Come the day after launch almost every ecommerce client asks the same question:
What Do I Need To Do To Help Sell More Stuff?
Like all good questions this one’s easy to ask but hard to answer. Maybe because it’s often not the right question. All too often what's really being asked is Why isn’t my business idea working?
And if I had a one-size-fits-all answer for that one I’d probably be taking Theo Paphitis’s slot on Dragon’s Den not running a website design and development company.
What I have learned, thanks to many years of working on ecommerce website projects, is that that sales at your online enterprise are guaranteed to increase if you follow these 8 easy-to-implement steps.
1. Make it super-easy to find your delivery, exchange and returns policies.
Before people buy anything online they want to know where they stand should they want to return or exchange their item. Amazon and the big brand names have the advantage over you in terms of proven reputation and trading history. You need to build trust by assuring people that you will be there to support them if and when they change their minds.
Be crystal clear about the details: how are refund requests made; will you send out a postage paid envelope or is shipping their responsibility; how long do they have to return? Otherwise you run the risk of your potential customer hot-footing it over to one of your competitors’ sites.
One option is to make your refund policy a benefit. What about a no-questions-asked-30-day refund policy? Think of it as a thank you to people for putting their faith in you.
2. Offer free shipping
Everyone hates unexpected extras so why not bundle up shipping in the price of your products? If that’s not practical you might consider offering free shipping on orders over a certain value.
It’s a proven way to increase the average sales value.
3. Publish a newsletter
Email marketing could very well be your best performing and most affordable marketing tool. Here are some 2011 stats from Direct Marketing Association "Power of Direct" in the USA
- One in three consumers said 50% or more of the emails they received were of interest.
50% of consumers report they now receive 20 or more emails from brands they trust every week.
Email is bringing in $40.56 for every dollar spent. Compare this to search's return of $22.24 and internet display advertising's return of $19.72
- Commercial email is expected to drive $63.1 billion in sales in 2012.
The message is clear: a regular email newsletter is an ideal and proven way to keep in regular contact with your customers and make more sales. Make sure it’s as simple as possible to sign up for your newsletter and be sure to sell the benefits. It could be special offers or how-to guides – whatever you decide let people know exactly what’s in it for them once they hand over their details.
4. Encourage customer reviews
The evidence shows that customers are more likely to buy once they’ve read some testimonials from other customers. Product reviews provide concrete proof that:
A Other customers have already purchased from you
B They’re happy with what they bought. So happy in fact that they are willing to share their opinions and experiences with others.
You should make it super-easy for people to leave a review. If it works for Amazon why wouldn’t it work for you? Your content management system should offer comment functionality, if it doesn’t have your developer investigate suitable plug-ins.
5. Look fabulous
Everyone knows you only get one chance to make a good first impression. That’s why traditional bricks and mortar retailers invest so heavily to create an attractive ‘look’. They work tirelessly to create an attractive environment which show-cases their products. Décor, lighting, music, flooring even fragrance; everything is planned, nothing is left to chance.
When it’s done right you find yourself drawn to a place where you want to linger and products which whisper “take me home with you”.
Online the old rules apply.
Make sure your website looks as good as it can and loads quickly. Think about navigation and the overall look and feel. This is where you may wish to re-consider the advice in 2 and invest in professional website design, the spend won’t be wasted.
6. Make it easy to buy
You know that feeling you get in a big department store when you can’t find where to pay? Or when you get to the tills, find there’s a big queue. That's usually when you decide life’s too short so you put whatever you were going to buy back where it came from and move on.
The same thing happens all the time on the web. People are all ready to buy but they can’t work out what they should do next. Or they begin the checkout process, decide it all looks like too much hard work and with one click poof they're gone in a puff of smoke. Abandon rates are all too often inexplicable and cause shop owners to tear out their hair.
Make sure it’s blatantly obvious how to buy. The shopping cart should be ever present and each product should carry its own Buy Now button.
Work hard to make the whole shopping process seamless and irritant free. Let’s face it no-one likes filling our forms but there’s no avoiding the initial handing over of contact information, payment details and specific information about the product. Make it as easy as possible with as few clicks as possible.
You can help by including predictive post code software and a tick box so shipping details become billing details when appropriate. Offer one-click checkout for returning customers and if you’re going to up-sell or cross-sell make sure the items your software suggests are useful and relevant.
This is not the time to build a mailing list or do market surveys.
7. Offer world-class service
You can gain a competitive edge over the high street brands and the online giants by offering outstanding personal service. More often than not the big boys will win on price but they’re usually not so hot on customer service.
When customers call one of their help-lines they will often find themselves in Press 1, Press 2 Hell. Speak to an operator and they’ll quickly find that call centre staff aren’t as knowledgeable as they might be. You’ll be able to build a strong bond with your customers by making yourself accessible, providing knowledgeable advice and a personal service.
Make it super simple to ask questions. Display your phone number and email address prominently. Maybe think about offering a live chat facility. Anything you can do to engage with your customer will pay off in terms of increased sales.
Just as important is what happens post sale. Getting the product delivered on time with reliable communication is a must.
8. Display professional product pictures
Surely it’s no surprise to hear that people prefer “real” photos to stock images – even if they do sometimes lack sophistication. There seems to be a universal loathing of stock photography.
One route is to hire a pro, if the budget will stretch this will almost certainly show off your products at their best. And if you can’t afford to bring in a professional every time you need product shots then you could always pay one to teach you how to take the photos yourself.
Think about backgrounds. John Lewis displays all their products against a pale background. Ebay – who for obvious reasons can’t guarantee consistency in their product shots – use white.
Browsers like to see details, you should provide multiple pictures per product, offer a zoom function and invite people to request more shots if they need them
Need More Help?
There they are, 8 tips which have helped our clients make more ecommerce sales. I hope you find them useful. Please get in touch if there's anything you'd like to ask.