Consumers spend more and more time online, yet they give that time to fewer and fewer websites.

Some 55% of people online use only two or three trusted sites for their content discovery and purchasing, according to research by digital agency Carat, which also found that 41% of people feel overwhelmed by the wealth of choices on the Web, making it hard for them to make purchase decisions.

The way consumers use the Web has also changed dramatically. We no longer book out some Internet time with a computer. Rather, we browse spontaneously while waiting for the bus, watching TV, and checking prices in-store—across an array of devices.

Marketers need to engage consumers where those consumers congregate online, but in a world of glimpses and instant gratification, getting customers to engage is harder than it has ever been. Yet, much of the buyer's journey is now done digitally, and engagement is likely to happen over several digital touchpoints.

Why are we trying to get them to engage? Because of the direct relationship between engagement and revenue: The longer a consumer spends time on your site—with the experiences you provide there and the messages you present—the more likely they are to enter the buying cycle and move to the checkout.

Engagement is all about the richness of the experience—visual impact and easy consumption, powerful images and intuitive design, a path that takes users where they want to go... even if they don't know it yet.

Keeping customers within a site and serving up the right content that engages them and makes purchase decisions easy is critical.

Five Digital Marketing Tips to Improve Revenue

1. Make everything e-commerce-enabled. Make buying easy. The consumer is somewhere along the scale between browse and buy. At any point on a site, the consumer should be able to simply click and buy. Images, lookbooks, catalogs, reviews—anything that has your products on it—should feature a "buy now" option that sends the product straight to the cart or even opens a transactional quick-view immediately.

2. Make checkout simple. The main barrier to any e-commerce sale across any device is the checkout, which is where most consumers drop out. Even if there are items in the consumer's shopping cart, sites lose on average 68% at checkout, equating to $4 trillion in lost revenue.

To jump this hurdle, make the process of buying easy. No one wants to waste time entering lengthy card numbers and other details. In addition, commitment issues arise when the time comes to hit the Pay Now or Checkout buttons. Even a simple language change can help; "Buy Now" or, even better, "I Want It!" can decrease abandonment.

3. Work with showrooming. Timely offers are a huge driver of conversions, and they're something you can deliver using mobile location data and physical context. As showrooming continues to become a standard way to shop, use real-time offers, along with real-time stock updates, to make the purchase journey more of a service.

4. Inspire customers. As the path to purchase becomes richer with features that help the user along their journey, buying becomes a service. People are busy and don't have time to weigh multiple options and make snap decisions. The creation of rich digital experiences can help them do that, however.

Enabling them to "shop the look" with content sliders that show a few key items and recommendations about what goes well with those items is a huge benefit to consumers and makes them more likely to buy—and buy more than perhaps they had previously considered buying.

5. Analyze and optimize. All online businesses should use tools to measure and analyze their digital experiences. Selecting the right metrics is crucial:

  1. Time spent: The first 10 seconds are critical. How does that figure drop away after 20 seconds or more?
  2. Actions: How the user behavior changes on the site: the clicks, scrolls, and mouse movements that people perform on or around an experience in a specified period of time.
  3. Devices: What devices are consumers using? Are those experiences optimized on those particular devices? Is your brand using responsive design?
  4. Reactions: To gain insight and head off any negative user reactions, use social listening tools for gauging those reactions.

Together, those four metrics and the interplay between them provide a way to measure and optimize your experience, delivering the key focus points for improvement.

Boathouse Stores Gets It Right

Having a rich experience keeps people stay longer, and the longer they linger, the more likely they are to buy. Canadian retailer Boathouse Stores (a client of ours) has invested in making richer, more engaging site experiences. With a push to quickly and effectively create compelling content and shop-the-look campaigns, the company has seen time on page grow from a fairly average 30-40 seconds to over seven minutes, enticing people further toward the path to purchase and driving conversion rates up 200% compared with other campaigns, and 760% compared with other acquisition channels...

* * *

Better experiences lead to better sales and richness equals more revenue. That means inspiring consumers with great creative and guiding them to buy. As we enter the era of Web 3.0, this concept is going to have to be at the heart of all e-commerce brands' strategy.

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Five Steps to Build E-Commerce Sales: How to Link Engagement to Revenue

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image of Brian Rigney

Brian Rigney is CEO of digital publishing software Zmags. He has 20+ years of experience leading high-performing entrepreneurial teams, launching new businesses, and bringing innovative products to market.

LinkedIn: Brian Rigney

Twitter: @brigney