When becoming an online retailer, adding a new line, product or even a website redesign gives you the ideal opportunity as a business to implement and stick to a set of best practices. Ensuring these practices are adhered to is paramount and means you will have a clearer idea of what is performing and what you can do to improve areas of concern. Below, we discuss what essentials are to be included for best practice and how (and why) this can help.
If you are selling a product that your competitors are too, then how do your price points compare? For smaller retailers, it is often hard to compete with the larger stores, whether it be online or in bricks and mortar, but the price is one of the main reasons customers choose to buy and from where.
If we place the online shopping experience in a town instead and consider replicating it, the results are impractical at best. Digital Spy reported that on average, people visit a brand circa 9.5 times before purchasing. Visiting nine stores to look at the same product in real life is not usually a consideration for even the hardiest of shoppers. The increased visibility of prices across different retailers online means you must be competitive.
This is an average and different markets will of course experience this to a lesser or greater degree. The larger or more ‘considered’ purchases means people spend longer looking or researching that particular item. For example, the travel market sees people click over 35 times before purchasing, and if you are stocking a product that is classed as aspirational (high-end jewellery, cars, holidays, etc.) then you are likely to see people click on your products who have no intention of buying there and then. Remember that people browsing today could be a customer tomorrow, so offering options to make your product more appealing over a competitor may mean the customer revisits your store when they are ready to buy.
If your product is slightly higher in cost but you offer free postage or vice versa, then this should also be considered. Amazon Prime continues to go from strength to strength and 70% of its members state free postage being the number one reason for signing up. If you are a retailer that offers a product that has a high turnover which is likely to run out quickly and need to be replaced, then the goal is that your customer becomes a repeat one. Free postage and competitive pricing are two of the ways you can ensure that your website, at the very minimum, is checked by the customer when looking to re-order.
Engaging landing pages
A landing page is an entry point to a retailer’s website or specific page. If entry is hindered, customers are likely to walk away. Making a well-designed landing page, conveying the correct message with clear CTAs gives you more chance of getting that sale. If the UX is painful, the customer feels they have been misled in anyway or it’s hard to navigate then why would shoppers stay?
If you aren’t getting it right, one of your competitors will be; take the time to make sure your business is hitting all the right notes. It sounds basic but is the spelling correct? When you click on the CTA does it go through to the correct page? Does your website take ages to load? Does it look too pushy? Lastly, what is the design like? People are put off by all of the above, so make it count. With so many stores in existence and the fickle nature of shoppers, online retailers are forced to keep up with the times.
Don’t create your landing pages or website on personal preference but instead use the opportunity to go with what the data says. Your sales target should be the overriding factor for driving your website and landing page design and functionality.
When faced with the decision of loyalty points over discounts, over 40% of customers choose a discount. With so many options available out there, consumers are geared towards preferring an instant reward and this can give you the edge. Regular promotions, not just to those who have subscribed to your mailing list, but to any visitors can mean that your site is on that person’s radar.
There is always some stock that sells and some that don’t and so are you directing your promotions at the correct products? Sell out goods could be the reason people are visiting your website and so if it’s not available, a well-placed coupon for when it is back in stock could mean that customer selects you over a competitor.
Promotions are great, but if they are applied at checkout then make sure it’s tested before going live – having non-working codes at the point the customer is ready to part with their money will only cause them to lose faith in you as a retailer. If you stock like for like products as your competitors, then running a range of promotions can mean your site is more appealing over another. Keeping your content fresh on all fronts means your audience is more engaged, which is the pre-requisite for sales.
Google Product Reviews feature highly on the list when a shopper is looking online. No one wants to go through the process online and then not get what they were looking for – or worse, nothing at all. Getting stars against anything is good. We are programmed as humans to see a gold star as a good thing and so that is part of the reason that some retailers do well over others. Getting a good rating is harder than a bad one, we all know that a dissatisfied customer will tell more people than a happy one, and star ratings are the online equivalent of this.
In today’s online marketplace, retailers can make reviewing products or services far easier for the customer. Systems such as the feedback option on eBay mean that doing this is as simple as a few clicks. The same can be said of Google Shopping, but the crucial difference here is that these results appear at the top of Google, therefore it carries a significant amount of weight.
Investing the time and effort in collating Google Product reviews means you’re a seen as a trusted supplier and as a result, others are likely to trust you too. You must have 50 reviews in order to make a product review feed on Google, but this can be the incremental difference. Handling a bad review is harder than a good one because you are already on the backfoot. Customer service is always going to be paramount, online or in-store and you must make sure you have the right people in place that can represent your brand and company standards to the very highest level.
Cross and upsell opportunities
Upsell or the process of selling a more expensive product than the initial shoppers choice is key, as is the cross-selling of a complimenting product, both generate revenue, and both can mean a lift in your sales performance. This is the increase in sales that is so often missed and it’s even easier to miss actioning this online. In-store, a shop assistant will take your purchase at the till point, and no matter how poor the delivery, they sometimes offer another product. It has been the practice for some time now that goods are placed by the till point and we have all been approached to buy these at the point of sale – it works as a pure numbers game and some of this results in additional purchases.
We can replicate this online with the data retailers gather on their website sales activity. By showing our customer what other people have purchased, a complimenting item from the range, a discount for purchasing a stock bundle, an additional product to qualify for free postage – whatever it may be, offer it! In real life, a shop assistant can provide a consultative approach and soft sell to that consumer. In stores with higher price points, this is the norm but online that isn’t as easy.
In order to cross and upsell we need to do the legwork for the consumer. Online retailers must think if they are looking for more revenue then they need to sell more product. Going back to basics and offering the shopper additional items means that revenue will become higher, the increment of which depends on how intuitive this offering is.
Upsell emails are a great way of capitalising on revenue, across almost all of the different generations, people made at least one more purchase in a 3-month period from a targeted sales email. Sending well-timed marketing and even coupling this with a promotion can mean you have the opportunity to up and cross-sell your product offering. These emails, rather than being seen as spam, can give online retailers the chance to offer products to this community first and make them feel ‘exclusive’. Launching a new product to your existing newsletter subscribers, before launching online can offer significant benefits and increase the confidence of consumers in your brand overall.
Amazon really does have this process nailed. If you are unsure then it’s a great place to start to look for ideas on how to implement this and whilst we can’t all be internet giants, we can certainly take tips from those who are.
Good Feed Management
Feed management is essential. Without this, your product performance will suffer and mean that you’re pushing uphill as a business. You have to be accurate with your descriptions, colours, the brand, size etc and think about what people are searching for. The Google shopping feed contains all your product data and you continue to feed this list back to Google – this allows Google to update your product data if you change the name of a particular product, image, price, category, URL or the availability of the items that you have in stock.
Remember you need to have a GTIN number – if not your product will not sit in a compact listing if this is applicable. A compact listing is a listing that groups like products at the top of Google. Without this, your product will sit outside of the compact listing and could appear anywhere in the Google search results.
Below is a list that is required by Google in order to meet the requirements.
- Only promote products available for direct purchase
- Use an official language
- Tell customers about your refunds and return policy
- Collect user information responsibly and securely
- Follow the shopping Ad policies
- Verify and claim your website URL
- Make sure that your data meets the product spec
- Sign in to your Merchant Centre account regularly
- Website meets requirements
Whilst it is not beneficial for this article to go into depth on each of the above, if you are unsure of what each entail, looking at the following link would be beneficial:
Whilst it is apparent that the above requires work, what is also apparent is that it will pay dividends. During day to day business activities, it is very difficult to keep your Google Shopping regularly tended to, but smart management of this is imperative to your success as an online retailer. It is better to get into a productive routine that encompasses all of the above rather than squeeze this activity into free time as your results will never be consistent or measured easily.
This is the crux of your online business and without knowing your metrics, demographics and buying habits, you are blind.