The trend of shifting sales online is on its way up, even in Malta. Recent studies confirm what businesses were suspecting in the last few years: more and more people are referring to the net prior to purchasing, and most of them go ahead and buy and pay online. This means businesses are now competing on a global level. With the introduction of easy to use shipping methods, getting the items from abroad is simpler, there is little holding back a consumer from completing his or her sale online.
Local websites now need to address their site potential, and invest in it in order to compete with whatever is out there. Having a site equipped to sell is the first step, but it doesn’t stop there. One needs to make sure that the site is actually selling, by analysing the site and its metrics. There are two main factors to analyse here: if the people are finding your site or not, and if once there, they are completing the sale or stopping somewhere in between.
Traffic statistics will clearly indicate if your market is finding the site amongst all the other competing ones. One needs to look at the number of visits, and also the countries from where it is being accessed. This will let you know if your traffic is the right traffic or not. For example, a website that is only equipped to sell to the local market, obviously needs to look at the traffic coming from Malta. If that is still sparse, then consumers are looking somewhere else. If traffic from other countries is very good, the company might consider opening its doors to international sales too.
If the right type of traffic is coming in, your site should be selling. How to increase these sales, starts off from the site structure itself. Break the selling process in steps and see where your traffic is declining. This is easily done through the website statistics. Analyse what is putting the consumers off. It could be a long registration form, it could be an expensive delivery fee, or some other cost that is cropping up in the last few stages of the sale. It could also be a simple glitch in the site, maybe the ‘Pay now’ button has gone below the fold, and consumers are not finding it. Maybe some other banner that you have inserted in the site is driving their attention away. Organise individual testing sessions with persons who are not familiar with your site, and watch them as they try to find their way around. This is usually an eye opening experience. It is important to ensure that the buttons leading to the next step in completing the sale are evident and are the items that is given most prominence in that particular screen. This could be done through a different colour shade, through the position of the button onscreen, or through the size of the button itself. The trend is usually in using bold colours for these buttons when compared to more subtle colours used all throughout the site.
Once you have optimised your purchasing process, you can start aiming at increasing your sales by increasing the right traffic to your site. Facebook helps at this stage by building an audience of interested persons. Having your own page on Facebook is nowadays a must. But it doesn’t stop there. Facebook needs to be managed efficiently to show that the page and business is an active one. Having a Facebook page with no regular posts, or even worse, with unanswered complaints will hinder your sales instead of helping increase them. Facebook is a powerful channel, and by investing wisely in it, you can ensure an ever growing audience of people who can be easily notified whenever you have a new product or a special promotion/event.
Making your Facebook audience feel important is one good way of increasing the audience and also increasing the online sales. From time to time you can give out Facebook exclusive discount vouchers, so that only the persons who are reading your Facebook posts can benefit from them. You can also create competitions on Facebook to help increase the number of likes.
You can see the return of the time invested on Facebook posting by watching the site traffic numbers spike at that time. Facebook posts usually have a lifetime of around 4hours. Timing your posts to reach out your type of market is also an interesting way of maximising your efforts. Facebook has recently also added the functionality of scheduling your posts (on pages only) for a particular time. Watch and note the traffic increase when you post in different times of the day. This will help you find the best time when your audience is around, and also the best time when they are more likely to shop.
Joanne Bishop Magro is a Conceptual Analyst in the Web Design and Development division of Alert eBusiness.