E-commerce Link: 'Tis the Season to Buy
As e-commerce continues to be the bright spot in an otherwise clouded retail landscape, successful multichannel merchants will take advantage of consumers looking to shop more online due to the convenience, cost savings in gas and the opportunity to deal-hunt this holiday season.
By implementing the following five proven tactics, you will be able to turn browsers into buyers, increase the amount shoppers spend and convert first-time shoppers into long-term, brand-loyal customers.
1. Improve Internal Site Search Performance
According to the MarketLive Performance Index (Vol. 5, 2008), the single most effective tool on your site is the search box. In fact, the percentage
of visits using site search is close to 40 percent. And even more impressive, site search contributes almost 40 percent to overall site revenue.
The best way to improve internal site search performance is to apply the Goldilocks Principle. If your site search results are too "hot," they provide too many search results, and visitors become confused and frustrated. If they are too "cold," there are few or even zero results, and searchers are likely to leave. The goal then is to set your results to a number that is "just right"—with the ability to sort or filter the results based on relevant product attributes.
Here are some pointers to get your internal site search just right:
- Review the performance of your top 50 internal site searches at least weekly.
- Utilize product keywords to maximize product exposure and gain consistency of result sets for the most common issues:
» Misspellings and variations—Do shoppers see the same set of results for singular vs. plural?
» SKU or merchandising attributes—Do shoppers get relevant results when they search on a specific SKU level or merchandising attribute, like "sale," "red curtain" or "size 8 jeans"?
» Shopper vs. merchant terminology—Will a shopper looking for "coffee machine" find a full set of results when you, as the merchant, use the term "coffee maker"?
2. Improve Product Page Conversion
The inability to touch, try on and physically view products is a major barrier to e-commerce. In fact, according to MarketingSherpa, 81 percent of shoppers seek robust product descriptions, and 70 percent look for advanced imaging features. Yet 50 percent of shoppers stated product photos and descriptions didn't provide enough information to buy online.
To overcome these challenges while increasing sales, the merchant must create greater product clarity online, especially on the product detail page. According to Forrester Research's The State of Retailing Online 2008: Merchandising and Web Optimization Report, 90 percent of retailers stated that the product detail page was a top investment priority for the next 12 months. And 85 percent stated improved product content on the product page as a top tactic.
To design a more effective product page for shoppers, follow these tips:
- Develop comprehensive product descriptions.
- Optimize copy specifically for the Web that is simple, succinct and scannable.
- Provide easily accessible service information and links, including in-stock status, product availability dates, shipping and delivery information, and links to product guarantees and return policies.
The best places to apply these ideas are on product pages with high page views and low conversion rates, on products that are performing in other channels but not online, and on pages with expensive, high-consideration products.
3. Reduce ‘One-and-Outs'
One-and-outs happen when shoppers exit a site after visiting just one page. This happens more than you may know. As a percent of all visits, one-and-outs account for close to 38 percent, claims the MarketLive Performance Index (Vol. 5, 2008). The homepage typically accounts for the majority of this and represents about 13 percent of overall one-and-outs.
To improve the engagement of the shopper on the homepage and reduce the one-and-outs, navigation and calls to action should support key user goals of shopping and service. It is also important to create awareness of the breadth and depth of your product offerings on the homepage by exposing subcategories and testing flash merchandising. Flash merchandising is a technique where a single image rotates every few seconds. Flash provides the ability to show different merchandising themes and promotions using the same screen real estate, ultimately giving the merchant the opportunity to appeal to a larger customer base.
In addition, one-and-outs can be reduced by meeting customer expectations from search engine traffic. First, it is important to lead your users to the most relevant landing pages. Next, make sure trust-building elements (satisfaction guarantees) and site-wide promotions (free shipping) are visible beyond the homepage. Finally, deliver on the promise of the paid search ad or natural search result.
4. For the Holidays, Give Shipping and Delivery Center Stage
According to Forrester Research's report Shipping Issues Continue to Plague Online Retailers, shipping and delivery issues were rated as the top problems/complications shoppers experienced during the 2007 holiday season. The top three included:
- "Shipping prices were higher than I expected" at 48 percent;
- "The item I purchased was not in stock or was back ordered" at 39 percent;
- "Shipping ended up taking longer than I expected" at 30 percent.
To overcome these challenges, give shipping and delivery center stage by communicating this information early and often throughout your site. Important details to provide include shipping cutoff dates, delivery time frames, in-stock status, shipping fees and customer service links.
5. Promote Worry-Free Shopping
Although many people are becoming more comfortable shopping online, it is still important to reassure buyers by promoting worry-free shopping. Here are three ways to accomplish this:
- Make return and shipping policies, privacy policies, customer service contact information, and product guarantees clearly visible on your site.
- Consider displaying security messaging or certification logos, such as Hacker Safe and VeriSign, within the main page template.
- Aggressively promote free shipping offers.
Implementing these five proven tactics can help you achieve your goals for this important 2008 holiday season.
Ken Burke is the chairman, founder and chief evangelist of MarketLive Inc., an e-commerce technology services provider based in Petaluma, Calif. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.marketlive.com/sitereview.