Making The Most Of The Holiday Season

Is your Web site functional?  Do all the links work? Is there more than one product in each category? What about payment options? Do you accept credit cards or PayPal or do you rely on people calling or mailing in an order? If it is the latter, you might as well put a lock on the door and go home. Other then in a few rare cases, if you are not accepting some sort of on-line payment, you will not get enough orders to pay for the site.

Can buyers find your site? You need to be marketing your site both on and off line. Off line includes print, radio, TV as well as direct mailings. On-line includes search engines, emails and pay-per-clicks. Now would be a good time to review your search terms and make sure they are incorporated into your META tags and web pages. Your search terms need to be terms that your consumers would use, not what you may use.  

What incentives are you offering? If you do not know what to offer, shop your competition and see what they are offering. Then do something different and better. Don’t just copy them, be creative and offer more without spending more.

Once you have determined what incentive you are going to use, advertise it. Don’t keep it a secret... much like companies that buy t-shirts to advertise their business, but then keep them in the closet because they don’t want to just give them away. Ugh! The whole idea of an incentive is to get people to buy your product or service.

How does your website look?  When was the last time you looked at your site from a consumer’s point of view? If you haven’t in a while then; get a cup of tea or coffee (eggnog is appropriate too), dress in comfortable clothes and go shopping online. Pretend you know nothing about your product or service. Now ask yourself the following questions:

Once you have completed your order, how do you feel? Pleased with your experience and that you would shop there again, or frustrated and hope to never see that website again?  

If you are unable to totally step back from your website and view it as a consumer, then I would suggest hiring a mystery shopper.

Can your customers trust you? Guarantees, return policies and testimonials will build trust, as long as they are believable. Something as simply as "We believe that you will be completely satisfied with all of your purchases and we want to ensure that you have a satisfactory shopping experience. Therefore, if you are not completely satisfied, we will gladly accept returns within 15 days from receipt of merchandise."  Why wouldn’t I buy from them? I have nothing to lose! If I don’t like the product, I can just return it.  

Are your shipping costs fair? Often times people will place items in their shopping basket and proceed to the checkout only to find that the shipping and handling costs are more than the items they are purchasing. 56% of on-line shoppers say that low-cost shipping is a factor when determining which store they purchase from. Shipping is a cost of business just as advertising is. The only difference is that with shipping you can make the buyer pay for it directly. But be careful. People that shop on-line or from a catalog have a pretty good idea of what it costs to ship an item and they will know if you are trying to make money on shipping. When figuring shipping costs, figure that on some orders you will lose money but on others you will make money. The trick is at the end of the year your shipping costs come out even.

December 1, 2003

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