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How to grow the audience for your online shop

In this article, we will look at how creative and cultural organisations and individuals can grow traffic to their online shop, to drive online sales. We will cover:

  • Why grow traffic?
  • The challenge of growing traffic for online shops.
  • The Message-Channel-Monitor methodology.
  • What kind of messages can attract visitors to my online shop?
  • Advantages and disadvantages of each channel.
  • How can I monitor the effect on my traffic?

1. Why grow traffic?

Growing traffic to your online shop is important, as it is one of the key levers you can use to grow your online sales. We can see this from the equation below:Image showing the following equation: Traffic x Conversion Rate x Average Order Value = ££ Online Revenue ££

If you want to increase online revenue, there are three ways of doing that.

  • Increase traffic to the online shop – (what this article is all about!)
  • Increase Conversion Rate
  • Increase Average Order Value (AOV)

2. The challenge of growing traffic for online shops

Traffic to your online shop is equivalent to footfall in a physical shop – visitors passing by and choosing to come in and have a look around. Physical shops tend to benefit from being clustered together on a High Street or in a shopping centre or at a visitor attraction. This gives them a ready source of footfall. Unfortunately, in the online world, there isn’t an immediate flow of traffic passing by. When you first build an online shop, it is effectively alone in a field or floating in space!

Image of astronaut floating in space above Earth with a piece of text reading 'your online shop'

Instead, you need to actively build connections and take actions that will bring traffic, or people, to your online shop. We can do this using the Message-Channel-Monitor methodology.

3. Message-Channel-Monitor Methodology

This methodology can help you identify how to grow your online traffic ,– i.e. bring more people to your online shop. It consists of:

  • Message – something to say
  • Channel – somewhere to say it
  • Monitor – checking whether your action has had any affect

An example could be:

  • Message – ‘New picnic blankets available now’
  • Channel – via email newsletter
  • Monitor – use UTM tracking to monitor effect on traffic. This type of tracking code which can help you understand the effectiveness of your marketing

4. What kind of messages can attract visitors to your online shop?

Having clear messages that will bring visitors to your online shop is especially important. It is useful to get into the mindset of a retailer to help you generate these. Retailers are interesting in that they exist solely to sell products, and as a result they often have whole teams of people tasked with thinking up hooks or messages that can pull visitors into their shops.

Just sign -up to any large online retailer’s email newsletter and watch over a few weeks the variety and frequency of messages they send out to their potential customers, to try and pull them into visiting their online shop.

Largely, these messages centre around a few key areas:

  • ‘New In’ – highlights new ranges, products, collaborations.
  • Seasonal – promotes key product lines that tie in with the season. For example, woolly scarves for winter, picnic sets for spring, stationery for ‘back-to-school’.
  • Occasions – promotes key products and ranges that tie in with special occasions such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Easter, Xmas.
  • Thematic – highlights products and ranges which tie in with key interest areas for your shop. For example, relating to a particular exhibition, local area, or related subject areas.
  • Promotions – for example x% off, bundles, free delivery. These can apply to a specific product, range of products or all products and are typically run for a limited period.
  • Competitions – though not directly promoting sales, they can be used to bring traffic to your online shop

5. What channels can I use to reach my audience?

Identifying channels is all about thinking where people spend time and how you can tap into this, to route them to your online shop. Below outlines the main channels to consider. A strong online marketing strategy will feature a combination of these. We consider the dynamics of each channel and its strengths and weaknesses.

  • Email Marketing – newsletters.

Email Marketing is often considered to be the ‘secret sauce’ of eCommerce. For many online retailers it can drive a sizeable percentage of sales, sometimes as large as 50% or more, during key promotions. It relies on the email database that you have built up.

Strengths: Very reactive, can drives sales within a 24-hour period.

Weaknesses: Needs to be used with care, sending too many emails can ‘exhaust’ your database and result in unsubscribes.

How to use: Identify the message you wish to promote. Produce compelling graphics that communicate your message. Feature this in an email nNewsletter with a clear ‘call-to-action’ button, that lands the user on a relevant landing page on your online shop.

  • Social Media – organic.

Social Media comprising networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok and YouTube are places that people spend increasingly substantial amounts of time. As a result, they are a natural candidate for acting as a channel to bring traffic to your online shop. In particular, they can be great for raising brand awareness, and awareness of your retail offer.

Strengths: Potential to build large audiences over time. Great for building awareness.

Weaknesses: Social Media platforms are focused on driving engagement within their platforms, and it can be hard to get users to follow outbound links to external platforms, such as your online shop.

  • Social Media – paid campaigns

All Social Media platforms offer the ability to run paid advertising campaigns, enabling you to target and reach a specific audience. These require a clear message and call-to-action, with visually compelling graphics, in order to stand out in busy social media environments.

Strengths: Can direct to external landing page. Can target specific audience.

Weaknesses: Requires financial budget and close management.

  • Referral Traffic

This is traffic which comes to your online shop via a link from another website. For many organisations, an important source of referral traffic is from their main organisation website. Traffic may also come from blogs which focus on your local area or the themes of your work. If there are websites that you would like to promote your online shop, you can reach out to them and invite them to share products, product ranges or promotions with their audience. If you can provide a strong message and call-to-action for their audience, this can improve your likelihood of securing a link and in turn, can encourage a strong clickthrough on that link.

Strengths: As well as providing a source of traffic, these referral links will also improve your search-engine optimisation, SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), adding to Google’s perception of your site as authoritative. Each referral link, or backlink, is seen as a vote of confidence.

Weaknesses: it takes time and effort to individually contact each website you want to engage.

  • Google – organic

This is traffic that comes to your online shop as a result of a search carried out on Google, where a page on your website has appeared in Google’s search results for the search term the visitor entered. You can build organic campaigns which target traffic from Google around your identified ‘message’. This involves making sure the landing page for your message, contains keywords that users will search for in relation to this campaign.

Strengths: Is a strong source of traffic with no direct financial cost. Can use to build long-term pages that rank well.

Weaknesses: Takes time to build traction and see an impact on traffic. Only works for ‘messages’/campaigns which still hold true months later. Doesn’t work for immediate short-term promotions. Only works for items that customers actively search for on Google. Some search terms can be heavily competed by large retailers, so can be difficult for small organisations to rank in the search results.

  • Google – PPC

This is traffic that comes to your online shop as a result of clicking on an advert in Google search results. There are two types of adverts: firstly, there are those that use a product feed connected to Google Merchant Centre, and feature individual products, with images and prices. Secondly, there are text-based adverts, that you can use to promote a particular range of products. It is these adverts that fall into the Message-Channel-Monitor methodology.

Strengths: An immediate source of traffic.

Weaknesses: Direct financial cost.

6. How can I monitor the effect on my traffic?

Monitoring the effect of your marketing activities on your traffic is vital. This is how you learn which messages and channels are working for you – in which case, you can put more effort/resources into these areas. It is also just as vital to identify areas which are not working, so you can change tack and not continue to put time and resources into these areas. Do more of what is working and less of what is not!

Google Analytics is key to monitoring your progress. If possible, monitoring your traffic by marketing channel at least weekly, is ideal. This enables you to see how each channel is performing and relate this to marketing activity you have been undertaking.

Using UTM parameters, will help you track your marketing activity at the most granular level, and help you understand how specific marketing links are performing. You can learn how to use these with this article.


This article has outlined the Message-Channel-Monitor methodology, which can be used to grow traffic to your online shop. If you would like further support with any of these marketing specialisms or your eCommerce in general, don’t hesitate to book a one-to-one support call with one of our Tech Champions.

What Next?

The Digital Culture Network is here to support you and your organisation. Our Tech Champions can provide free 1-2-1 support to all creative and cultural organisations or individuals who are in receipt of, or eligible for, Arts Council England funding. If you need help or would like to chat with us about any of the advice we have covered above, please get in touch. Sign up to our newsletter below and follow us on X @ace_dcn for the latest updates.

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