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How to increase your online sales

Traffic to your website is flowing freely, but are you converting that interest into actual sales? Gemma Haggarty, MD of search marketing agency Steak, explains how to increase your online sales, turning web visitors into customers.

Many websites rank highly in search engines and get lots of traffic but achieve low conversion rates when it comes to making online sales. There are many potential reasons for this, from pricing and product to navigation and security. You could have two websites with the same products at exactly the same price but they would get different amounts of business because of issues such as ease of use and trust.

Improve your website navigation

To encourage site visitors to purchase from your website it needs to be very well laid-out, clean and clear. Navigation is absolutely imperative. If people find your website awkward and cumbersome and can't find what they want, they will go and find it elsewhere and they won't come back.

User-friendliness is important. You have to keep everything simple, professional and consistent. You can't afford to make spelling errors, for instance. It's also important to keep things as intuitive as possible. You must use obvious section names and remind the user where they are in the site. Use a strong call to action to get them to buy.

You need to minimise the number of clicks from landing on the home page to reaching the checkout. The whole purchasing process has to be as quick as possible. That means not forcing users to open an account in order to buy something and not having to input lots of unnecessary information.

Build trust with website visitors

It's much easier to build trust than have to rebuild it. It is important to get all the elements right from the off. However, some small businesses have had an online presence for over ten years and may not be getting it quite right. There's no reason why you can't do something about it now.

Online businesses do not have face-to-face contact with customers so they have to find other ways to convey the fact that they are trustworthy. You should try to get as many accreditations as possible, including association and trade body membership. Join local business groups to show you are part of the local community. Include endorsements, testimonials and case studies from customers on your website.

Try to personalise your site as much as possible and feature real people. When there's no face-to-face contact, it's good to have a human element.

Security is an important part of trust. Always display the payment providers you work with, such as PayPal. And it's good to have a Verified by Visa sign and a VeriSign SSL certificate.

Be transparent about extras

Honesty and openness are vital. Always be clear about all your costs and delivery prices — no-one likes a shock at the point of purchase. Include full details about delivery. FAQs are a good way to pre-empt customer questions.

At the same time, you should make sure you are easy to get hold of and that you supply all of your contact details. A phone number is always best. During the buying process, try to minimise the amount of information you ask for. Consumers don't like having to provide too much detail — you have to make it clear why you are asking for the information.

Think about your target market

Think about your target market. You should always remember who you are selling to. If it's a younger market, then they are likely to be web-savvy. But if it's an older group, you have to do everything to make people feel safe. Tailor content to the user.

At the same time, you need to track and analyse your website and those of your competitors. Ask customers for feedback, run user surveys, build a database and contact them with relevant information, not spam. Try to establish an on-going process that enables you to find out what your customers like and dislike.

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