TECHWISE : Websites that Sell (Part One)

TO: Steve Jones
FROM: Murray Smith
SUBJECT: Bad news – Geoff’s resigned

Hi Steve
Just got out of meeting with Tom, and he tells me Geoff has resigned! He’s the best sales guy we’ve had – sales are really going to go down the toilet now.
TO: Murray Smith
FROM: Steve Jones
SUBJECT: Re: Bad news – Geoff’s resigned

Hi Murray
Yes I knew he was planning to head off soon – but I don’t think it’s the end of the world. We’re selling quite bit from the website now, and if we can increase that, then we might not even need to replace him.
TO: Steve Jones
FROM: Murray Smith
SUBJECT: Bad news – Geoff’s resigned

Hi Steve
I hope you’re right! So what can we do to sell more from the website?

Selling via website can be low-cost and lucrative sales channel. But it’s not as simple as just launching website with shopping cart and sitting back to count the cash. It involves carefully thought out strategy, good design, and an ongoing attention to detail.
So how do you create website that encourages customers to buy?
Understanding how they buy is the first step. Ensuring that your website mirrors buyer’s purchase behaviour will help ensure you maximise sales.
So how do people make purchase decisions? Generally there’s series of stages they go through:
1 Realising need or desire
2 Researching possible options
3 Ranking options based on objective criteria (price, quality, availability) and subjective criteria (emotional response, brand perception etc)
4 Identifying supplier (again subjective and objective criteria will come into play here)
5 Transacting the purchase.
Your advertising and marketing strategy will likely focus on the first and second stages above. Well-targeted and executed advertising can help stimulate need or desire in prospective customers, and promote your company’s products or services as possible purchase. We’ll look at strategies for driving traffic to your website next month. But let’s focus first on how to convert customers when they get to your website.
Think about walking into store for the first time. You immediately sense what sort of operation it is. Are the salespeople sitting around talking to each other, or offering to help you? Are things well laid out, easy to find and attractively displayed?
A website is no different. The first time customer hits your site, they sense what your company is like to deal with. And the first thing that they’ll notice is how quickly your site responds.
Staff at TradeMe focus obsessively on keeping page sizes down and ensuring quick response times. I’ve lost count of the number of websites I’ve given up on because they’ve just been too slow or they’re barricaded behind glitzy looking “flash” splash-screen. So, Rule One is make sure your site is fast. Don’t let form get in the way of function!
Rule Two, is make it easy for the customer to find what they’re after. Easy, clear navigation is critical. Provide clear, obvious links to and descriptions of the products or services you are offering. If you have lot of products, combine them into intuitive “categories”. Think about the different types of customers that might visit your site, and ensure that each of them can find what they need from your homepage with ease. And provide prominent “search” option too.
Rule Three is take care in displaying your products. Think about the difference between well laid out department store with attractive retail displays and messy shop full of overflowing bargain bins and unpriced items.
All the information that customer needs must be easy to find – including the price. I avoid sites that don’t display pricing like the plague – especially those ones that invite you to fill out form asking for salesperson to contact you. To me, that says – “our prices are so high that we’re going to have to try and talk you into the purchase over the phone rather tell you here”. Price is one of my purchasing criteria – I need to know it.
Rule Four is make it easy for your customer to buy ( is great example of this). Customers not only want an easy online purchase process they want to know things like shipping costs, delivery times, return policies, after-sales support and warranty details. They may also want to use off-line ordering, so make that easy too. Think about providing toll-free sales numbers, online chat, email contact – in short anything that makes it easy for your customer to complete the sale then and there.
Lastly, ensure when the transaction is completed you keep your new customer well informed.
One of the best online customer experiences I’ve had is from Kiwi company Not only did it immediately confirm receipt of my order, it confirmed when the order shipped and followed up with post-delivery email to ensure I was happy.
Delight your customers with prompt efficient service, and they’ll come back again and recommend you to others. And then you really will be able to start counting the cash rolling in.

Mark Evans runs Techtelligence, and is director of Sway.Tech, marketing, communications and strategy consultancy for hi-tech companies. [email protected]

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