At ECMOD, I will be presenting a session called “40 website must-dos”, an ultra-quick-fire presentation of some obvious and not-so-obvious tips that seriously lift sales and average order values. If you can’t wait that long, here are 10 must-haves for every website to get you started.
1. Navigation and internal navigation
Internal search is one of the most difficult things to master. Even with a fancy package, you can’t change the fact that users are often abysmal at finding what they want. However, you can look at the top 100 searches you’ve had on your site this year and make sure those words—the words and phrases the users searched for—are better represented in your navigation.
It’s important to remember that the order in which you present the results is critical to your success in search. Take the 100 top searches and conduct them yourself, one by one. Review each result. It’s important that the item you most want to sell is first and the rest are in descending priority.
Be sure to review your refinements as well. Due to the onslaught of guided navigation, many companies have gotten really sloppy with their refinements. When someone chooses “sort by bestsellers” from your dropdown, he should get your top selling products and not a hodge podge of garbage. Same with “new”; if someone is sorting by new and he gets all your items from Autumn/Winter 2008, it diminishes your search credibility and makes your search look broken—one of the top two reasons why users abandon searches. Again, if you take your top 50 to 100 searches, you’ll get a good indication of how you’re measuring up in this area of your ecommerce business.
Take a quick look at your top navigational bar to make sure that the right items are emphasised. If you are getting a lot of traffic in a particular area, clearance, sale, or overstock for example, consider making it stand out more—either as a bigger or different coloured tab.
Navigation is one of the biggest determinants of your online success so you may also want to do a quick elimination of all the unnecessary or irrelevant items that have been added—especially to your top and left-hand navigational bars—along the way. We tend to muck up our top header with all sorts of customer service elements when we really want orders. We tend to list everything and the kitchen sink in the left when only half of those links ever get clicked on. Do a quick clean-up.
2. Instigated chat
Now is a great time to test the waters of instigated chat if you haven’t done so already. Start with your shopping cart and lead forms and then move on to search results and top exit pages. It may take a while for you to get live chat right, so keep playing with it until you get it to work. It will work, but it often takes time to perfect your secret formula. Bonus tip: your best customer service reps will often make the worst chatters. Try someone who’s great at text messaging, IM (instant messaging) or tweeting, instead.
If you don’t have a review programme, now is the perfect time to get one. There are a lot of companies that handle reviews well. Remember, if you are going to commit to a review programme, you need to work at it. Develop solicitation emails and tools on your site. Interruptive devices such as midis and catfishes (where a message pops up along the bottom of the page) on return after a purchase, work really well to get your users to rate and review their purchases. Want to get the biggest bang from your buck out of your user reviews? Organise them by importance. A lot of companies organise their reviews by date. It’s unfortunate. Reviews typically work a lot better when they’re prioritised by significance. What’s a good formula? One fantastic, five-star review and one not-so-great, one-star review, at the top. On another note, don’t delete or hide negative reviews but do respond to them. This is something that a lot of companies forget; if it’s your site, you can, and should, respond to as many reviews as is appropriate.
Video is huge. Sadly, most companies don’t know how to use it effectively. Your two- to four-minute spot is a mini infomercial for your products or service. Make sure to have a solid intro and closing, complete with an aggressive blue-screen pitch and calls to action throughout.
5. Thrust emails
Seed your list and don’t open the emails you send to yourself. It will give you a good indication as to where your emails are being delivered—inbox, spam folder, or the trash. As an aside, do this in-house, don’t ask your provider to do it for you.
Test pop-ups to capture email addresses. You can test an offer, a sweepstake, a deal of the day, or even just ubercompelling creative. Pop-ups will work. If they don’t, it’s likely because your bias against them is keeping you from developing killer creative.
Be sure to have your phone reps collecting email addresses, to the tune of 85 percent at a minimum, as well as mobile phone numbers. Yes, you really should try to obtain mobile numbers even if you don’t know how to use them right now. It’s also a great time to train your customer service reps to upsell items that your web customers are most likely to buy.
6. Trigger emails
Triggers should be the most successful programme in your arsenal. Don’t have a trigger programme? Start with order confirmations and abandoned-cart emails.
An abandoned cart programme is made up of a series of emails; not just one but a series of three to five at least. Keep the emails simple, they shouldn’t look like your regular thrust emails; personalise them; include the items that the user has abandoned and make sure there are lots of clear action directives such as a bold “return to cart now”.
With abandoned carts, you’ll also want to test midis or catfishes on entrance, reminding users they have something in their cart, and/or taking them right to the cart when they come back. Additionally, you should consider internal remarketing banners and plugs (non-animated banners) and outbound telemarketing.
Your order confirmation programme should also be made up of a series of emails. If you are able to test your confirmation, try testing your standard “thank-you” email versus an immediate thank-you letter that allows the user to add anything to his order before it’s shipped. Use this space to upsell anything the user should have bought and didn’t. It may take you a while to figure out this formula—what the user will add to the order—but once you’ve discovered it, it often adds a whopping 15 to 30 percent to your average order value, depending on your order size. You’ll also want to send out a shipping confirmation as well as a “you have your order, now’s the time to order more” and a “please rate and review your order” emails. A lot of times, companies use generic, written-by-IT-type emails for order confirmations. Order confirmations, and any other kind of thank-you emails are great opportunities to sell more stuff. Use them wisely.
If you’ve mastered both order confirmations and abandoned carts, you should look at EBOPP’s (emails based on past purchases) and reactivation emails. The holiday season is the ideal time to reactive old customers and old enquiries. Again, these should be personalised triggers.
7. External remarketing banners
Your banner success will be largely dependent on your creative, so test out a bunch of versions before you rollout your programme. If you can, be sure to test a version where you add the picture of the last item the user abandoned to the banner; RBIs (remarketing banners with items) are typically the most successful by a lot.
8. Outbound telemarketing
Have a lot of abandoned carts? Test calling the carts with the highest average orders that have been abandoned. You only need to test a few of these to know if this programme will work for you. Hint: chances are it will work like gangbusters.
Make your life easier and develop some “read and react” reporting. This one-page report should include only the essentials you need to run your ecommerce business. The format should be an overview so you can look at it at-a-glance and then delve deeper into areas where you see problems.
Make sure to separate your iPad and tablet traffic from your smart- and feature-phone traffic. iPads and other tablets make great shopping devices so you often see twice your regular conversion on them. You don’t want those results to influence what might be happening on your other mobile results. You may also want to consider adding a package like Bango to help you with your mobile data as it’s not always well interpreted by some of the other analytics providers.
There’s no doubt about it, mobile is the thing to work on for 2012. Consultants make it sound super-expensive and ultra-time-consuming. It’s neither. Right now, there are three things that make the biggest difference in mobile. The first is showing up: having a presence, no matter how small or imperfect it is. Second is speed. Granted, that sounds like a tip from 1998, but the reality is that your conversion—to an action or an order—will completely depend on how fast your site is. The average mobile pages are 250kb right now. The pages that convert the most have weights of less than 100kb—many of them closer to 50kb, maximum. The third thing is navigation. Users expect to do, browse and buy the same things they do on your regular website. So if you want to start to build solid mobile navigation, you should take the five to eight things that are most important for your users and build on them. Start with a single jump page and then go from there.
Bonus tip: make sure to optimise your emails for mobile devices. That is the most important thing to start with.
Amy Africa is chief executive officer of Eight By Eight, and has been at the forefront of web usability studies, web design improvement, and successful ecommerce for more than 15 years.
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