MT Expert: Three rules for selling online

Want to know the magic formula for creating an online sales boom? Damon Segal, CEO of web design firm Intenix, reckons it's all down to three basic rules.

by Damon Segal
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Online retail sales increased 14% last year to more than £50bn in the UK. This figure is only set to grow. Selling online is a science and with the cutthroat competition between online businesses to reel in customers and secure transactions, it is vital that a business that wants to enhance its online presence does so intelligently, by understanding the customer base and thinking rationally about pricing.

So, how does an online business turn ‘interested clicks’ into completed transactions?

1.    Price

2.    Ease of purchase

3.    Trust

Get the price right 

The success of online selling, in essence, comes down to price or originality. With the rise in price comparison websites that offer highly competitive prices for a variety of products, it is important online businesses differentiate in terms of what they offer the customer. The ‘big trusted players’ such as Amazon or eBay offer a range of products at attractive prices and customers are drawn to these sites based on this factor. For new or smaller online businesses the aim should not be to out price these online giants, but to steer away from selling branded or readily available products.

New start-ups should also offer customers product groupings. For example, bundling a mobile phone with a phone charger and a phone holder means better management of your margin and proves popular with the customer. This gives the business a greater chance of completing the transaction and it is these strategies that can help an online business differentiate itself.

Make it easy to buy from you

Ease of purchase is also an essential component of a successful online business. The ‘one click check out’ that companies such as Amazon use relieves the customer of any difficulty in the transaction process. Customers have a good memory when it comes to buying online, so online businesses that have complex purchasing options will inadvertently divert customers away from their site.

It should be one of the primary objectives for online businesses to make purchasing easy for the customer. Bombarding customers with additional offers and questionnaires that block the route to the checkout will only frustrate them. You have been warned.

Are you trustworthy?

The ultimate issue that online businesses should address is trust. This is a more long-term goal for online businesses as the reputation of the site has to be built before customers start intrusting the site with sensitive information such as credit card details, addresses and contact numbers. Visual impact and usability are the key issues here and to an extent they overlap with the ease of purchase. Customers feel happy with sites that they know they can use and that they have experienced few problems with in the past.

To gain the trust of the customer the website and the business needs to have a trustworthy face to it and this requires precision in both the design and the tools that the website offers. A lot of it comes down to psychology. It takes a user just one twentieth of a second to decide whether they like a website or not and this fraction of a second can be the difference between securing the final transaction or not.

If the customer likes the look of the website in the first instance and, for some reason, the website is difficult to use, the customer is likely to be more forgiving and continue with the purchasing process. The visual impact of an online business is like the shop window of a high street outlet. If it looks attractive and welcoming, the customer will be drawn in by it.

Paying attention to these three areas will not only result in transforming interested clicks into completed transactions, it will also strongly persuade the customer to revisit and reuse the website in future.

Damon is CEO of Intenix Design and Development and the architect behind Telaeo CMS.

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