5 Easy Ways to Sell More Products Online
Easy is, of course, a relative content. There are, as we have covered in some detail before, a lot of things you can do to your eCommerce site to make it perform better, attract more customers and achieve more conversions.
In fact, work your way through every blog out there detailing ways to improve your site and you could end up with a list of hundreds, if not thousands, of tips, a large proportion of which can at best be described as ‘tweaks’, while many can actively contradict each other. You can easily end up spending all your time fine tuning your site instead of actually running your business!
So, sometimes you need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. To that end, we’ve pulled together four big areas worth looking at in some depth and which, if you get them right, really can turn your business into an eCommerce success story.
To these we have added an idea not discussed in too great depth anywhere we can find, but which looks to us like a really good way of bringing back casual browsers or those who show initial interest but won’t commit to an immediate purchase.
Selling on the internet is a very different beast to selling from a traditional shop on the high street. Firstly, getting customers ‘through the door’ is considerably more complicated than designing an attractive window display. Secondly, if the potential customer browsing your site is interested in one of your products, he or she can’t pick it up, examine it closely, try it on or ask for a demonstration. Thirdly, you’re not there to use your sales patter, to try and convince your customer should he or she start to show signs of losing interest.
All of that can be achieved by describing and representing your products in the right way and, if you’re not confident enough of your own ability to do the job justice, this really is an area you should think about engaging professionals to help with.
You may know your products better than anyone and be able to explain in conversation just what it is about them that makes them essential purchases for any right-thinking person. Doing that with the written word is not the same thing, and engaging the services of a professional writer skilled and experienced in writing copy that sells is strongly recommended.
Go to the right person and they should also be able to do it in a way that takes search engine optimisation into account. If you want people to find your site – and they won’t be able to buy from you if they can’t do that! – you need to get as high on Google results as you can when people search for terms related to what it is your selling.
Naturally, the more niche your product the easier it will be to find you, but you still may find yourself up against some unexpected and frustrating opposition. You can support your product descriptions by blogging about your products, how they’re made or sourced and so on, and sharing your expertise with the wider world. Becoming an internet expert is a great way of getting Google to point potential customers in your direction.
Having a well-designed website with great product photos is also essential – think of it as the digital equivalent of the beautifully constructed shop window display! If it looks interesting and enticing, people will come in and take a look. If it looks cluttered, dull or unimaginative, then why would they bother?
Buying from an eCommerce store is an exercise in trust. After all, you rarely get to speak to anyone, you’re handing over your credit card details – how do you know that the person at the other end can be relied on?
Demonstrating that your site deserves the trust of a stranger is actually relatively straightforward, and it amazes me how many sites don’t take even the most basic steps to allay the very natural fears of their customers.
There are two basic steps you can put in place immediately. The first is to prominently place recognised symbols which tell users of your site that it is secure. The second is to display – possibly even more prominently – a phone number where your business can be contacted. If something goes wrong – and no matter how well organised and meticulous you are in your planning and operations, things do go wrong occasionally – people like to have someone they can talk to in order to put things right. And, as people become more aware of such issues, they’re not just looking for that number after the event.
The third way of engendering trust takes a little longer to do, because you need some trading history and to be confident that you’re getting things right. Customer reviews influence shoppers in a big way, and having positive comments about your business, products and levels of service are likely to tempt more people into spending their money with you. As I indicated, though, make sure you’re in a position where you’ll be getting mostly positive reviews before doing this, because a string of negative reviews could cause your business irreparable damage.
As download speeds go up, so do users’ expectations. It’s tempting to use faster speeds as an excuse to incorporate ever more complicated features and there’s no shortage of people out there willing to sell you extremely clever plug-ins designed to enhance your customers’ experience. Use too many, however, and that ‘enhancement’ can quickly come at a hefty price.
Not everyone is on fibre optic superfast broadband, so whatever you do, don’t build your site as if they were. And if you’ve got your site all set up and working beautifully from wherever you are, take the time to give it a go somewhere else and see if it’s still working quite so fast.
You may be wondering what the optimum speed is, but as usual, there’s some really useful research out and about on the web (on pages that load pretty darn quickly), where people are sharing the numbers they’ve been crunching and giving the inquisitive access to their most useful tips.
Go to this fascinating blog at Conversion XL for some links to useful tools for analysing your site’s performance. There are also some amazing stats about page speeds, pulling together research which suggests, among other things, that 57% of shoppers would abandon a page that takes more than three seconds to load, and that reducing a load speed of a page from eight to two seconds can increase conversions by 74%.
Once you’ve discovered you’ve got a problem, naturally you need to do something about it. To that end, our friends over at Small Business Trends have recently given us this handy little checklist that would undoubtedly be worth you taking a look at.
Every new customer discovering your eCommerce site and spending money with you is always welcome, but we all know that the real trick is to earn loyal repeat customers. To do that, you need to not just have a beautifully designed and smartly optimised site, you also need to offer levels of service that people remember.
That means – among other things – making sure that their purchase arrives in the time you’ve promised or they’ve requested and in the same condition as it left your premises.
We’ve already talked about how an online shopper’s patience decreases as internet speeds get faster, and the same goes for deliveries. If you’re selling B2B, you should just have to nail a delivery date, although the consequences of missing that date may be huge if your customer’s own business depends on you fulfilling your part of the bargain.
Selling B2C is another kettle of fish, and the costs of missed deliveries can be staggeringly huge – this report quotes the CEO of the Interactive Media in Retail Group estimating the average cost to be about £100!
We’ve all been on the wrong end of this at one time or another. You know how it goes: you’re told you’ll get delivery on Tuesday, or at best it might be narrowed down to morning or afternoon. You take the time off work, but nothing arrives. “Sorry,” you’re told, “we ran out of time – you’ll definitely get it tomorrow.” That kind of approach no longer washes, I’m afraid, and quickly leads to the kind of customer reviews you don’t want.
The trend now is increasingly towards things like 2-hour time slots or ‘click and collect’. The best advice is to offer as many options as your business can sensibly manage – your customers should appreciate the effort and should be able to find one option they can work around, even if it’s not their ideal (although as most people’s ideal would be to have an exact time, that’s not really possible anyway!).
Making sure products are packaged correctly to arrive with the customer in pristine fashion is another thing too many eCommerce businesses are still failing to achieve. In fact, receiving damaged goods probably represents the ultimate disappointment – it’s failing at the final stage and usually leaves an indelible impression. There are perfectly good packaging supplies companies also selling online who can offer the right kind of postal protective packaging for just about any kind of product (and usually get it delivered it to you next working day!).
The only reason given by people for abandoning a cart anywhere near as often as high shipping charges is that they’re simply not ready to make that purchase. As we’ve already discussed, you not being physically there to close the sale can be a significant handicap under such circumstances, but there are things you can do to make it easier to buy should your customer return.
If you use Amazon, you may make use of their fantastic ‘wishlist’ feature. It’s a place you can keep all those things you’d like people to buy you for your birthday or Christmas. Mine’s full of cd’s, dvd’s, books and presents for my cats!
But I also have a second list, not open to anyone else, which I use as a sort of ‘holding pen’. There I put those things I’ve come across that I think I might want, but not immediately. It might be that I can’t afford them yet, that I want to check to see if I can find a better deal elsewhere, or even that buying them seems like a good idea at the time but that I need longer to think about it. Putting them in my private wishlist means I can quickly find them without having to search for them or rely on Amazon recommending them to me again.
Having such a feature doesn’t just make it easier for your customer to come back and shop later. It also gives you an opportunity to send targeted emails, reminding them that they’re there, with suggestions of associated or alternative products.
What’s the change that has made the biggest difference to sales through your eCommerce site? Let us know your experiences by leaving your comments below!