Adobe, the people behind PDF files and more, have recently said that when selling online “improving speed can reduce abandonment rates by up to 41%”. Google also reports that a 30% increase in page load speed results in a 30% increase in business. They have also categorically stated that a speedy site will rank better. And obviously buyers like fast sites too. In our experience, moving our customers to faster hosting packages has seen traffic to the sites grow up to 50%. It’s simple. If you want a successful web business it’s a false economy to cut corners on hosting costs. Load times can also be optimised by reducing the size of images and pages.
When you provide a lot of information on your products, this also has major search engine benefits. Search engines love content and if the content is constantly evolving, they will rank you even better. People do see optimising their site for search engines as a bit of a black art, and they are partly right. SEO is covered elsewhere in more detail, but some of the simple basics are well worth saying more than once. When people search, they type a “keyword” or “key phrase”(collectively referred to as “keywords) into the search box. Identifying the most popular keywords for your product range is the most important step. You can find this out by taking a free trial with Wordtracker www.wordtracker.com.
You can also identify keywords that are well-used, but have fewer than average relevant pages on the web. These are your best opportunities – they represent niches where there are plenty of potential customers, but not too much competition. As a simple example that illustrates the benefit of careful keyword analysis, there are numerous pages on Google listing content and adverts for “Flowers”, but only three ads for “Bunch of roses”. Tools such as Google search analyzer (part of Adwords) can help identify unique search terms. Even if you’re not planning to use a pay-per-click (PPC) scheme it’s worth signing up as it will save a lot of time. Once you know your keywords, you should make sure these appear regularly on your site. The keywords should appear in text, product names, page names and titles, and even image names.
It seems incredible to me how some online retailers miss sales by simply not providing enough information about products. Don’t just have one small image of a bouquet, but allow visitors to zoom in. Include instructions and practical tips on every aspect of using the product. If you are selling flowers, perhaps have a page with details of all of the ranges of flowers that you sell covering their history and when they are at their best. The more information that you provide, the easier it is for them to buy, and indeed it’s a way to encourage them to return. It’s noticeable that the best online retailers have spent huge amounts of time on their descriptions and pictures of their products. It really works.
Some online shoppers have a balance in their PayPal account, especially if they have sold off some old items on eBay, and it may be burning a hole in their pockets. That’s why it’s quite common for online stores that start accepting PayPal payments to see their sales increase by around 10%. This may vary depending on the typical demographic of your buyer, but if you don’t already accept PayPal it’s well worth the minimal effort to do so.
To buy a bouquet from your site, people must trust you. There are a number of ways of gaining that trust, and you may be able to come up with your own ideas. As a starter for ten though, here are some thoughts. Provide your contact details throughout the site, including a telephone number and physical address (it’s a legal requirement anyway). Promote confidence by responding fast to emails, and answering the telephone quickly and professionally. Display logos showing your membership of trade bodies such as the IMRG or FSB, and join at least one of the merchant accreditation schemes like ISIS or SafeBuy. A photograph of your staff or premises can also do wonders.
Asking customers to just type in their post code when checking out and then using software to look up the full address automatically not only streamlines the process, but also reduces the risk of cart abandonment. And because delivery addresses will be more accurate you will definitely reduce costs by having fewer failed deliveries. Your follow up mail shots will receive a similar benefit. Check out postcode lookup services from Postcode Anywhere (www.postcodeanywhere.co.uk) who work on a pay-as-you-go basis.
Sometimes obvious points can be missed. We all know how annoying it is to have to remember lots of passwords and I resent being made to create another account on a site I’ll use once. In fact I won’t buy from a store that takes this tack, and I am sure I’m not alone. People don’t know if they’ll return to buy again before they complete their first order so why force them to register? Give them the option to register later.
Trying different changes to your site and measuring the results may be dull, but the two examples below illustrate that massive and unexpected gains can result from small changes. In one documented case sales doubled simply by removing the discount code field from the checkout. The verdict was that buyers without discount codes felt ripped off if they didn’t have a code. In another case sign-ups increased by 200% after “Free trial” was changed to “See plans and pricing.”
You can use multiple sites each addressing a segment of your overall market. This enables you to make the site more relevant to your audience and can also improve search engine rankings.