, evaluate and purchase products from your business. It consists of three stages that make up the inbound marketing framework; awareness, consideration and purchase.

Using these three stages and your customer avatars, you can create persuasive and enticing persona-targeted content for each. This will ensure consistency across all the customer touchpoints, which is key to understanding and obtaining customer loyalty.

Awareness

In the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey, a potential customer is just realizing that they have a want or need for a particular product or service. If you can answer customer persona questions and position your awareness content correctly, you’re putting your business’ content in a great position to convert. Combine SEO, social media and email marketing into one create strategy to target your customers.

This is also a great opportunity for your company to start conversations around important ethical and environmental topics, e.g. plastic waste or labour exploitation. How can your company start conversations by doing more for the people and the planet? Maybe you ship all your products in plastic-free packaging, or pay all your workers a living wage? Whatever it is that you’re passionate about, get your potential buyers interested and involved.

Consideration

The consideration phase of the buyer journey is about a consumer’s evaluation of different methods that are available to them. You’re still delivering important information to them at this stage, to help your buyer make the best possible decision. So how can you reduce the time from consideration to purchase?

Ensure your marketing standards are up to scratch. For example, are you writing effective web copy? Are your social campaigns using high-quality photos and graphic designs? Are you using social proof to shout about your customer reviews and influencer endorsements? All of these will guarantee that the transition from consideration to purchase goes smoothly.

Purchase

In the final point in the buyer journey, the consumer has decided on a solution, but they might still be pondering on which seller they’ll choose to purchase a product or service. They might even be spending significant time on researching documentation, seller reviews, and other materials to be confident in their decision.

You want to make sure that a user can easily navigate their way through your ecommerce site to achieve their goals. If you can pinpoint how a customer will navigate your website, you can create a better user experience and increase your chances of a purchase. 

Don’t rely on one channel

A good integrated marketing plan won’t rely on just one channel to succeed. That’s because if one channel starts performing badly, you’re left exposed if you rely too heavily on it. You want to integrate your marketing strategies across multiple channels, so that they will all work together to help you achieve your goals. 

Combine search marketing with social media, or email with PPC. Planning your campaigns across multiple channels will help you reach a wider audience, and a wider audience means that you have more potential buyers to convert into long-term customers.

ethical ecommerce sales guide

Grow your store organically and ethically with SEO

Increasing organic traffic to your site through strategic SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) tactics is a great way to grow your ecommerce store. One of the biggest challenges faced by ecommerce sites is having little to no traffic in the ecommerce sales funnel, which often results in a lack of sales. There are thousands of interconnecting things that need to be observed and handled in order to see concrete results.

Your ecommerce site needs to implement some specific and unique strategies that will maximise organic search traffic, sales, leads and the growth of your business. Focus on the basics to start with; don’t over optimise, focus on creating a great user experience, include some creative copywriting, have a good page speed and don’t use ‘black hat’ tactics. 

‘Black hat’ tactics to avoid

The tactics listed below are considered ‘black hat’ and should not be used if you want to optimise your site for Google and other search engines:

  • Content automation
  • Hidden text or links
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Reporting a competitor, or ‘negative SEO’
  • Link schemes
  • Guest posting networks
  • Link manipulation, including buying links
  • Creating pages, subdomains, or domains with duplicate content
  • Pages with malicious behaviour, such as phishing, viruses, trojans, and other malware

Product descriptions and blogs

One way to boost your site’s SEO is by creating unique product pages and product descriptions for related keywords. It might seem easier for you to simply copy and paste the manufacturer’s description, or have the same bit of content for similar products, but the best strategy is to have a completely unique description for each page and product on your ecommerce site. It can be a lot of work, but it’ll definitely pay off when it comes to driving traffic to your store.

Starting a blog and posting regular quality content is another great way of driving traffic to your website, as well as connecting with customers. But if you’re not sure exactly what you want to blog about, the whole idea can begin to seem overwhelming. Posting without a blog content strategy in place can be difficult to maintain in the long term, so produce an editorial calendar to plan content ahead of time.

Combining organic and paid traffic

Combining both organic and paid traffic is vital for ecommerce businesses that are starting out small. As we mentioned above, a lack of website traffic is one of the biggest challenges businesses face when running an online shop. One of the root-causes of why many websites can’t generate ecommerce sales is that the traffic at the beginning of the sales funnel isn’t high enough.

It’s vital that you have a good amount of organic traffic to your site before you consider combining it with paid advertising. Blinding pumping money into digital advertising without any traffic in the sales funnel will end up in a lot of expensive campaigns with little results. When you put in time, care and attention into generating organic traffic, it can become invaluable and incredibly rewarding to your business. 

Facebook advertising and pixel 

Once your website is ranking higher and pulling in more organic traffic, there’s still work to be done! You still need to maintain this traffic and ensure that leads become conversions and return customers. You can combine organic and paid for a remarketing campaign that will help to encourage return customers through the use of a Facebook pixel. 

A Facebook pixel is a piece of code that you place on your website (Shopify allows you to seamlessly integrate your pixel in your site’s preferences). It collects data that helps you track conversions from Facebook ads and remarket to people who have already taken some kind of action on your website. It places and triggers cookies to track users as they interact with your website and your Facebook ads.

Don’t simply keep ‘boosting’ posts on your brand’s business page. To make the most out of your site’s Facebook pixel, you need to set up a Facebook Ads Manager for your paid campaigns. This allows you to optimise your ad campaigns, build targeted audiences for future ads, and retarget existing customers.

Use ethical social proof

Social proof can be defined as a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behaviour for a given situation. In digital marketing, social proof is the belief that consumers will adapt their behaviour according to what other people are doing. Social proof can manifest itself as:

  • An expert’s stamp of approval 
  • A celebrity endorsement 
  • User testimonials
  • Business credentials
  • Earned media
  • Social media shares and user-generated content
  • ‘Wisdom of the Crowds’
  • ‘Wisdom of your Friends’

Integrating social proof into your marketing and advertising strategy can have a huge impact on the way people view your brand or products. However, you should avoid the use of underhand tactics like unverified reviews, fake sales and bogus ratings. These are bad for both your business and your customers.

The ethical do’s and don’ts of using social proof

Here are some simple guidelines to show the difference between great marketing and unethical social proof:

  • Don’t use made up content such as fake sales or reviews from internal sources. Unethical brands do this all the time!
  • Don’t offer discounts or incentives to customers in exchange for a good review or rating.
  • Do use data to create a transparent feedback process.
  • Do make use of ‘nudge’ apps to boost your social proof. 
  • Don’t use social proof to fear monger customers into panic buying products, especially during a time of crisis.
  • Don’t use social proof to target vulnerable or impressionable customers
ethical ecommerce sales guide

Step 3: Learn, adapt and improve

One of the key components of having a successful ecommerce store is learning to constantly adapt and improve your business. Don’t stand still, you always want to be improving your marketing and ecommerce strategies, as your competition will be.

Unexpected events that could impact the economy and your business will happen, so it’s best to learn how you can adapt any new changes that may arise. For example, the Coronavirus outbreak brought a period of increased uncertainty for many brands, and entrepreneurs across the world were having to adapt their business and marketing strategies to be more flexible within a very short space of time. Those that did not adapt to the change, were left behind.

Monitor changing consumer values & needs

To keep growing and improving as a business, you want to keep monitoring consumer values and their needs as often as you can. Start by keeping ahead of movements that are relevant to your company goals. When you first start to implement your goals across various aspects of your business, you should ask yourself:

  • Who is our audience?
  • What do we care about as a brand?
  • Why do we exist as a business?

By asking yourself these questions, you can embed your goals authentically and continue to do so as consumer values and needs change. Be the change you want to see by constantly searching for ways to improve your company ethics and behaviours that match these goals. Don’t be afraid to stand out and be the voice for change in your industry!

By staying on top of what your customers want and need from you, you will be able to adapt to any changes and/or challenges that are thrown your way.

Use marketing data to improve your ecommerce business

With ecommerce analytics, you have access to vast information about your store, customers and sales. Ecommerce thrives on data, and accurate data can help your store reach new heights. 

You can use data to adapt and change your brand’s digital strategies, leading to increased sales and improved user experience. But, the reverse is also true! Misinterpreted data can drive your ecommerce store into the ground. Therefore, it’s critical that you understand where your site’s data comes from and how to leverage it to improve your online conversions. 

Why should you use Google Analytics?

If you owned a physical shop, you’d have the ability to see all the customers that visited. You’d be able to see their shopping habits firsthand and speak with them directly. Without analytics and the relevant KPIs, an ecommerce store leaves you blind to much information about your visitors and customers you would ordinarily get to see.

Google Analytics is a powerful tool that you can use to analyse the success of your ecommerce store. It can help you understand the effectiveness of your marketing strategies, better understand your visitors and optimise your store for conversions and sales. 

Connecting Google Analytics to Shopify

Setting up Google Analytics on Shopify is simple to do too! You create a new account in Google Analytics, copying the tracking code, and paste it into the Google Analytics field in your Shopify settings page.

Reports

Google Analytics has a vast amount of reports features, which can be overwhelming to wrap your head around if you’re just starting out. But don’t worry! The basic overview reports contain plenty of great information and insights to get started. The most important sections you should get familiar with are:

  • Real-Time: These show you what’s happening on your site in real time. You can see whether a promotion is driving traffic to your site and which pages visitors are viewing, as well as monitoring the immediate effects on traffic from a blog, email, or social media post.
  • Audience: Tells you more about who is on your site. They offer key insights into your customer that you can use to move the needle for your business.
  • Acquisition: These tell you how your visitors and customers found and arrived at your site. Knowing which channels are driving traffic and sales means you can focus on the channels that are most effective for you. Likewise, understanding what other websites are linking to you and the volume of traffic they’re driving helps you to understand where other opportunities exist.
  • Behaviour: Behaviour reports give you important information about your site and what your visitors are doing on your site. Understanding the information in these reports are key to creating a better experience for your visitors and increasing conversions. 
  • Conversions: These tell you more about your ecommerce sales and conversions. By understanding which products sell well you’ll know which of your products are best suited for your customer base and which ones are supported by your best marketing efforts. 

Once you understand the metrics from these basic reports, you should feel more comfortable exploring other sections and more in-depth reports in Google Analytics.

Upsell & cross-sell relevant products

Upselling and cross-selling strategies are methods in which you can earn more revenue from your existing customers. Driving revenue by retaining existing customers is the name of the customer success game, as these strategies have huge return on investment.

For most businesses, it’s more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing one. When you do retain a customer, they’re more likely to purchase more frequently and spend more. If your company isn’t already cross-selling and upselling, then you could be missing out on extra sales!

One way of achieving this is using customer behaviour to further drive store sales. The information from your Google Analytics reports will let you know what products sell well for your customer base, which you can then use to cross-sell relevant products to them. For example, Amazon cross-sells to their existing customers by enticing existing buyers to purchase more products from their ‘customers also bought’ section.   

You can also reduce the cost of customer acquisition by selling more per purchase. We increased the average order value for our client RIPT by 30% using this approach. By creating a social strategy around engagement rather than selling, we not only increased order values, but we also managed to secure new influencer relationships, grow social account followers and engagement for the gym brand.

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Step 4: Build stronger relationships with your customers

Loyal customers come from brands having personalised interactions with them. Your business needs to invest in building stronger customer relationships or you may lose out to your competitors. Competitors who will be all too eager to poach your customers from you. Taking care of your current clients is more cost-effective for you than finding new ones. If you strive for customer loyalty, you can build long-lasting relationships with them as their desires evolve.

Build customer loyalty & brand choice

Start by focusing your efforts on building a community of loyal fans with the same shared values as your business, such as ethics and sustainability. By having a purpose or a cause that your brand can rally behind, you’ll automatically attract like-minded individuals to join and support your vision. This will increase the likelihood of your customers talking to one another and creating a tight-knit community around your brand. 

This is one of the main reasons why charitable brands like TOMS and Lush have such dedicated customers. Look at what your company values are and find creative ways to help causes related to them. Practice what you preach. If you’re advocating to reduce plastic pollution, selling your products in single-use plastic packaging isn’t going to help with customer loyalty. 

You can also reach out and keep in touch with your customers via email or social media. Sharing a Facebook post or sending an email that’s relevant to them personally, will increase the likelihood that they’ll respond or react to your content.

It’s also important that you reward customer loyalty. Offer returning buyers exclusive discounts and offers, or set up a member reward scheme. These tactics will all help you to build customer loyalty and make your brand the go-to choice. Ultimately, you want to become the first thought in your customers’ heads when they think of your sector.

Stop having sales

Taking part in every retail sale opportunity you can possibly find is a great way to downgrade your brand fast. But why? Here are just a few reasons:

  • Having multiple sales is likely to annoy and insult your loyal (full-price) paying customers.
  • Sales favour revenue, which decreases your profit margins.
  • Customers start to predict that you’ll be having a discount or sale, and won’t buy at full price.

Brands don’t need to get themselves into deep discount territory to be successful. For example, have you ever seen an Apple sale? Of course not, Apple will likely never participate in anything of the kind. Focus on the value your products bring to the consumer. 

Yes, you might be selling a bamboo toothbrush for £2 more than a cheaper plastic alternative, but at least yours won’t spend 1000 years decomposing in a landfill site after use. If you focus on this value, then customers won’t care about the price.

Move beyond transactional with subscriptions

You could adopt a monthly subscription model as a way of building customer excitement around your brand. Subscriptions are a growing ecommerce model that involves consumers buying products through a monthly box delivered to their home. According to Forbes, the subscription box industry has grown by 890% over a four year period!

The reality is that when consumers start to subscribe to things, they rarely cancel them. Subscriptions don’t require your customers to make a decision, which leads to predictability and a steady flow of revenue for your ecommerce brand in the long run. The excitement customers have when they receive their monthly deliveries, along with convenience, has fuelled the rise of subscription boxes.

Build long term relationships with key influencers

Just like how influencers build long-term relationships with their followers, brands who create strong, lasting connections with influencers can make their marketing strategy more effective. 

If your business partners with an influencer for the long-run, it can result in top-notch content, higher audience engagement, and stronger brand awareness, all of which can lead to increasing ROI. Transactional pay-per-post relations are short-lived, and may not yield profitable results for your brand.

If you’re looking for constant engagement for your brand, long-term influencer relationships are one of the best ways to build strong relationships with consumers. Not only do these partnerships yield better results for you, but they also appear more genuine and authentic to consumers.

Gymshark, for example, pride themselves on the relationships they have with their influencers. The gymwear company sponsors 18 different influencers, who the brand call ‘Gymshark athletes.’ These athletes receive free apparel in exchange for posting about the products as Gymshark’s brand ambassadors. 

Gymshark doesn’t just give these ambassadors an image and a caption to use. Instead they’ve built long lasting relationships with each athlete to create a two-way conversation.

Conclusion

If you own an ecommerce store or plan to open one in the near future, then you’re probably looking for tactics that’ll help you get the most out of your store in terms of sales. Hopefully, as a result of reading this sales guide, you’ll now have a sense as to what you can do in order to achieve that.

If this all seems very daunting and overwhelming then why not enlist the help of the professionals? Reward Agency is a Shopify partner and can assist you in making the most out of your ecommerce store. 


Get in touch to speak to a member of our team to see how we can help your business grow!

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