ask the expert | How can I get people to BUY once they've made it to my online store?

by guest author Martina Iring

It’s a great feeling when all the hard work you put into promoting your small business  finally starts translating to a steady flow of traffic to your e-commerce site. But we all know that traffic means nothing if it isn’t actually bringing you sales.

The percentages of ecommerce conversion (aka online visitors that actually buy) can be shockingly low – most stats point to around 2%. So what can be done?

Read on for five tips to improve your small business’ online shopping experience... 

1. Clear and Compelling Descriptions

All of your products should have unique descriptions that are engaging. What is it that makes the product special? How will it benefit the buyer? It’s important to address clearly why someone should buy the product. Remember to keep your target market in mind and don’t be afraid to have a little fun!

Are you selling products from other companies on your website? Make sure to not copy their product descriptions word for word off their website, as this is bad for SEO, especially given Google’s Penguin update to its search ranking algorithm!

2. Awesome Images

Since people can't physically see or hold what it is you’re selling, you need to bring your product to life virtually with images.  Different angles, abilities to zoom in and zoom out, pictures of all the different options and colors you can offer – any way that you can think of to add some visual pizazz! And it goes without saying that your product shots must be of high quality.

If you’re selling a service and not a product, images still work in your favor as they help to capture interest and add visual appeal to your sales page.  Show images of what your service does or that are related to the service somehow. 

3. Make Buy Buttons Pop

The most important thing on a website are the calls to action. On an e-commerce site, this revolves around your “BUY” button – that’s exactly what you want visitors to do.

Make sure that your call to action is prominent. Make it clear. Make it big. Make it pop. If your call to action is difficult to locate on a page or blends in too nicely with your design, you could be losing out.

4. Readily Available Reviews

Customer testimonials are super powerful marketing tools. And they can work wonders on a sales page so be sure to include them – many potential buyers might not bother to surf over to your testimonials page.  When a customer sees reviews on the sales page, it gives them the extra boost of confidence that other people have already gone ahead and bought it and it rocks!  It gives much more certainty for the buyer and lessens the "taking a chance here" feeling.

5. Hassle Free Checkout

The #1 rule is here is to make things as simple as possible...

Make registration optional, and offer a guest check-out option.

Make the online forms streamlined – keep them short and don't ask for too much data.  You really should only be asking for what you really need to complete the purchase.

Make sure you have a check box option to make the shipping address the same as the billing address.

If there are several steps to your check out process, make sure that your site design makes it clear where the buyer is in the process and how far they have to go.

While these may seem like minor details, if the actual checkout process on your site is frustrating or drawn out, your customer just might abandon the purchase!

There are so many factors that can affect your conversion rates – the above list is my no means exhaustive. For more tips, check out these great resources...

Nine Ways to Increase Your Ecommerce Conversion Rate

8 Ways to Boost Ecommerce Shopping Cart Conversions

Getting more of your site visitors to actually buy from your online store is an ongoing, evolving process. Over time, you will learn what works and what doesn’t for your particular small business. Try different tactics and test if they make any difference.

Your turn – let us know about your personal experiences running an e-commerce website. Have any other strategies to recommend to fellow small business owners? Would love to hear from you in the comments!

Martina Iring works with entrepreneurs overwhelmed with all that web stuff. She’s on a mission to help the little guys make sense of internet marketing, teaching small business owners how being online is not only profitable, but enjoyable! Her blog, Small Business Bliss, offers up gobs of marketing info and doses of inspiration just for little biz owners. Be sure to go visit and grab a free website improvement guide.