7 Ways to Improve Ecommerce Sites and Sell Like its Black Friday Everyday (Without Reducing Your Prices)!

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So it’s not just Black Friday coming up soon for big sales. Cyber Monday is coming up too. Heard of that yet? It’s the biggest online shopping day of the year – its the Monday after Thanksgiving. But it’s not all just about competing on lowest price that attracts the most online sales, like most online stores rely on on Cyber Monday to attract more sales. There are some relatively simple things you can do to your ecommerce website to help increase sales without decreasing your prices – not just on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but all year round! So here is a list of 7 things you can do to your website to increase sales without lowering your prices…

1: Reduce the length and complexity of your shopping cart process
A sure fire way to lose a potential sale is make the shopping cart overly long, with way too many un-necessary fields. Ideally, you should try and condense your checkout process to be as few pages as possible – 2 pages at the max. Go ahead, review your check out pages and fields – for example, do you really need to ask for their work phone and confirm their email address twice? And always offer the user the option to buy without having to register first – you can always offer the user the option to setup after they have completed the all important first sale. These are all signs of website ‘friction’ that will often lose your potential buyer.

2: Offer a live text chat service during checkout and before
One of the best ways to help ensure a visitor completes the process of buying from you is to offer them the option of live help at any step. There are great new ways to help do this – particularly live web chat services, like LivePerson.com. Its easy for you to start conversations with users in any step of the browsing process (if they seem to be spending a long time on one of your product pages), or if they seem to be stuck on a part of your shopping cart. Having prominent links for your visitor to start a web chat with you also helps to increase sales tremendously.

3: Give your visitors a real reason to buy from you
This really is about providing unique value proposition to your visitors. Think about it. Why should a visitor really buy from you and not your competitor? And don’t just presume the visitor knows the answer – you have to effectively communicate this to them – and every step through the buying process. Otherwise, they will be gone. Go ahead, look at all your competition. Try and make yourself a little more unique – offer a different angle or spin. Sell things you can’t get elsewhere – or provide a shopping experience that you can’t get elsewhere, or offer a guarantee that others can’t match - building an online community around your online store is a great way add to your unique value proposition too. In the very least, add in a tag line just below your website logo that sums up why a visitor should buy from you.

4: Clearly show online security and hacker safe seals
Even though buying online is more safe than buying over the phone, and sometimes in person, there are still many visitors that are scared of handing their credit card details over the internet to someone they don’t know. Particularly with the recent rise in identity theft. Putting securty seals like Verisign (its fairly cheap to get these too – its a great ROI) and hacker safe seals really helps reduce anxiety issues a visitor may have about buying from you. Also – don’t forget to put these seals throughout the whole checkout process, not just on your store main pages. And don’t bury them all the way out of sight at the bottom – keep them visible and above the fold, particularly on the page where they enter their credit card details. It really does work wonders for increasing sales!

5: Use customer reviews to influence visitors buying behaviour
I’m still amazed at the number of ecommerce sites I still see without offering the ability to not only write, but see other people’s customer reviews of the products being sold. Its called social proof – people are influened by other people. If they see a product has high visitor ratings and positive reviews, they are going to be way more likely to buy the product. Just look at Amazon’s industry leading customer reviews. Personally, I don’t buy a product from a website if it has no customer reviews – I want to know what others think before I buy. Its fairly easy to get started with this too using out of the box solutions like PowerReviews.com. Trust me, this stuff works very well for generating more sales.

6: Offer related items during browse and checkout
Whats the easier way to sell more? Not necessarily to sell to more people, but to sell more things to each person. Increase the average order value, and it makes your marketing budget that much easier to stretch and gain good ROI from. And one of the easiest ways to do this is by offering related items on product pages, during the checkout, and after the sale has been completed. For a quick sales boost, you can come up with these related items yourself and add them to a few product pages. For more of a long term solution, make use of ‘visitors who bought this also bought’ tools (like ElasticPath.com offers as part of their suite). This really helps to increase sales.

7: Improve your browse and product search results
One of the most important parts of an ecommerce site is not actually the shopping cart. Its actually the browse and search functionality. Why? Because of your visitors can’t find what they are looking for, or can’t effectively browse and see what you have to offer, then they will head back to the Google search results and click the next competitor. Key ways to improve your browse and product search is to offer sorting and filtering options. Always allow visitors to sort by price low to high, but just as importantly, allow users to filter their browse or search. For example, if they are have started looking for shoes, offer them options to resort by price, but also offer them options to filter on style of shoe, shoe size, or shoe brand. Buyers are far more likely find exactly what they are looking for this way.

There are many other ways to improve your ecommerce, like offering as many product images as possible (that ideally allow you to zoom and rotate), but wanted to cover some of the ones I feel are the biggest influencers.

Oh, and for those newer visitors to my blog, for some thanksgiving fun, you should check out my previous post ‘7 Reasons Why Online Shopping is Better than Regular Shopping‘ – its handy to read and know before you head out to those big, crowded, crazy stores on Black Friday. Anywyay. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving - eat drink and be merry (and buy lots online!)

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  • Jeff

    Nice post here. There are so many moving parts to an e-commerce operation that it can feel overwhelming. Thanks for this list though.

  • Kevin Kirkpatrick

    It seems that improving the things you are talking about can offer a better ROI than spending a lot of time trying to increase traffic. I have a question about reviews though. What happens if the product starts getting bad reviews. Then what?

  • http://www.growandmake.com Will Johnston

    great list Rich. You forgot one that I’m about to add. To state that you allow returns in a way that creates confidence for your visitors.

  • http://www.rich-page.com Rich Page

    Kevin – good question. If you are reselling other products that aren’t your own, then its going to be pretty impossible to have all products with good reviews. The good ones should balance out the bad ones – you won’t necessarily lose out on sales. Its a natural filtering system – it would be weird an unnatural if all your products had great reviews. But if you sell your own products that you create, and you have one with low ratings, then its a good indicator that you may want to review the product that has bad ratings.

    Will - that is very true. Providing an excellent returns policy can help remove some barriers to purchasing online. Ideally free returns is the best thing to do, with at least a 30 day return period. This has worked very well for many retailers – look at Zappos.com for the perfect example.

  • Aaron F

    Great post. As you and Kevin point out, during the busy holiday season it’s easier to increase ROI by improving conversion for the traffic you already have versus acquiring new traffic, particularly if you are limited in marketing budget. Naturally, if you’re already buying online media (display ads, search ads, etc) you want to continue that.
    But SEO, affiliate and other natural traffic acquisition programs all take time to develop and make an impact. So the holidays probably aren’t the best time to initiate those kinds of programs.
    @Jeff – yes, running an ecommerce site can be overwhelming. Pick the low hanging fruit. My favorite optimization is shortening the checkout process. Anybody who has looked at a fallout, or funnel, report knows that a long checkout process is one of the chief obstacles to conversion. You might be surprised how quick and easy it can be to shorten that process.

  • Zoey Richardson

    Great article! Talking about live chat, I accidentally came across inside, and after looking through their site http://www.inside.tm/, it morphs a business website into a virtual storefront so business personnel can see and help their site visitors in real-time using chat.