Friday, September 7, 2012

Boost Website Sales: 11 ‘Must Know’ eComm Tips

Once you’ve launched your website, optimized it and starting driving traffic is only half the battle.  Now you got to ensure your visitors covert, that is, buy something.

This is a challenge that most every website that sells a product faces. The following are some tried and true tactics, that over the years, I’ve seen make a difference.  Some may seem simplistic, but they DO most definitely impact your online conversion rate. 

Here are a few things you could do to boost online sales and gain loyal customers. These can be applied and refined for most any business, industry or niche:

1. Instill Shopper Confidence: Make Sure Your SSL Seal And Other Consumer-Trust Logos Are Prominent. SSL or secure socket layer is a sign that the site is encrypted...that the information consumers enter, such as personal and credit card information, is protected. Most eCommerce sites must file for an SSL certificate from vendors such as VeriSign, GoDaddy, eTrust, TRUSTe, and others. It's a good practice to display the vendors logo on your order page, as well as make sure in the browser window the "https" or image of a lock is present. This is a clear and comforting sign to consumers that they can order on line with confidence. Other logos that are in plain view and are anchors on each page of your website can also instill confidence with potential buyers, some may require membership or purchase, when applicable, and may include Better Business Bureau (“BBB”), PayPal Verified, Verified Merchant, and virus protection software (i.e. “McAfee Secure”). Also, if you accept credit cards and have a money back guarantee, there’s nothing more powerful than strong, eye-catching graphic image icons, such as “100% Money Back Guarantee” or “We Accept All Major Credit Cards” (than have images of Visa, Mastercard, Amex, and Discover).

2. Encourage Online Sales vs. Other Response Mechanisms. Offer special "Internet Only Pricing" to customers. It could be a discount of 5-10% if they order online versus by phone, fax or mail. This reduces any potential overhead costs for staffing fees such as telesales or order entry personnel. These web only specials can be highlighted on your home page via a banner ad as well as on your product pages near qualified items.

3. Offer Free Shipping. Many eTailers already factor all or a portion of shipping into the retail price of an item as part of their COGS (cost of goods sold). If you are truly offering free shipping, already factored shipping into the product’s cost, or are simply having a limited time free shipping special– if you’re offering it, mention it – big and bold on your home page. Free shipping offers have a huge psychological affect on consumers when they’re comparing competitor’s products and websites. In addition to product quality and value, offering free shipping can make all the difference regarding the final purchase decision.

4. Take Advantage of Customer Feedback. Have an area on your website or indicate next to select items "Customer Favorite" or "Hot Item".  Also, have some glowing customer testimonials or reviews next to the product itself for potential prospects to see. Sites like Amazon, BabiesRUs and others are pros at this strategy as well as using ratings and ‘Likes’ to convey a product’s popularity.  Consumers like to feel good about the item they are about to purchase as well as see that it’s popularity with the masses. Seeing a great testimonial and knowing that others purchased the product provides validation and a feeling of comfort to a consumer. In addition to helping the conversion rate, this tactic also helps reduce buyer's remorse and product returns.

5. Free Advertising in Google Shopping (formerly Google Product Search, and before that, Froogle). is a free product information platform from Google where you can post a single item or submit a data feed. Your products will appear in Google Product search and may also appear in search results, depending on keywords used. This is simple and easy and increase your product’s visibility and market share.

6. Optimized Product and Catalog Pages. Sounds obvious, but many folks overlook their catalog and product pages. After doing some keyword research on actual search behavior for your product, refine your meta description, meta keywords and title tag of your product pages. This will help consumers find your product in the organic listing of search engine results.

7. Leverage ‘Special Coupon’ Home Page Banners. This is a best practice with online fashion retailers who typically have a banner ad or interstitial ad on their home page stating something like, "Summer Blow Out Sale, Use Coupon Code 1234". But this concept can be applied to virtually any industry. This is another great way to offer a special discount for your online customers that makes them feel good about the purchase. You can also encourage viral activity by having "forward to friend" or “share” creates viral marketing. Make sure to have some great intro copy mentioning how customers should "pass on the great savings to friends, family, and colleagues."

8. Spread Payments Out. For higher ticket items, consider setting up extended payment plans that allow customers to pay for an item over a few payments. and have mastered this. If an item is let's say, $200, you might want to offer a flex pay option of "6 easy payments of $33.33" that is conveniently auto-billed to their credit card. Just be diligent when calculating your payment prices as well as creating your return/refund policy for these items. The general rule is that your actual production costs/hard costs should be covered in the first 1-3 payments.

9. Great Product Images.  Having real, high quality photos of your product is imperative.  Make sure to give the consumer the ability to zoom in or see the product from multiple angles. If it’s an info product, such as a report or book, have an accurate representation of the product and not a misleading one. If it’s a kit with many components, make sure all items are fanned out so the consumer can see everything they’re getting, which helps with the perceived value.
These next two have mixed reviews. Over the last 10+ years, I’ve personally had success with these, but I’ve seen other articles on the Web to the contrary.  Like any tactic, how you implement it is critical. Also, anything you implement should be looked at as a test.  Try it for yourself and see if it’s helpful for your particular consumer…

10. Rescue and Abandon Efforts. When a customer is in your shopping cart and decides somewhere in the process to exit out, what do you do to save this sale? This is known as an ‘abandon’ or ‘cart abandonment’. A popular technique known as a ‘rescue’ is an attempt to engage with the customer and hopefully save the sale. But this should be done with finesse and not come off as harassing or spammy to the consumer.  Typically, a small pop up or message will appear in a new window. This message can vary based on your operational capabilities – some sites offer a ‘live’ online customer service agent to ‘chat’ with, others may divert the consumer to call the customer service 800#. Sometimes it’s just a message making sure the consumer really wants to exit out (and it wasn’t an accident), giving them a ‘last chance’ to purchase the item. Either way, the essence of this message should be helpful and offering assistance.  There should also be a clear and easy way to close or “X” out of this message and it should certainly not open up any new windows. 

11. Interstitals.  An interstitial is a popup or full page ad that appears before (overlays) your actual webpage. Typically, it appears once for each unique visitor (although it can be programmed for each visit, versus unique visit) and it should be easy to close. These are best used for a new, hot item or product special. It should have short, compelling copy and an attractive offer, and eye-catching visual. This is a great way to steer focus to a specific product or offer on your website.  When done correctly, I’ve seen interstitials increase conversion rates by about 50%.

It’s all about being strategically creative and taking the consumer’s point of view into account regarding eComm strategies. Remember to keep testing methods that help improve sales and drive prospects to your storefront. 

Make note of when you implement new tactics and then after a month of being live, compare sales results year-over-year to see if your efforts had made an improvement. I'm confident that you will see a positive difference in your online conversion rates.
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