Editor's Note: This is part two of a two-part series on improving the conversion rate of an ecommerce site by managing its sales funnel. Part one, "Managing Your Ecommerce Sales Funnel," we published previously.
An ecommerce sales funnel refers to the steps involved in converting a targeted market segment into paying customers. In the initial installment of this series, I reviewed the first three steps of a typical funnel. They are:
- Step 1: Convert Target Customers to Visitors;
- Step 2: Convert Visitors to Prospects;
- Step 3: Convert Prospects to Shoppers.
In this final installment, I will review the remaining steps — 4 through 6 — that ultimately lead to a community of loyal customers.
Step 4: Convert Shoppers to Buyers
This is a crucial part of the process. For many online stores, cart abandonment can be 50 percent and checkout abandonment 20 percent. That is a lot of money being left in the shopping cart. Many stores don’t know why they lose deals. Here are some of the things you can do to reduce your abandonment rates.
- Watch your analytics. Rigorously monitor your analytics, especially the abandonment rates. If you see a sudden increase, there is probably a reason.
- Test your checkout regularly. Put an order through your own checkout at least every other week. This will detect items such as a simple change of a graphic or script that makes your checkout insecure.
- Shopping cart clarity. Make sure you have an easy-to-understand shopping cart that includes a description of the item, an image, price, quantity and extended total for all items, as well as shipping and tax.
- One step check out. Amazon sets the bar here. Having a one step checkout will likely increase your conversion rates.
- Guest check out. Do not force a shopper to create a login. Many simply will not do that. Offer a guest check out as well as a registered login.
- Have a shipping estimator. One of the fastest ways to cart or checkout abandonment is to not clearly spell out shipping costs or sales tax.
- Saving carts. Allow your customers to easily save their shopping cart for future use.
- Multiple methods of payment. Be sure to offer more than one way to pay. Offer credit cards, PayPal, and Checkout by Amazon, among others.
- Email cart and checkout abandoners. Many ecommerce platforms now offer the ability to email shoppers who abandon their carts during checkout or even during the shopping process, reminding them they have an open cart and offer to answer any questions they may have.
- Offer an incentive to buy now. As in the prospect stage, provide an incentive to buy now versus later. Present an offer with a time deadline on it.
- Offer a rewards program. Shoppers enjoy exclusive offers. Make shoppers feel special by offering them some type of rewards program for frequent purchases. This will create repeat sales, encouraging the shopper to buy now.
- Have competitive pricing. Be aware that its very easy to price shop. Assume that your buyers are armed with alternative prices. Be competitive.
- Chat and phone support. Offer a method to immediately answer questions from shoppers. Conversion rates will go up in most cases.
- Ask for feedback on your website. Many stores now place an obvious link to provide feedback. This engenders trust and the feedback can help you address problems.
Step 5: Convert Buyers to Customers
Is a one-time buyer really a customer? It depends on the type of business you are in. But I don’t consider a one-time buyer as a customer. "Real" customers are likely to buy from you more than once if they are happy with your product or service. Certainly, the cost of acquiring a new customer is much higher than retaining a loyal customer. So most businesses aggressively build their repeat-customer-base.
Here are things you can do to promote long-term customers.
- Deliver the goods. Ship the products your customer ordered in the timeframe that you promised. Document the items shipped. Charge the correct prices. Package the order securely. Ship via the carrier requested.
- Provide terrific customer service. Send a confirmation email with a tracking number. Respond promptly to any customer requests.
- No nonsense returns and refunds. Make it incredibly simple to return unwanted items. This does not mean you have to pay return shipping, but don’t haggle over returns. Also, don’t dispute missing items. It just is not worth it. You are always just a chargeback away from both alienating a customer and losing money on your sale.
- Customer follow-up. Send an email asking if the customer is happy with his order. Include a promotional offer or incentive to return to your store.
- Do surveys. Ask customers what they want to buy, how their experience was, what they like about your website, and other relevant questions. You will likely receive more input than you expect.
- Newsletters. Offer a topical newsletter that is not promoting something, but has value.
- Exclusive offers. Make occasional offers to your customers that you don’t post on your website.
Step 6: Convert Customers to Community
The last step in the funnel is converting customers into a community. This possibility exists largely because of social media.
- Engage in a dialogue with your customers. Blog about relevant topics. Post pictures and updates on Facebook. Tweet about new products or promotions. Post original boards on Pinterest.
- Have some fun. Sponsor a contest on Facebook. Conduct surveys and quick polls.
- Post customer stories or images. Solicit stories and testimonials from your customers, and post them in your store.