You’re (probably) not Amazon. So how do you compete with the ‘big guys’ and increase your key metrics such as Revenue, Margin and Average Order Value? Follow these tips and you’ll be well on the way. These tips combine SEO, merchandising and conversion optimisation and are easily achievable by any business owner.
Quite a long post this, so get comfortable and read away!
Here’s the list, read on for explanations.
- Buy something from yourself. You do this often right? Own up, when was the last time you did this? How smooth is your checkout process? Is it 5 pages of multiple fields and load of input or is it slick like Amazon or John Lewis. That’s the kind of question you need to ask yourself. Get a friend to go through it and comment as they go. There’s so much that can be done these days to make any checkout a really good experience. If your back end system isn’t up to the job perhaps now is the time to switch? A decent ecommerce system doesn’t cost the earth now and with just a few extra sales it could pay for itself.
- Use unique product descriptions. Google, and other search engines hate nothing more than duplicate content and if you’re using manufacturer supplied product descriptions and bullet points you are more than likely being penalised. Quick way to check for this is grab some text off one of your product pages (you need 5 or 6 words) then search for that – surrounded by quotes – on Google. So, just type: “here’s some text off my product page” into the search box and see what happens. If you don’t see your stuff, or even worse, see tens of results for the same product, you’ve got a problem. Rewrite it using, simple, unique, interesting text and problem gone. Easy.
- Add text to your category pages. Search Engines (still) love text, so give them what they want and write a paragraph or two and add that to your category pages. Make this text interesting, add your main keywords once or twice and you’ll be good to go. If you can add something ‘link worthy’ here as well, all the better. Driving links deeper down your site architecture is a massive win. Examples might be an area calculator (imagine you’re selling something by the foot/metre/litre) or a ‘how to use or fit’ this product. Be imaginative!
- Use images and video. Search Engines love images – people (buyers) love images too, so make sure you have some and they look good. For a product page, 3 or 4 images work well – make them high quality and zoom-able. Most eCommerce platforms build a thumbnail image automatically, if not, you’ll need to add a small one for category type pages. (Unnecessarily large images slow down page load speed – not good). If you’re on a budget take some snaps yourself with a digital camera and then upload them to a ‘make a white background of an image’ type online service (cheap) for pretty decent results. Also, name your images after the product not things like DSC001a.jpg that your camera will probably name them. For video, shoot something around 60 seconds worth, upload to Youtube/Vimeo (using product names as titles etc) and then link back/grab the embed code to this from your product pages. If you can ‘go pro’ with this then great, if not do it yourself and then edit/tidy up with some free video editing tools.
- Reviews. Get some. Don’t write fake ones, you’ll get caught – encourage your buyers to add a review by adding a card in with their purchase asking them politely to do so. You could even incentivise this by adding all reviews into a monthly prize draw to win something else you sell. If your eCommerce provider doesn’t have some kind of reviews plugin/add on (or at least a way to add a 3rd party one), it might be time to look at some kind of newer solution. Reviews are critical now for improved conversion. Find a way to do it. If you have a Google+ page or a Yelp type listing, adding reviews here is a good win. Again, ask nicely, don’t fake it.
- Upsells and Bundles. Improve your AOV (Average Order Value) by adding useful accessories to core product or bundling 2 or 3 things together. If these kind of things fit in the same package that’s useful too as you claw some margin back by reduced costs. For instance, if I was selling Ski Boots, I could add a bag and/or some cleaning products at a great price. Highlight this with a ‘you save xxx today’ message to make buyers aware of this. If you sell a ‘no-brainer’ add on separately say, for £6.99, give the option to include this with main purchase for say, £5. Simple stuff, but it works, just don’t go overboard with it.
- Promos. Akin to No.6, short term promos around peak buying times for your products is a known good tactic. Adding a time element helps too – “for this week, save £5 on all new xyzs”. Also useful for getting rid of older stock. Might be reduced margin but much better than having a load of old stuff to shift. Managed to save a few pounds on an improved supplier deal? Pass this on via a promo message. Leads nicely on to No.8
- Pre-Orders. If you have a popular product that always has good demand and is now available in a new style/colour etc, launching this prior to actual shipment with a saving or free accessory generates some buzz and helps with cashflow (you take the money up front). This kind of thing is a good message to add to your monthly/quarterly newsletter and social media channels. (you do use them, right?)
- Add trust. A known CRO (conversion rate optimisation) tactic is introducing or augmenting elements of trust during the checkout process. Add words like ‘secure’ or ‘safe’ to your checkout pages. I recently bought something from M&S and they had a really simple image on their checkout pages with three things on; Free UK returns – Secure Payment – Responsibly Source Products. Extra little tip here is add tick marks next to these bullet points. (M&S) do this). If you have in built security as part of your checkout via a certificate (e.g. Thawte) then drop an image in to show this. Of course, people know and expect their credit card details to be safe these days but showing they are with you is always a good thing.
- Repeat 1-9. Things change, competitors improve, Search Engines change – so set your self a task of doing this at least three times a year. Continually refining how purchasers interact with you is critical to success. Do not rest on your laurels. Be ahead of the game.
Phew – that’s it. This started out as a short list, I might turn it into an ebook! If you’re stuck or think I can help you with this, please get in touch.