OPINION: One of the best things to come out of Covid-19 (for small business owners) was the move of so many businesses to online. Having a website meant you could get people to order online, you could keep in touch with your customers, and help people find you while they were all shut up in their homes.
But what could have revolutionised so many businesses permanently, have all too often been abandoned as “real life” has taken us back to focussing on all the other things we need to do to keep our businesses afloat and running.
I know all too well how tiring keeping up with technology and the digital space can be. It does feel easier to just go back to what you know, and hope whatever you popped up online is enough.
But you could be losing customers.
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Last week we were trying to find a menu for a local restaurant. They had an “online ordering” system from last year, but no up-to-date menu and no way to book a table. Instead of persevering, we just looked for another place that did.
The problem is, with more people online, the competition for attention has also gone up. Just like a physical storefront needs street appeal, and look inviting, so does your website. You want people to trust you enough to pass over their email, or even pull out their credit card.
But even that is not enough. You need to make the website easy to use, create ways to “capture” people who aren’t quite ready to buy today and help people feel good about becoming your customer.
This is particularly true for e-commerce websites.
If I could log all the common questions people ask in Facebook groups about their business, the question “How do I get more people to buy from my e-commerce business?” would be right up there at the top.
It’s a rude shock to many small business owners just how much work is involved, not only in getting people to your site, but then getting them to buy. It’s normal to have a conversion rate of anywhere from one to three per cent of your visitors. So if you get one hundred new people a day to your site, you’d expect to get one to three sales a day. (If you have a lot of repeat visitors it can be higher.)
We’ve got a special love for retail and e-commerce at Identify. We really enjoy helping independent retailers, and online stores get more sales. And this starts by looking at your website.
I interviewed Tracey Smith from our team on my podcast MAP IT Marketing to get her top tips on how to improve your sales. While my first love is content creation (like writing this column), Tracey loves analysis. She also has her own e-commerce store where she tests out ideas before we recommend them to our clients.
Here’s our top tips to help your website get more sales:
On nearly every website we work with (including our own), the “about us” page is one of the most common pages visited. I personally won’t work with a company that doesn't show who is behind the business. This is especially true of e-commerce businesses.
I want to buy from artisans. I want to buy from small businesses. I want that real human touch. So I want to hear your story, see your face and know why this business is important to you.
Your products might feel, look and smell incredible. They may be beautifully crafted. But we’re not able to physically pick them up, and let our senses do the selling to us.
We need images, and we need words.
It is not enough to add a product and say “Royal blue duck figurine. 20cm”
We need you to sell it to us. Add in descriptions that evoke emotion.
Along with that, make sure the photos are really clear. Often the supplied images are less than perfect from suppliers. Some of our e-commerce businesses invest in product photography to make sure they own the look and feel of each product on their page. It’s also amazing what you can create using a little bit of magic from the graphic design platform canva.com.
Adding chat to your website allows people another way to connect. I personally resisted us adding it to our website as I was worried it would mean we had to be online all the time. However, people often use it a little like email, and are quite happy to wait for a response if you aren’t online.
People using the chat feature are often highly engaged. They might be looking for clarification before hitting buy now, so you can get them over the line.
We’re ZOHO partners, so use the ZOHO chat, but you can use the Facebook chat on most websites, and it’s easy to set up and use.
We’ve used it to discover broken links, and when testing the best place to put forms and call to actions on our website.
It can be a little addictive to watch when you first start, but once you’ve settled in, it’s a good thing to check about once a month to see what improvements you can make.
Just by changing the position of one form on our website we doubled our conversion rate overnight.
Pop-up forms are highly effective on websites. The best types use some sort of incentive to help extract an email from the visitor. This could be a discount on first purchase, a free download, or being able to join a club (a far better way to describe a mailing list).
The weird thing about pop-ups is while they work, pretty much everyone will say how much they don’t like them! It’s definitely a good idea to give them a go. Tracey has increased her mailing list by 2000 in the last year, and eighty per cent of that growth came from a pop-up.
For those who bat that pop-up away, Tracey advises you place sign up forms in your footer on every page. (Not just the home page). It’s a simple call to action that’s got less attached to it than buy now.
One of the best parts of shopify, but most dangerous for my wallet, is they make purchasing a product from you so easy. Everything is designed to make it simple to buy, including quick checkouts if you’ve bought from another shopify site before.
Selling online is all about removing the friction of effort.
We recommend getting someone to sit down in front of you, and ask them to walk through buying a product. How easy is it? Is anything confusing?
I’m old enough to remember old-fashioned layby (where you went in and gave over your $5 every week until you’d paid it off, and got the item).
Adding Laybuy, Afterpay, Omni, Humm or any other type of payment plan options is a simple way to make it easier for people to buy.
I often talk to retailers who don’t want to offer these as they personally don’t use them, or like people using them. Tracey added a great perspective to this, when she talked about overcoming a similar battle in her own business. “I realised it’s not my job to decide how people want to pay. It’s just my job to make sure I’ve made it easy for people to use the methods they use to pay.”
Selling products (or services) online is powerful. It can be a source of revenue to your business that can grow alongside your bricks and mortar business. However, it’s not a “set and forget” part of your business. Treat it like a new store, and pour a little love and attention into it. It will thank you in sales!
Rachel Klaver is a marketing strategist, specialising in lead generation and content marketing who runs Identify Marketing, which works with businesses to create the strategy they need to tell their story better to the right people. Write your own marketing strategy for free with Rachel's online marketing school.
Identify Marketing is a content partner with Stuff for specialist small business information.