Want the website for your startup business to produce big sales? With so many web sales tools available today, selling online can seem deceptively simple. Yet there are so many ways to mess it up. Even entrepreneurs who believe they’ve hooked up with a good website designer find that building a site that looks nice and creating one that actually gets customers to push the “buy now” button can be two very different things.
Yet startups, and small business in general, are increasingly relying on the internet to drive sales, or at least add an additional selling channel. And many new businesses share the same predicament: They have sites that may look pretty but just don’t get the sales job done.
The good news is this: There are concrete steps you can take to improve your odds of securing online sales. A great deal hinges on your website usability.
Have you tested your own site? Give it a shot; preferably before you go live. Pretend you are a customer. Have family members, friends or anyone you can find give your website selling system a test drive.
Then ask the key question: How easy was it to find what they wanted and actually place the order? Solicit candid feedback. Ask them if your site comes across as professionally done and credible to would-be buyers. Is information about products and services presented clearly and efficiently, or is it stilted and clumsy?
Common components of website usability that help you sell successfully
Here are some keys to creating a website that can successfully sell your product or service:
- Easy Navigation. For a visitor intent on buying, there is nothing more frustrating than not being able to find what they want quickly and effortlessly. Don’t dump an endless list of confusing choices on the customer. Make categories clear and logical. Offer a way for buyers to narrow the options to those that fit their needs.
- Details, Details. The internet offers limitless capacity to provide customers with product details. But don’t hit them with all the big guns automatically. Give them the option of clicking to more information if they wish. Unlike printed sales materials that have limited space, your website can have multiple levels of detail available for the asking.
- Compelling Graphics. Sites featuring the same old tired stock photos of generic people or scenes are a major turnoff. Scrap those in favor of real people and places — you, your staff, your customers, your community or place of business. Hire a local photographer to take digital photos that you can place on your website. This adds personality and reinforces the notion that you exist in the real world.
- It’s All About the Product. Whiz-bang technology seldom cinches the sale. Surveys, chat rooms, wikis, forums, social networking elements and blogs may be tempting to add to your site, but make sure there's a clear relationship between the expense and effort of adding them and their ability to help you turn visitors into buyers.
- Speedy Checkout. Anyone who’s ever been stuck in a slow line at the grocery store can attest to the frustration of waiting to hand over your money. Make the checkout process on your website fast and simple. Don’t bombard buyers with last-second choices or pop-up ads.
- Cater to High Expectations . In this age of mega-sites that deliver amazing speed and service, customer expectations are greater than ever before. With a few mouse clicks, they expect an email confirmation instantly and a package at their doorstep next morning. You’ll need to romance the customer and offer stellar service to stand out.
- Coax Customers by Stages. Filling out forms is often necessary, but keep them simple and break them into bite-sized parts. If your business needs to gather specialized customer information for a legitimate purpose, consider a stepped approach. Ask for just a few items first. Once they complete that, ask for a few more items so no single stage is too overwhelming.
- Keep a Customer Focus. Every speck of your website should be created with your customers’ goals and needs in mind, not just the needs of your business. If your site offers or requires a registration process, for example, don’t force buyers to answer endless questions designed to fill your need for marketing demographics. Customers want to know how the information they are providing will help them, not you.
Our Bottom Line:
We all have a tendency to be romanced by websites that are fun and that offer pleasing “eye candy.” But as the field of e-commerce matures, the internet marketplace is discovering that the science of creating websites that entice visitors to actually buy requires a very specific focus on fulfilling the customer’s needs. If you design a site with customer website usability as your paramount concern, you will go a long way toward improving your online sales.
© 2005 BizBest Media Corp.