It's a no-brainer: if you're not making sales, you're not doing your job.
Alec Baldwin said it best in Glengarry Glen Ross: "Always Be Closing".
The Internet has made it easier than ever for entrepreneurs to launch companies from anywhere in the world. But, that doesn't mean it's any easier to actually be successful.
In fact, because it's so easy to get started, there's more competition than ever before.
Because of this, you need to do everything you can to attract and retain customers. If you're running an e-commerce business, it all starts with your website. In this post, we'll look at 10 fast ways to boost your e-commerce conversion rates. Let's get started...
Build & Test a Responsive Design
The way in which your audience utilizes your site will vary from customer to customer. Some will visit your page using their home computer, while others may check it out on their phone on the train home from work. Still, others may use laptops or tablets when they click onto your webpage. And, this doesn't even take into consideration the browser they'll be using when they arrive on the site.
It's up to you to ensure your company's website is fully-functional regardless of the device used to view it. You need to make sure your customers can get the same information when visiting your site whether they're using a desktop, laptop, or mobile device.
Make sure you cater to each device when developing your site. For example, a hoverable dropdown menu is fine for devices that utilize a mouse, but an absolute nightmare when used on touchscreen tablets.
It may be more work upfront for you and your team but, if you only focus on optimizing your site for a specific device, you'll have little to no chance of landing customers who either become frustrated with or are completely unable to utilize your website on their current device.
Optimize for Speed
You don't need someone to tell you that you'll lose customers if your website is too slow.
But, you might not know just how detrimental an effect a slow website can have on your conversion rate.
More than half of US online shoppers report that they will not complete a purchase if the site they use doesn't work fast enough. Whether due to frustration, lack of trust, or actual time constraints, the customer's flow is interrupted whenever a website takes too long to load which, half the time, will result in a failed conversion.
There are many factors that contribute to an e-commerce website's slow performance and many ways to improve the website's overall speed. Without getting technical, the main takeaway is: don't over-complicate things. A website can easily get bogged down with behind-the-scenes logic and large files that don't add anything to the user's overall experience.
Think of your website as a physical machine. The most finely-tuned machines have the exact amount of parts they need - and no more. You should take care to ensure your website isn't gunked up by extraneous parts that do nothing to help in the long run.
Provide Value Immediately & Constantly
You likely know this from personal experience: if it takes longer than a second or two for you to figure out what a website is "all about," you're going to hit the back button.
Don't make this same mistake on your own site. It's so easy to fix.
Make the value of your website obvious from the moment your customers click to it. You don't want to make them do even the slightest amount of work to figure it out.
After you get the audience to dig deeper into your site, you still need to constantly remind them why they're here. It's all about creating and providing value.
Remind them what your brand offers that they won't find elsewhere; make it quantifiable and tangible. To claim your company is "the best in the business" means nothing - providing statistics and facts that prove your company is the best lends much more credibility.
Improve Site Search & Recommendations
Google spoils us.
We're so used to being able to type in even the vaguest search terms and have the exact site we're looking for pop up that we don't even realize how incredible technology is.
That is, until we find ourselves on a site with a subpar search engine.
Astoundingly, even some of the most profitable websites in existence are lacking in this area. An incredible 70% of the 50 top-grossing ecommerce sites in the United States still require users to type specific keywords into their search engines when looking for a product. In other words, whereas Google knows to show pages relating to "footwear" when you search for "shoes," 70% of the best e-commerce sites would only show pages that include the word "shoes." Ouch! A less-than-stellar search engine is ultimately detrimental to sales in the long run. You need to make sure that yours is up to par.
Along with improving your website's search engine, you should also focus on creating a properly-functioning recommendations system. Though these systems aren't terribly difficult to set up, they are often overlooked and underappreciated for the value they bring to a company. By linking products in your database, you optimize the potential for cross-sells and up-sells.
You need to ensure that the recommendations are based on research and analytics so they make sense. For example, if your customer is looking at a line of golf clubs, the recommendations might show golf gloves and golf balls - which, given his initial interest, the customer is likely to also want. On the other hand, if the recommendations showed a hockey stick or baseball bat, you may as well not offer recommendations at all.
Simply put, the more organized your online store is, the easier it is for your customer to shop. The easier it is for him to shop, the more likely he is to make a purchase.
By organizing a hierarchy of categories, you make it easy for customers to get into a flow state. The deeper they go into each category, the more focused they become. For example, if you're looking for a new lens for your camera, you might go to Best Buy's website. While the main page can take you to any section of the store, you can instantly find the camera section. Once there, you can click to view only lenses. From there, you can narrow your search to specific brands, types, or prices until you find exactly what you're looking for.
On the other hand, imagine if, in the middle of the list of camera lenses, a dishwasher was listed. Your flow state would be completely disrupted! It might be enough for you to visit another website or close out your browser completely.
As you're aware, your customers are incredibly busy, You don't want to give them even the slightest reason to think they're wasting time on your site. On the other hand, with a properly organized catalog, you can get your customers into a flow state, allowing them to lose track of time while checking out your page. And, that's exactly what you want.
Use High-Quality Product Images
The purpose of an e-commerce site is to allow customers an experience that's as close to the real thing as possible (minus the crowds and anxiety, of course). While online shoppers can't touch or feel the product they're thinking of buying as in a physical store, you can provide them with high-quality images that allow them as realistic a look at their future purchase as possible.
Above all else, don't do this on your own. If you want to be seen as anything more than an amateur ecommerce entrepreneur, invest in a professional photographer to take pictures of your products. Get shots from different angles (with 360° views, if possible). You should highlight specifics that make your product stand out above the leading brand's offering and allow customers the ability to zoom in as they please.
Understand the psychological thought process of your customer base. Know that a well-composed photograph can often be the difference between a hit or miss in terms of sales. Because your online customers only have their sight to go on when quickly browsing through your catalog, you need to do everything possible to catch their eye at all times.
Use High-Quality Product Descriptions
Along with high-quality images, you also need to provide your customers with product descriptions that truly encapsulate the value of your products. This involves gaining a true understanding of your target demographic's needs, desires, and background.
It's not enough to simply say "This product is awesome, your life will be so much better once you purchase it." You need to reach your customers' pain points: What problem are they facing in life that your product will (not "can" or "might" - but will) solve? How will it do so? And why is it their best option?
Just as you'd enlist the help of a professional photographer, you'll also want to hire a copywriter who knows how to create prose that sells products. Oftentimes, the best copy is that which reaches your customers at their level. This means using simple explanations rather than jargon-filled rhetoric and avoiding copy that sounds way too formal.
When creating product descriptions, keep in mind that your objective isn't to impress your customers with how much you know; it's to sell the product you're advertising.
No matter what you have to say about your product or service, it won't matter unless it can be backed up by others who have used it and have good things to say.
Studies show that overwhelmingly positive customer reviews give companies a greater chance of landing future sales. In fact, many of the online shoppers polled see customer reviews as akin to word-of-mouth recommendations. If a customer is willing to go out of their way to write a review lauding a company's product, others will assume this means the product truly is worth it.
Positive customer reviews not only give a boost to a company's website in terms of sales, but search engine optimization (SEO), as well. The more your targeted keywords are used on your site (even when used in customer reviews) the better. If you don't even give your customers the option to post reviews, you're leaving this possibility off the table entirely.
Streamline Checkout and Beyond
How many times have you spent a decent amount of your time loading up your shopping cart on a site only to be stopped dead in your tracks when it comes time to check out?
There are a variety of reasons customers will abandon their shopping cart, from a slow-loading checkout page to a counterintuitive sign-up form. They may find a product they like on your page but, if it's a pain for them to order it, they'll quickly hop onto Amazon and find a similar product with less hassle.
You also need to take into consideration what happens after they complete the purchase. A simple "thank you" splash page is a nice courtesy but, it effectively ends the transaction then and there. Sure, that single transaction is complete, but you want your customers to return, right?
Instead of simply saying "thank you" and leading your customer to close their browser, do something that will get them coming back. Present some recommendations based on their purchases. Ask them to complete a survey assessing their experience with your site (which you can use to improve performance in the future). Hook them up with a coupon for a discount. Do something that keeps your brand in their mind after they click the buy button.
In the days and weeks after they've made a purchase, you want to give your customers a gentle reminder of the pleasant experience they had interacting with your company. You might send an email thanking them again for their patronage, reminding them to fill out a survey, or informing them of future sales. You might also choose to surprise them with a small "freebie" along with their purchase to show your appreciation.
A little extra effort after a sale on your part can lead to a long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationship between you and your customers.
Use Exit Intent Tools
Of course, even if you do everything right, you're still going to have visitors to your site that take off before they purchase anything. However, you can implement failsafes to minimize the chances of this happening.
Exit intent tools are software that track when, how, and why a user leaves your site. They determine how long a visitor stays on your site, if they use the back button or simply close out the browser, and what they were doing right before they leave.
These tools then use this information to predict the exact moment in which a typical visitor is most likely to leave your site, at which point a popup will display that surprises the customer with a sale, advertisement, or mailing list offer - while also keeping them on the page.
While your first inclination is to assume popup ads do more harm than good, the truth is that well-planned popups actually result in a slight decrease in bounce rate, while simultaneously helping to grow your mailing list.
As long as the call to action from the popup is well-thought-out and offers value, it has a good chance of keeping users on your page just when they were thinking of exiting it.
This post is by Tony Messer, co-founder and CEO of UK web hosting company Pickaweb. He is also an author and loves helping small businesses, web designers and developers to achieve great things.