If you have a small business selling products or services online, a website alone isn't enough. How do you promote it? How can you ensure you appear in search results? Here we offer our top tips on making sure you're not missing out on customers. See also: How to set up an eshop
How to improve sales from your online store: Remember people and search engines
Creating a functioning eShop doesn't mean that the job is done and dusted. A lot more sales can be won by making sure you are truly match-fit for consumer expectations.
First, check that you have all the domains that you need to capture your audience. As always, aim for a catchy name, easy to remember and pass on verbally. For longer names, use hyphens to improve readability. Website visitors often misspell words, switch or miss letters. Check how your domain name could be misspelled and consider securing these as additional domains.
The more keywords referenced in your domain name, the more search engines will rate your website and position it higher in results, meaning more visitors.For example, a company with the domain BritishPetToys.com could also register BritishPetToy.com, or BritishPetToys.net, and direct traffic from those to its main URL.
Of course, always ensure you are using a trusted web host to maximise uptime and website speed, and a reputable payment processor to keep all your customer payment data secure. A high-quality eShop provider will also deliver you all the certifications that customers look for when choosing a safe online retailer. SSL is mandatory when handling customer data and keep your shop updated with tools for enhancing security. In retailing, trust means everything so always support your customers with a brisk and solid user experience. That's how Amazon does it, and so should you.
How to improve sales from your online store: Be efficient with social media
Over a billion people use social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as Amazon and ebay. Connecting your website to your company’s social media is great way to bolster your online engagement. People expect it these days.
As your business becomes increasingly social online, you may realise that your customers are responding more positively to pictures and videos posted on YouTube or Pinterest rather than reams of text. According to traffic analysis firm Chartbeat, most visitors only read about 50 percent of any piece of content they click on. Conversely, most will view all content delivered via videos and pictures. As a small online retailer, you need to take advantage of multimedia.
There is real business value in social media when it can be done in an automated and time-efficient manner. Today there are website packages aimed specifically at not only helping smaller shops launch a website in minutes, but also provide functionality for social media management. Time pressure often means that entrepreneurs have little time to establish and execute a social media strategy to meet modern consumer demands. Now there are tools within eShop packages that greatly simplify social media activities, with rapid creation of social material and the centralised and synchronised management of multiple channels.
How to improve sales from your online store: Remember your listings
Being visible where consumers are searching is of paramount importance. There are now easy and affordable turn-key tools for ensuring that your website is always within eyesight in your local area. A new ListLocal tool from 1&1, for example, offers a better chance to be easily and quickly found in online directories, search engines, apps and map services.
Listing tools automatically add and constantly update your important company details so they appear on - for example - Google Maps, Thomson Local, Facebook, Foursquare, Yelp, TomTom, Scoot and newspaper directories such as Mirror Online and Independent Online. If you're not in these directories or sites, chances are customers won't know you exist.
How to improve sales from your online store: Optimise your eShop design
There is no second chance for a first impression. Don’t ignore basic layout rules, and if in doubt, keep things minimal. Does your design create trust, provide a user-friendly buying experience, set the scene for products, allow brand recognition, suggest reassuring speed and modernity? If you can answer no to any or all of those, you need to change your website.
The categories of your eShop are like the aisles in a supermarket. Make it easy to find products and do not set a maze of endless pages for customers to have to navigate. The search functionality of your store is critical. Ensure your search box works and promotes the latest, best products for your customer needs today. Always ensure you are cross-selling. Sell more by listing alternatives for items and accessories for your products.
How to improve sales from your online store: Think carefully about mobile
According to the IMRG-Capgemini eRetail Sales Index, UK shoppers spent £91bn online in 2013 and the internet retailing market grew by 16 percent over the course of that year. If you want to make more money online, think about your overall checkout flow to ensure you are making the experience quick, simple and safe for customers.
Now, mobile compatibility is key and you need to think about how to the large and growing mobile segment. New research from BrightEdge found that on average, 27 percent of websites were misconfigured for smartphone usage, which resulted in an average 68 percent loss of smartphone traffic to those websites. Again, people expect to be able to browse and buy using their smartphones these days. If your site doesn't work properly or at all on all popular smartphone web browsers, you are certainly missing out.
Responsive design means your website works on any size screen and also means faster loading times. People shopping on their mobile have been proven to be less patient compared to those using traditional devices, resulting in a 7 percent loss in conversion for every one second delay in website load time, according to research firm Aberdeen Group Inc.
You may have noticed that some retailers with mobile sites have often slimmed-down features and functions in the hope of speeding up load times. However, be careful – some elements can be critical for consumers in making their purchasing decision. Dynamically ‘responsive design’ allows for the creation of a more robust mobile-compatible site delivering all the information needed whilst still minding the size and screen limitations. This smart coding can be the difference between a sale or a missed opportunity – so make sure your eShop package optimises your store for mobile.
How to improve sales from your online store: Leverage marketplaces and strong brands
Customers always seek convenience and meeting them closer toward their existing shopping outlets or habits is key. Being present on sites such as ebay and Amazon will not only increase sales channels, but also offer you context, and leverage the trust that these outlets enjoy with consumers. Do not try to compete with the largest retailers on choice, but promote your value-ads – what you do best or differently, such as a personalised solution or unique portfolio of offers. The more marketplaces you are visible in, the more access you will have to online communities and the more likely your eShop will be to be referred online between shoppers.
How to improve sales from your online store: Optimise your shipping and logistics
The more shipping and payment methods you can offer the more likely customers are to order. Do excite you customers with on-time and fast delivery, and choose partners with transparent shipping costs. Utilise tracking and labelling to keep customers informed about their shipping status. Offering free shipping will always be a powerful driver for conversion – making you between 10-20% more likely to clinch an order.
How to improve sales from your online store: Cater for offline payments too
As well as great design and mobile optimisation, the latest in eShop packages now include lots of options for online payments, be it PayPal or online credit card clearing. However, consumers now expect total choice in how they can pay – any restriction will lower conversions and could hit your reputation. As we jump into the Holiday Season, retailers need to be able to capture every sale – on the high street, in pop-up shops, at trade shows – and so offline payments can also be key.
Solutions like PayPal Here give smaller merchants the ability to digitally accept debit and credit cards and PayPal payments, log cash and cheque payments, and send invoices. PayPal’s new, palm-sized chip and PIN device is paired with a merchant’s existing smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth. The device, which will take PayPal, Visa, and MasterCard credit and debit cards, is set to become very popular with UK retailers, where PayPal already has 18 million active accounts.
By thinking about your steps toward each of these elements, you will be better placed to expand and optimise your online strategy for 2015. Always view your technology in terms of supporting these areas, and whilst experimentation and testing will always be necessary, do ensure that there is a clear business case for any new technology or functionality that modifies the overall shopping experience you provide. The customer is always king – whether they want to shop online or offline.