If you want to ensure your business runs smoothly, automates processes, receives payments quickly and is able to grow and keep growing, you need to learn how to increase online sales and have your customers buy from your website.
Every time a customer has to contact you through WhatsApp or FB Messenger or IG comments or DMs in order to purchase from you, that is precious time that you won’t get back.
We’ve come across so many instances of how business owners are under major stress, are falling sick, are overwhelmed and are just extremely tired from trying to run their business via the various platforms.
Typing on WhatsApp one minute, then in FB Messenger the next, then picking a call one minute, then responding to a DM the next, and it never ends.
The more God blesses you, the more your stress increases.
But that ought not to be the case at all. That’s why there are systems and processes to make things happen more smoothly and easily. Your website is one of those systems.
Here’s a quick list of 21 things your site can help you with if you just fully integrate it into your business life:
- Customer data
- Product inventory
- Product pricing
- Currency conversions
- Client accounts
- Email notifications
- SMS notifications
- Knowledgebase and FAQs
- Contact forms
- Customer orders and customizations
- Marketing surveys
- Basic accounting
- Shipping calculations
- Tax calculations
- Payment processing
If your site is helping you at full speed, your business life can get simpler.
- You want to find the details of that client who placed their order a week ago? It’s on your website.
- Want to find out how many pairs of that shoe are still available? It’s on your website.
- A customer wants a receipt issued for their last 3 purchases? Straight from your website.
- Customers keep asking “How much?” for every product you promote on IG? All prices on your website.
- Want a report on which of your products are your best sellers and most profitable? Generated right from your website.
- A customer wants to place their order at 3am in the morning without having to wake you up? Thank God for your website.
People sometimes think they can’t increase online sales because, “My customers don’t know how to use a website!”
Whilst we do advocate for a sufficient amount of hand-holding and education, do not underestimate your customers. They are busily shopping happily and comfortably on Amazon, Jumia and Kikuu.
If they can shop there, they can shop on your site as well.
So the question is…
How do I increase online sales through my website?
Here are some of the problem areas to tackle:
- Increase website promotion
- Improve the user experience
- Provide sufficient information
- Ensure information is 100% accurate
- Prioritize orders and enquiries through your site
- Offer incentives
- Provide tutorials and education
- Increase trust signals
- Provide multiple payment options
Increase website promotion
It’s possible some of your customers don’t make purchases through your website because they have no idea that it even exists. That would point to a lack of promotion and visibility with respect to your site.
You’d probably want to promote it every opportunity you get. Send emails from your site’s email addresses. Make sure all your communication and branded material have your web address on them.
Whenever you run ads and promotions, ensure that your web address is visible, and even give your followers a few reasons to visit your site by putting some interesting content on it on a regular basis.
We’ve got an entire article on increasing website traffic but one point I’d like to mention is content creation. That covers blogging, writing, creating videos or podcasts, etc.
Every time you put out a blog post about topics relevant to your industry, products and services, you are ensuring that search engines pick up your content and that helps you rank on the first page of Google, sending lots of free traffic to your website.
The more potential customers read your content, enjoy it or solve their problems with the information you give them, the more they’re going to convert into paying customers, some loyal enough to get a word of mouth campaign going, bringing in even more potential customers.
Improve the user experience
Almost nobody likes doing something that isn’t fun and enjoyable.
Most people don’t like going to see their doctor unless absolutely unavoidable, because it might end up with some bad news, or a little pain.
Most people don’t like dealing with government agencies because it usually involves long lines, a lack of customer service, convoluted processes that could be done 10 times faster if they were streamlined, and many delays and disappointments.
Just remember the last time you had to get a driver’s licence, or a passport, or a birth certificate, or register for health insurance, etc. Whilst we hope you were one of those who had an amazingly fast experience, the majority usually don’t.
And it’s the same with your customers. If they can call you and get their order taken in 10 minutes, why should they spend 30 minutes fighting with your website?
They click here and the page is missing. They click elsewhere and an invasive ad pops up. They click another link and it takes 45 seconds for the page to load. All credibility-reducing signs that the business is performing almost no website maintenance on a regular basis.
Hoping against hope, they click “Add to cart” and nothing happens. They try and checkout, and the checkout form looks like a university application form, with date of birth and everything.
If you want to increase online sales in your business, make your site fun for customers. Make it clean and professional, straight to the point and fast!
In a recent study we did on ecommerce in Ghana, some of the sites took 16.6 seconds just to load. Don’t let that be you.
Google considers website speed a ranking factor because they know your customers want fast, fast, fast! Everyone’s in a hurry to do everything and so if you slow them down, they’ll look for someone else who won’t.
To have your customers use your site, enjoy it and recommend others to also shop your site, you need to optimize it. We gave a few points on that when talking about improving your conversion rates Guess what? They apply here too.
Your conversion rate simply refers to the number of people who take a particular action (or make a purchase in this case) out of the total number of visitors to your site.
For example, if 50 people visit your website and 5 make a purchase, then your conversion rate is 10%. Improving your conversion rate is critical if you want to increase online sales through your website.
Here are 13 things you can do to improve your conversion rates and get more customers to buy from your website:
- Reduce the number of fields clients have to fill to check out
- Increase trust factors with guarantees and social proof
- Increase your site’s load speed
- Reduce the distractions and unneeded flashy things on your site (like sliders and animations)
- Improve your copy writing and product descriptions
- Make sure your products have multiple clear and high quality images from various angles
- Offer multiple payment options at checkout
- Ensure you have contact details easily accessible and available
- Make sure your site has an SSL and is secure
- Ensure that everything on your site is 100% accurate
- Make sure advertising and promotional links go straight to what was advertised or promoted
- Have live chat to alleviate fears and doubts
- Enable guest checkout instead of mandatory registration
And don’t forget to use a great payment processor for accepting online payments. If your payment processor makes the payment process complex, it won’t matter that you simplified everything else on your website. You’ll still end up losing sales.
Provide sufficient information
How would you like to visit a website to buy a pair of shoes and when you get there, every shoe you see is titled:
- Shoe 1
- Shoe 2
- Shoe 3
- Shoe 4
You ignore that and click through to view a pair that you like and for the description, you find the words: “Women’s Shoes” and that’s it.
You take a look at the women’s shoes you’re considering purchasing and can’t decipher clearly whether it’s actually a black shoe, or just deep brown. Worse of, you’re not sure if it’s a half shoe or a full one because there’s only a single shot of the shoe and that’s from the front.
I hope you get the picture.
Almost everybody in the world who visits a website today does so to get information. Whether that information is for entertainment, business, education or shopping.
“What information do my customers want on my products?” you might ask.
As much as possible would be the answer. Because the more they know about the product they are buying, the more comfortable they are buying it.
If you want to attract more customers to buy your products online, consider answering questions like these:
- What’s the name of the product?
- What’s the history of the product?
- How much does it weigh?
- Who’s the manufacturer?
- What’s the country of origin?
- How should it be cleaned?
- With what can it be worn?
- What colours does it come in?
- What sizes are in stock?
- What do the soles of the shoes look like?
- Does the inside look comfy?
- What would it look like with someone wearing them?
- What kind of box or wrapping does it come in?
- How popular are the shoes?
- How durable are they?
- Are there any reviews by other purchasers?
And on and on.
Give your clients as much information as you possibly can. Learn from the best. Visit a site like Amazon.com and just see the volume of information that is provided to shoppers.
Including customer ratings and reviews.
If a customer knows that 95% of those who bought these shoes have been utterly satisfied by them, that’s going to help seal the deal for you.
Ensure information is 100% accurate
Whilst a lack of information is a problem, an equally dangerous problem is inaccurate information.
This may have happened to you far more times than you’d like to admit. You visit a site and are doing research on a product or service. You see the pricing, you note it down and you budget for that.
You eventually get in contact with someone at the company and they tell you that what you want is 50% more than what you thought. You exclaim:
“But this is the price on your website!”
and they say:
“Ah yes. Please, ignore the website pricing. This is the real price!”
And just like that, not only do you lose confidence in the business you’re dealing with, but you actually lose just a little bit of faith in every website out there, because they might also be peddling inaccurate or outdated information.
Don’t let that be you. Let your customers have the most accurate information possible and rather raise their hopes that some business websites can and do work as they should.
It means you’re going to have to take your website seriously, making sure that either you or your web designer is updating it with the latest information.
The easiest way to ensure that your site continues to have accurate information is to make it a very central part of your business flow.
You can ensure that all product information is listed there, or that customer receipts are automatically generated from there or you have inventory managed from your site, all these can help ensure your site stays central to your business activities, and by extension, updated.
Prioritize orders and enquiries through your site
If you have a site but your customers and clients seem not to want to make a purchase through it, you should check to make sure you aren’t treating them as second-class citizens.
As human beings, we are wired to always handle things that are urgent above everything else, even above things that are important. Here’s what that looks like.
Someone visits your website, applies ‘great faith’ to trust you, places their order, pays through your online gateway and everything. And now they wait for their order to be fulfilled.
But just before you get to fulfilling their order (assuming you’re a really nice site owner and you ensured that you get alerted ASAP via email and/or SMS), you get a call from someone else who also wants a product you sell.
You’re on the phone with this person for 15 minutes and finally have all the details written down. Before you know it, someone is on WhatsApp also looking to buy what you have and you have to attend to that person too.
Before you know it, the person who gave you their trust and their money without ever seeing you, has now been ignored and pushed to the back of the queue all because urgent phone calls and WhatsApp notifications made you focus on them, instead of this amazing customer of yours.
Do you know the lesson that customer might eventually learn? That the next time they want an order quickly, they should either call you directly or catch you on WhatsApp. And with that lesson learnt, your site will end up a white elephant.
We recommend you flip that completely around. You should try and give the highest priority possible to people placing orders through your website. They’ve taken the time to respectfully believe you, follow your instructions, placed their order and might even have made their payment, all without requiring even 10 seconds of your time.
That should be rewarded, not punished. And if that is rewarded a few times, people will get the message that using your site is a valid and even important method of interacting with your business.
We even recommend you take it to a higher level with our next point.
We humans almost always take the path of least resistance. If I can call you and occupy you for 20 minutes, making you explain every single one of your products and their differences to me, instead of having to read that on your site, that’s what I’ll do.
If I can order via WhatsApp or IG DM (Instagram Direct Message), why should I order through your website?
That’s where incentives come in. A useful part of your online sales strategy should be the use of incentives. One mighty incentive we’ve seen used by our ecommerce clients and many other retailers is the use of discount codes and coupons exclusively through their website.
For example, you simply run a promotion and tell all your followers that this weekend, there’s a 40% sale off all items or a $50 coupon.
That’s the sweet music every shopper wants to hear, but there’s a catch. They need to use the coupon code: 40OFF at checkout when placing their order on your website, otherwise, they don’t get the discount.
It might surprise you the speed with which people suddenly learn how to use a website when there’s a 40% discount involved. Your online sales would increase overnight!
Was it that they couldn’t use your site before? Nope! It’s just that there never was a valid reason to use it after all, you’d take their order through WhatsApp and FB and IG.
Alternatively, if you’ve got some really in-demand product, you can have that available exclusively through your site and that’s another way to get people using it.
One of the beautiful things is that if you train people to use your website, you are well on your way to earning money whilst you sleep. You wake up in the morning and see 8 new orders with the cash for them already sitting in your bank account.
Provide tutorials and education
Your customers might already be technologically savvy, shopping online on Amazon, Kikuu and other sites. If that’s the case, great.
On the other hand, you might have customers who are much less in the know when it comes to technology. Some might not even know you have a website and that they can see all your products online and order them from there without hassle.
This means that education on your part is required. Education to let them know the things they can do through your site, and education to help some people who might need a little help shopping your site.
If you teach them more and more on how to shop your website online, you’ll have a corresponding increase in sales online. The converse is also true. Don’t teach them and they’ll ignore your website.
So keep on promoting your website at every turn, whether it’s just a normal announcement, a promotion, sale, etc, let everyone know you’re online, how they can get there and the things they’ll find.
Also put out a video tutorial of the various things people can do on your site, like shopping your products, comparing items, creating a wishlist of products, contacting your team, etc.
The more they hear of your website and what they can do through it, the more they’ll be inclined to try that method soon.
Increase trust signals
Probably the number one reason why you haven’t successfully increased online sales through your website yet is basically because of a lack of trust.
Your potential customers may not trust that you can deliver the actual product they want, or they may not trust that what you’re selling is authentic, they may not trust that the site they are on is actually your website or they just might not trust the whole process of paying for stuff online without their money being stolen.
It’s a bit understandable though. How would you like to make a purchase online and find yourself in the situations below:
(I’ve got like 30 more but will leave you with just one more.)
Because no one wants to be in the situation above, they try to touch, taste and feel whatever they buy before making payment.
We can certainly understand how and why this is a problem, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Whilst other countries have been using debit and credit cards for more than half a century now, and mail order even before that, it’s still relatively new to quite a lot of people and not part of their daily routines.
So you’re going to have to work on gaining their trust. Here are a few examples how:
- Make sure you have a professional and quality looking website. If a website looks scammy, customers will assume that it is scammy.
- Have contact information visible and available. This helps calm people, knowing that there is someone they can contact in case something goes wrong.
- Display social proof, reviews and testimonials on your site. People buy what other people are buying. So if your customers know that others have bought your product and are satisfied, they’ll be more willing to also buy your product and be satisfied.
88% of consumers trust user reviews as much as personal recommendations.– Optin Monster
- Have a strong guarantee or refund policy. Nobody wants to put their trust in you, and then get stuck with no way out. Zappos became a big hit because they provided both shipping and returns for free to customers without the hassle. And they offer a 1 year refund policy!
- Increase your online visibility. If no one has ever heard of you, it’s hard to trust you. But if they’ve seen you on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google Search, on TV, in radio adverts, etc, they are going to trust you much more quickly and easily.
- Offer a free trial. Depending on the type of product or service you provide, you can offer a free trial or free product. This allows new customers to really see the value in their offering without having to fear losing their money. But once they know the quality you provide, they’ll be willing to open their wallets.
- Use payment processors that are trustworthy and well known. Someone placing an order on your site and encountering a payment processor they’ve never heard of might reconsider whether it’s safe to complete the purchase at all. For example, a customer paying with PayPal is confident that there won’t be any funny business and their details won’t be exposed.
Provide multiple payment options
If you actually have people who visit your site and start down the process of placing orders but do a 180 degree turn somewhere during the checkout process, you might want to take a look at your payment options as well.
The final part when increasing your sales online is actually receiving the money for the order.
Some people assume that if they’re shopping on a website, they’re going to need a Visa or MasterCard to complete their payment. You should try and broaden your payment options a bit more where possible.
More than 50% of the sites in our ecommerce study offered more than one payment option.
For example, if your ideal customers live abroad or across the globe, there’s no more trusted payment processor than PayPal.
If your target audience are primarily mobile money users, make sure they can check out with any of the mobile money networks once they get to checkout.
Currently, all the payment gateways in Ghana allow you to accept mobile money payments and not just card payments. However one other practice to consider is having multiple payment gateways.
In case your main payment gateway has problems, your customers can checkout with your backup payment gateway, ensuring you don’t lose the sale.
Some site owners find it convenient to provide Cash on Delivery as a payment option at checkout. Whilst this is certainly a choice for you to ultimately consider, we don’t really recommend it.
The order can get cancelled at any time at all, there is no proof the customer was placing a genuine order, the customer can dispute the order and refuse to pay, you may go through the entire process and being unable to deliver the product, you don’t get paid, etc.
Well then, I guess that’s a lot of information for you to work on. Whilst it might not happen over night, lots of research exists to back up the fact that it is possible for you to get your customers to buy from your website and increase sales online, making your life a lot easier.
If you need any help implementing any of these on your site, we’re always on standby and you can feel free to contact us.
Want more information on how to improve your website and grow your business? This post is part of our series on the 25 most common website problems and their solutions.