By Ellie-Rose Davies, Content Executive at IMRG

No one wants traffic (beep beep), unless you’re an online retailer of course. 

A great way to start thinking about how to improve your online performance, this blog reveals, is through finding cheap methods to get both existing and prospective customers to visit your site. Read on for exclusive IMRG data collated from our Digital Dashboard and industry expert advice on affordable ways to increase your website traffic.

 Where’s the traffic?

Online YoY % change of Traffic chart with different value categories for 2022-2023

YoY Percentage Change for Traffic (Chart A: Year-on-Year percentage change for traffic, total market 2022-23)

Traffic to online UK retail sites did relatively well throughout 2022, especially when we consider the terse economic climate retailers have been trading in. As you can see in Chart A, there were a few moments of growth around the +5% mark Year-on-Year (YoY – meaning how this year performed relative to last year). 

However, as you gear your eyes to the right of the chart, you will notice that traffic has been ultimately negative in the first quarter of 2023. It, therefore, becomes apparent that customer engagement is down, perhaps owing to them feeling less enticed by spending during a cost of living crisis.

Yet, during one of our recent Weekly Data Shows, Andy Mulcahy, Strategy and Insight Director at IMRG, revealed that when we look at how traffic is performing by market tier, while we might expect budget retailers to lead the way owing to more cost-conscious customers, it is the mid-market retailers, that are taking the lead for traffic growth. This short clip reveals all:

This information, paired with the knowledge that customers are converting less, suggests that people are investing in quality for the sake of longevity, rather than opting for cheaper items that might need to be replaced after a few uses.

While this may be the case, irrespective of your market tier, here are 4 cost-effective ways to catalyse online traffic growth:

Optimise your merchandising and remain relevant

One cost-conscious way to boost traffic to your site is by ensuring that your website reflects the individual needs and desires of your customers.

Nick Jones, Managing Director International at Lucidworks starts this conversation by saying, ‘Increasing traffic volumes and conversion rates, while reducing customer acquisition cost are all challenges for retailers, and success is found through relevancy.’

He shares, ‘Consumers give signals throughout the customer journey as to the product categories, brands and price/quality relationship they want, but, according to Forrester, over two-thirds of retailers struggle to interpret consumer intent and provide relevant results, reducing merchandising effectiveness.’

This is when personalisation comes into play, but ‘achieving 1:1 personalisation is an unquestionable challenge for merchandisers using rules-based technologies.’ Nick reassures that ‘help, is at hand with AI enabling the future for ecommerce, providing retailers with the ability to scale 1:1 experiences that convert new customers and inspire loyalty.’

Reverberating the value of personalisation is Borja Santaolalla, Co-Founder & Chief Experience Officer at, who adds that retailers can ‘Save their customers’ time with Search & Discovery to empower them to find what they want from the first click on the search box as well as exploring new products.’

Borja also describes the value of ‘No-code tools that enable merchandisers to further monitor and curate the shopping experience.’

Consider site navigation and attract reluctant shoppers

It is often not enough to just have the right products in the right places. Customers have also come to expect a faultless shopping experience, and tend to lose trust when a website is slow or if links do not work or lead to the wrong product.

Hayley Clover, Marketing Manager at Intersoft reveals how ‘A recent study by Google found that 53% of mobile users will leave a website if it takes longer than three seconds to load. Retailers need to ensure they’re continually optimising their site for mobile and desktop users.’

Simultaneously, Hayley suggests that retailers ‘leverage discount codes and promotions (for first-time customers or buy-one-get-one-free deals), including loyalty schemes to target cost-conscious consumers, to mitigate a decline in traffic and sales.’

If you are unsure of how your customers view your ecommerce site, Chris Gorman, Head of Professional Services at Esendex says retailers can ‘Consider using polls and surveys. They help to increase engagement, as people love to express their opinion and talk about themselves!’

He continues, ‘Ask your customers about which products they like, how they’d rate their experience, and whether they’d recommend you to others. Or you can ask them to rate different products in a poll. You can also offer rewards or additional discounts if they share the poll or complete the survey with their friends, which encourages more traffic to your site.’

On the topic of offering great experiences, Amal Ahmed, Director, Financial Services & EMEA Marketing at Signifyd shares how ‘37% of consumers said they would stop shopping with a retailer after having one or two bad online experiences.’ This is not limited to the first stages of the customer sales funnel given that ‘The fewer clicks and verification steps it takes to check out, the better the customer experience and the greater the likelihood the shopper will return to the website.’

Provide relevant communication across channels

If you wish to boost website traffic, it would be smart to reach customers at all touchpoints. For example, SMS is a useful tool to hook customers’ attention, and while the rise of text message fraud has made customers wary of this form of communication, it still cleverly puts your business at the forefront of your customer’s minds.

Chris Gorman at Esendex argues that ‘Text/SMS is a cost-effective way to increase traffic from your existing customers. Text messages that connect at different points in the customer journey can be automated with minimal effort, freeing you up for more important tasks.’ 

Adding to this, Sam Panzer, Director of Industry Strategy at Talon.One says, ‘For messaging (email, ads, push social, etc) to drive traffic, it must offer strong value to the user. That value can come in the form of personalised recommendations, discounts, and member benefits, all of which outperform generic reminders of what you sell.’

Address your customers concerns around cost

Throughout this blog, industry experts have reflected on how the cost of living crisis has impacted customer behaviour, and subsequently traffic performance. Addressing your customer’s needs doesn’t have to be a big cost-of-living infused campaign, but you might choose to be more cost-sensitive.

Providing further insight, Sam Panzer at Talon.One gives the example of ‘Tesco’s recent personalisation push.’ He explores how ‘with a simple personalised coupon play, Tesco got mentions in most mainstream consumer press from media trying to help their users manage the cost-of-living crisis.’

Health Barlow, VP EMEA at Emarsys explains how ‘Declining online traffic is a red flag for brand loyalty, and Emarsys research suggests that 49% of UK shoppers will abandon brands they were loyal to due to cost – they need motivation to stay.’

‘Emotionally reward consumers for shopping with you, and address their frustrations with your customer experience’, says Heath. ‘When it comes to rewards, loyalty programmes are hugely effective. 71% of us want to be rewarded for our loyalty, and personalised rewards have proved to be particularly effective.’

Limiting extra charges on customers is another strategy to keep customers coming back to your site. Health states that ‘One newsworthy frustration is paid returns. 26% of us are leaving brands that introduce charges – threatening long-term brand loyalty.’

We hope these tips are useful in strategising your online traffic growth. Although traffic is often a turbulent metric, seeing peaks and troughs depending on sale activity and customer mood, you can always attempt to build upon your upper and lower base growth averages. 

Angle graphic

Let us help you
grow your business