Five Tips to Turn Web Viewers Into Shoppers

Question: Two business partners and I run a small e-commerce website. We generate plenty of Web traffic, but we can’t seem to convert the views into online purchases. Are we leaving out something? Any advice will help.

Answer: Use Web analytic tools to determine how your site is performing overall. Who’s visiting and from where? How long are they staying on your site? What pages are they visiting? How far are they getting into the checkout process before abandoning their carts? There are many free Web analytic tools you can use to get this information, and many e-commerce platforms incorporate them in your storefront.

“It’s a good idea to constantly review your site’s analytics to determine where weak spots may lie or stumbling blocks may pop up that act as roadblocks to a sale,” says Scott Sanfilippo, co-founder of e-commerce consulting company Solid Cactus. You might also consider such software as CrazyEgg heatmapping. It allows you to see exactly where people are clicking on your Web pages. “That might reveal something about how people interact with a page that you can act on,” says Michael LaVista, chief executive of Caxy, a Chicago Web and application development business.

Once you have a handle on your numbers, here are five tips to improve sales:

Tell your story. Web visitors who land on a boring catalog page will not be motivated to buy from you. You need to engage them immediately by telling them who you are and why you’re selling what you sell. “Every great online presence immediately answers the question the visitor has, which is, ‘Why am I here?’” says Web innovation strategist J.P. Parker. “Answers to the ‘why’ question can be conveyed via any number of approaches: humor, clarification, pure enthusiasm, a call to conscience. The main thing is to be a human being speaking to your fellow human beings, authentically.”

Update and upgrade. If your site is more than a few years old, chances are you’re communicating in an old-fashioned way, LaVista says. Shoddy photos and copy that rambles on about how great your products and services are doesn’t work for increasingly sophisticated online customers. You also need to integrate your site with the social media hangouts where your customers are spending time. If your site doesn’t do that now, it’s time for a revamp.

Go mobile. If your site isn’t ready for mobile devices now, consider a makeover. “Your site is delivering a degraded experience for up to 30 percent of your visitors. In our experience, those visitors leave the site immediately,” says LaVista.

Test some options. Would making your “add to cart” button bright red boost sales? What about if you moved the button from the bottom of the page to the top? Detailed analytics let you test design and layout options and see what moves the needle on sales.

Make buying easy. If visitors are leaving after adding an item to their shopping cart, your shipping charges may be giving them sticker shock. Make sure you’re providing information about your shipping rates up front, so customers aren’t unpleasantly surprised when their total appears. “Many e-commerce stores are now using methods to try to capture sales that may be lost at the checkout by providing visitors with a popup that offers a discount when they attempt to leave your site without making their purchase,” Sanfilippo says. “These have been proven to provide the stimulus many shoppers need to enter their credit card number and hit ‘place order.’”

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