Turn website visits into more sales

Contributor - Chloë Thomas

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When you are selling online, your best prospects are often the browsers that have yet to buy. Ecommerce expert Chloe Thomas explains how to understand your website visitors and lead them towards a sale

In any ecommerce business, the name of the game is turning website visitors into buyers. But before you start, you need to understand the different types of people visiting your site - they are not all the same.

Website visitors have come to your site from different places, triggered by different motivations. They may have received your catalogue in the post and just want to buy; they may have heard you on a podcast and want to find out more, or seen a recommendation from a friend on Facebook.

The simplest approach is to split them into three groups based on the action they are most likely to take on this visit; then you can work out how to encourage each group to make a purchase. In short, your website visitors might:

  • buy;
  • enquire (leave their email address);
  • leave (quietly, as though they were never there!).

Building trust online

The one question all three of these groups are looking to answer during their visit is: can they trust you? It's a huge leap of faith for any consumer when buying goods online. Does the product look like the one in the picture? Will it arrive? Will it arrive on time? Is this site real?

Luckily, there are a lot of simple things you can do to increase trust from the moment a visitor arrives on your website. Try to display clear information about:

  • your company details and address (in the UK this is a legal requirement, along with your VAT number);
  • your delivery and returns policies (free returns are great if you can offer it);
  • how to contact you, including a phone number;
  • any guarantees you offer - eg a 28 days money-back guarantee;
  • other reasons you can be trusted - eg recognised credit cards you accept, the security certificate you use, industry awards you've won.

An About us page with pictures (to prove you're real people!) is also great for building trust.

How do you get more buyers to buy?

First and foremost, you need to give visitors the information they need on the products you offer. This will vary from product to product; in fashion, you'll need plenty of pictures from different angles, washing instructions, fabric specifications, garment dimensions and so on. If you sell car parts, you'll need to provide a clear specification, plenty of pictures, installation guides and videos, car make, model and year compatibility.

To encourage the first-time buyer you might want to provide a very low price item that's representative of your offer - a tester, if you like. For instance, Miso Tasty has a £2 soup you can order with free P&P. That's pretty low risk for the customer, and enables the seller to prove they have a great product.

It's also a good idea to unleash some Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) on your website - using online analytics to improve the performance of your website. You can start with some user testing to find out how people really use your site and where they get stuck. Then a/b test some potential improvements - in other words, run the old and new side by side and see if the new version actually does improve things.

How do you get more enquirers to buy?

Everything you have done to encourage the buyers to buy will help you get the enquirers to buy too. But there's plenty more you can do.

That said, it's hard to persuade an enquirer to buy. The first step is to make it really easy for them to enquire and persuade them to give you their email address. With that, you can start the conversation and begin to win their trust - and that leads to the purchase.

But what can you do to increase the chances that they'll give you their email?

  • Make sure your email sign-up is on every page (putting it in the footer works well);
  • Make it clear you won't pass their details onto third parties and that you'll protect their personal data;
  • Be clear about what they'll get in return, such as information on products and news of offers or a discount off their next purchase;
  • Add a "pop-up" to your website - these come in many guises, some literally pop up, others are more like a hovering banner that's there until the visitor tells it to go away. Using these will dramatically increase the number of visitors to your site who sign up for your emails - it could go as high as 8% of visitors.

How can we start the conversation?

Once you have that email, you have a great opportunity to start a conversation with the visitor and build both their understanding of your business, and their trust in you. Both of those increase their likelihood to buy.

This is all part of a "welcome sequence". A simple welcome sequence starts with a quickly delivered email that thanks them for signing up, tells them a little bit more about you and what they can expect in the emails, and asks them to connect with you on social media too. Follow that up over the next few days with emails explaining more about your products. Once your welcome sequence is complete they will then get your regular broadcast emails encouraging them to purchase.

How do you get more browsers to buy?

Everything you have done to encourage buyers to buy, and to encourage enquirers to enquire, will help you get browsers to buy too. But there's still more we can do.

The casual browsers are the least likely to buy on this visit. So you need to focus on how you can bring them back again. They may give you their email address, but if they don't then you have no way of marketing to them in the future - unless you use cookie retargeting (aka remarketing). In this you use a system like Google Adwords or Facebook Advertising to drop a cookie on the visitor so you can advertise to them online to encourage them to come back.

Not all visitors are equal, but if you try these marketing methods to target specific types of visitor you'll quickly increase your sales.

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Chloë Thomas

Chloë has been working in eCommerce since 2003. Client side, supplier-side, as a consultant she experienced many many different types of eCommerce marketing over the years. Now she focuses on helping eCommerce business owners and marketers via her books and podcasts.

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