Online retail has come of age. In the U.S. alone, more than $12.7 billion worth of merchandise was sold online during the first 25 days of the November-December 2011 holiday season. With these kinds of figures, it’s no wonder why everybody wants to have a piece of the action. As opposed to traditional retail wherein you would need a substantial investment on top of your inventory cost: rent, overhead, staff, online retail offers relatively fewer hindrances. This doesn’t mean putting up an online retail operation is just a few mouse clicks and keyboard strokes away, however. There are still challenges to overcome and issues unique to this type of retail to address.
- Ease of navigation is key. Regularly check for dead links and address them immediately. Optimize images and code to make pages load quickly. Whatever layout you decide on, have the “buy” button or cart icon accessible and always on the ready. You might be surprised to find out that many sales are lost just because of a slow checkout process. Just think of it as standing in line at the cashier. You got your stuff and you have your money. Any unnecessary waiting will naturally wear out your patience. Avoid making customers fill out membership forms or having them create accounts before a purchase. Do those formalities later. Having your system track the information automatically without requiring additional effort from the customer is best.
- You have to keep up with developing trends too. With tablets and smart phones going mainstream, more and more people are using these devices to buy things online. The 2011 holiday season saw the percentage of online sales made via mobile devices double from the previous year’s 5.5% to 11%. You have to make the mobile version of your website touch-friendly to capitalize on this trend. The size of a human’s fingertip has essentially remained unchanged for thousands of years. It’s baffling then why so many websites still insist on using tiny icons and links that are impossible to click using one’s hand. Avoid giving your potential customers unnecessary frustration and watch your sales increase.
- Have a coherent casino online theme. You wouldn’t think of using pink hearts on a website catering to hunting and outdoor gear would you? Think of the image you want people to associate with your website and go from there. This also goes for your choice of fonts as well. Cartoony and crooked or uneven texts have no place in a website that sells insurance or offers consultation services – just as Times New Roman and any gothic font will look out of place in a website specializing in kids’ parties. Having a theme to tie every element together will lend an air of professionalism and credibility to your site.
- Make your website easy to find. Start by choosing the right name. Make it unique enough to stand out, but not so unique that nobody can even pronounce it – let alone write it down and remember it. It also pays to have individuals and companies make your presence known. Search engine optimization services will ensure that you will land on the first few pages of any search made that’s related to your business. This is important because potential buyers stop looking after the first couple of pages. Also look into creating links with other websites to funnel traffic.
- Don’t be too pushy. Coming across as someone who’s too eager to make a sale will turn off potential customers. This may come across as contradictory to some, but its success lies in how you implement it. They might see you as someone just out to make a quick buck. Be genuinely helpful with your product descriptions and images. Offer useful advice even if they don’t buy. You will more than make up for the lost sale through goodwill and positive word-of-mouth.
- Offer good value. At the end of the day, customers decide with their wallets. Aside from the convenience factor, the lure of online retail can be largely attributed to relatively lower prices. Don’t go against this because customers have now come to expect savings when they shop online.
The above list is in no way complete. Online retail is so new; all the rules haven’t been written yet. As your business grows, you will discover new techniques that work for you. Use these tips as a guide in what is already proven based on human tendencies and basic psychology. Put them to good use and see your revenue grow today.
Daniela Baker helps entrepreneurs and small business owners compare best business credit cards at CreditDonkey. Visit her blog to learn more.