Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Turn Your Website into a Powerful eCommerce Machine

The current economic environment has been hard on both brick and mortar & online sales. But there are a few simple, yet powerful, things you could do to boost online sales and gain loyal customers.

1. Make Sure Your SSL Seal is 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.

2. Encourage Online Sales vs. Other Order Mechanisms. Offer special “Internet Only Pricing” to customers. It could be a discount of 5-10%. This reduces any potential overhead costs for staffing fees such as telesales or order entry personnel.

3. Offer Free Shipping. Many eTailers already factor shipping into their published price, so when there’s a big, flashing banner next to the item saying “free shipping” it gives consumers that extra little push to move forward with the transaction. It boils down to basic psychology. Everyone likes to feel like they’re getting something for free.

4. Use Buyer Feedback To Your Advantage. Have an area on your website or next to select items that says “Customer Favorite” or “Hot Item”. Also, have some glowing customer testimonials next to the product for potential prospect to see. Consumers like to feel good about the item they are about to purchase. To see a great testimonial and knowing that others purchased the product is a validation and comforting feeling. In addition to helping the conversion, this tactic also helps reduce buyer’s remorse and product returns.

5. Make Sure Your Product Pages are Optimized for Search Engines. 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.

6. Have a Special Coupon Code Banner on Your Home Page. This is a best practice with online fashion retailers. There’s typically a banner ad on their home page stating something like, “Summer Blow Out Sale, Use Coupon Code 1234”. 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 a “forward to friend” text link that opens a MSOutlook email window with the coupon or coupon code. Make sure to have some great intro copy mentioning how customers should “pass on the great savings to friends, family, and colleagues.”

7. Consider Payment Plans. For your higher ticket items, consider setting up extended payment plans that allows customers to pay for an item over a few payments. If an item is let’s say, $200, you might want to offer a flex pay 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.

Remember to keep testing methods that help improve sales and drive prospects to your storefront. Make note of when you implement new tactics, such as the above, and then after a month of being live, compare sales results year-over-year to see if you found the sweet spot in your eCommerce efforts. I’m confident that you will see an improvement in online sales.

This will get your visitor's attention every time...

Whether your goal is cross-selling or lead generation, interstitials are a great way to get someone's attention. An interstitial is not a pop up ad. And typically doesn't get blocked, like pop up ads, by many website or search engines. (For example, Google Adwords won't approve an PPC campaign if the redirect URL goes to a website that has pop up ads).

An interstitial ad is a full-page ad that appears before the actual webpage. Your webmaster or web programmer can put in place via an html script. In a nutshell, it's an ad in the front/center of the screen (some sites even keep the ad in place if you scroll up or down, which I find annoying).

The ad is in color and typically has a strong headline, call to action and graphic. Then the background of the ad is greyed-out where you can still see the website behind the ad, but it's faded - so your focus is on the main ad - the interstitial. There's also a clear and obvious way to close the interstitial. No tricks or hard-to-find 'x' buttons.

Interstitials are ideal if you don't have room for banner or text ads on your website or you don't want to affect the current layout of you home page.Not all interstitials, however, are created equal. I've seen some implemented that are not only unattractive, but are also ineffective with its copy and execution.A text book example of an interstitial ad can be found at EarlytoRise.com. if you go to the home page, wait 10-25 seconds, the ad will appear in the center of the page with the backdrop shaded.

The beauty of this is that you can make your actual ad space as big or small as you need. Your offer can be to sell something or to obtain an email address. You can include eye-catching images or have a countdown box to an event.

Whatever your offer or need ... an interstitial can deliver. And best of all, you don't have to wonder if your website visitor saw the ad or not. It's no doubt they did. You are just giving them the option to act on it OR close it.
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