Belgians spent more than 8 billion euros online during the first three quarters of 2019 alone. An increase of 6% compared to the first three quarters of 2018! More and more smaller companies are taking up the challenge and jumping on the e-commerce bandwagon.

With consumers shopping online more than ever before, retailers need to do their best to get noticed. Getting the attention you need to generate enough traffic and revenue is not easy.

Having a large advertising budget available helps. But what if you have little or no budget to spend on platforms like Google Shopping? You don’t want to jump on the bandwagon then? Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to generate more online sales without spending a single cent on paid advertising.

#1 Upselling and cross-selling

One of the simplest ways to generate more sales for a webshop is unfortunately often overlooked: upselling.

Upselling is a technique used to get a customer to spend more, by offering them a better or ‘premium’ version of the product or service, often at a competitive price.

Some examples of upselling:

  • A hotel offers you an advantageous upgrade from a standard room to a comfort room.
  • An airline offers you an upgrade from economy to business class, whereby the total price of the business class ticket is a lot lower than what you would normally pay for such a ticket.
  • You have a free account for an online software program and can use only a few features. With the ‘unlock premium’ option, you can use all the features by paying a monthly fee.
  • In the Deliveroo app, you have the option to add extra chicken or cheese to your salad for €1.50.

Upselling, when done right, can easily increase your sales by 4%. A test conducted by Amazon on upselling even gave them a 35% increase in sales! Isn’t it nice when you know that it doesn’t have to cost you a penny extra?

Many companies concentrate on acquiring new customers. But that is usually a lot more expensive than working with the current customer base. It also takes a lot less effort.

Within the same category is cross-selling, a sales technique where related products are suggested. Webshops usually make use of this in the form of “Often bought together” or “Other customers also bought”.

#2 Website speed

The importance of a website that loads quickly cannot be stressed enough. Because a visitor who leaves because of a poor loading speed, is not likely to come back.

A case study by web performance expert Tammy Everts shows that every second is crucial. Reducing the loading speed by 2 seconds, resulted in a 66% conversion boost.

If your site takes longer than 3 seconds to load, you can lose up to 50% of your visitors.

If a website loads too slowly, this will also have negative consequences for the organic rankings in the search engines and for the quality score in your Google Ads account. And that, in turn, will affect your sales.


A free tool like Google PageSpeed Insights can help you a lot. The tool allows for a quick analysis of your webshop, after which recommendations are given. Some recommendations are a bit technical and require the expertise of a developer. Other issues, such as the size of images, can easily be dealt with by yourself.

#3 Mobile site optimization

Website owners often underestimate the percentage of visitors that visit the site via mobile devices. It is therefore crucial to not only optimize your webshop for the desktop. Even large companies can sometimes be caught with outright mobile conversion killers.

Some things you can optimize:

  • On mobile, loading speed is even more important than on desktop. Internet connections are often slower and users more impatient than when browsing on desktop.
  • Don’t add pop-ups or sidebars on the mobile version of your webshop. Pop-ups are very difficult to close on mobile phones. Sidebars create too much distraction. On mobile you have a lot less space available, so a sidebar is completely unnecessary.
  • Make sure important information or elements are above the fold. Above the fold refers to the visible space on a web page when it first loads. It is what the user sees before he scrolls. There should always be a call-to-action (like the ‘shop now’ button) above the fold. The shopping basket is also best always visible, for example in the top right-hand corner. This promotes an easy checkout.
  • The keyboard should automatically adapt to different input fields. For example, when the customer needs to enter his credit card number, he should automatically (and only) be presented with a numeric keypad.
  • Use search suggestions in the search bar. The less the user has to type on his mobile phone, the better. Provide automatic starters when the customer starts typing into the search bar.
  • Offer the ‘check out as guest‘ option. The more effort the user has to put into completing their purchase, the worse. This is certainly true for mobile. Nothing more annoying than having to create an account on your phone when you want to make a quick purchase.

Of course, those are just a handful of optimization tips you can apply. If you start working with the above tips, then you are already well on your way

#4 Collect social proof

Consumers rely heavily on recommendations from a friend or family member. But even recommendations from complete strangers make consumers buy. Social proof refers to the proof that others trust a brand or webshop enough to buy from it.

After a positive experience with a company, a whopping 77% of customers would be open to recommending the company to a friend. (Temkin Group, 2017)

So don’t fail to make use of this powerful marketing technique. This can be done by encouraging customers to write a review after purchaseand displaying the collected reviews clearly on the product pages.

Or go a step further and design a referral program. For example, Dropbox offers free extra storage space to users who invite someone to join. Another well-known referral program is that of HelloFresh, where you get a discount on your next order when you invite a friend.

#5 Optimizing for search engines

Although search engine optimization (or Search Engine Optimization/SEO) gets pretty technical when you want to do it right, you shouldn’t overlook it.

Less than 5% of web searchers click through to the second page in Google Search. In other words, you have every interest in ensuring that your webshop appears on the first page in Google for relevant keywords.

Appointing an SEO specialist is recommended, but with the tips found on blogs like MOZ and Yoast, you can already come a long way yourself. Whatever you do, don’t leave the SEO of your shop to chance. Especially when you’re not doing paid advertising, SEO is extra important.

#6 Abandoned cart emails

Visitors who add products to the shopping cart, but do not complete their purchase. It is one of the biggest frustrations of web shop owners.

Worldwide, abandoned carts cause billions in lost e-commerce sales each year. The main reason why shoppers do not complete their purchase is unexpected delivery costs and/or other additional costs, which they only see at checkout. Also, a complicated checkout process often causes customers to give up prematurely.

But even if you do your best to make it easy for the user, abandoned carts will always exist. The consumer’s smartphone has suddenly gone flat, he doesn’t have his credit card at hand, … There are countless reasons why things can go wrong.

Fortunately, there is such a thing as abandoned cart emails! These automated emails are sent out to customers who have not completed their purchase process. The customer is kindly reminded that they may have forgotten to complete their purchase.

Salesforce data showed that 60% returned to the webshop within 24 hours of receiving the abandoned cart e-mail, to complete the purchase.

Some brands are pretty creative about this. If you want to start sending abandoned cart emails, feel free to try out a few variants and see which one generates the most recovered sales.

An example of an abandoned cart email. Source:

#7 Create a sense of urgency

Visitors who leave your site without buying and with the intention to come back later, rarely complete the purchase. Urgency is a commonly used marketing technique and makes consumers feel like they are missing out on an interesting deal if they don’t buy immediately.

Some examples of sentences that evoke a sense of urgency are:

  • Buy now for free shipping
  • Temporary offer
  • Only 5 pieces left available

You can approach it from different angles, as long as you create a “don’t miss this” feeling in the consumer.

It should be clear that there are many ways to get more conversions on your web shop without paid advertising.

A few more tips to finish off:

  • Make sure you know who your audience is. Tailor the right message to the right buyer personas.
  • Put the customer at the center of everything you do. Put yourself in his or her shoes as much as possible. Think like your ideal customer.
  • Don’t forget to measure results of tests you do. Use A/B-tests (in which you test different versions of abandoned cart emails against each other, for example), measure/track what you want to know, evaluate in time and adjust where necessary.
  • Don’t get discouraged too quickly when a marketing campaign doesn’t produce the expected results. Keep testing and trying things out. What works for company A, may not work for company B and that is perfectly normal!

Happy testing!

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