||There's really no deep secret about
increasing sales through the internet. You drive traffic by creating
more sales leads. When these newbie shoppers show up, you engage
them and convert their interest into a transaction. Presto: Better
But all that's much
easier said than done. Here are specific ways to build sales
momentum and to make your online store crackle and pop.
1. Seek strategic partners.
Question: What's the online retail equivalent of
"location, location location?" Answer: links to your site in all the right
places. You want to create awareness of your wares among customers. So the
first step is to truly define your target buyer. Thoroughly research your
customer's profiles and preferences. Next, develop come-hither offerings,
teasers, interactive ads, and must-read content for as many appropriate
sites as you can manage and afford.
businesses can develop relevant content for other sites that drives traffic
on a very low-cost basis,"
says Andrew Restivo, founder of GourmetFoodMall.com, a New Orleans based
online shopping mall for more that 150 specialty food companies. In
considering sites as partners or affiliates, don't forget professional
organizations and associations, especially when you market services or
business products. Try trading or paying for links with other small or
midsize e-commerce marketers. But before making any deals, verify that your
links add value on those sites. For instance, links to your boutique might
bring in business from local restaurant sites or a car rental agency or even
a local chamber of commerce. But it would make no sense at all on a site
2. Keep customers clicking toward
the checkout page.
"Customers won't wade through faulty, bulky, or clunky architecture.
Broken links or haphazard navigation will only squander your hard-earned
sales opportunities. Streamline all site paths and continually check that
every link works. Rely on plain, instant gratification (HTML) text links to
all products, services, and registration forms.
"Graphics and Flash look cool, but without text to encourage search
results, customers many never even make it to your home page," says
Michelle Jackson, spokesperson for Range Online Media, a Fort Worth, Texas,
search marketing company. Also, consider easy ways to get to the shopping
cart and reliable site-wide product search functionality. When a shopper
arrives with product specifics in already in mind, you don not want to make
that buyer work or wait.
3. Cross-promote like crazy.
Don't make your online store a
stand-alone orphan: make it work with other sales channels. Successful
sellers have figured out that the Web is just one sales channel, like
mail-order catalogs, phone orders, or face-to-face contact. Everything must
work together. That means customers being able to research one of your
products online, buying it by phone, and picking it up at the offline store.
If you only sell online, you must make sure your branded URL is seen far and
wide. That includes using it in every e-mail signature of every employee you
have. Print the store URL on all brochures, catalogs, packing material,
shipping boxes, shopping bags, delivery truck, posters, and postcard
notices. If you attend trade shows or conferences, make sure your booth
signage and promotional material also have a big, bold printed URL stamped
on them. Don't miss an opportunity. Also, register variants and misspellings
of your domain name so customers who get it wrong will find you anyway. For
instance, a company named
should also register
Think about it: For a few hundred dollars in registration fees, you might
net one return customer who buys thousands of dollar worth of ware over
4. Keep it personal.
Customers will feel more valued and
comfortable about buying online if you establish a bond. The more you're in
touch and display a personal tone, the more your customer will relax.
5. Be specific (and honest) about
your product offerings.
"The more detail you include, the
better. People like to know the histories of what you're selling and who you
are." advises Lynne Dralle, an eBay Power Seller who has sold thousands
of items at online auctions. "Always describe exactly what the buyer is
getting. Be honest," she says. When selling her collectibles, Dralle
mentions any chips or flaws, but she also tell stories, like how her Aunt
Mary brought an item over from England. High-quality photographs of products
are also a must. If you don't have a digital camera, consider investing in
one so you can upload images to your PC.
6. Set delivery policies that work
for your business model.
The great debate about whether free shipping boosts online sales is finally
fading into individual solutions. While you still find advocates pro and
con, it's now boiling down to a matter of your product pricing. "Free
shipping costs can kill you if you can't include them in the price of the
product," says GoumetFoodMall.comès Restivo, whose company regularly surveys
online customers on such issues. But if you jack up your price to
accommodate free shipping on commodity items that only sell at the lowest
price possible, you lose. In those cases, customers expect to pay a
reasonable amount for shipping, Restivo says. On the other hand, high
shipping prices are a big detriment to sales of perishable or premium
products, presumably because it's easy to forgo those items when they don't
feel like a "bargain." Restivoès tip: Rely on second-day-air shipping. Costs
are much cheaper than overnight and customers are satisfied.
7. Spruce up your site and
The goal is to get customers to return and to spread the word among
friends and family that your online shop is worth a visit. So do everything
you can to make the experience fast, fun, and fabulously better than your
competitors. Explain all your policies upfront. Promise 100% money-back
guarantees with no strings attached. Offer free samples. Quickly respond to
every query or comment. Invest in a live chat function so that customers can
get answers to product questions immediately. Create reasons to return to
your site with a loyalty club or contest or email games and discounts. Make
connections with customers and don't let go.
One last point: Don't forget that
having well-written content and product descriptions are important --
because you want the search engines to find you. Learn how to optimize your
site for search engines.
Next thing you know, the sales will
start rolling in.