Each website may be different, but shoppers share some common traits when making a decision to part with their cash - principally that they're impatient and sceptical. MT asked Ian Snead of online video specialist vzaar for his top tips on boosting your online business.
1. Think about your search engine marketing
There are four sources of traffic to your website. Some users come to you direct - by typing the website address into their browsers. Some come via referrals - partners who give them your website details. Otherwise you're relying on search, either free or paid. Free (or organic) search is traffic generated by users finding your business in search engine results pages; this is based on relevance and driven by search words. Google won't tell you exactly how they determine the results of this page, but they have published a useful handbook that covers the basics to search engine optimization. It’s important to get this right.
Paid search is traffic generated from paid ads shown by Google on its results pages. These are driven by keywords you select and pay for on a 'cost-per-click' basis. Gone are the days of untargeted advertising. There is simply no need to do the equivalent of door-to-door sales, when thanks to search engine marketing, you can put your product right in front of those searching for it online. We’ve blogged about 'Perfecting the art of Google Adwords' before, but the key to developing a strong paid search marketing programme is to have the confidence to put aside a sensible budget and then spend some time analysing your performance.
In the long run you should work out what price you are prepared to pay for a transaction. Start with a small budget at first, and use the data this generates to fine-tune your ad words campaign. Once you are satisfied with your campaigns, then you can start to increase your daily budget to generate more leads.
2. Understand your traffic
If you're spending a considerable amount of money on driving customers to your website, you need to know who is visiting, where they're coming from and how they interact with your site. Google Analytics gives you a comprehensive insight into user pathways and the decisions they make on your site. From the myriad of data it offers, you can make decisions based on hard data. Understand what search terms people use to arrive at your site, work out which pages incur the most drop-outs, see from which countries and at what times people visit your site - and then plan around that.
3. Make the shopping experience as simple as possible
Once a shopper has arrived at your website, it’s important to keep them engaged. The shopper’s experience needs to be easy and pleasant. IKEA do a great job of this in their bricks and mortar stores; invariably you end up buying much more than you intended to. The tip here is to make the flow easy and make your products or services easily discoverable. Products should be easy to find. Checkout should be easy to find. Contact info should be easy to find. Remember: shoppers have little patience, so if they can’t find what they are looking for, they’ll go elsewhere.
4. Use video
Thanks to the ubiquity of broadband, everyone can view video online. This presents a great opportunity for merchants to use this medium to showcase their business. Buyers are sceptical and need to feel confident in their purchase. Having a video of your product or service builds confidence. It can also reduce the rate of product returns and decrease the amount of product enquiries. You can click here for some tips on adding video to your website.
5. Use Video to boost your search ranking
Google has now expanded its search results to include media. It calls this blended search, and having a video means that if the page shows up in a search results page, the video thumbnail will also be listed. This helps your page stand out from the rest. Be sure to submit your video site map to Google and other search engines that support blended search.
6. Make the pricing obvious
Pricing must be kept simple, clear, concise and discoverable. Sounds obvious, but this is a common flaw in many sites. Imagine you are in an antique shop and you like the look of an item - so naturally you look to see the price. It’s not there, and the shopkeeper is busy with another customer, so eventually you get fed up and leave the store. The same principle applies online. Customers have little patience. Many purchases are impulsive so be sure your price is easy to find and make sure it’s easy to pay.
7. Make check-out fast - and shipping free
Forrester Research claims that most sales are abandoned in the shopping cart stage. So don’t include any unnecessary fluff during check-out. Try and keep it to three steps once an item has been selected. Include PayPal as well as credit card options; many shoppers have PayPal accounts already, and if they do, check-out will be quicker. Finally, offer FREE shipping. Build it into the cost if needs be. The perception of free shipping is compelling and has proven to be a strong conversion tactic.
8. Have great customer support
This is an easy way to build your reputation. It will drive traffic more than conversions, but since traffic is the funnel to conversions, it indirectly drives the latter too. Shoppers are easy to impress, because they expect most customer service to be poor. Be responsive, helpful and honest, and they will become your biggest fans - even talking you up to their friends.
Previously blogging may have been seen as blatant self-promotion. But these days a company blog can be an effective marketing tool, sitting alongside more traditional avenues. Engage with current or potential customers by sharing insights into you and your business. Be open and share the good times, as well as the lessons you've learnt. Customers enjoy seeing the people behind the business, so don't be afraid to present yourself and your team. Putting a face to a name can break down some of the psychological barriers that lead to customers thinking of enterprises as 'faceless' and 'unapproachable'. If you do blog, do it regularly and ensure that it is well linked to from the major pages of your site. Finally, submitting your blog pages to StumbleUpon is a great (and free) way to increase visitor numbers.
10. Get on Twitter
Who isn't on Twitter, it seems? Although 10% of users are seen to be active on the service, it's how you use it from a business perspective that is the key (Click here to read MT Expert's Ten Top Tips). Twitter allows you to interact with current customers in real time, and distribute soundbites about your industry. Best of all, you can join in conversations directly with those that are asking questions or making statements about your product or service.