eCommerce debuted in 1994 when the first banner ad was placed on the Web. Since then eCommerce has grown in leaps and bounds and today generates yearly sales in excess of $108 billion in the United States alone.
Introducing a shopping cart to your website can mean significant cost savings and added revenues. If you are in the business of selling a product or service you should seriously consider getting in on the eCommerce sales action. Here we list several important characteristics of a successful eCommerce website.
Set up a well-designed website with easy access. First and foremost, your eCommerce website must be structured so that it is easily accessible from all types of browsers. In addition, be sure that it is set up in a way that ensures your products are no more than one mouse click away from the home page. Test your site to make sure its pages load quickly and correctly on various browsers, not just Microsoft Internet Explorer. Once you bring potential customers to your site you don’t want them getting frustrated because of a page that won’t load fast enough.
Be a source of information. To ensure repeat visitors, your eCommerce website should be more than just a means of selling your products and/or services. Provide your site’s visitors with instructive information about whatever it is you sell. If it is products, include dimensions (inches and millimeters). Have various images, rear, side, front and large views. Include only quality images; professional photographs are a great investment and can be used on all your visual collateral. If you are in the service business, provide in-depth information about your professional specialties.
Make your shopping cart user friendly. Use sophisticated software to create a shopping cart that is easy for your clients to navigate. It should be clear to a customer if an item is out of stock, or if it cannot be shipped to an international address. Customers who regularly shop on the Web will expect to be able to edit and save the contents of their cart in the event they are interrupted. Note: Your eCommerce website will give you the opportunity to sell to an international audience, so if you wish to take advantage of that you must provide local as well as international shipping costs and consider multilingual delivery of information.
Guide them one step at a time. The last thing you want is customers leaving your eCommerce website halfway through the checkout process because the system is too confusing for them. Clearly identify the steps in your sales process so that your customers always know exactly where they are. You should also send an order confirmation via email once the customer completes the checkout process to instill confidence that their order is being properly handled.
Guarantee secure transactions. With identity theft making headlines so often these days, consumers are often understandably wary of making online purchases. Put them at ease by offering a secure transaction environment. You can contract with managed security companies like ControlScan and Thawte that offer vulnerability scanning and secure certifications. Secure Socket Layers, or SSL systems, encode data sent over the Internet rendering it unreadable except by the payee it was meant for. Give your customers various payment and ordering options together with online credit card facilities. Include your phone and fax details and/or a PDF order form to download that can be faxed or mailed back to you.
Provide reliable customer service. Make it easy for customers to reach you either by telephone, email, or by completing a “contact us” form on your website, and make it company policy to respond to all inquiries in 24 hours or less. Set up a customer service area on your eCommerce website in which your returns policy is clearly defined. In addition, this area should include a comprehensive list of FAQs, details on how to place an order, shipping and privacy policies, and contact information (company’s physical address, telephone and fax numbers, and email address).
Wrap it up! Supply well-branded, quality packaging to ensure goods are protected when shipped. This is a customer service opportunity, so be sure to send an email shipping notification and provide a thank you note in the package. In both instances you can include a catalog or promotional material and an offer of savings on the customer’s next purchase with you.
4 ways to boost website sales
- Create a message board or blog for your website. This is a casual forum in which you can provide additional information and resources for your customers. This form of marketing, dubbed Web 2.0, is becoming increasingly relied upon by consumers because it is less salesy and more informative. Do not underestimate the power of ‘word of mouth’ advertising. A prospective customer is more likely to respond to a positive message board post about your company than just reading your ad copy.
- Take advantage of email marketing. Include an opt-in email newsletter signup box on your website. Use this newsletter to inform customers of special sales and new products, as well as industry news and informative articles. By providing this newsletter to your recipients free of cost you’ll increase your subscriber base of non-customers, who will eventually purchase if you use your newsletter wisely. Make sure to give your subscribers the option to easily unsubscribe should they wish to stop receiving your newsletter.
- Reward customer loyalty. Let’s face it; loyal customers are your company’s bread and butter. So reward them for repeat purchases with a discount or a special bonus item when the purchase a specific dollar amount. People love the idea of special treatment!
- Ask for feedback. Set up a product review area for each item on your website. You can boast about a product’s great features and benefits all you want, but people are much more inclined to purchase a product when a fellow customer gives a positive review. And don’t be afraid of negative reviews.it gives your website more credibility if you also include constructive feedback.
A successful eCommerce website can only be achieved when you know your customers and provide them with the information, products, or services they need. Follow our tips toward designing and promoting your eCommerce site and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a respected and relied upon online business.
For more information on eCommerce Solutions, call us at 1-800-978-3417 or Contact Active Web Group and let us help you!