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Monday, October 18, 2004

 

Convert Visitors into Customers

The frustration for Johnny was obvious. His website had strong visitor traffic numbers, he thought. Johnny’s site offered a complete line of very good, and highly reputable products. He thought he had set up an acceptable way to buy them online.

There were plenty of visitors arriving daily to make any online business a major success. The problem for Johnny was, despite the large number of people visiting his site, not many of them bought his products.

It is an all too common problem. High visitor traffic numbers don’t always translate into strong sales numbers. Like many other websites, Johnny’s site suffered from a low conversion rate. Changes were required to turn that heavy flow of visitor traffic into paying customers.

Most sites that suffer from low conversion rate do so as a result of focussing on the business itself, rather than the customer. The website problems range from poor web design and navigation, to weak sales copy, to difficult shopping cart use, to simply failing to meet the potential customers needs and expectations.

Not recognizing the overall lifetime value of a customer, as well as the immediate benefit to the online business, results in a failure to retain paying customers as well. Fortunately, there are ways to turn those prospective clients and customers into paying customers, who return to buy from your business, over and over again.

Assessing the problem

When a website has high levels of traffic, but limited sales, the low revenue problem often becomes lost. The huge visitor numbers mask the low level of conversions from visitor to customer. The good news is once the reasons for the weak conversion rates are diagnosed, the problem can be corrected. The first step is to find out where things went so terribly wrong.

Often there are only easily correctable problems in website design. More difficult issues of website navigation, and problems with ineffective sales copy, are often standing in the way of higher conversions as well.

Often, the first step toward improving a site’s conversion rate is admitting there is a problem with the existing site. Surprisingly, may website owners either fail to understand their site is not converting visitors to sales, or won’t even accept there is a problem.

The reason for not admitting a conversion problem is usually one of two things. The first difficulty is the webmaster spent hours creating the site, and is unable to accept that it might not be perfect. The other reason is having spent thousands of dollars to an alleged website expert, the website owner doesn’t want to think that the site was not an effective sales tool. Step one is admitting there is a problem. Once that hurdle is cleared, improvements to the site can be made and more sales will result.

Each problem needs to be assessed one at a time. Following each change, a test should be completed to determine the effectiveness of the site improvements. In many cases, previous website research supports some design changes as generally effective.

The testing in those cases, has already been completed by others, over many websites over long periods of time. Those proven concepts of website design, can be immediately applied to an underperforming site, and achieve improved results.

Improving the website design

Often, small changes in website design can mean huge leaps in sales conversion rates. Simply making the site more visitor friendly will do wonders for your online business. Two of the more common deterrents to conversion are often the most clung to design aspects. They are improper page sizing and the use of too much flash.

Make certain that the site registers properly in all commonly used internet browsers. Not all searchers use Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6.0. The other major operating systems and browsers should all be checked for loading your site correctly. Don’t miss out on potential buyers simply because they use Macs, or prefer Firefox as a browser.

Overly long pages that require the user to constantly scroll down are not conducive to sales. There is too much work required of the prospect. In fact breaking the page into more than one page creates additional site size, creating more entry paths to the site. Placing only the essential buyer information on the page makes it less likely to lose potential customers before they reach the end.

Even worse than pages that are too long are pages that are too wide for most computer screens. Horizontal scrolling is an irritant to most website users. They will abandon a site that requires side to side scrolling very quickly. The problem stems from designing a website that fits a 21 inch screen, but is over sized for all others.

An internet commerce site designer must recognize that smaller monitors are far more common than large ones. Fitting the majority of the customer screens will immediately increase sales due to the longer visitor staying time. Length of stay is easily found in visitor traffic logs.

An even larger problem for visitors is excessive use of flash. Website intros, written in flash, are usually skipped if possible. That option should definitely be available with a single click. Better yet, avoiding flash intros entirely should be considered. Within the site, flash often distracts from the sales message, and causes prospects to leave the page, or even the site, taking their cash with them.

If a short flash movie is required, to demonstrate the product in use, provide a clearly marked link for those who wish to view it. Forcing the flash movie onto everyone will lose far more potential buyers than it will gain.

Improving ease of site navigation will add many more sales. Providing an easy to tour site will increase conversions, simply by the helping the visitors find the products, and making it easy to buy them. The use of a good site map, and easily understood page linking, is essential.

Sharpening up the sales

Everything related to onsite product sales should be geared toward converting the visitors into paying customers. Once convinced to buy your product, it’s important to make that purchase as simple as possible.

Taking a second look at a site’s sales copy, and rewriting it to reflect product benefits to the potential purchaser, usually yields strong results. Many site owners focus on themselves. They talk about “me”. Instead the copy should concentrate on the buyer, and talk about “you”.

While a customer focus might seem logical and self evident, many sites are guilty of talking about themselves. Leave the company focus for an About Us page. Visitors who are interested in company information, and the people within the organization, will click the link.

As an additional service to your customers, make your business easy to contact, with physical address, e-mail, telephone, and fax. Many prospects aren’t interested, but for those who are concerned about you and your business, make yourself easy to find and contact.

Taking a closer examination of the wording in the site’s sales copy will pay huge dividends. Take the time to research what your buyers wants and needs include, and offer to fulfil them. Make certain that every word in the copy leads toward the sale. Check all of the buying links to ensure they lead to a closing page or shopping cart with a single click.

Whether visitors arrive from an e-mail newsletter link, an adwords, Overture or other pay per click program, or from an a paid ad or banner, make sure each one has a separate landing page. Repeat and close the special offer outlined in the ad or newsletter.

Taking care of the customers

Providing a specialized landing page for your site’s most important keyword and keyword phrase searches will really pay off. If searchers go directly to a page on your site that answers their wants and needs, it’s far easier to close a sale. The concern with your searchers, as people whose needs you want to satisfy will help increase the site conversion rate.

Using unique landing pages enables a webmaster to track the conversion rate of each ad and landing page combination. If the conversion percentage for any one of vehicles is lower than the norm, that option can be readily discovered and improved.

Always have easy to read and understand privacy and security policies. Write the policies in plain language and make them easy to find. Don’t hide them, or your prospects might suspect you have something to hide. To get names, addresses, and credit card numbers, a webmaster must gain the complete trust of the potential buyers. Falling short of that lofty goal will send your prospects elsewhere.

By providing a highly secure site, with assurances of complete privacy, more visitors will feel confident to purchase your products. Always have top industry standard encryption for sending and receiving secure information. It’s absolutely vital for credit card numbers.

Be sure to never sell, rent, or give away your customer names or personal information either. As an additional service to your customers, make your business easy to contact, with physical address, e-mail, telephone, and fax. Even the slightest hint that a site has lax security policies will cause sales volumes to collapse.

Understanding the lifetime value of a customer is essential to adding more sales to your ledger. Every study on cost of customer acquisition concludes that it’s cheaper to sell more to an existing customer than to find a new one. Many experts believe the cost of new customers is seven times higher than maintaining existing customers.

By making your site visitor friendly, you can retain those newly added customers, and benefit from their purchases for a lifetime. As a bonus, they will recommend your business to their friends as well.

Conclusion

High traffic volumes don’t always automatically translate into paying customers. Most websites have room to improve their conversion rates.

By taking a customer focussed approach, a website owner can dramatically increase the total number and size of the online sales. Make certain that the sales copy, and content in general, have the visitor in mind.

By making some changes in the website design, making it easier to use, visitors will stay longer and be far more likely to become customers.

Take care of your customers, and over their lifetime, they will take care of you.


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