British shoppers are the keenest online spenders in Europe, with an average of £1,174 per person predicted to be spent across the net on retail sites in 2015 (Centre for Retail Research). That’s a jump of 16 per cent year on year and will push online retail sales to £52 billion in the UK. So, it’s no surprise that businesses of all shapes and sizes want to trade online. However, letting consumers buy from you online is one thing – how do you get them coming in numbers and repeatedly? Here are some tips I’ve learned.
1. Be Fast
Any decrease in website speed and page loading speed leads to abandoned baskets and fewer customer conversions. The tipping point for a customer’s patience currently sits around seven seconds. Any longer and you’re risking desertion. E-commerce sites are actually getting slower as they get bigger, with more pages and products contained on them. However, Google factors a site’s speed into its rankings and rewards those that provide the best experience for users, so you cannot afford to let a problem develop.
Your home page is the priority. Many people put so much content on here, images and graphics and text, that loading pages can be especially slow. This may be because you want to give first time visitors a flavour of what you’re all about – however, if it is taking 10 seconds or more to load, that visitor might never see the rest of your site. Make sure that you or someone in your organisation is regularly checking Google Analytics, which can show the loading speed of every page on your site.
Slow speeds may be the result of several factors and about the whole site rather than individual pages. It could be the architecture of the site, the speed of your server or that images need compressing. Google can provide a checklist of things that may be causing page speed issues – give this to your developers or the people who built your site and let them figure out where the problem lies.
2. Have Ultimate Usability
Visitors need to be able to navigate around your site easily, getting the information they need, such as your returns policy, contact information and delivery information without needing to hunt for it. The information also needs to be presented in a way that’s easy to scan and understand. Don’t make anything pages and pages long. Instead, put it in tables or graphics. When designing order forms, think about what forms need be to filled out and what will happen to the user if they fail to complete a field or do it wrong? Will everything wipe and they need to start again? Or will the incomplete part be highlighted clearly, so the user can carry on, almost without thinking?
To your customers, this part of the process is like a job so don’t make it any longer or harder than it needs to be or they won’t see it through to a completed purchase. Developers often don’t think about usability when they build things like forms, so insist on testing crucial bits of the process like this yourself and share it with friends and family before anything goes live. A good user experience leads to more conversions, more recommendations and repeat business. As a result, we listen intently to all customer feedback regarding their experience on our site. If anyone phones in or emails with a comment about using the site, it gets flagged straight away to the senior team.
3. Build Trust
As well as having a clear returns policy, customers like things like a live chat function on your site that shows you’re easy to contact if things go wrong. However, the ultimate way to build trust is through third party endorsements. Services like Trustpilot are great at gathering customer feedback in one place, display prominently on Google search results and give you badges and icons to place on your website as a further endorsement of customer satisfaction.
People shop around before making online purchases and they will read reviews while in this browsing phase. The modern phrase for this is that they are seeking ‘social proof’ of your business’s reputation. You need to make sure what they find is positive. My company recently enrolled to be part of Google’s Certified Shops. The main advantage of this is that Google will really push the businesses that are part of it in search results. However, if you are just starting out or growing your business, there are free services that can help you build the ‘social proof’ you need. Make sure you choose one that is recognised by Google in search results.
Trusted Shops is one service which offers a free trial, you do it yourself by inputting customer details and the programme then requests reviews from those customers. It doesn’t have to be a large number of reviews before it makes a difference in terms of visibility when people Google your brand.
4. Let Customers Pay How They Want
If you can, it’s best to accept every form of payment type so you will never have to turn a customer away. We made the decision early on to accept all credit cards, including American Express. Some businesses don’t take AMEX as the charges are higher than on Mastercard or Visa, however, it’s still a popular corporate card so if lots of businesses use your site it’s something to bear in mind.
Many business customers will prefer to have a credit arrangement and if you can, it’s a good idea to offer it. Also consider Paypal and Amazon Payments as further options. Storing credit cards details and remembering order history is now the norm on e-commerce sites because of Amazon and this is the level of ease your customers will expect. Make it easy for people to order, make it easy for them to pay and they will keep coming back. It’s simple, but true.
5. Make Product Information Shine
It’s vital you invest time and effort in having the best product information it’s possible to have. This means words, images and video that show off every item you stock. With so much competition around, you need to grab the attention of every potential customer and you do this by adding value. Do something that stands out – one example I remember seeing recently was a rug that was advertised online. The company had included a short video showing a team member rubbing their hands over it to demonstrate how thick it was. It was short, simple but memorable.
Whatever you do, don’t just cut and paste whatever your manufacturer has given you for a product description. Not only will it probably be functional at best, it will be duplicate content, which Google doesn’t like at all. On the contrary, Google rewards original content, so the more of that you have for your products, the better. If you have a large inventory, this might seem a daunting task. So chip away at it, break up the jobs and go through them methodically. It will be worth it to your business in the long run.