The secret to selling online is to stay nimble and act fast

The latest Experian Hitwise list of the top 100 sites for shopping online has shown the industry’s big players – Amazon, Play.com and established high street brands – are the businesses receiving a majority of online traffic. There are a number of best practices online merchants can learn from those listed on the Experian Hitwise list.

Despite the Experian Hitwise list suggesting otherwise, the Internet is a great equaliser when it comes to business, allowing organisations of all sizes across a variety of sectors to compete with the top 100 companies. I work with companies of all sizes – from some of the largest brands to entrepreneurial e-stores – and time and again we have seen simplicity and convenience translate into sales.

Optimising the site design and checkout process is an essential, yet often ignored pursuit. For example, it’s a best practice to merchandise products ‘above the fold’ (i.e. without having to scroll down the Web page).

In addition, an efficient checkout process is essential. The inclusion of irrelevant payment options, cluttered upsell attempts and a confusing checkout layout can all reduce the number of successful transactions.

Online merchants should remember not to be intimidated by the leaders on the Experian Hitwise list. The secret is to stay nimble and act fast. Choosing the right sales and marketing strategies ensures that the advantage of social media channels and the direct customer relationships that they enable are fully leveraged. Affiliate channels are also worth investigating, as they can deliver significant sales increases.

It is increasingly important for online businesses to embrace multi-channel technologies, which enable companies to connect with the next generation of consumers. Mobile commerce is now well established and emerging channels, such as social commerce and in-game commerce, are gaining widespread use.

Merchants need to review their product offering and customer base to identify which technologies and strategies are appropriate for their businesses. Those unsure of the best direction to take should consider partnering with a proven e-commerce vendor that can put them on the right path to increase site traffic and revenue.

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Jim Wehmann serves as the senior vice president of global marketing for Digital River, a leading provider of global e-commerce solutions. Prior to joining Digital River in 2003 as its vice president of global strategic marketing, Jim served as vice president of marketing at Brylane, a company with more than $300 million in annual online sales and the nation’s third largest consumer cataloguer. Jim is a graduate with distinction from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, where he earned a Master of Business Administration. He earned his Bachelor of Science from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. He also has considerable experience and academic study in finance and is a CPA.