There's no question that we're living in the age of online commerce. Tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of consumers take to the Internet every day to do their shopping from the comfort of home. On the other side of the equation, hundreds of new web-based enterprises spring up daily, offering goods or services to those shoppers. If you're reading this article, chances are you're one of those entrepreneurs.
It's also likely that you're disappointed in the lack of sales your site has made. The sad truth is that the majority of web shops fail within the first 12 to 18 months of operation, so there's no need to feel alone. Hopefully, however, the information in this article will help you avoid becoming one of those statistics. I'm going to describe 5 of the most common reasons for low or nonexistent website sales and offer some advice on how to correct those issues. Ready? Here we go!
1) Useless Traffic
I'm always surprised at the number of shop owners, book sellers and other entrepreneurs that operate their businesses on the premise that millions of visitors are the key to success. The truth is that using this approach will probably result in a conversion rate of less than 1%. Ten visitors that are actually looking for what you're selling are far more likely to make a purchase than a hundred who were fooled into visiting.
Those ten visitors are known as qualified traffic and they're the not the direct key to success, but getting them there is the first step in boosting (or starting) your sales. Those unqualified visitors really just increase the load on the server and can even hurt your reputation by spreading the word about a misleading link that brought them somewhere they didn't want to be.
How to fix it: Stop using hand-grenade promotional tactics and start using a sniper. Target just the consumers and/or businesses most likely to want or need what you're offering and get them to your site.
Initially, you'll need to to this with a customer analysis, which is an integral part of any business plan. If you started without a business plan, it's not too late. Customer analytics should drive every part of your marketing, from web design to keywords, to promotions. You don't have to be an expert, although it's certainly a good investment to hire one for this. If you're more of a hands-on business owner, there's a great “Dummies” guide you can download FREE from IBM. Grab it here.
2) Poor Site Design
Make no mistake here; the design of your store matters! There's nothing worse than a tedious, busy storefront that's hard to navigate, loads slowly and doesn't actively promote your products or services. If the concept of promotion through design is hard to grasp, here it is in a nutshell: your website needs to showcase what you're selling, rather than the alleged talents of a graphic artist or designer.
That last may sound harsh, but we're talking about what's good for your business. There's a rule of thumb you need to learn: You have 7 seconds or less to focus the attention of your prospective customers. That means your offerings need to be visible in a hurry and that isn't going to happen with a lot of distractions or worse, while they wait for your bloated site to load. What's more, your site needs to be navigable on a host of different devices, from smartphones to big-screen televisions. If it's lacking any of the above, you're in trouble.
How to fix it: Fortunately, this one is easier today than ever. There are a host of incredibly smart platforms on which you can create and run an e-commerce site and most of them are offered by hosting services or include their own hosting options. They're easy to set up, easy to manage and there are thousands of clean, responsive e-commerce themes available for each of these platforms.
Take a good, hard look at your site and have a few friends look it over, too. If it's a clunker, get yourself a WordPress, Magento, Wix, Shopify or other account and create a proper storefront. Each of these platforms can be outfitted with a plethora of plugins, modules or extensions to help you promote and sell your products.
3) Visitors Don't Find what They Want
This problem is much more common than you may think, even if you're doing a good job of getting qualified traffic to your site. Knowing exactly what your prospects are looking for and getting it in front of them ties in with that 7-second rule mentioned above. This is especially true for shops with a wide variety of products or run simultaneous promotions for various offerings. If a customer can't find what he or she wants quickly enough, he or she will look elsewhere.
How to fix it: A good search feature is one of the most powerful tools available for conversion. A search engine that learns what visitors search for and suggests those items is even better. There are a good selection of search add-ons available, but there's one I particularly like because it performs both of the functions mentioned above and does something even better.
Instantsearch+ by FastSimon not only give you an intuitive search feature for clients, it collects data from the searches and gives you a dashboard to analyze that data. You use the information to determine product placement, see what promotions are working and even decide what products to stock based on what your visitors are looking for. It's available for each of the platforms mentioned above and as a custom version. You need this. Visit Instant Search+ website and add it to your site today.
4) You're Not Learning from Your Visitors
This one ties in a little bit with the last, but there's more to know. Each visitor to your site leaves clues that you can learn from, as pointed out in the last section. On the other hand, there's no reason not to simply ask your potential buyers about their experience. What did they like? What did they dislike? What should you add to your inventory? There's a wealth of valuable information you can gather just by asking.
How to fix it: One word: feedback. It's one of the most valuable tools you have and if you're not using it, you're losing business. To begin with, asking for your customers' opinions tells them they're important to you. The real value for you is in what they say, even if it's negative. Learn from it. When you get positive feedback, pat yourself on the back and post it on your site.
There are several different ways to request, gather and use feedback. Add-ons for most platforms are available to create feedback forms, popups, requests on receipts and other mechanisms to utilize customer input. Here are a few, just to get your search started:
5) You Let Visitors Leave Without Buying
That sounds pushy, I know. No matter how it sounds, the fact is that there's a huge weak spot in most online shops: the lack of an exit-intent offer. That's a marketer's term for grabbing your visitor just before he or she “walks out the door” and saying “Hey, wait a sec! Did you see this?”
The trick is to offer them something they're probably interested in seeing. Most shop owners that can manage that have reported that they can capture sales from roughly a fourth of those potential buyers with a well-targeted popup. Pushy or not, I'm willing to bet your site could use those sales.
How to fix it: This is a two-stage process. First, you need to know what, if anything, the visitor looked at and second, you need to offer them something relevant. It's called on-site re-targeting and there's a great add-on that's designed specifically for this purpose, called Optimonk. It works with almost any platform and marketing software package.
I'm going to let this one speak for itself. Visit Optimonk.com and learn all about it.
That's a Wrap!
Although the list above is far from complete, these are among the most common reasons for slow or nonexistent website sales. Try each of the fixes and see if you don't gain some sales from your efforts.
This guest post is courtesy of Evans Walsh.