As an online shopper, I can tell you firsthand that not all experiences are created equally. Especially over the holiday shopping season, I often found myself frustrated with different aspects of checkouts, shopping from my smartphone, and product sorting. Other online shoppers feel the same way, too. That's why it's time to think about new and varied approaches within the online sales environment.

Many brands are already asking, "What can we do differently this year? How can we stay competitive and drive more online sales?"

The good news is: There are many different approaches you can take to tackle these questions, from personalization to influencer marketing. Let's look at a few tactics that can help you improve online sales in the year ahead.

1. Personalization

Today's customers expect more than a one-size-fits-all experience when shopping online--they crave personalization. So how can you offer that?

One way is to leverage the customer data you have. Think about how you can spotlight relevant product suggestions, pertinent content, and localized offers for each individual customer.

For example: You can use the visitor's IP address to see where they're visiting your site from, and then offer up localized content (like suggestions of sports gear from the visitor's local teams, for example) based on the visitor's location. This helps create a more tailor-made, relevant experience and puts pertinent products front and center for shoppers.

2. Automated Emails

Automation is not a new tactic in the online business environment, but its capabilities are ever-increasing. Today, thanks to built-in email automation tools on email platforms like Campaign Monitor and MailChimp, you can develop and launch complex customer journeys that send the right message to the right person at the right time. This is also another form of personalization.

For example: With the help of email automation (which automatically triggers email messages based on customer data like signup date, birthday, etc.), you can send customers timely messages like a birthday greeting and discount on their special day--which gives them one more reason to buy from you.

3. Influencer Marketing

In the era of Instagram fame and YouTube phenomenons, influencer marketing is becoming increasingly effective. By partnering with experienced influencers who have a large following (think over 20,000) and a history of brand partnerships, you can reach new audiences who are looking for recommendations from these trusted sources.

For example: Fashion brands can get products featured in influencers' Instagram posts--and can re-package that contextual content on their own social media accounts, too.

4. Social media ads

As platforms like Facebook continue to shift toward a "pay to play" environment for businesses, ads will be needed to reach potential audiences. But you can't launch just any ads--they need to be effective at driving sales. Think about how you can leverage customer stories in ads to really grab the attention of online shoppers.

For example: Take a positive testimonial or a customer story and turn it into a video. From here, you can use this as the content for your ad on a social platform like Facebook.

5. Mobile optimization

More and more consumers are shopping from mobile devices, which means mobile optimization is now extremely important.

From mobile-friendly search tools to accommodation of digital wallets, taking steps to reduce friction in the mobile experience can have a major impact on your bottom line. This  means your company website needs to be reviewed for mobile experience from top to bottom.

For example: By adding Amazon Pay as a payment option on your website, you can help mobile shoppers check out with fewer clicks.