The Four Best Gifts To Give Your Site

In the spirit of the holiday season, we web marketers should consider building a “wish list” for improving results on our e-commerce sites. The best way to build a wish list of services, applications or information that you want to make available to your online customers is to include your customers in the process.

What do customers think about your site? Have you done usability testing? Do you have a good feedback process to gather your customers’ wishes for your web site? Addressing these questions will have a positive impact on your online revenue. Even small improvements can yield big results.

E-commerce E-conomics

Recent surveys have estimated that more than 40 percent of computer users are likely to shop online this holiday season-an increase in excess of 300 percent over the 1997 holiday season. Wouldn’t if be nice if your site could capture even a small percentage of this growth?

If only 40 percent of computer users will shop online, and about 65 percent will use a credit card to purchase online, just imagine what a 10 percent increase in new online shoppers will do for your online store.

What if you could get more of your online customers to actually purchase online? Say that only 50 percent of your customers actually order online. What would a 50 percent increase in online orders do to your web site’s bottom line? There are many web practices, techniques and technologies available to help you increase online orders.

Gifts Worth Giving

Without further ado, here are just a few gift recommendations that could increase your web site sales come the New Year. If you already have implemented all of these recommendations on your site, then you deserve a big pat on the back. However, I suggest you revisit each item to make sure it works to your customers’ satisfaction, as well as gives you a competitive advantage.

1) Security information and guarantee. Of course, security is a standard feature on every e-commerce site. Although you have probably implemented a secure commerce system on your site, many customers are still wary of ordering online.

In order to improve online sales, make sure you do a good job of educating customers about the security of your system. Can your customers easily find information describing the security technology you use and how its protects them? You could even take it a step further and add a secure order guarantee: Amazon.com offers its customers the “Amazon.com Safe Shopping Guarantee.”

Essentially, Amazon.com assures its customers that they will have a 100 percent safe shopping experience. It also gives the customer an integrated way to order via phone if they don’t feel comfortable ordering online.

Since security is one of the top reasons for not shopping online, giving your customers a no-risk feeling about online ordering could yield you a significant increase in online sales.

2) Protection of customer privacy. Online customers have made their wishes well known. Their personal information is just that personal. So customers want us to protect their information. They have stated they won’t buy from sites that won’t protect their privacy, or they will provide false information.

And with recent legislative events in Europe with the European Union Data Protection Initiative, you may need to supplement or enhance your privacy policies. The EU initiative gives online consumers absolute control over their own data. It also demands that foreign governments do the same. As our users prefer to control their own data, we marketers should control our own destiny with good practices and self-regulation, rather than government legislation.

If you do not have a privacy policy, check out the policy generator on the Direct Marketing Association’s web site.

3) Cross-selling. If you haven’t done this, then you are giving up a significant opportunity to increase online sales. Why? Simply because cross-selling will increase average order size. Increasing average order size can translate into increased profit per order.

Cross-selling (a.k.a. “upselling”) is merely offering customers additional recommendations when they are placing their orders. If it’s done in an informative way, customers will appreciate the personalized service. What would it do to your revenue if 5 percent of your customers began to purchase two items instead of one each time they ordered? Once you make a music selection, CDnow provides other music title recommendations with its Album Advisor service.

You may be amazed how many cross-selling scenarios you can create by matching your customer knowledge with what you know about your products and how customers purchase and use them. Why not take a stroll through Nordstrom’s online store and witness some superior cross-selling. When I was last browsing Nordstrom’s online catalog, I selected a cotton v-neck cardigan and promptly received recommendations on cotton pants, leather belt and a cotton-rayon T-shirt to complete the look!

4) Order status and tracking. Convenience is a key reason for shopping online. Communicating order status (and/or letting customers access order status via your web site) is a feature that is quite convenient, and your customers will appreciate it. Amazon.com does a great job of sending an email when your order is processed, and then again when your order ships.

Recently, I ordered my brand new, super-fast laptop to replace my 2 year-old laptop that finally cried Uncle. After evaluating my options, I ordered the laptop from Dell. Then, with the anticipation of an expectant parent, I checked my very own online order tracking web page on the Dell site. It was a great feeling to watch my laptop move from order processing to shipping. I didn’t have to call anyone at Dell, and I could check status at any time. Convenient for me, a real cost saver for Dell.

In addition to these gifts, your site may be happy to receive enhancements such as simplified ordering, easy access to customer service assistance, site usability testing by your customers and formal customer feedback methods. More importantly, you’ll know what works, and doesn’t work, by asking your customers.

Ask online customers why they purchase online and what features they like best. Ask “offline” customers what it would take to migrate them to your web site.

See you online in 1999!

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