E-commerce selling is a little like offline sales, but also very different. With both offline and online sales, you need people to buy the products or services you offer, or to respond as a qualified lead for contact by an agency salesperson. But here is where e-commerce is different: Attracting people and changing them from prospect to customer, or sales “conversion,” requires a series of thought-out, integrated steps. Your conversion ratio — dividing the number of unique visitors by the number of completed sales or responses — tells you how well you are doing. Most e-commerce websites do terribly, converting less than 2% of traffic. By contrast, retail stores convert nearly 50%. You may feel that more people visit websites than stores to research or browse, but still, 2% conversion is a sign that real improvements can be made, and at no great cost. A few steps can improve your conversion ratio and capitalize on your Web traffic.
THE ONLINE DIFFERENCE
The main difference between e-commerce and offline stores or agencies is the lack of human contact at the point of sale. In store or agency selling, a salesperson can sense a prospect’s needs, ask questions and promote the product and service benefits that the customer is looking for. And since store customers have to be physically present, they are more determined and prepared to buy than online visitors.
However, e-commerce does have several advantages:
First, by using keyword analysis (News Flash: The Internet Tells You What Your Customers Want), you know what products, services, features and benefits your customers want, so you can stock the right products and set up for your prospects’ needs before they arrive. Then, by using search engine optimization (How To Search Engine Optimize Your Website) and pay-per-click programs (Pay-Per-Click Website EMarketing), you can use these keywords to bring in the traffic that is actively looking for what you are offering.
Traffic is still relatively cheap to attract, and you can “redecorate” i.e., re-merchandise and change offers, products or services — quickly. Your website is open worldwide 24/7. Web analytics programs such as WebTrends (www.webtrends.com) and WebSideStory’s HBX (www.websidestory.com), which are often provided by the Internet service provider (ISP) that hosts your website, let you track every customer and action and help you figure out what parts of your website are working and which aren’t, so you can try fixes exactly where they are needed.
ACRONYM TO SUCCESS
The acronym AIDAS (for Awareness, Interest, Decision, Action, Satisfaction) sums up the sales process. For e-commerce, this progression needs to be as fast, simple and easy as possible.
Creating awareness for Internet sales is done in two ways. People find new products and services when they search by their need. For example, searching for “low-carb cookbooks” will give you a list of book titles you may not have been aware of. Make sure that people are aware of your product through pay-per-click, SEO, traditional advertising, direct mail, in-store merchandising, trade shows, press releases, articles and word of mouth.
On the Internet, prospects want information fast: Take them to the products or services they are searching for as directly and in as few clicks as possible. If you can, showcase the benefits and the top two or three features. This should be easy because using keyword analytics, you already know exactly what they are looking for. Add links to supporting features; for example, Amazon provides a link to book reviews. A car dealer may offer “Internet discounts” to bring them into the showroom.
Sales decisions are made by prospects that have found what they wanted, the way they wanted it, and trust they are purchasing from a credible site. For the customer to make the decision to buy, he must feel comfortable; the look and feel of your website should match the qualities of your product or service. For example, a website selling medical goods should have a “health care” look and feel, and present a different kind of information than websites selling “fun” T-shirts.
Tony Grass is President of e-Market Intelligence, an internet sales generation consultancy and service. Previously, he built a traditional 65-person sales and marketing communications company in Chicago. Contact is welcome through firstname.lastname@example.org.