Is Your Site Equipped For Online Sales? Part 1

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This is Part 1 of a two-part series highlighting specific tips on ensuring that your website is equipped for online sales. Part 2 will appear next week.

As a business owner, your primary expectations of your website are that it delivers leads and makes sales. Without either of these two functions, the money spent on your website and its marketing is wasted. But while you’ve been carrying out search engine optimization and assigning budgets to paid search, have you sat back and asked yourself if your website is actually equipped to deliver online sales? Being equipped for sales means much more than having a shopping cart and selection of products available for purchase – it also means ticking off the following tools and functions that make online shopping an easier experience for the user.

If your sales have been slack, work through this list and ask yourself if your site honestly delivers in these areas…

1. A Returns Policy

It seems a misnomer to start a list designed to help you make sales with the one thing that makes it easy for a client to return their goods, but a returns policy is actually vital to your success. Some merchant sites like PayPal require a returns policy to be in place before they’ll agree to process your sales, but other shopping carts don’t. If you’re using one that doesn’t make a returns policy a requirement, commit to adding one of your own accord.

A returns policy is a simple document to write, and if you have a physical offer or store you’ll have a procedure in place already so it’s just a case of writing it up for the web. A policy of this nature is reassuring for the buyer to see as they know that if they change their mind or the goods are damaged or unsuitable, they will be reimbursed. The same policy is also good for you, the merchant, as it sets out an acceptable timeframe and condition of returns, helping to avoid disputes later.

2. A Reputable Payment Processor

Most of us wouldn’t dream of going into a store and asking the cashier who they bank with or who the credit card terminal is leased from. On some level there is an implicit trust that because we can see the person taking payment, it must be legitimate. The same confidence does not apply online and online shoppers are by their nature more suspicious.

Some people still refuse to buy online simply because they don’t want to put their credit card details into a website form. Although that same person will happily set up a standing order for a utility bill or go into a store they have never been in before and hand over their card to pay for gas or goods, the same level of confidence is not yet generic to the web. For that reason, prominently displaying the logo of your payment processor is reassuring to the visitor – they know that their payment information will not be misused and there is a familiar point of contact should things go wrong.

Gateways like Google Checkout and PayPal provide badges and logos for merchants to display, so make the most of them and position them clearly on the home page and checkout pages.

3. Image Zoom

One of the most costly and time-consuming elements of setting up a website to really sell is photographing the products. Keeping on top of new stock and making sure the picture quality is excellent is not easy or cheap but is something that most online buyers demand. Having just one photo of a product is OK when teamed with a zoom-in button, but to go the extra mile and really help your site do its job, offer images from multiple angles and pair the zoom function with a rotate capability.

A lot of online clothing retailers use image zoom and rotate as a means of replacing the sensory experience of buying a product in person. Whatever your particular category of item, the closer you can come to providing the same depth of detail as seeing a product firsthand, the better your sales will be. If you already offer zoom and rotate for product images, going the extra mile to video is worth considering.

4. A Similar or Related Products Feature

When you visit a real store, you can wander around to your heart’s content and see other items that are similar to the one you are considering purchasing or are a good match for your new possession. Replicating this experience on your website will simply require some backend coding but could end up increasing your sales per head by showing visitors other things they may also like to buy.

A similar or related product feature could be as simple as suggesting the next model up of product or showing two or three items that complement the product being reviewed. Even things such as the correct batteries for the device can be shown helping your buyer to be sure they have everything they need when they check out. Some buyers will also visit the site with a preconceived idea of what they want, so a tab showing similar products can encourage them to widen their net.

5. Don’t Require Sign In Before Check Out

It isn’t always necessary to make a visitor register with your site and sign in before you allow them to check out. Making a user fill in a form before they can purchase whatever they have added to the basket simply places an obstacle between the client and the sale. Depending on your shopping cart and payment processing gateway, it may be possible to simplify the check out process so that users don’t have to register, create a username, decide on a password, and verify their address, etc., before they can pay for their goods.  Keeping things simple will speed up the checkout window, leading to less drop offs at the point of payment.

In Part 2 of “Is Your Site Equipped For Online Sales,” Rebecca will continue her discussion, with 4 additional tips.

About the Author

Rebecca is the managing director of search engine optimization agency Dakota Digital a full-service agency offering SEO, online PR, web copywriting, media relationship management, and social media strategy. Rebecca works directly with each client to increase online visibility, brand profile, and search engine rankings. She has headed a number of international campaigns for large brands.

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