So you’ve got your website up and running and it’s looking fantastic. You’ve sourced a great range of products that people definitely want, you’ve got new unique photos, good descriptions, and a fulfilment system that’s capable of handling a thousand orders a day.
Well done. Now, what’s missing… oh… it’s people buying the products.
The days of needing a bricks and mortar shop to make a good living selling products has of course gone.
While the margins from online retail sales may be low, if you can find a niche, and put the right products on your site at the right prices, you can build a business.
To be successful you need lots of traffic coming to your site. And you then need to ensure your site works hard at converting visitors into buyers.
Here are Bytestart’s 10 steps for more website sales;
Capture data and use it
For every person that visits your website, you want one of two things – either a sale, or their contact details. Because once you know a little bit about them and how to contact them, you can get in touch with them in the future. Data today can mean sales tomorrow.
Start sending email newsletters ensuring they are totally relevant to your audience (or they will unsubscribe). The more data you have about a person, the better targeted a communication you can send them. At the very least get their name and email address. Then focus on finding out other useful demographics such as sex, age, marital status etc. Don’t try to get all of this information at once, ask for it in dribbles over a number of months.
Use automated tools
There are a bunch of tools out there to help you run your website and provide great customer service without sitting in front of a computer for 16 hours every day. For example an auto responder can confirm to people that their order has been received, or that they are now subscribed to an email newsletter. This will help to keep confidence in your business high, encouraging repeat purchases.
Create a community
These days buyers expect more from a website than just a load of products to buy. They expect to be able to review products and discuss them with like minded people. This is especially true if you sell niche products. Allow and encourage unmoderated comments on the products and maybe even your website itself.
Don’t be scared of negative reviews – people would rather get a realistic opinion on something they are looking to buy. And don’t be disheartened if only a fraction of people write reviews for your website or take part in forum discussions. Many more people will read something than write it.
Offer the best search you can get
If visitors can’t find the exact product they want within a few clicks, you’ll lose them. The job of your website is to make it as easy as possible for people to find products and then buy them. You should focus a lot of your development time on making the process simple. Make sure you have a powerful search engine.
People have been spoilt by the power of Google and expect that level of search on every website. In fact many sites now use Google Site Search to power their sites.
Be famous for a guarantee
In 1973 Argos offered a brand new concept to the UK – a department store where all the goods were hidden out back and you had to use a catalogue to buy them. In time the business introduced its famous 16 day guarantee – you can take most goods back for a full refund, no questions asked, within 16 days of purchase. The public perception was that this removed the risk of buying from the new concept, helping to develop a brand that went on to have sales of £4.2 billion in 2007.
Remove any doubt about your business
Think security and credibility. Customers will not give you their credit card details if they perceive your website isn’t 100% secure. It pays to invest in proper payment systems. You should also do whatever it takes to establish high levels of credibility. Give your trading address (not a PO Box number), names of the directors and anything else that demonstrates this is a real business with real products, not a fly by night operation being run out of someone’s bedroom.
Incidentally, there’s nothing wrong with running a business from a bedroom – a large proportion of small businesses are started this way – but that doesn’t help with credibility in the early days.
Shout about your phone number
You must offer a UK phone number and more importantly answer the phone if someone calls. It’s a key way of establishing credibility, and a great way of ensuring customers get any questions answered quickly and efficiently. Taking phone calls is also cheap market research – if three people call with the same question, you have a piece of information missing from your website.
Cross promote products
There were a couple of things that catapulted Amazon from online retailer to worldwide phenomenon. One of them was its ability to automatically suggest products that other people had bought, and suggest items you may be interested in. It’s the online equivalent of placing related items next to each other on a shop shelf.
If you’re going to do this, it needs to be smart. And consider throwing offers in to encourage the extra purchase, such as an extra 10% off if you buy three items now. Look at the bundling retailers do such as ‘three for two’ and find a way to copy it online.
Run competitions and free draws
Everyone loves a competition, especially when the prize is something they really want. It’s a great way of capturing data. And if you’re smart, you’ll send an unbeatable offer on the prize to the competition losers.
Be the business that has the difference
Perhaps it’s because you gift wrap things with particular attention. Or write little hand written notes. Or send a few chocolates. Whatever it is that makes your online shop different, seize it and run with it. Don’t spend too much time or money on it, but ensure you are consistent.
If you send chocolates with an order once you need to do it every single time. Our local Chinese takeaway gives us free prawn crackers with every hot food order, even if we only spend a few pounds. It’s the thing that has kept us going there for four years despite plenty of other takeaways nearby. If they ever stopped doing it, they would lose our business.