One of my primary jobs as an ecommerce consultant is to help businesses increase conversion and website sales. In doing so, I find that many online stores have the same things in common. For instance, many feel they are handling their website correctly, they believe in their product and customers, and they think that all they need is more traffic to increase sales. Yet none of them are satisfied with their current results, and expect more. They want to do better, they know they can, but they cannot seem to uncover what barrier is really holding them back. The one thing all understand is that they need to change if they are to reach their goals, but many do not know where to start. Do they focus on driving more traffic or redesigning the website? Should they spend more on marketing to current customers or actively seeking new customers? Do they rework pricing, keep pricing as is, or develop more powerful sales?
Turning a business around begins with first knowing where to focus your efforts. Knowing where to start can be the difference between frustration and a feeling of accomplishment. Most often, stores focus too heavily on traffic generation as a whole and overlook the fact that the traffic must not only be from a qualified channel, but the website must be setup to speak to that channel in a way that will get people to act.
Focusing on traffic, product, and then website often leads these store owners to feel frustrated, as they face a result of higher than needed (wasted) expenses and lower sales. It is great to feel so strongly about your product, but let me propose that its presentation is far more important than the product itself, assuming there is indeed a market demand for your product in the first place. Let's take it from a couple different perspectives to further illustrate the point. You would not feel comfortable eating food from a diner, no matter how good the food looked, if there were roaches crawling around on the floor. Furthermore, you likely would not be interested in entering a super clean diner that only served puréed baby food. Here is how I translate these to an online ecommerce store: The first example is the store owner who is so focused on traffic, i.e., getting people in the diner to eat and so passionate about the product that they neglect the attention to detail needed, i.e., keeping the store clean to sustain any quality of business. The second example represents the store owner that keeps their store in shape, yet markets product(s) to anyone that is willing to click. This store owner may get a lot of traffic, but it is primarily window shoppers who never intend to buy. And if you are running any PPC campaigns, every click you generate costs you more money.
Both businesses will fail because of their approach. I propose the following general approach as a starting point to turn an ecommerce store around: website, product, and then traffic. Notice that in my approach I target traffic last. The website is one of the main factors that will ultimately help the customer determine if they are going to buy your product or not. It's not the product itself. This is especially true in competitive markets. Without the needed elements that aid in usability and provide the customer with confidence, it does not matter what you sell, you are going to have a hard time selling it.
Simply, and this is very basic, there are far more factors involved to closing a sale. Would you buy a product from a website that was not secure? No matter how bad you needed it or wanted it, I doubt you would, even if the product was a one of a kind. So the website acts as more than a transaction processing center. Its true role is to aid in supporting the entire customer experience, which ultimately closes the sale and keeps buyers coming back for more.
After attention to the website is complete, the product focus comes next, and this is because without a product you have nothing to market. You must understand how your customers will use your product, how they will interact with it, and what competitors also sell the same or similar product, before you can accurately target your market. A complete understanding of your product from all angles will help you speak to potential customers in your advertising, resulting in more qualified traffic, higher sales, and less expense.
I never focus on traffic until all other elements are in place first, providing me the best opportunity at gaining the highest return on my advertising dollar. At this point, with all other elements present, driving traffic makes sense. With the website in conversion-ready form, I now provide myself with the best opportunity at winning sales from my advertising efforts. Prior to this it would not have mattered if I drove qualified traffic to the site, as the likelihood of it resulting in a sale was slim.
Yes, it takes more than just a few tweaks to really turn a business around, but starting with the right approach is often what is needed to jumpstart the process. Understanding the change that is needed is one thing, and accepting that change is another.
Eric Leuenberger is an ecommerce conversion marketing expert and author of a leading Ecommerce blog at www.TheEcommerceExpert.com. He coaches store owners using his online coaching system, EcommerceAmplifier.com, teaching how to increase website sales using his proven six step process. Contact Eric at 1-866-602-2673.
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