Increase your Selling Potential Online with NitroSell eCommerce

Jerry Walsh 30 July 2010 • SEM, SEO

Internet sales have become such an important part of retailing over the last few years that most retailers that have invested in eCommerce are now reaping the rewards, but with just a few simple techniques you can further increase your webstore’s potential. Making your online store visible above the billions of pages on the web is achievable by using a variety of techniques in addition to a mix of online and offline promotional activities.

Often the very basics of setting up a successful webstore are overlooked and retailers prematurely reach out for costly Adwords and additional SEO marketing. All online marketing is useful but a successful eCommerce business involves raising the profile of your webstore by investing time and resources to ensure your site is user friendly, instills customer confidence and makes the most of NitroSell eCommerce’s in built Search Engine Optimization features.

Time to step back and take a critical look at your webstore: would you buy an item from your own site? (If you’re biased – ask a friend unafraid to speak his/her mind!)

  • What does my homepage say about my business? Clear and uncluttered wins every time over fussy and complicated but your home page still needs to be engaging and invite interest from potential customers. Customers need to understand who you are and what you sell in a matter of seconds so the information provided on the home page is crucial.A clear, intuitive navigation panel will make shopping on your site easy and speed up the purchase process.Customers also look for signals that the company is a real business – it’s good to include a professional photo of your physical store(s) on the About Us page, along with a brief company history, to satisfy customers that you’re running a legitimate business and that you have their interests at heart. Don’t neglect Terms and Conditions and Returns Policies as clear information on these pages will continue to re-assure the customer that it’s safe to buy.Finally, don’t neglect your team as customers like to see faces, names and a willingness to engage. This not only works for shop sales but it has an impact on web sales.
    1. Make sure the homepage effectively showcases your business and creates impact and interest. If your page fails to impress at this stage it will mean a quick exit for most potential customers.
    2. Encourage customers to browse your site through clear, simple navigation. Too many departments will distract so think hard about how your customers are likely to shop on your site and make it easy. If you have distinctive brands that you sell – SHOUT about them and create links using the brand logo to take the customer straight to the brand.
    3. Utilize About Us, Terms and Conditions and Contact Us to instill trust. Who are you? Where are you? Who are your team members? How can you serve and assist your customers?
    4. Is it clear that customers can purchase products from your web store? Sounds obvious but some retailers only use web sites to advertise their shop without the ability to purchase on line.
    5. Invite communication by prominently featuring a telephone number – might not be used much but customers like to see it’s there if needed!

    Check out these great example sites:

  • How well are my products presented? Sounds obvious, but customers will not buy products they cannot see images of or those that have no or poor descriptions. “Blk Jacket 001234” or “Boys Nike T-Shirt” will not sell no matter how wonderful the product is. Add good images and extended descriptions to all of your items. Yes, this is tedious and it’s an ongoing commitment, but not only will good information help to sell the item but detailed, relevant extended descriptions will help your search rankings.Filling lots of items’ extended descriptions with the same information will have a negative effect on rankings and should be avoided. Customers often listen to other shoppers’ views so reviews and information sharing are welcomed. Providing information like this again adds credibility and trust to the web store.
    1. Creating unique descriptions that help to visualise the product is ESSENTIAL! It’s likely your RMS descriptions will be inadequate as you don’t need detailed item descriptions for shop sales. The web store is different and customers need to know much about the item they are viewing. If you have hundreds or thousands of products start by improving the descriptions on your top selling items.
    2. Ensure good product images are applied to every item and that these are consistent throughout the site. If I can’t see it, I won’t buy it. It’s just human nature for all customers to want to see what they are purchasing.
    3. Consider multiple and zoom/enlarged images for products. If certain products have lots of visual detail, the customer will want to see it.
    4. Invite and utilise your customer feedback. This can be in the form of Product Reviews or perhaps a forum or blog.

An example of a great product description

  • What do my products say about my business? Customers are increasingly savvy when it comes to shopping online and will soon spot the tell tale indicators that them put off buying – is the site showing new items on a regular basis or are the same old products gathering dust? Do the special offers relate to the same products all the time? Why is the site trying to sell me sports supplements when all I want is aromatherapy oil?  A successful site is a constantly changing even if product lines stay the same. Customers still expect new offers, new incentives and reasons to go on to the site on an ongoing basis.Beware the dreaded “Out Of Stock” message – this will cause frustration if seen more than a couple of times and “Call for Availability” is just as poor as no one will ever call you. Instead amend the message to “Ships in 5 – 7 days” if orders are pending, or remove the item from sale if supplies cannot be replenished within a reasonable time frame. NitroSell eCommerce’s availability messaging is fully configurable and Customer Support can always be contacted if assistance is needed.Ensure the site has enough range of merchandise for sale as offering just a few items will cause suspicion. It’s strange but no one likes to purchase “The only item on the shelf” (Think of the last box of eggs in a grocery store or last loaf of bread – the subconscious question is, “Why is it the only one? Does no one else want it? Is this all you have?”)Having limited availability, particularly different sizes or colors, is sometimes unavoidable but generally all departments and categories should be well populated with a good range of stock. If some departments seem overloaded with items – break them down to make navigation easier. Equally if some departments have very few items remove them or include in other sections. Ensure “Special Offers” are genuine and are updated on a regular basis – try something new every week.Pay attention to brands and product titles that are often miss-spelt by customers. For example, when searching for “Kalms” herbal sedative it may be miss-spelt as “Calms” which means it would be missed in the searches. Include common mis-spellings of your products by adding them as Keywords in the Nitrosell Product Attribute Manager (PAM).
    1. Check the content of your Departments and Categories – if you only have one or two products in them, it’s best to remove them completely or include in other sections.
    2. Create interest for new season items and make available as soon as in stock. Make a feature of established products that are Best Sellers advocating why they are so popular.
    3. Take care with displaying linked items so that they actually match the product. This will not only make more sense to your customer but if used effectively, will help sell more products.
    4. Remove “Out of Stock” items immediately or amend the message to include a longer lead time for shipping if stocks can be replenished.
    5. Include common mis-spellings of products and brands so they are included when customers search for them.

  • How do my prices compare? It’s not all about price when shopping online and chances are we can’t really compete on price all the time when going head to head with some of the larger retailers. However, there are lots of good practice pointers to help win the battle of cost comparison. This is also where value and trust play an important role in selling as the importance of good service needs to be reflected throughout your site.Firstly, prices should be not necessarily be the cheapest, but realistic compared to the market as an overpriced item will not sell no matter how well it’s presented. Consider charging less online as web sales are cheaper to process – no store rents, maintenance, and lower staff costs apply when processing web orders. Using web only special offers to entice customer to search on line in addition to buying in store and offering a “deal of the week” will maintain interest on the site.Get the best deal possible for courier/shipping costs and make sure they are realistic as expensive charges will cause customers to “Bail out” at the checkout. You can even remove shipping costs completely by including “Pick up in Store” as a shipping option which offers the advantage of physically meeting the customer.
    1. Research your market to see what other retailers are charging and review regularly.
    2. Offer a better price deal online compared to shop prices – this can be promoted in store to encourage customers to shop on line for the most cost effective deal.
    3. Motivate your customers by offering a genuine “deal of the week” available only on the web. If this is maintained regularly, your customers will have a reason to visit every week.
    4. Keep shipping charges realistic and as accurate as possible – try “free shipping over €50 or $100” as this will incentivise customers to spend more by saving on postal charges.
    5. Be clear and re-assuring about your returns policy – make sure this is prominently featured on your webstore as customers will expect to see it.

  • Who are my customers? If a customer has purchased from your site before then they are many times more likely to purchase again compared to a customer who has never purchased – so start with the easy bit…. Communicate to your existing customers. It’s amazing how all retail and service industries know the importance of communicating with their customers but how few actually do.Contrary to popular belief, customers do not always switch suppliers because of price or convenience, they switch because of indifference. It does not mean there is anything wrong with product or a service provided. It means the customer feels they are not getting added value for their purchases – at least not enough to bring them back. Unless you have the biggest ranges or the cheapest prices you will need to communicate on a regular basis and share your passion about what you do and why customers should purchase again from you.Newsletters are a great idea and Constant Contact provides Nitrosell retailers with a fantastic marketing service.  It goes without saying – it will take commitment to run on a regular basis and keep ideas fresh and new so if a newsletter is not your thing then at least consider a blog. In addition to keeping your customers informed a blog is also a great way to improve SEO.RSS Feeds lets customers get instant updates via the Special Offers and New Products panels without even having to visit your WebStore. Really Simple Syndication (RSS) brings automatically updated information straight to your customer’s desktop.
    1. Know your existing customers and use your customer base in RMS to perform a postal mail campaign.
    2. Take advantage of RSS feeds are by enabling your Promotions/New Products panels and showcasing your products. This works particularly well when customers are eager to know about new products as they will be automatically updated.
    3. Invest time in Newsletters & Blogs to keep your customers informed – try Constant Contact or Mail Chimp. Both offer free trials.
    4. Use your site to share your passion about what you sell by creating information pages and update on a regular basis. Main brands should always be prominently displayed.
    5. Offer money off incentives periodically – a lower margin is better than no margin at all.
    6. Expand your horizons – sales from a local customer base is the obvious place to start but why not broaden your potential further? You will see more national sales if your webstore is competitive with similar products and even global sales if multi-currency and overseas shipping is enabled.

  • How can my Bricks and Mortar Shop help? Do all walk in customer know about your web store? Is your shop actively promoting your web store? Think of the typical family shopping day with harassed husbands (sorry guys – it’s usually you men folk that give up first!) or perhaps tired toddlers who are shopped out for the day. Your store may be the highlight of the day but perhaps your customers are distracted and don’t have as much time as they’d like to browse.Having a webstore means they can return later in the comfort of their homes and shop on line. Don’t rely just on a few references here and there but physically tell your customers. Give customers an incentive to go on to your webstore and purchase for the first time by a promotion code that offers a discount on the first purchase.
    1. Don’t assume your shop customers are all local – as they may not purchase whilst in the shop but like to browse on line and buy later.
    2. Print your webstore address on all your receipts, invoices and shopping bags – this has the benefit of adding credibility to your business as a whole. An inviting webstore in addition to a great walk in store shows commitment and enterprise.
    3. Make sure that your web address is advertised prominently both within your store and outside if you can – walk in customers are not usually in “online shopping mode” when shopping in store so you have to make the correlation for them.
    4. Don’t just rely on printed references to your site – train your staff to tell customers about your webstore at every available opportunity.
    5. Give your customers a great reason to check out your web store – issuing promotion code offers like“$10 off your first purchase” is a very effective way of getting the message across. These could be highlighted in advertising literature, marketing campaigns or perhaps physically handing them a voucher at the till.

Good luck and happy shopping!

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