An online merchant’s most important marketing and sales tool is a content-rich, visually interesting, and factually accurate website.
In this edition of “eCommerce Know-How,” I am going to propose six ways to improve your site, and I am offering these methods exactly five months before the holiday shopping season (November) begins in earnest, so that if you’re a business-to-consumer seller, you’ll have time to implement at least a few of these upgrades.
Video: Six Ways to Improve Your Online Store
No. 1: Upgrade Your Product Descriptions, Using Three Sentences Or Less
You’ve likely heard a lot of advice about writing good product descriptions —in fact, look for my take on writing good product descriptions in a forthcoming “Ecommerce Know-How.” And while I find most of that advice helpful, I think that the key to effective product copy is in telling a real, emotion-arousing story about the product.
As an example, James Chartrand, a professor at Solo Practice University in Quebec, Canada and a professional blogger, encouraged his readers to pick up a bottle of Jergens Sensations hand soap and peruse the label.
“Energize your senses with the exotic infusion of crushed Green Tea and fresh, delicate Lemon Verbena… This rich, luxurious formula envelops your hands in a refreshing bouquet while gently cleansing your skin. Your hands are left feeling clean, soft and freshly scented,” wrote Chartrand, quoting the hand soap package.
How much better was that description than “This soap contains green tea and lemon verbena?” Jergens’ packaging tells a story (flowery as it is) about what the hand soap will do for you. Try telling stories with your site’s product descriptions.
No. 2: Use Video for Product Demonstrations, Merchandising
Online video has become extremely popular. Earlier this year comScore, an Internet-trend monitoring company, reported a 13 percent one month surge in online video viewing, as Americans consumed approximately 14.3 billion videos in December 2008 alone. That’s a strong indicator that consumers are video savvy.
And according to an excerpt of MarketingSherpa’s 2009 Ecommerce Benchmark Report, approximately 70 percent respondents endorsed “the implementation of product videos, which can tell a story more powerfully than any product page or list of features can.”
No. 3: Use Adobe Flash, Flex, and jQuery Plug-ins to Merchandise and Cross-Promote Specials
Merchants that provide these advanced shopping experiences now can gain a competitive advantage, earning customer loyalty and additional revenues.
- Border’s Magic Self is a cool, visually interesting product promotion tool that I use and, frankly, play with.
- Creative Advertising USA’s Flex-based Creative Canvas lets customers design t-shirts and upload their own content. This sort of application will become common in the near future.
- Walmart’s simple banner rotation widget is something you can implement this afternoon, so don’t wait.
No. 4: Implement Product Reviews and Ratings
Some 74 percent of respondents [to MarketingSherpa’s 2009 Ecommerce Benchmark Report] who have implemented consumer reviews (and/or ratings) report that they are an effective way of increasing sales and engagement.
Reviews and/or ratings let users interact and provide product information on your site. And they work. Several studies have shown a 30 percent or greater increase in product sales as a result of advanced customer reviews.
No. 5: Add a Cross-Selling, Suggestions Tool
In brick-and-mortar stores, few customers only look at one item. Rather, even if they purchase just one product, they are exposed to dozens, if not hundreds, of merchandising messages that are likely to have an effect on future purchases.
Try to emulate that sort of merchandising experience online, creating cross-selling opportunities that both bring value to your customers and help improve your bottom line. As an example, cross-selling tools can include lists of related products and items, recently viewed items, popular items, or “customers that bought X also purchased Y and Z.”
No. 6: Get a Single-Page Checkout
Don’t make your customer click and click and click to get through your store’s checkout process, rather upgrade to a single-page checkout. Capture all of the information that you need to process an order in a concise form that requires just one screen.
Unfortunately, this might be my most difficult suggestion, since the checkout process is often intrinsic to your shopping cart. But if your customers have to click more than three times to place an order, it could be time to change your shopping cart.
- James Chartrand’s Copyblogger article, “What Jergens Hand Soap Can Teach You About Crafting Compelling Copy”
- comScore’s “U.S. Online Video Viewing Surges 13 Percent in Record-Setting December”
- A PDF excerpt of MarketingSherpa’s “2009 Ecommerce Benchmark Report”
- Pew Internet & American Life Project’s “Broadband access has doubled for many age groups, tripled in oldest groups”
- Power Review’s “NetShops Case Study” PDF regarding product reviews.