Six Tips to Improve Your Online Store

Online shopping, due to its immense potential, is an area of profound scrutiny. With multiple firms vying for customer attention, knowing what works can provide a valuable edge in the battle for relevancy. In this competitive climate, building a strong reputation, discovering what works, and enabling communications can put your store on solid ground. In this post, we’re outlining six tips you can use to improve the functionality of your online store.

Use the 3-Second Test

According to research, it takes human beings 7 seconds to form a first impression. For this reason, getting your foot in the door psychologically is crucial. When humans judge other humans, they prioritize things like trustworthiness and safety, and the same goes for online shops, which means questioning whether or not this perception is established in the first few seconds of a visit is a prudent strategy.
The 3-Second Test is an excellent way to discern the first impression your site offers. Ask yourself two questions: 1. Can shoppers tell what we sell in three seconds? And 2. Would a shopper trust us with their credit card? The emotions experienced by users are very real, and removing these potential pain points up front opens the door to interaction, engagement, and sales conversion.

Test Multiple Layouts

Knowing what type of product page converts customers is essential. However, rolling out one design or another and waiting to see the ROI is a wasteful approach. Any number of media items, aesthetics, approaches, and designs can help turn shoppers into customers, but a little user testing to determine which works best will go a long way.
Split testing, as it’s known, involves showing different layouts to different customers and observing the trend in conversion. For example, a rock-climbing supply store may wish to determine how to publicize its new line of shoes. In one layout, they use simple text descriptions next to expressive pictures. In another, they offer a video demonstrating their effectiveness in the hands of an expert climber. The final layout features an interactive Flash display that highlights key features and offers descriptions on mouse-over. By testing each of these, the store can determine which one is most likely to communicate their message most effectively, and generate revenue in the process.

Display Shipping and Price Prominently

As mentioned previously, the psychological experience of online shopping puts the onus on your business to remove pain points and facilitate sales. The underlying reason for this is truly revelatory. Joel Klettke over at iAcquire sheds light on “comforting the terrified“, articulating a process that involves examining where fear enters the shopping equation and alleviating it properly.
One of the major fears experienced by shoppers, he says, is the possibility of buyer’s remorse. In particular, customers who grab an item based on a great deal, and then find that the shipping puts them over their intended budget, are less likely to convert because of this unforeseen commitment. For that reason, make sure that your shoppers understand the costs up front by featuring shipping and price. This may seem counterintuitive, as asking users to process price before understanding the benefits may scare off potential customers, but being honest and up front about cost is actually beneficial to your conversion rates, offering confidence and understanding.

Build E-Mail Subscribers

One-time customers generate quick cash, but converts are the real boon of business. Turning visitors into devotees occurs through multiple channels, including social media and verbal interaction, but the power of email is particularly under-appreciated in today’s market. This is because, while social media offers the statistical allure of “likes”, retweets, and +1’s, these interactions are a surprisingly passive form of support, whereas email subscription translates into a consistent, robust line of communication, directly linking you and your customers.
Develop a call-to-action that encourages subscription and deliver value after subscription is attained. Placing a checkbox in the checkout process that allows for quick subscription makes the process easy, but other methods, including javascript pop-ups can help entice those who haven’t decided to purchase yet. Once your customers are on board, offer exclusive deals and early access to products. Delivering this kind of tangible benefit through the channel will enhance its efficacy in future communications.

Integrate Social Media

Word of mouth has been, and always will be, an effective marketing tool. This is because, while marketing pieces offer pleasing platitudes and attractive images, nothing beats the trust attributed to the opinion of a fellow consumer. The good news is that, while you cannot manufacture “organic” market permeation, you can enable it through social media.
As mentioned, social media does not necessarily provide an active relationship, but it does get information into eyes in a big way. On product pages, include sharing buttons so that customers can voice their approval or pose the item to friends, and get feedback that will influence their purchase. After a purchase is made, include sharing buttons that allow customers to become evangelists. The net effect of this small change is the potential for improvement of brand sentiment and inclusion in the social media conversation.

Feature Contact Info

Offering all these forward-facing solutions is an excellent way to get started, but a human face does wonders to further the business relationship. Offer your contact information plainly, regardless of the potential for customer service costs. Doing so will help get customer questions answered, resulting in more informed decisions, and help build a reputation as a company who cares.
This effect stems from the aforementioned milieu of fear involved in online purchases. Letting customers know that they have ready access to your business builds trust and provides comfort in the process through the knowledge that questions, returns, exchanges, and inquiries can all be addressed easily. Once again, this may result in greater costs from a customer service standpoint, but building a strong brand reputation will more than pay for the added expense.
Building an online store involves understanding the struggle of customers and testing new possibilities to see what works best. Determine whether your first impression builds trust and present your contact information to improve communication. Test multiple layouts and in all cases display important information prominently. Build a customer following through email and integrate social media for greater brand reach. By combining these techniques and keeping an open ear to customers, your income, image, and outlook can all see dramatic, positive improvement.

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