All the answers to your unique business lifestage questions
There are no magic beans out there that will make your online sales grow overnight - even if your name is Jack. But there are things you can do better to ensure that you do not fall behind.
Using the Internet as a platform for growth is the quickest (and sometimes easiest) way to achieve three goals at once. You generate exposure to a massive global market and can create more effective and efficient communication with less resources. You can also automate much of your customer service, strengthening relationships and ensuring your products are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
But the only way to build on this success in a sustainable fashion is to constantly monitor the effectiveness of your sales and marketing efforts. By assessing return on investment you can establish what you need to be doing differently in order to achieve your objectives.
Virtually every aspect of online marketing is measurable. This includes revenue, profits, new and repeat customers, order size, product information, shopping cart abandon rates, click-through statistics on online advertisements and even the receive/read rates of your online communications. The bad news is that most companies don't bother, and therefore never know how much - or how little - online tools are supporting their business.
Return on investment
Start measuring your own return on investment by asking the following three questions:
1. What is the goal of your website?
Your website should support your broader business aims. These might include, among others:
- Generating a specific number of sales.
- Generating a specific number of leads.
- Creating awareness of, and stirring interest in, a product or service.
- Informing and/or advertising the public.
2. What value can you place on each goal?
If you are selling products online this is an easy calculation. Establish your profit per sale, on a sale-by-sale basis. If you have a sales force, it's still fairly simple. Determine how many Internet leads convert to customers, and the average value of those customers. Then multiply the two.
3. Can you measure this goal in numbers?
For example, you can track the number of times a specific page or file is viewed using website traffic-analysis software. You can also track what time and where your customers entered the site, and where referrals to the site originated. In this way you can predict when people are most likely to visit your site, which pages interest them most, and which banners, links or portals are generating the most traffic to your site.
Once you know this, you can focus more effort on those channels that yield good results and less on those that don't.
E-commerce Dos and DON'Ts
- DO make the site compatible with more than one web browser. Test your site and system with other browsers. Some tweaking may be necessary and often these are very simple or minor fixes.
- DON'T underestimate concurrent traffic. Plan for the peak traffic periods when there are many users converging on a site simultaneously.
- DO offer information on competitive products. If you give visitors the information they need to make their decision, you will attract more shoppers and generate more sales.
- DON'T make your online store a standalone orphan. Make it work with other sales channels like mail-order catalogues, phone orders or face-to-face contact.
Consumers and business shoppers alike are increasingly turning to the Internet to comparison shop, check availability and to save time. Security, however, makes them cautious. Beef up your security and tell your customers all about it. Build trust by:
- Supplying detailed product descriptions.
- Providing clear returns policies or warranties.
- Providing good customer service when something goes wrong.
- Supplying lots of information about your business, such as a phone number and business address.
Be a friend
Customers feel more comfortable about buying online if you establish a bond with them. Here's how to do it on your website:
- Create an email address specifically for customer comment and make sure you are able to - and do - respond quickly.
- Create a way for customers to track their orders once they are shipped.
- Create a series of auto-responder email messages to thank customers for visiting your site, to offer an incentive for a further sale, and to confirm shipment.
- Send newsflash emails to announce new products or price deals, or create a regular email newsletter.