Let’s be honest—when it comes to user experience, Amazon isn’t a very interesting website. It does what it’s there to do, but at the end of the day, I don’t get the warm fuzzies while browsing or feel intrigued or excited on my journey to clicking “Complete Purchase.” If you’ve decided to make the switch from Amazon (or another big-name retailer) to direct sales, but you’re not sure how to convince your readers to buy directly from your website, you’ve come to the right place.
Because you run the show when you sell through your own website, the things you can do to add value for your readers and fans are not limited to what sites like Amazon allow (which isn’t much). Make visiting your website worthwhile and grow your brand by engaging your audience, creating a sense of exclusivity, and focusing on maintaining customer interest.
Are you ready to forge stronger connections with your audience and take charge of your customer journey? If so, read on to learn more about these strategies and how you can implement them effectively in your online store.
Engage Your Audience
Your readers and fans play a huge part in your success as a creator, so why not open yourself up to their feedback and create ways to engage with them? Below are a few ways to do this.
Poll Your Readers
Creating a poll is a fun, interactive way for readers to connect with you. You may decide to poll readers just for fun, or you can use your poll results to drive future content. This helps you get to know your readers and also gets them involved in your creative process.
A few “for fun” poll questions could be:
- What is your favorite form of self-care?
- How often do you journal?
- What is your must-have road trip snack?
Alternatively, poll questions to help your future content take shape might look more like the following:
- What types of recipes would you like to see more of in my next cookbook?
- What areas of self-improvement do you want to work on through journaling?
If you try the latter, be sure to follow through with content that speaks to the results of your poll.
Host Or Participate In Live Events
You don’t need to be an expert in public speaking to get out there and meet your readers and fans face-to-face (or virtually). Attend a conference for creators (like CEX), participate in a roundtable or webinar, or schedule a reading or signing at your local library or bookstore. Hosting or participating in live events helps you establish authority in the author community and is an integral part of engaging your audience and keeping them interested in and excited about your current and upcoming books.
Start A Newsletter
If you don’t already have one, I highly recommend creating a newsletter. This may be a bit more old-school than connecting with readers through TikTok or Instagram (though social media certainly shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to connecting with your reader community!).
Exclusive offers, up-and-coming releases, photos of your creative process, and other tidbits that give your fans the inside scoop on what’s going on in your world are all fantastic ways to engage and build a relationship with your audience through your newsletter.
Create A Sense Of Exclusivity
To create a feeling of exclusivity, try offering certain advantages to readers who purchase from your website. This is fairly simple to do, so let’s review a few of the many possible ideas below.
Expand Your Product Line
Sought-after special editions, boxed sets or bundles, and merchandise such as branded notebooks, bookmarks, coffee mugs, t-shirts, or tote bags are all great ways to bring readers to your website and pull them away from big retailers. Does your best-selling book have an awesome cover? Put it on a tote bag! Does one of your books have an encouraging or motivational quote that your readers keep coming back to? Add it to a bookmark, journal, or mug. Companies like Printful make it easy to add custom merch to your website to accompany your books.
Give Your Audience A Nickname
With the right kind of audience, coming up with a nickname for your fans can create a sense of community and exclusivity. Giving your readers and fans a unique nickname based on your stories or a certain aspect of your niche might feel corny at first, but it ultimately gives them something to be a part of and builds their loyalty. A few popular examples include “Ringers” for Lord of the Rings enthusiasts, or “Dunderheads” for fans of The Office.
Offer Site Visitors The Best Price
This may seem obvious, but increasing your book prices on Amazon will ensure that your website offers the best value to potential buyers. If you don’t want to touch the price itself, offering a coupon or exclusive deal through your website should be enough to convince buyers to make the switch. Both Shopify and WooCommerce have coupon options built into their platforms, which makes it simple to create a custom discount for site visitors.
For repeat customers, try gifting a reward or special coupon for a certain amount of dollars spent, or for engaging with specific aspects of your site (signing up for emails, replying to polls, commenting on posts, etc.). They get a discount and you get more engagement, which leads to more sales. Everyone wins!
Maintain Customer Interest
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Amazon and other big-name retailers don’t have very engaging or unique websites. They serve their purpose, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t necessarily feel good to browse and purchase from big retail sites. It certainly doesn’t give you the same feeling as purchasing from a small or family-owned business. When you have your own website, though, you can fully control your brand’s identity and focus on owning the customer journey to create a great experience for your buyers.
Develop Your Brand’s Identity
If you haven’t done this yet, take some time to reflect on the audience you are targeting and the voice you want your brand to have. Establishing your brand’s voice early on through your website will help you create a consistent brand identity, and ultimately, build a loyal audience whose interest you can easily capture and maintain.
Your brand identity is essentially the personality of your business and a promise to your customers. Building trust with your audience through your brand’s identity is the ticket to creating a well-rounded platform that keeps your customers interested and coming back for more. If you are having trouble brainstorming ideas for your brand, put yourself in your readers’ shoes and consider what they’d find engaging or enjoy seeing. Visiting some of your favorite websites or sites with vibes similar to the aesthetic you’re striving for can help inspire you.
Too Much Of A Good Thing
While having your own platform that you control completely is empowering, set expectations for yourself and your audience. Make sure you aren’t biting off more than you can chew, whether through promotions that aren’t financially sustainable or promising your audience more of your time than you’re able to give. If you aren’t careful to balance your time and energy with the value you’re trying to bring your customers through your site, your efforts won’t be sustainable. Learn how to harness your creative control, consider hiring professional assistance if needed, and put forth your efforts where it makes sense for your brand.
More Value = More $$$
It takes work to own your customer journey. Adding value to your website for your readers and fans is one more thing you can do to help ensure that the hard work you’ve put into your platform will lead to success. Make your website a worthwhile place to visit by engaging your audience, creating a sense of exclusivity, and focusing on maintaining customer interest. You will find that implementing these ideas will help you grow your site traffic and, in turn, grow your bank account, too.
Kristen is an Ecommerce Specialist at Lulu. Her role focuses on helping clients utilize Lulu's direct-to-consumer tools to grow their businesses. She is passionate about giving everyone the opportunity to have their voices heard and believes self-publishing presents the perfect opportunity to do just that. When she's not at the office, Kristen is likely chasing her toddler or working on a DIY project in her garage.