7 Lead Generation Tips for Ecommerce

Man looking at smartphone

Ecommerce lead generation is in the same family as lead generation for finance, automotive, and [insert 20th century industry].

But lead generation for ecommerce is leaner and more agile than just about everything else we call lead generation. Wikipedia’s explainer on lead generation highlights just how much of an outlier ecommerce is compared to its predecessors:

A lead is usually allotted to an individual to follow up on. Once the individual (e.g. salesperson) reviews and qualifies it to have potential business, the lead gets converted to an opportunity for a business. The opportunity then has to undergo multiple sales stages before the deal is won.

Yeah, not so much for ecommerce. After all, ecommerce stores bend over backwards to avoid putting prospects through “multiple sales stages” before they convert. Chances are that your products, prices, store, and mindset are designed to trigger sales rightnow.

Passing leads on to the sales team? Please. Let’s pass them on to the checkout page.

This post is going to explain why lead generation for ecommerce is unique, and then look at seven tips for generating leads – and sales – for your online store.

What is Ecommerce Lead Generation?

Lead generation in ecommerce is different than lead generation in other industries. For starters, the “e” in ecommerce means there probably isn’t a physical store to visit. What’s more, the deliberation involved with buying a car is much greater than the deliberation involved with, say, buying a sweater.

In ecommerce, lead generation might start with a Facebook ad and end 90 seconds later on a checkout page.

What is a Lead?

Before we race ahead with tips for lead generation, let’s take a moment to make sure we’re all on the same page about what a lead is.

Regardless of industry, a lead is somebody who has shown an interest in your brand, products, or services. There are lots of different actions people could take to be considered a lead. A lead for the automotive industry might have played around in a virtual showroom designing their dream vehicle. Lead generation in finance might involve interacting with an online loan calculator. And of course people who visit a car dealership or bank branch could also be considered leads.

There are some shared traits between the traditional concept of leads and the ecommerce concept of leads. Here’s what they have in common:

👉 Awareness is Step 1: No matter what industry you’re in, a lead has to know about you before they can become a lead. So awareness is where it all starts. Search engines, advertisements, and word of mouth might kick off this process.

👉 Leads must be convinced: Whether you sell consulting or kitchenware, there is a transition phase between lead and customer. Sometimes that transition happens in seconds, inspired by something like a discount code, and sometimes it can require weeks worth of discussions and adapted budgets. Either way, lead + eureka moment = customer.

👉 Content catalyzes this process: Content can play a vital role in generating and nurturing leads. Need to generate awareness? Well, the more content you have floating around – whether it’s blog posts, social media, YouTube videos, or something else – the better chance there is for someone to stumble across your business, no matter what your business is. And as for convincing leads to become customers, well, what better way to flex your expertise than by getting that expertise into consumable form.

So yeah, there are similarities between traditional leads and ecommerce leads. But they only extend so far.

After all, it’s unlikely that a car dealership would ever get a newsletter signup, shoot out a 10% off discount code via email, and close a deal later that day. But that’s exactly how it works in ecommerce, where lead generation moves at digital speeds. Visitors at your store aren’t interested in a long-term investment like someone buying themselves a car or signing up for a 15-year loan.

Now let’s dig into seven tactics for ecommerce lead generation, and look at how you can turn your leads into customers.

1. Take Advantage of Cookies

Let’s start with one that is more valuable for ecommerce than just about any other industry: taking advantage of visitors’ cookies.

In a very real way, every visitor to your website is a lead. You can retarget visitors on Facebook, Instagram, and AdWords based on nothing but the cookies they receive when they land on your site.

These cookies let you retarget people who have visited your store – people who, by definition, have shown interest in your products. When you retarget someone on Facebook, you are a few clicks away from a sale. When a bank retargets someone on Facebook, they are several minutes away from someone completing an application that will trigger a drawn-out sales process.

Cookies aren’t perfect. Lots of people block cookies, plus cookies eventually expire. But cookies are still a valuable lead generation tool that let you take advantage of ecommerce’s quick sales cycle.

2. Build Your Social Following

If visitors are leads because they have shown interest in your brand, the same can be said of your social media followers.

The distance between your leads and a sale is way smaller than the distance between a wannabe homeowner and a house. As a result, social media is a tool that ecommerce can use in a way that traditional industries simply can’t.

Someone following you on social media has put themselves within a couple clicks of a purchase. Traditional lead generation requires filling out forms, downloading content, and so on. Clicking the “Follow” button removes a lot of that clutter.

So get followers! There are a number of plugins out there to increase your social media visibility on your website:

Series of social media buttons

Not on that many social channels? You’re not alone – neither are some huge brands. Just promote whatever you can…

Oh, and go ahead chuck those same social media links into your newsletters, as well. Email providers make this so easy a monkey could do it. Just drag this little guy into your email template..

And then pick the channels you want to promote.

Also, while we’re talking social media, make it as easy as possible for people to get back to your store — and back within range of a purchase. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter give you chances to send people from your social media profile right back to your store.

All of your followers are one good post and a few clicks away from a conversion. Their proximity to a conversion is at least as close as a more traditional lead who downloaded a white paper. In addition, you have a direct line of communication with them. Marketers in other industries would give their right arm to be able to publish a good photo and have people pull out their credit cards.

3. Offer Discounts and Deals

Leads are valuable for your store. So it’s a good idea to return the favor and give something valuable to your potential leads.

One effective way to do this is offering discounts to people who are willing to fork over an email. In exchange for an email address, you could offer free shipping…

Lead generation layer from Under Armour

Special offers…

Lead generation layer from Nike

Or straight cash on the next purchase…

€10 off discount from a German retailer

Popups might not be popular, but free stuff is. Hooking up a visitor with a freebie is a great way to generate a lead. There are numerous plugins you can use to trigger these sort of email-for-discount lead generation layers, including Product Upsell, Justno Conversion Suite, and Pop-Up Window.

4. Get Those Emails

In the examples we just looked at, the goal is to get an email address and nothing else. This is another reminder of how different ecommerce lead generation is compared to other industries.

For example, in enterprise software, lead generation tactics would never start and stop with an email address. When you have to pass your leads on to the Sales team, it looks like this:

Many fields from a lead gen form

Massive form for downloading a report

Unlike other industries, ecommerce lead generation doesn’t require getting a visitor’s life story. Just get the email and get straight to their inbox with your deal, products, and content.

Getting an email right away is also huge for reactivating customers who abandon their baskets before pulling the trigger on a purchase. Basket abandoners are already leads and have even flirted with a purchase. If you have their email address, you can help push them over the finish line.

Shopify lets you customize your abandoned cart rules and messages:

Shopify backend for customizing forms

Thanks to freemium email marketing software, email marketing is cheap, if not free. You aren’t paying per click like you are with social or search ads, and because the recipient has given you their email, they have expressed at least some willingness to engage with your brand. In other words, they won’t mistake you for a spammer.

Some ecommerce marketers fret about their emails ending up in Gmail’s “Promotions” folder. Don’t lose sleep over that. Emails that land in the promotions folder are less likely to annoy your leads, plus it’s not like Gmail hides promotion emails. They are just filed away. The promotions folder won’t destroy your lead generation email campaigns.

5. Take Care of SEO

With ecommerce lead generation, you don’t need to hold a lead’s hand during a multi-week sales process.

But you do need to get them to your store. After all, lead generation tactics like offering discounts and collecting email addresses won’t work if, you know, there aren’t any visitors at your store. And SEO can be vital for generating traffic that you can turn into leads and, hopefully, turn into sales.

It’s a huge perk of ecommerce lead generation that you don’t have to write white papers or hold webinars, which are often required to generate leads in other industries. But still keep an eye on SEO. Your product descriptions, metadata, and blog posts should all be treated as lead generation magnets.

There is lots of helpful content out there about how to optimize your store’s SEO.

6. Design for Lead Generation

There are some simple design steps you can take to support your lead generation efforts.

For starters, incorporate calls to action. CTAs are anything that encourages your visitors to do something – anything, in other words, that invites your visitors to take an action. Use CTAs. Lots of them.

There is a reason that just about any section you add to a Shopify store lets you easily add a CTA button:

Adding button to Shopify store

Let’s look at Hubspot, which literally wrote the book on lead generation. Heck, HubSpot wrote an ebook about writing a lead generation ebook. In other words, they know a thing or two about lead generation. And their homepage is littered with CTAs:

HubSpot homepagePay attention to your favorite stores and see what kind of CTAs they use. You’ll find lots of active verbs and not a lot of adjectives. Keep it short and punchy to peak your visitors’ interest and get them clicking.

Along with CTAs, another good lead generation tool is exit intent layers. Unlike the layers we looked at earlier – you know, the ones offering deals when someone lands at your store – exit intent layers fire when someone is leaving your store.

There are lots of different kinds of lead generation exit intent layers. Sometimes companies will use the layers as one last chance to offer visitors content:

Exit intent layer with content offer

You can also incorporate lead generation exit intent layers disguised as games. Here, for instance, a layer floats in from the side whenever a visitor is about to exit.

Exit intent game

This looks like fun – and all you have to do to play is give your email! Once you do that, the wheel activates and you can redeem your prize. The visitor gets 10 percent off, you get their email.

Exit intent discount

7. Be Trustworthy

Earlier we talked about how you need to nudge people from the lead stage to the customer stage. One great way to do that, especially in ecommerce, is to design for trust. What does that look like? There are a few simple things that you can do:

Include shipping information. Unless your store is called Amazon, people might have questions about shipping. Lack of certainty about an order – how long it’ll take, how much it’ll cost, and so on – is a barrier for a lead to convert into a customer. So give your potential customers everything they need. Drop a “shipping” link into your navigation and your footer, and have a comprehensive page answering the questions that might get in leads’ path to conversion:


Include contact details (and answer when people write). A no-brainer, sure, but this is vital. Even if a lead doesn’t reach out with questions – and if your store is designed beautifully, then there might not be questions – you can still give people the chance to get in touch with you. Giving them direct access to your inbox will let them know that there is someone on the other end of this store who cares about their experience. (Plus, uh, someone who contacts you instantly becomes a lead!)

Include robust product information. Another blocker is removed when you make sure there are no questions about your products. Product descriptions are great SEO juice, sure, but they’re also valuable for giving leads a warm, fuzzy feeling that makes them comfortable converting.

Conclusions on Ecommerce Lead Generation

Alright, so now we know why lead generation for ecommerce is unique. We also have some concrete steps we can take to optimize our own lead generation efforts. Before you take off to start generating a bunch of new leads, here are a few key takeaways:

  • Ecommerce lead generation is different than lead generation in other industries – and that’s a good thing for us! Collecting a lead’s email puts you a couple clicks away from a sale. Gaining a social media follower does the same thing. Ecommerce moves at warp speed.
  • You can adapt your lead generation tactics to take advantage of ecommerce’s short sales cycles. Instead of asking for a visitor’s email, name, company, industry, country, and so on, just get that email. You can also offer deals at different stages, such as when a visitor gets to your site or when they abandon a basket.
  • SEO and page design are vital even if they seem like no-brainers. Making sure that visitors can find your website – and making sure there are plenty of CTAs to click on when they get arrive – will enhance your lead generation efforts.

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