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On the subject of ecommerce

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Matt

November 7th, 2014.

40 Ways to Increase Your e-Commerce Conversion Rates

You have built a website and sell product from it. You have entered the wonderful world of e-commerce. The question is, how well is your site performing? How are your e-commerce conversion rates?

There are a number of relatively straightforward ways to improve the conversion rates of your e-Commerce site. Here are forty ideas that you can use to ensure that potential customers find visiting your site a pleasant experience; a place where they find it worth their while spending their hard-earned money.

1.      Define your engagement strategy

It is vitally important that you determine exactly how you intend to engage with your potential customers. You want to ensure that these customers perceive that you are giving them value

2.      Use social media as a sales channel

There is a considerable amount of marketing done using social media – Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest etc. Firms use these channels because they work

3.      Have a clear, navigable product page

Make it as easy as possible for people to find their way around your site and make a purchase. People are not going to be bothered if it is hard to work their way around your site

4.      Make product features prominent

Customers really want to know about your product. Therefore product features should have the highest prominence on your page.

5.      Don’t forget about mobile

In mid-2014 mobile internet usage exceeded computer internet usage. It is absolutely vital that your web presence is usable by people on mobile sites. It is a very good idea that your site is fully responsive, and (unless you have a separate mobile-specific site) your site scales down appropriately for mobile usage

m-commerce

6.      Think carefully about your online copy – use key words and SEO

Always write with SEO (search engine optimisation) in mind, to ensure that the potential customers have a good chance of finding you in a Google or Bing search.

7.      Make certain that your content is original

Your products may be the same as those on many other websites, but you need to ensure that your product descriptions are not a direct copy of those elsewhere. You need to reword each description to ensure that it is different to your competitors’ descriptions. The search engines look for, and penalise duplicate content.

8.      Use photos

The internet is a visual medium. Web surfers spend much of their time looking at pictures and graphics. Potential customers want to know what a product looks like, showing the product in use if relevant.

9.      Use lots of variety in your product photos

As customers cannot physically feel your product, they expect to be able to have a good view of it. This depends to some extent on your product, but in many cases potential clients are far more likely to buy your product if there are photos of it from different angles, giving an all-round view. A number of the better sites even have 360 degree viewers.

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10. Provide tools to zoom in on your product photos

Another way to utilise photos of your products is to give potential customers the ability to zoom in and look at the fine details of your product.

11. Use videos if relevant

Many people browsing your site will be converted when they see a video of your product in action, particularly if it makes it clear that your product is useful and easy to operate.

12. Use a well-designed drop-down menu

If you have well-designed drop-down menus as navigation on your site it makes it easy for potential customers to find their way around your site. Avoid having these menus go more than 2 levels, though, because it can get confusing after that, and you lose the responsiveness for mobile browsers

13. Have a good site search function on your website

Site search makes it easier for customers to find what they want. Surveys show that up to 30% of people visiting a site use the site search function.

14. Offer complementary products on your product pages

Customers thinking of buying a particular product may choose to buy these complementary products, e.g. batteries beside electrical products, or on book sites show other books written by a particular author.

15. Make certain that you appear trustworthy.

There are too many fly-by-night firms on the internet. Customers want some evidence why they should trust you. Include a genuine telephone number. Include genuine reviews. Offer guarantees. If you use a certification brand, like McAfee Secured, make sure their logo is displayed in a prominent position.

16. Display a free phone number

Customers expect to be able to talk to you. Reputable firms use free phone numbers, so it is essential to your firm’s reputation that you do too.

17. Make chat available as a means of communication

It is all very well to offer a Freephone number and a Help or FAQ section on your site, but the easiest way to get interaction with a potential customer (well a reasonably computer-literate one at least), is to have a chat facility. It’s as close as you can get to there being a salesman in person to answer the customer’s questions

18. Consider offering video-chat on your site

This is even better than normal chat – your customer can see and interact with a real person, who could even demonstrate some features of the product

19. Make certain that your prices are clear and obvious

You don’t want disgruntled customers leaving, either because they can’t find the prices amongst all the guff on your page, or because they get to check-out only to find hidden costs added on. Prices need to be totally clear to your customers at a glance

20. Price competitively to your opposition

On-line customers have far more ability to do price comparison than brick and mortar customers. They can, and will, do price comparisons. You do need to be price competitive.

21. Look at offering Price Match

Being prepared to match your competitors’ prices will build up trust in you by potential customers. You may not earn as much from a particular sale, but hopefully you will make up for it with future sales. This is probably one to test over a period of time, because it will not be suitable for everyone.

22. Give limited time discounts

A classic marketing trick. Make your customers think they have to rush their decision and make a choice now, before they lose a discount.

Fila Promo Banner 3.2.12

23. Make payment easy for customers

The more payment options you have available the more potential customers will shop at your site.

24. Make a point out of offering free shipping

This is, of course, only viable if your margins can cover the free shipping. If so, then it will often be the deciding factor when a potential customer is trying to decide between you and a competitor –albeit the customer is still paying in a more indirect way

25. Offer quick delivery times

Customers like speedy delivery of products ASAP, and will often be willing to pay a premium for urgent delivery.

26. Show your daily cut-off delivery time on your site

Indeed it is very useful if you show a timer, indicating how long your customers have left to be able to get goods dispatched for delivery today. This probably depends on where you sell stock to – if most of your sales are overseas, it probably makes little difference whether the stock is dispatched today or tomorrow

27. Show your returns policy

It removes potential customers’ doubts if they can clearly see the ease with which they can return goods. If you offer Free Exchange, or a Money Back Guarantee, display it prominently.

28. Have low stock indicators on your site

It helps your customers if they know whether you have a particular stock item on hand (and if you don’t, how long will it take you to get replacement stock?

29. Use product reviews by customers

Customers like to see how others have found using the products they are considering buying. Include product reviews to assist potential buyers.

funny-amazon-reviews-three-wolf-moon-shirt

30. Show your seller ratings if you are operating in a community marketplace

If you are just one seller amongst many, for example a store in the Amazon Marketplace, displaying your seller rating (and other information about yourself) will build up trust.

31. Have clear Call to Action buttons

Make certain your call to action buttons are clear and obvious. Make certain that you test these out before they go live.

32. Use coloured buttons to direct customers through your check-out process

If you want to direct potential customers to take a certain path, highlight the button you want them to push a clear and obvious colour.  Conversely, make any buttons that reverse you back through the check-out process, grey.

33. Make certain there are no programming errors visible to your customers

Nothing looks more amateurish to website browsers that when an error message comes up when they try and order from your site. Only the most determined will continue forwards – anyone else will leave your site almost instantly.

34. Use test shoppers before your shop goes live.

You do not want real customers to find flaws in your system. It is far better if you hire a few people to act as test shoppers first, and take good notice of any flaws they find navigating and using your website.

35. Use relevant tools to optimise your site

There are some tools specifically aimed at optimizing your conversions, e.g. Optimizely, Visual Website Optimizer, Qualaroo, The Cart Closer etc. Try them out and keep using the ones that suit you best

36. Ensure your check-out fits on a single page

Multi-page check-outs send potential customers away, and a number pull out of the transaction part-way through the process. Make certain that the plugin or whatever checkout method you are using enables the check-out process to occur on a single page

UniqloSinglePageCheckoutScreenShot

37. Avoid compulsory registration at the checkout

Customers are often turned away because of the rigmarole of going through a compulsory registration process. It is far better to have an optional registration process once the order is processed

38. Only ask for essential information from customers

Potential customers get put off by having to fill in too much information. The simple rule is that if an item of information is not absolutely necessary, do not ask for it. Have a clean, stream-lined check-out page

39. Use automatic address recognition at your check-out

There are various apps / plug-ins that simplify the process for a customer entering their address. A customer is more likely to go through the purchase process if they do not have to make too much effort to get through the check-out

40. Use one-click process to speed up the check-out

Add an Amazon or PayPal button to your checkout to speed up processing of orders for your customers.

I suggest that you take a close look at your website and see how it rates in relation to these guidelines. If need be, make some changes. They will almost certainly be worth your while and the outcome should be increased sales.

link-bait

Matt

November 5th, 2014.

Great Examples of Linkbait used on eCommerce Sites

Content is an important part of any eCommerce site’s marketing strategy. Driving traffic to your website, generating links, increasing your websites search engine rankings and branding and PR are important factors for eCommerce sites. Linkbait is a very useful method for influencing all of these factors. Whether it’s a quirky video or a humorous infographic, linkbait can be very useful.

What is Linkbait?

link_baitingLinkbait refers to content, like a blog post or a video, which is designed to get people to link to (or share) that content. Search engines, like Google and Bing, take into account incoming links, and the quality of those links, when ranking a website. Organic, unpaid, won on merit links to a website are highly valued, so using linkbait is a very effective way for a site to increase its search engine rankings.

There are many different types of linkbait, but the most popular, and arguably most effective are:

  • Humour: Humour-based linkbait is very effective. People like things that make them smile or laugh, so funny content, whether it’s a video or a fake product page for an outrageous product will likely be shared with others.
  • News: If you provide updates on breaking news, or offer a news feed, or the latest news on one industry, this is called news linkbait. Using news stories is an effective method for getting more traffic, and repeat visits to your site.
  • Contrary: Content that is controversial or offers a viewpoint on a subject that is contrary to popular opinion is an effective type of linkbait. While a little risker, controversial content can draw in high numbers of traffic and it can generate a buzz about your website.
  • Resource: A long article, blog post, guide or eBook can act as an informational resource for visitors. Resource linkbait is one of the most successful forms of linkbait, because visitors are very likely to share it with others, and return to the resource themselves frequently. For example, a blog selling bridal veils may offer a guide to choosing a wedding venue.

How can eCommerce Sites Implement a Linkbait Campaign?

 Free Guides

Posting an extensive guide, walkthrough, or how-to, on your site is a fantastic way to drive traffic to your website. A perfect example of using a free guide as linkbait is, Moz.com. Moz.com offers a “Beginners Guide to SEO”, which has proven incredibly popular. People have shared this guide with others, and have revisited it many times themselves too. It’s a good example of resource link bait. Think about what information would be truly useful, relevant and valuable to your customers. For example, if you sell supplements, fitness and nutrition based guides would be ideal. Don’t be scared of giving away too much here. The better and more extensive your resource, then the more successful it will be. Branding yourself as an expert or authority on a topic will pay dividends in the long-run.

Use a Constant Promotional Page

Create a page that has a static URL, and keyword optimise it. Then, place your offers and deals on that page. This is your incentive linkbait page. On this page, also highlight give-aways or contests. Keep this page for each and every deal, giveaway or promotion that your site hosts. Eventually, with each deal, you will get more and more links to that page, and therefore increase your website’s rankings.

Video content

Video content is a highly effective form of linkbait. Statistics show that after watching a video, website visitors are 64% more likely to make a purchase, and that if a webpage includes a video, it is fifty times more likely to rank in the first page of the search engine results. Video links can also generate a great deal of traffic on social media sites.

Infographics

As infographics combine images and information, they are becoming an increasingly popular form of content for websites. Infographics are very diverse in that while they deliver statistics, facts and information, they are also aesthetically pleasing, making them ideal for sharing on image based sites like Pinterest and also being referenced and republished in blog posts.

Blog Posts

From controversial opinion based posts to top ten style posts, done well blog posts are a very effective form of linkbait. When creating blog posts, think about what your target audience wants. What content would they find useful, and interesting enough to share? If you sell hiking equipment, you could write a post on the top ten hiking spots in the UK. Make it extensive, make it evergreen, focus again on being a resource, keep it updated and it will attract links over time.

Examples of Effective Linkbait Strategies

13 Essential Tools for Surviving a Zombie Outbreak

REI sells hiking and camping equipment. Its 13 Essential Tools for Surviving a Zombie Outbreak infographic, is the perfect example of linkbait. Combining the elements of humour and resource linkbait, this guide garnered REI a great deal of attention. It also leverages the popularity of zombie shows and movies, like the Waking Dead, to create a piece of content that is truly share-worthy.

ZombiePan

Tactical Duty Kilt from 5.11

5.11 Tactical is an eCommerce store that sells a wide range of clothing items, accessories and equipment for law enforcement, tactical operators, first responders and recreational enthusiasts. As an April Fool’s joke, the company announced its “Tactical Duty Kilt”. This joke product garnered the company a great deal of attention, so much so that 5.11 Tactical actually decided to really make the Tactical Duty Kilt. It’s the perfect example of how humorous linkbait, and fake product pages can really help an eCommerce website.

Blendtec Will It Blend? – iPad Video

Blendtec is a company that sells blenders. It has managed to not only increase traffic to its site through linkbait, but also differentiate itself from other similar companies on the Internet. The company has done this through its Will it Blend video campaign.

These videos show the founder of the company, Tom Dickson, blending odd items, from credit cards to mobile phones, in order to demonstrate how powerful the company’s blenders are. These videos have proved incredibly popular, but the Blentec Will it Blend iPad video is one of the most viewed.

Volkswagon Fast Lane – The Slide Video

Volkswagon had the ingenious idea to put a slide on the stairs of the Alexanderplatz subway station in Berlin. The company named the slide the Fast Lane. The subsequent video showing the slide in use asks the question, “Are you Ready for the Fast Lane?” Fun and thought-provoking, this video is the perfect example of how, when done well, video content can be an ideal form of linkbait.

 

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Matt

February 13th, 2014.

(Another) New EU Directive: Will it Inhibit or Enhance Online UK Retail?

A new EU directive has made its way into UK law.

The purpose of this new legislation is to both increase customer rights when buying online, and make expectations of customers more consistent across the European Union, thereby increasing cross-border trade through online stores.

We all remember the cookie fiasco of 2011, the last major attempt at enhancing the rights of the internet user. The UK government not only failed to enforce it, but even to comply to their own law. Due to strong resistance and powerful arguments against the law, it was revoked in 2013.

Will this new push for user’s rights follow a similar fate?

10 Second Summary

To make customer rights more uniform across Europe via:

  • Increased minimum cancellation period

  • Obligatory refunds within this period

To increase customer rights by:

  • Forbidding auto-ticked checkboxes

  • Using clearer, less attractive language on the ‘Buy’ button

There are many other changes to be made in response to this directive, but the above represent the parts of the legislation most likely to affect online retailers in a big way.

When Will This Affect Us?

The law is set to come into effect in the UK on the 13th of June, 2014.

Some things are likely to need changing before this date rolls around. We’ll need to retrain our staff in regards to dealing with returns, cancellations, refunds, and customer service in general.

Terms and conditions will also be affected, as well as the code responsible for auto-ticked checkboxes, and the text for the ‘Buy Now’ button is going to get a little uglier, I’m afraid. Let’s get into specifics.

Shall I Click “Buy”, or “Order With Obligation To Pay”?

agt-buy-buttonWords like “buy”, “confirm” or “place order” are now apparently too vague and open to interpretation to describe the button that leads to payment.

“Order with obligation to pay” is the phrase our customers now have to read and agree to before buying from us.

One of the biggest arguments against the old cookie law was that it put other countries, particularly the US, at a significant advantage, since their websites didn’t include pop-ups which, to those that don’t know what cookies are, looked like a request to infringe on their privacy.

The buy button thankfully occurs a lot further in the buying process, and is likely to have less of an impact.

Sales may be lost, however, and they are not sales that depended on people not knowing what they were clicking on. It’s a wonder why this was deemed as a necessary change.

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Credit: Chris Lake @Lakey

If the cookie law was a reaction against the thought of websites tracking our movements, is the buy button law a reaction against the thought of the 1-Click button?

We can deviate a little from their suggested script, as long as it remains explicitly clear that by clicking the button they are entering into a contractual agreement that ends in payment. Clearly, it’s up to us to interpret this detail to a degree.

Whatever the case, the change to buy buttons is just one part of this legislation.

Say Goodbye to the Presumptuous Tick Box

When a page loads, any checkboxes that relate to a add-on service must be un-ticked.

checkboxFrom July onwards, if you want your customers to sign up to your newsletter or add some extra insurance cover to their purchase, you’ll have to make the prospect compelling enough to have them tick it themselves.

Most customers have now been trained through experience to look for checkboxes they have to opt out of before clicking confirm. No, it doesn’t build goodwill for a brand, but it still goes on. You can see how this is in the same line of thought as the buy button changes, the difference being that these checkbox changes are likely to be a genuine improvement in the buying experience.

Adopt a German Attitude Towards Refunds

The “right to cancel period” will be expanded from a minimum of 7 working days to 14.

This is to align the rights of customers buying from a UK retailer with those of customers buying from other EU countries, such as Germany, who already enforce a 14 day right to cancel period.

Refunds for products will be obligatory within the right to cancel period, on the condition that the product is returned with its value undiminished by carelessness. Even if the customer has cancelled, the retailer can withhold refund payment until the product is properly returned, which most of us will agree is fair enough.

It seems that these changes to refund policies are weighted to be fair to both parties, but they will require some attention be paid to our terms and conditions before enforcement comes into play in July.

The benefit is a consistent customer experience across Europe, which should result in more cross-trade online, and a wider reach for small UK retailers that don’t have the budget to expand operations overseas in a physical capacity.

How Do We Protect Ourselves from Prosecution?

If you’re hoping for a similarly lax enforcement practice as we saw with the cookie law, you’re in good company. Perhaps a revision to the surprising buy button policy will occur in time, but until then, any UK business owner who acquires sales online will be at risk of prosecution without making the necessary changes.

You can read the official document here (PDF), which includes model cancellation forms and detailed descriptions of policies we’ve covered here.

The most visible loose ends we will need to tie up are the buy buttons at the end of our buying sequences, the add-on checkboxes that appear at the same stage, the statements made in our terms and conditions (even if it is only the enforcers who will read them), and the wording of any relevant forms available to our customers.

Be sure to educate yourselves and your staff on all the relevant changes. There are many others included in the document above, including changes to content classification, and to information available through customer support helplines.

 

Matt

February 4th, 2009.

Changing The Way You Browse

Grid style product layouts are now the norm and dare I say it, a little bit dull.  And just as you are congratulating yourselves on getting all your ducks in a row, as it were, the big players are moving on and showing some more innovative ways of displaying products.

Again Zappos lead the way with their Zappos Product Explore – click on a product you like such as a Red Stiletto, you are then shown 54 similar products in a matrix. Horizontally you see products that are similar in style (more high heels in other colours). Vertically you see products in the same colour (red sandals).”

Compare this with Clarks new website which though quite good, (especially on customer service) pales in comparison to its US rival with regards innovative product display.

Check out also some other retailers daring to try something a little bit different.

Border’s virtual bookcase

Amazon WindowShop – turn on  your speakers!

Apple iTunes Cover Flow

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