offer_ecommerceAre you running an online store, accepting payments for products (or services) on display?  There couldn’t be a better time to give it a go – low overheads, no staff required and the online store is open 24/7.  This is a perfect business model requiring the minimum of work – pick the right product and the rest is practically automatic – right?  Of course, the reality is somewhat different to the model.  Yes, there are the massive opportunities in selling online, but neglecting some basic business principles will cause your store to fail every time.

This article provides straight-forward tips on how to maximise the potential of your online store, whether you’re selling paperclips or office machinery.  Follow these tips and avoid cost and frustration and of course you can contact me with any questions.

 Tip One:  Sell, Sell, Sell

Let’s not forget why your online store is there – it’s there purely to sell your product.  In that regard it is no different to a high street store selling coffee or birthday cards.  This means that your Home Page is your Shop Window, the product catalogue is your shelves and the check-out is your till, where customers pay for the product.   This means that the website must be laid out to make it easy for customers to find what they want and then to pay for it.

This advice might seem like complete common sense but you would not believe how many people overlook it.   Some people prioritise other Calls to Action on their store, such as registrations for their e-Zine, subscriptions to Social Media channels and so on.  Whilst those Calls to Action can be important, they are of secondary importance to the purchase.

Tip Two:  Make it Easy to Find your Product

Make sure to organise your products into simple categories and most importantly into categories where customers would expect to find them.  I’ve worked with many clients who want to use technical names for their categories that only they really understand.  Speak to family members and friends about the categories you should use.  Even better, you should use the Google Keyword Planner to know for certain what your customers search for and name your categories after that.  Click here to read my recent blog on using the Keyword Planner.

Tip Three: Make is Easy to Buy

Imagine you are actually running a high street store.  Imagine that a customer has come into your store and picked a product off the display and come up to the till to pay for it.  Would you consider asking the customer to fill in a membership form before they can buy from you?  No, of course you wouldn’t, so why would you do it on your Online Store?   There are still too many Online Stores that require customers to open an account before they are able to buy from them.

I strongly recommend that the payment process be kept simple and extremely quick.  When it comes time for your customer to check out, they should follow these steps:
Go to their Shopping Basket to review their purchases and then confirm
Enter their shipping and contact details to help determine the shipping costs.  Pick an e-Commerce system that calculates shipping costs based on weight or dimensions of your product.
Enter their billing details and then confirm

If you would like to offer customers the opportunity to register then do so at the end of the process and make it a tick-box, using the details they entered as their registration information.

Some checkout processes involve over 6 steps in the process causing a drop-out rate of over 80%.  This is comparable to 4 out of 5 of your high street customers picking a product from the shelf and then leaving it at the till and walking out.   Reduce this drop-out rate by keeping the number of payment steps to a maximum of 3.

Tip Four:  Trust

There is still a great nervousness about entering credit cards details into a website.   This is understandable as online fraud is a real problem, so as proprietors of online stores we need to overcome this nervousness.  I recommend doing this by including the logos of major credit cards in the checkout process, such as Visa and Mastercard and PayPal.  This makes your customer feel that the transaction is secure.

Follow these basic tips and they will transform the performance of your online store.