The 3 Keys to Ecommerce - Engagement. Conversion. Retention.

Written by: Ben De Jonge



Time to read: 12 min


Ecommerce is complicated and can get overwhelming, especially when you might be trying to drive growth and evolution on your own, or with a small team. It can be hard to keep up with the options and opportunities out there, and even more challenging to find the solutions that are going to deliver for your business. This article is designed to help, by giving you 3 key factors for ecommerce growth, that you can apply a laser focus to.

Engagement. Conversion. Retention.

These 3 key ecommerce factors form the foundation of the journey of any person, as your brand takes them from being a complete stranger, to a loyal and dedicated repeat customer for your brand. Engagement comes first, then Conversion and finally, Retention.

Each is just as important, and you can’t achieve one, without first achieving the other. Without Engagement, there can be no Conversion, or Retention.

As you and your team become better educated on these 3 keys to ecommerce growth, you’ll start to find your own tactics to implement that will drive greater success in each area.

Ok, let’s keep going…

online shopping

Key 1 - Engagement

Let’s talk about the most important person in ecommerce - Your customer. ‘Engagement’ refers to the concept of grabbing the attention of that customer when they ‘meet’ your business for the first time. For us, that means the first time they visit your online store.

In this article, we’re keeping it simple, with 3 key factors to drive ecommerce revenue growth, and we’re going to stick with the idea of the ‘Top 3’ here as well, and give you our Top 3 Engagement Factors:

✅ Relevance & the right people

✅ Personalisation & intuitive UX

✅ Proof builds trust

Read on for more detail on each of these, focus on them to start with, implement some changes, test and measure, and we guarantee that you’ll find ways to improve Engagement on your online store.

➡️ Relevance & the right people

Here’s a cold, hard truth - Your brand will not be appealing to everyone. That’s just a fact. So please, do not try to reach and sell to ‘everyone’. Know your ideal customer - That is the person who is most likely to like your brand and want your product. So, relevance starts with knowing your target market, and being ready to communicate with them with relevance.

Think about this in terms of making great first impressions. When your ideal customer finds your website, we want them to feel as though the website is right for them. You can achieve this by using photos, imagery, colours and language that have been included deliberately to be appealing to your ideal customer.

To use an exaggerated example, a brand selling feminine hygiene products should not be using masculine colours and language, because a male is never going to be their ideal customer.

Try This Today - Build your understanding of your ideal customer, what they want from your brand and how you can help them. Then set up your homepage to communicate those things clearly. This is what we mean by relevance.

➡️ Personalisation & Intuitive UX

Set up your website in a way that will match what your ideal customers will be searching for. We could also call this section ‘intuitive design’. When your customer lands on your website, you should aim to make them feel as though the site already knows and understands them.

You can do this in many ways, but let’s start with the foundations here. Set up your navigation so that your customers are presented with the options that you know they are more likely to want to choose. That might be certain key information, or as simple as leading with your most popular collections and products.

Next, your homepage, which already has relevance, should be structured to take your customers through a journey that is right for them. That means setting up a content hierarchy that starts with the compelling information, and combines that with clear and simple product choices.

Try This Today - Activate customer reviews, display a ‘Customer Favourites’ collection, and encourage people to follow your socials.

➡️ Proof builds trust

People trust other people more than they trust brands. That’s understandable, right? You most likely read reviews and testimonials by happy customers, we know we fo.

With relevance and personalisations, you can start to create a connection with your (potential) customers. When they are connected, you can build real trust, and one of the best ways to do that is by showing them that other people love your brand and products already.

In the same way that customer reviews are powerful for restaurants, endorsements from other customers will help persuade new site visitors that they should buy from you too.

The best ways to use proof to create trust are these:

✅ Customer Reviews - Display your good reviews on home & product pages.

✅ Favourite Products - Include a product collection of ‘Customer Favourites’.

✅ Social Media - Show your social channels & your community of happy people.

✅ Customer Generated Content - Encourage your Customers to share photos & videos of them with your product.

Try This Today - Activate customer reviews, display a ‘Customer Favourites’ collection, and encourage people to follow your socials.

a woman checking out

Key 2 - Conversion

Ok, let’s talk about the most important action a person can take on your online store - Buying something! Are we right? That’s a conversion - A converted sale. Cha-ching!

A conversion is what ecommerce is all about right? Well, yes, sort of…

Conversions are important, but you’re not going to get them without first Engaging with the people who visit your site. And a conversion isn’t the end of the relationship with the customer either, you want to retain customers who have converted, to secure future revenue, and value. Now, let’s get back to those conversions…

As with Engagement, we have a Top 3 factors for you to focus on for Conversion too:

✅ Intuitive path to sale

✅ High quality product content

✅ Streamlined checkout processes

Keep reading for more detail on each of these. Focus on them for your business, implement improvements, test and measure, and you’ll be well on your way to increasing the Conversion Rates of your online store.

➡️ Intuitive path to sale

Your customer’s ‘user journey’ or ‘path to sale’ starts when they first arrive on your home page. Let’s take it back to Engagement, because when you have engaged a new site visitor by being relevant to them, you need to give them options that create a logical and simple path to the products they are most likely to want to buy.

Path to sale will often start with a Collection of products, based on brand, style, colour or other categorisations. When a Customer has reached a Collection, they can choose individual products that match their needs.

Help Customers find the most relevant and popular Collections easily, by using your understanding of these people, to present them with the most common and popular choices first. In that way, you’ll maximise your chance of drawing most site visitors down the path to sale.

Try This Today - Feature a set of popular Collections on your homepage, and feature your most popular, individual products on your homepage too. That way you give customers 2 clear ways to connect with specific products that they are likely to want to buy.

➡️ High quality product content

From your homepage and Collection pages, your potential customer will then be clicking through to a Product page. They are now getting much closer to a purchase, and will be looking for great reasons to buy, and they will also be looking for warning signs that will put them off buying from you.

Your product page has to present your products in the most attractive and compelling ways possible and this can be achieved with a combination of content, including:

✅ High quality product photos

✅ A variety of product photos

✅ Compelling product descriptions

✅ Product content about design, materials & benefits

Give your customers high quality product photos and descriptive text that gives them great reasons to buy your product, and more of your site visitors will click ‘Add To Cart’.

➡️ Streamlined checkout processes

Ok, they are almost there, but clicking ‘Add To Cart’ isn’t a final sale. Almost, but not quite. The final stage is Checkout, and it’s here that your online store will either win, with a sale conversion, or lose with an ‘Abandoned Cart’ :(

To minimise your Abandon Cart rate, and maximise sales conversions, ensure that the Checkout process is as simple and streamlined as possible. You can achieve a streamlined checkout, by choosing Shopify, for the highest converting Checkout in the world of ecomm.

But seriously, you can achieve a streamlined ecomm checkout by making sure essential information is very clear e.g. Shipping rates and process, payment options etc.

Your checkout should minimise friction by offering ‘Guest Checkout’ options, multiple payment methods, and by reducing the number of required form fields. Other useful tools can show progress indicators so your customer knows exactly where they are in this final process.

Try This Today - Go to your own Checkout and review it from the POV of your customer. Be honest, be brutal and ask yourself “Is this as simple as it can be?” Then take a look at the Checkouts of two or three of your competitors who are considered to be the best in your sector.

online orders

Key 3 - Retention

Aright, now we’re getting somewhere. You have improved your engagement, people are finding collections and products, and completing sales. You’re on your way! Yay!

Now you want to know - “What else is there?” What can possibly be better than converting a site visitor into a buying customer? How about this - Turning that customer into a loyal, repeat customer who buys from you again, brings their friends to your brand and isn’t afraid to tell the world how awesome your products are.

Customer retention, let’s go! The final step in the 3 Key factors for ecommerce growth and success. Just like Engagement and Conversion, Retention can’t exist without the other two. Retention is powerful, because it is cheaper and easier to get more value from an existing customer, than it is to attract, engage and convert a new person.

As with Engagement and Conversion, we have a Top 3 factors for you to focus on for Retention too:

✅ Subscription sales

✅ Post-purchase communications

✅ Loyalty & incentives

Keep reading for more detail on each of these, and then put them to work for your business. You’ll find you can build a system of Customer retention that increases the value of each customer, and has them helping you to grow your revenue and ecommerce business success.

➡️ Subscription sales

Are you selling products that your customers use up, and need again? Think food, drinks, cosmetics, supplements, vitamins, cleaning products and so on. If this is you, then your business has the chance to launch a Subscription sales strategy.

Simply put, Subscriptions are recurring orders that your customers can sign up for, and control themselves. Typically, a Subscription solution for an online store will offer every customer the chance to subscribe to the product they have added to their cart. The customer can choose the frequency of the repeated order, and also log in at any time to pause or adjust their subscription.

Build a community of happily subscribed customers and your business has a strong source of recurring revenue that is not dependent on marketing investment. Think about that for a few seconds… Nice, right?

Try This Today - Jump onto the Shopify app store and search up some Subscription apps to find out how they work, and if they can help your business drive revenue. We like, use and recommend Seal Subscriptions, Recharge and Skio.

➡️ Post-purchase communications

Imagine if you could keep talking to your customers after they had walked out of your physical store. Keep on educating them about your products, thanking them for their time, asking them to tell their friends… Well, in ecommerce, that’s exactly what you can do via the magic of email automations.

Email automations, or ‘flows’ as they are often called, just might be the most powerful tool in the online store owner’s arsenal. Email can be used to drive all sorts of strategies, and it is definitely a go-to for Retention.

By using email-specific software, your business can set up emails that trigger based on the actions customers take. For example, when a customer buys from your store for the first time, you can automatically send an email that thanks them and welcome them to your brand and community. You can then send another email, a few weeks later, to ask them how they enjoyed your product. You can ask them to leave a review, to come back and shop again etc.

What makes email for ecomm so powerful, is the ability to segment customers according to data, such as what they have purchased, age, gender, location etc. Combine segments with personalisation, and you have a very powerful tool that can help your business drive successful retention strategies and keep your customers engaged and active with your brand.

Try This Today - Explore the automation, segmentation and personalization capabilities of platforms like Mail Chimp, Klaviyo, Dotdigital and others. We predict that you’ll quickly become an even bigger fan of email flows for ecomm than we are!

➡️ Loyalty & incentives

A loyalty program can be a very good idea for retailers selling online, and in ecommerce, Loyalty has evolved beyond the simple ‘points for purchase’ model. Loyalty platforms for ecommerce brands are sophisticated systems that allow businesses to engage and retain customers by offering incentives for all sorts of actions.

Loyalty for ecommerce definitely includes points systems for purchasing, and you can offer points for all sorts of other actions too, like referring friends, joining social networks, dropping reviews and sharing content with your brand. Plus, your customers can be given multiple ways of redeeming their points, as discounts, free gifts and even experiences and special privileges with your brand.

Customer retention should be an active strategy for every ecommerce brand, because it is central to their chances of success. A Loyalty Program that helps you build a strong and consistent bond with your customers can be extremely powerful in growing revenue, and bringing new customers to your business.

Try This Today - Think about creating a Loyalty Program that is specific and unique to your brand. That is, give it a quirky / relevant name and develop a language that is on-brand for you. This helps create greater interest and makes your Loyalty offering stand out from the crowd.

Wrap Up

Thanks for reading, we hope you got great value and now feel ready to focus laser-style on the 3 keys to ecommerce success - Engagement, Conversion and Retention. Stay focussed on those three keys, and as you prepare to implement the tactics that are right for your business, you’ll be very well placed if you start with these:


✅ Relevance & the right people

✅ Personalisation & intuitive UX

✅ Proof builds trust


✅ Intuitive path to sale

✅ High quality product content

✅ Streamlined checkout processes


✅ Intuitive path to sale

✅ High quality product content

✅ Streamlined checkout processes

Go ahead and start to implement some of the key tactics that will help your business attract, engage, convert and retain your customers, hold them closer, for longer, and derive more value from each and every one of them.

We’re here to help, and share the ecommerce experience we have accumulated by working with founders, business owners, retailers, ecommerce managers, marketing managers and product managers since 2010, to drive growth, discover and implement strategies and solve technical challenges.

Ecommerce business people choose us for advice and guidance, to switch to Shopify, redesign Shopify stores, and improve sales performance across Engagement, Conversion and Retention.

All ecommerce decision makers should get the knowledge they need to understand and then implement the right strategies for their business, with the best technologies available to them. Let’s grow!