eCommerce 101: Why Should I Buy From You?

With a 5 month old baby I’ve found I’ve been gravitating to baby and children’s clothing websites – although my hubby doesn’t need to know that. ;-) In my browsing  I have discovered that there are hundreds of gorgeously designed sites with heaps of beautiful clothes and accessories. Far too many to buy from even if I wanted to. And the baby market is not alone in the competition stakes, most online niches face the same dilemma. So I got to thinking – how do you stand out? What can you do to differentiate yourself from your competitors? How do you make sure you get the online shopper’s dollars and not some other online store? The following article will provide you with tips and advice to help your online store stands out from the crowd.

The Basics

The first step is to make sure your site is built in a way that is easy and engaging for prospects to use so we’ll start with the basics.

Design & Usability

I feel this is almost too obvious but with the amount of poorly built sites out there I guess it’s not. A well designed website that is easy for your prospects to use is a must. A website that looks professional instills confidence in potential customers and reassures them that they can buy from you safe in the knowledge that their goods will be what they wanted and arrive on time. It tells them that they are dealing with a professional company. A company whose products are of high quality, who answers correspondence promptly and who ships goods quickly.

The usability, or ease-of-use of your website is equally important. If the site is hard to use, information difficult to find, or confusing to navigate your prospective customers will go to the next website on their list. One of the best ways to test the usability of your website is to watch friends and family as they use your site. Set them a task of finding and purchasing a specific item and watch as they perform the task. Things to look out for include:

  • Can they find what they are looking for quickly?
  • Do they have to keep backtracking through the site?
  • Does the site search return relevant results? Any results?
  • Can they easily view enlarged images of the products?
  • Are the images of high quality? Do they represent the products well?
  • Are they able to easily add items to their shopping cart?
  • Is the checkout easy to use?

As well as the above ask for their feedback and then make changes based on your findings.

Design and usability is the place to start. If you get this right you’ll have a better chance at converting the people who browse your website into buyers.

Shipping & Returns Information

Provide clear shipping and returns information and make sure it is prominently displayed on your site. Customers want to easily see whether you ship to their location, what it will cost them to do so and how you handle returns if there is a problem. Don’t hide this down the bottom in a link, make sure it is clear and easy to see on every page of the site.

Testimonials

Finally, make sure to display testimonials from happy customers throughout your website. There is no better way to show prospective customers that they can confidently buy from you than with positive feedback from people who already have. Include a wide variety of testimonials including ones that focus on the site’s ease of use, quality of product, speed of shipping and fast resolution of issues when they arise. In a nutshell include testimonials that cover all aspects of the buying process.

Added Extras

Once you’ve got the basics right it’s time to go that extra mile to entice those prospects to buy from you. Remember you’re not the only eCommerce site that is well designed and easy to use. Here are just some of the ways you can entice shoppers to buy from you.

Shipping & Delivery Specials

In my experience many a shopping cart has been abandoned near the end of the checkout process due to the shipping rates. Expensive shipping, and I mean expensive in the eyes of the shopper, is a real turn off. So reward your customers. Offer free shipping if they spend over a certain dollar amount.

Fast Shipping

And when I say fast I mean super fast. Overnight if possible. We’re an impatient lot and if you read the same mags I do we want instant gratification. So there’s nothing worse than ordering something online and waiting forever for it to arrive. And believe me forever can be 4 days. So try and offer next day shipping. And don’t punish your customers by charging the earth for it.  Trust me next day, reasonably priced shipping will increase your sales dramatically.

Quantity Discounts

If you sell a products that people can buy in quantity consider offering a discount the more they buy. It’s a great way to encourage larger orders as let’s face it we all love to think we’ve saved money. Even if we had to spend twice as much in the first place to get that discount.

Loyalty Schemes

Another great way to attract customers and make sure they become repeat customers is to offer a loyalty scheme. Offer a percentage discount which increases on every order – capped at a certain amount – for life. You’ll find people will want to make more purchases with you to get to the magic capped amount. And then they will continue to shop with you, not your competitors, as that’s where they get their discount. Now that’s loyalty.

Trial Packs

Do you offer a product that people may want to try before buying? If so consider selling trial packs at a cheaper rate to encourage people to try your products. Slip in a discount coupon for their next order and you’re sure to get their business.

Reward Purchases

Following on from the above, reward people who order from you by giving them a discount on their next order. Most eCommerce systems will allow you to offer a percentage or flat discount amount.

Encourage Word of Mouth

Finally, we all know that one of the best ways to promote your business is to have happy customers tell their friends about you. So reward them by offering a scheme such as “Tell A Friend” whereby the referrer receives a gift certificate to use against their next order for every friend they refer to you.

In many ways the online world is no different to the offline world. Businesses who offer good products and excellent customer service and are able to market themselves smartly will be the ones who succeed and do well online. So don’t just put up an eCommerce site and hope for the best. Work hard and be smart and reap the rewards.

That’s it for me. I’m off to do a bit of online shopping as my DS (darling son in net speak) needs some more cute stuff. ;-) Continue reading eCommerce 101: Why Should I Buy From You?

Book Recomendations To Improve E-Commerce Website?

I read your articles monthly in ‘My Business’ and always find them inspiring & helpful.We have just completed our website & referenced ‘Don’t make me think’ at your recommendation – very helpful, thank you!

Do you have a book/s you could recommend we reference to help us with generating enquiry online? Our site is set up as e-commerce, with customers able to buy online. We design & sell kids t-shirts.

Thank you, have a nice day! Nadia

Nadia has been patiently waiting for my reply to her question. Thanks for your patience Nadia!!

Here are some books and websites to get you started:

The Big Red Fez: How To Make Any Web Site Better by Seth Godin

I am a fan of anything by Seth. This book in particular is a practical guide to make your website more attractive to visitors. It’s simple and straight forward and well worth a read.

Web Design for ROI: Turning Browsers into Buyers & Prospects into Leads by Lance Loveday and Sandra Niehaus

I love this book. Absolutely love it! They speak my language. It’s filled with practical web design tips to help you increase conversions and online sales.

Call to Action: Secret Formulas to Improve Online Results by Bryan & Jeffrey Eisenberg

Another great book by the two of the most respected guys in the industry. Call To Action provides vital information to improve your online results. Questions it covers includes: Are you planning for top performance? Are you accurately evaluating that performance? Are you setting the best benchmarks for measuring success? How well are you communicating your value proposition? Are you structured for change? Can you achieve the momentum you need to get the results you want?

Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill

Not a book on e-commerce per say but a great primer on the science of shopping by a respected industry leader. I’ve found many of the principles can be applied to the online world too. Update: Just found this version that has been revised to cover the Internet.

Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples

Another “bible” or proven selling techniques. Again not an e-commerce book per se but a great book on creating powerful headlines, copy that sells and layouts and illustrations that attract attention.

Finally, if you want to work on improving the performance of your e-commerce website you can’t go past the following blog:

Cre8pc Usability & Holistic SEO by Kim Krause Berg

Kim is one of the most highly respected usability experts online. A great blog with heaps of good advice on improving your website.

I’m sure there’s heaps more out there but if I don’t get this posted I never will so feel free to post your own recommendations below.

The Worst Thing an E-Commerce Site Can Do

My husband is trying to order some decent products online. He’s made his selection, provided his details, given them his credit card info and submitted his order. The page then hangs and hangs and hangs and hangs. Re-submitting does exactly the same thing. He’s given up and gone elsewhere.

I wonder how many e-commerce sites put through dummy orders just to test their system. In the bricks and mortar world you make sure you unlock your door each day. The same should happen online.

Exceeding Your Customers Expectations

I bought two products online last Friday: a tube of shaving cream for my hubby from Hong Kong and a tube of moisturiser for me from Hoppers Crossing (a 15 minute drive from where I live).

Both offered free shipping which, whilst not a deciding factor, was certainly a nice bonus. So which one do you think turned up first thing Monday morning? Nope, it was the shaving cream from Hong Kong. Usually I wouldn’t have expected it until tomorrow. Seriously.

Now I’m not critising the Hoppers Crossing place – I purchase from there regularly and always receive my goods in a timely fashion, but less than one business day from Hong Kong, that’s sensational. It’s the type of online shopping experience I want to tell all my friends about. Thanks StrawberryNET!

5 Common Mistakes of E-Commerce Websites

I consult to a lot of companies running e-commerce websites. Usually it’s not performing as expected and they want me to tell them why. While each website is different 5 common mistakes come up time and time again. Perhaps it’s time for you to do a quick check of your e-commerce site and make sure you’ve covered the following:

No Physical Contact Details

Far too many e-commerce websites have no physical contact details. If you’re wanting people to hand over their credit card details you need to provide information about your company and how people can get in touch with you. This is how you establish trust between your site and your prospects.

A common argument against providing a phone number is communicating via email keeps costs lower. A fair point. An approach I recommend is to include your contact details as well as a message along the following lines:

“Our preferred method of contact is via email and we provide prompt replies, normally within a few hours. As an online business, communicating via email enables us to keep our prices low, so please use this as your first method to contact us. However, should you ever need to reach us via phone, fax or post you’ll find all our contact details below.”

Make sure you state how fast emails are replied to so your prospects have an idea of how quickly their issue will be dealt with.

In 98% of case there will be no need for people to contact you, but providing these details will make your prospects much more comfortable handing over their precious credit card details.

No Clear Shipping Locations or Prices

Nothing peeves me more than getting to the end of placing an order to discover you don’t ship to my location. In fact my fists are clenching as I write this!

Clearly state where you ship and the cost of shipping to each of those locations. Place this information where it can easily be seen and label it clearly.

No Returns Policy

Again, encouraging people to order at your website is all about gaining their trust. Sometimes, for whatever reason, someone may want to return what they have ordered from you.

Prospects will feel far more comfortable buying from your site if you clearly state what your return policy is and how items can be returned.

No Testimonials

One of the best ways to show prospects they can trust you, and feel comfortable doing business with you, is to show them what other happy customers have said about your company, service and products. After all, these are independent, 3rd party opinions of you!

If you currently don’t have any testimonials start collecting them from now. You could also approach some of your long time customers and ask for one. Keep in mind testimonials that address specifics are far more credible than ones that say something generic such as “great product, thanks”.

If you’re selling online include testimonials that cover areas such as: ease of ordering, fast shipping, prompt responses to questions and/or issues and how great your products are.

Complicated Checkout Process

A common complaint I hear is having to register before placing an order. The less data people have to enter the more likelihood they will complete their order. There is plenty of time to collect additional information at a later stage.

Many out of the box e-commerce packages make first time customers sign up for an account before ordering. If your website makes prospects register before ordering I highly recommend you modify your checkout process.

These 5 simple steps will go a long way in establishing trust between you and your prospective customers which in turn will boost the number of orders you receive. Win, win really. :)