1. Well structured content

This can be a time consuming task but if there’s a logical, easy to use, product structure to your site it could be the difference between receiving a trickle of orders and running a serious online business.

Your products and pages must be simple to find. I know this sounds obvious, but there are so many sites that do not take the time to really get this right. Help your customers find their way around your store. Your online store should be comparable to a bricks and mortar retail store. For example, use clear signs/headings: Pay Here/Checkout, Customer Service/Contact us etc. Making use of breadcrumbs and logical URLs can assist too.

2. Product images / media

Don’t skimp on your product images. If you can’t get images direct from the product manufacturer then employ the services of a commercial photographer who has lighting and composition skills in order to display your products at their best. Of if you want to trim your expense, buy a small light tent with lights and do it yourself. Try to use more than one image; use close-ups, in-situ, boxed etc. The type of images will depend on your particular business sector.

Don’t just stick to still images, why not add live-action footage of your product! Even mp3 audio files.

3. Relevant information

It’s easy to do, but try not to make the mistake of being all things to all people. Lots of websites have lots of links to various products / services that are not at all relevant to the particular product / service page the visitor is currently browsing.

For example, if a visitor is browsing your tennis rackets section of your website then displaying navigations links, news articles, alternative products, comparisons and testimonials relating to running shoes will simply not resonate with your site visitor.

Furthermore, this will dilute your page relevance and make it difficult for search engines to categorise your page’s content.  Opportunities to up-sell and cross-sell should be taken, but with relevant products / services to gain the most impact.

4. Build confidence

Within the first 5 seconds of being on your website your visitor will make a judgement. Does this site feel safe? Will my order arrive within the next 6 months? What if I want to return my order?

Removing the barriers to sale by making use of testimonials, affirmations and endorsements. Use security-type icons and provide easy access to your company contact details, which include company registration address and contact telephone numbers. More details in point 8.

5. Reviews

Getting time to update the content on your site is going to be time-consuming. By asking your customers to review your products (maybe by way of an incentive, such as loyalty points – see point 9) you can organically grow relevant, unique content on your website. Furthermore, this could bring traffic your way by means of users searching for product reviews prior to purchase – what better way to conversion that having both the review and the product on your website!

6. Site Search

A real must-have. A great search facility placed within the masthead of your site. This has a double-edged effect: navigational assistance to your information / product catalogue and a great keyword discovery tool.

Use your analytics package to monitor which keywords your customers are using on your website. You may discover that there are certain products that cannot be easily found on your site, or even opportunities to extend your range.

7. Analysis

Absolutely essential. When integrated properly the use of analytics software can reveal exactly how visitors are using your website and understanding its effectiveness (or lack of it) by gathering key performance indicators (KPIs). Quantify your return on investment (ROI) from pay per click (PPC), affiliates, online and offline campaigns and conduct general usability research – your website should be in constant research and development mode. 

We use our own 3Rs methodology: Record, Review, Refine. Record your website’s activity (with analytics software); Review your findings; Refine your website to fix problems or generally improve / test the user experience. And so this goes on, ad infinitum.

8. Checkout stage

A crucial part of your website and one that should be monitored closely. Your checkout page/s will tip the balance of "sale or bail" from any shopper who has a shred of doubt in committing to the purchase of your products.

These pages must contain clear instructions on your refund policy, shipping / delivery times and whether prices include VAT / Taxes and shipping / delivery costs. You can use good imagery to convey secure payments can be made along with illustrating the entire checkout pipeline. Example below:

Your details > Order confirmation >  Payment > Order complete

9. Incentives

Adding incentives to your website is a great way to build orders and grow customer loyalty. Using promotional codes can motivate some customers at the point of checkout, but promo codes are more useful when deploying campaigns, such as an email marketing campaign. 

By making your visitors aware of RRP and your sale price can make a real difference. If you offer free shipping / delivery, then make it obvious. If you have shipping costs then why not try offering free delivery when an order is over a certain value. We have seen average sales increase on numerous sites by altering the free delivery threshold to just over 10% of the average website sale.

10. Memory

Slightly more sophisticated than some of the above tips, but one that will take your website to the next level; remember what your visitors are browsing / buying and build a visitor profile. Then present relevant products to them when they next visit the site. If you get a sale under you belt, then your future communications (like an email marketing campaign) with your customers should contain highly relevant and targeted information and offers, based upon their history when browsing your website.

The next time your customers visit your website why not welcome them with a “Hello John” we have some suggestions for you… Amazon has been doing this for years – it works really well.