Four Top Tips to Increase Online Sales for the 2007 Holiday Season
Retail sales figures for October were dismal, and many analysts are predicting a lackluster holiday sales season. In fact, a recent study from the National Retail Federation expects consumer spending to increase at half the pace it did a year ago, marking the slowest gain in five years due to the national housing slump, consumer credit concerns and worries about a potential recession.
With consumer confidence down, traditional retailers, as well as Web retailers, must make every effort to ensure a successful holiday sales season. While traditional retailers can attract customers by offering lower prices, Web retailers need to do much more to ensure that customers not only come to their sites but also stay and make purchases.
In short, Web retailers need to "tune up" their Web sites to optimize sales during the holiday season, and the best way to do this is with Web site optimization using A/B and multivariate testing.
Web site optimization using A/B and multivariate testing has been proven as one of the most effective and immediate methods to increase sales volume, improve conversion rates and boost lead generation efforts.
Many Web retailers tend to freeze their holiday marketing initiatives early, assuming that any change would be foolish and risk harming sales. Consequently, Web retailers forgo the opportunity to fine-tune their Web sites during this crucial period of peak visitor traffic levels, when A/B and multivariate testing would be at their most productive levels. The key is to continuously use controlled, scientifically sound testing methodologies to understand which content most effectively persuades and engages consumers, and then act upon the results before the holiday season is over.
Retailers also can feel overwhelmed during the holiday season and believe they don't have the time to implement tests and changes to their Web sites. But the changes don't have to be dramatic or complicated. In fact, simple, incremental changes often can yield the best results.
Try any one or all of the following tips that can help you have a successful 2007 holiday season.
Stop the "back-button urge" by improving landing pages.
We all do it -- hit the back button even before a Web page has fully loaded because we don't see anything that interests us at first glance. In fact, research shows that an average of 55 percent of site visitors leave before viewing a second page. Every time the back button is pressed and the visitor returns to the search engine results page, your pay-per-click dollars are wasted. Frequent landing page testing allows you to curtail the back-button urge and drive visitors further down the conversion path. You'll not only improve your conversion rate, but increase the return on your existing pay-per-click budget, as well.
Target and optimize on product searches.
Never drop pay-per-click visitors onto a generic landing page or homepage. Instead, create a win-win situation by immediately presenting visitors with targeted content that caters to their intentions, as revealed by the keywords they searched for before clicking into your site. Spend time targeting and optimizing your site's entry pages by keyword or ad group, and you'll find that you have brought the visitors one step closer to conversion.
Constantly test and improve the check-out process.
Confusing or overly complex check-out processes result in abandoned shopping carts and lost sales. What content, forms and messages will compel your visitors most effectively through the checkout process? The only way to answer this question is to take the time to test new ideas -- even ones that might seem counterintuitive. Make the process count by testing each step of the checkout process. Do you have ideas for making the procedure clearer and simpler? Do you think that extra reassurances using messages about free shipping, pricing guarantees and other promotional offers will help you close the sale? Test all of these ideas now using live visitors and find out which are most effective.
Segment and target site visitors.
Using the information that your Web analytics system tells you about visitor behavior allows you to identify trends and distinct visitor segments. But don't stop there -- optimize your site around sizable, high-value segments that you uncover. For example, an electronics retailer identified a high-value segment as visitors who had been to the site two or more times within the past month; these visitors were three times more likely to make a purchase than the average visitor. Using segmentation, target your testing efforts toward visitors based on specific actions taken during a visit, purchase history and other metrics. Then use this information to make site improvements now, not later, to improve your bottom line.
Eric J. Hansen is the president of Boston-based Web site marketing technology firm SiteSpect. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.