Online shopping is becoming the norm for a lot of people, using the World Wide Web to help them manage their busy lives. According to Statista, a leading German statistics company, in 2011, the largest share of online revenue was generated by retail shopping websites, which earned them a whopping 262 billion US dollars. It is also said that by the year 2015, online revenue sales would reach up to 269 billion U.S dollars. That is how much money it is predicted that people would be spending online.
The key lies in the fact that a lot of these online consumers shop online because of the convenience and the lack of time. Above and beyond any other factor, purchasing online has been considered a heaven-sent for working people, especially during the holiday season.
“I just simply don’t have the time to go to the mall anymore”, says Linda, a working mother of two from Pasadena, Texas. “Work hours don’t usually happen between 9-6 anymore, it extends beyond that. If I have free time, I’d really rather spend it talking to my husband or playing with the kids, not shopping in the mall”.
Many working parents are in exactly the same predicament as Linda, and shopping online allows them the convenience of doing it anytime during the day, evening – or even at night. That is potentially very good news indeed for website e-commerce owners, especially for small time business owners seeking to find a niche in competition with the big boys of the retail market.
According to the same German statistics website, Amazon commands the top online shopping website in the world. Last year alone, this giant online retail phenomenon made more than forty eight billion U.S dollars in revenue. And in just a single quarter of 2012 alone, they recorded approximately 100.4 million visits per month.
Just a cursory visit to Amazon’s website will let the viewer on to the secret of their success: it’s just so easy to shop on their website. Yet, despite the example set by the leading exponent in its field, this simplicity is what many e-commerce website lack. Incredibly, this drawback especially seems to apply to many of the small ones. They must remember the reason why people shop online – to make their lives easier.
Therefore, if you’re a small-time e-commerce website owner and you want to win more customers – not to put them off – here are some pitfalls to avoid:
Make it easy for customers to find your website. This can be done by making sure that that your business website is included in all the relevant web directories available online. This is the equivalent of “word-of-mouth” in the e-commerce trade. Be seen. Niche listings in web directories will lead customers to your e-commerce door.
Niche listing of Barnes & Noble
There are broadly two kinds of directories – those that are free and those for which you pay. While free directories can still offer good links, they have backlogs and this means it will take some time to list your site. Opt for paid directories instead. This will ensure that your site will have high-quality traffic.
The downside about shopping online is that you can’t see and touch the product you want to buy. That is why accurate product descriptions are absolutely vital. Customers need to know all the information about the product and if it’s not there, you’ll lose them instantly. It’s best to make sure that product specifications are all there.
Dissatisfied customers tend to leave feedback, so a badly written product description can damage your brand or website. It is important, therefore, that all your product descriptions are expressed both accurately and compellingly. You want to entice the customer not only to hit that ‘buy now’ button, you want them to be satisfied customers as well. Invest in a good product description writer with sales experience: they will know the right key words to use to make your customers spend – and to come back for more.
Remember, people shop online for the convenience and because they the lack the time to go around the mall. Nothing irks an online shopper more than an obligatory registration process, especially when they’re doing it on their free time or snatching a few precious moments in their break at work.
Give them the options to register later or just to sign-in as a guest for an easy shopping experience.
One-click order option in Amazon Checkout
Time is gold. For online shoppers, easy does it for them. The easier you make their online shopping experience, the more you will be doing to save them the trouble of looking for a rival retailer. Having the option of a one-click order will appeal to customers who are only searching for one particular product and don’t have much time to browse around.
The following information is essential in order to make that crucial sale: payment, delivery and guarantee information. They should be easy to find. For payments, give them as many options as you can conveniently manage. These will range from PayPal, credit cards to debit cards. It’s also critical to ensure the safety of their payment and card information. The same importance should be applied to delivery and store policy information about returned goods, refunds and replacements. Keep it clear, simple and secure: that way you will inspire confidence.
Don’t make them waste their valuable time trying to look for information that should be easy to find. Make sure the information can be found in just one glance – well designed FAQ pages can cover a lot of base, use big bold and a bright color to ensure that it can be seen in one glance.
A key advantage that is enjoyed by shops in the mall is that you get personal service. Yet you will be going a long way to offset that by making it easy for your customers to get in touch with you. Once you’ve given them a first-time positive online shopping experience, chances are they will keep coming back for more and even help spread the word. A clear and prominent list of contact information will make it easy for your visitors to approach you should the need arise. If your customers are confident that you are putting them first, they will definitely not forget you and will want to spend more money on your site.
Here’s the scenario: you’re in a mad rush to get your shopping done in the supermarket and so you grab the first shopping cart you see. Yet, much to your annoyance, it is faulty and hard to maneuver! So you grab another one – yet that is no better, and so is the one after that. All of them are as bad as the first. What do you do? You abandon your shopping altogether and make a mental note to never come back to that store again.
Don’t let this happen to your customers because in the virtual world, a take-out basket that is faulty or complicated is like having a squadron of shopping carts with wonky wheels. In no time at all your customer will quickly hit the X button and search for another website.
Another crucial feature to include is to make it easy for your customers to cancel their order. Always provide options for them in every possible way and they will return on another occasion.
Size does matter, especially when it comes to buy buttons. The bigger it is, the greater the chance is that it won’t be missed. This button is the most important feature on your e-commerce website, so make sure it is easy to find and most importantly, it works! Ask your website designer to make the button in big fonts and bright colors. If you want them to hit that all-important button, make sure they can easily find it.
Remember the essential reason as to why people shop online is because it is convenient. They don’t want to trawl around the website looking for sites that sell the product they want. They want to find a simple, reliable retailer in whom they have complete confidence. That’s why e-commerce websites like Amazon and eBay have become giants. They are both user-friendly. If it is difficult to navigate around your website, you will lose the sales. Ease their path to purchase by making use of pop-ups with helpful tips on how to progress – you wouldn’t want to lose them just when you are about to make a sale. Make sure your order-process can be done in three easy steps: clicking the buy button, delivery information and payment.
“My main peeve is when the order process and payment form takes longer than it should be,” says Mark an online shopping enthusiast from Florida who admits to buying most of his gadgets online. “When this happens, I take my business elsewhere”.
The best way to give your customers as much options as you can is by having complementary items displayed along with the product they are considering buying. In order to entice them to buy more you can offer discounts with packages – the more they buy, the greater the discount. This will increase your sales significantly and both parties can feel that they have benefitted. Most online shops offer free delivery for a certain amount spent. Shoppers in general, love freebies and equally dislike what they think are hidden extras. Offer them a small token and they will surely come back for more.
Up-sell offer of Victoria’s Secret
“I love online shopping!” says Anne, a stay-at-home-mom from California. “One of the reason why I like to do it online is that there are always more options and more products on offer and deals to make! You just have to know when and where to look”.
Department stores invest in beautiful and artistically made display-windows. These windows attract attention and then lures in customers to start spending their money. That is why it is vital to use high-quality photographs on your e-commerce website. These images ought to be as visually appealing as those display windows in big department stores. They should inspire online shoppers to want to buy your products as it implies that the product and the service is of an equivalent quality. Remember – customers won’t be able to hold or touch your products physically, they will rely heavily on the look of the photos on your website.
Make sure you also offer them different ways to view your products, use 3D or product videos. These options will persuade them to hit the buy button and spend money on your website.
People who shop-online like to compare products, not just the prices but also the product reviews. They want to know the opinion of others who have bought the same product and how they rate it, whether it’s a five star – or a one star. That is why these product reviews are essential to any e-commerce website: without them you might as well close shop. It is also helpful to make it easy for your customers to leave their own reviews after purchase.
With the wide world web getting even bigger and technology driving shopping habits, the world of on-line retailing is here to stay. If forecasts are correct then there is still plenty of room for the next Amazon or Ebay. Yet, the really good news is that you don’t have to be as big as Amazon to make it. As long as you keep your online customers shopping experiences positive, you will soon find success. And who knows? In the years to come, you might just be the new Amazon giant.
More Read – Online Shopping by Statista
Image Credits – Shopping-cart over a laptop by BigStock