When lockdowns and stay-at-home orders were first being put into place, savvy business owners moved to institute ecommerce features on to their websites. They recognized that if buyers couldn’t visit them in person, they’d have to find new ways to generate revenue. That forethought has paid off, with some estimates suggesting online sales have doubled compared to the same quarter last year.
However, while some business owners took immediate action, others decided to take a wait-and-see approach. That was understandable, but customers are largely deciding to stay home. That means that this is the perfect time to upgrade the ecommerce features on your website.
If you don’t currently have the ability to sell online, this should be your cue to start. Alternatively, if you can already make money through your web pages you might want to expand your capabilities and attract more revenue.
No matter which of those categories your business falls into, we want to give you some actionable advice that will help. Let’s look at five ways you can start to sell more through your business website starting today…
1. Add a Shopping Cart
You can’t sell anything through your website without some mechanism to process transactions and collect money. In most instances, that’s going to mean installing some kind of shopping cart that pairs with a merchant account.
These solutions are easy to find and implementing them is not complex from a technical or programming standpoint. At the same time, just deciding to sell things online isn’t necessarily as simple as it might seem. You definitely want to take care in choosing the right shopping cart and merchant solution for your business. Getting things wrong could cost you a lot of money, create a great deal of hassle for your customers, and even lead to other disruptions in your business or website.
For example, it goes without saying that you want your shopping cart software to be as secure as possible. You’ll also want to know that it’s easy to use, both for yourself and your customers. It has to be compatible with the content management system you’re using, and it always helps if the product is inexpensive.
On top of that, there may be certain features you require, like custom specifications or discounts for various order sizes. You might not find those in the simplest shopping cart solutions, or you might need a web developer to help you put the right settings into place.
As a rule of thumb, we always recommend you work with an experienced web team when choosing and installing merchant features on your small business website. It’s not an expensive or time-consuming process, but it’s one you can’t afford to get wrong.
2. Create Online Demos Customers Can View
It’s one thing to have the ability to sell products and services online, and another thing to actually generate orders. Often, what’s truly important to a small business isn’t the technical tools needed to accept payments but the skill and expertise of a master salesperson.
You’re never going to be able to completely duplicate face-to-face contact online, but you can get a lot closer with online demo videos or interactive presentations. These allow you, or a member of your team, to walk a potential buyer through the features and benefits of a product before making a decision.
In some ways an online video presentation can be even better than a live demo. In person you might forget to mention something crucial or struggle with a difficult question. When you’re working from a script, and with ideal lighting and backdrops, you can put your very best foot forward. Even better, you can film a presentation once and then have it seen by dozens or hundreds of buyers. You can even share it on your social profiles and in an email newsletter.
Putting together online sales presentations does take a bit of work, but most of our clients can batch the task into a single day. Then, they not only have the tools they need to sell more products and services online, but also a way to pre-qualify buyers and reduce complaints or returns.
The cost of video production and editing has gone down steadily over the past decade as broadband-speed connections have come to rural areas and mobile devices. Video is much more powerful as a sales tool than plain text and images, so why not make the most of it?
3. Integrate Live Chat Features
While you can use online video to intrigue and motivate buyers, your business might be one where customers are going to have lots of questions. They might need to consider specific use cases, or simply get more information before making a final decision.
In those cases, having live chat features on your website can be a game-changer. When you or your employees are standing by, ready to address specific issues as needed, a major obstacle to closing the sale is removed. Prospects no longer have to go without the details or interaction they might need to make them feel comfortable taking the next step.
Online chat features are easy to install, although (as in shopping carts) you’ll want to make sure they are safe, compatible, and convenient. Some will allow customers to contact you or a team member directly; others can be programmed to automatically answer simple and frequent queries.
No matter how straightforward or complex you want to go, however, there is a lot of value in letting a potential buyer see that someone is standing by to assist them with their order or to tackle a quick question. That’s especially true when you consider that someone who is interested right now might not necessarily return to your website to get the answer they need later.
4. Create Upsell Opportunities
In the real world, you and your employees probably look for upsell and add-on opportunities so often it has become second nature. From asking someone “do you want fries with that?” to suggesting a maintenance plan, businesses are always finding ways to increase revenue—and value for their customers—by putting more into each sale.
If you have a simple shopping cart on your website, though, you might not be able to do the same. That would mean you’re probably missing out on huge amounts of revenue because your average sale price is going to be a lot lower than normal. It could also mean buyers aren’t getting the little “extras” that would make them happier with their decision later.
The answer, of course, is to integrate smart ecommerce features into your business website that correlate certain products and services with one another. As an example, if someone were purchasing a shirt from you, they might be interested in another similar item the same size. Or, if they were booking a service to clean up leaves in the Fall, they might also be interested in snow removal this Winter.
These are just simple examples, but you get the idea. If there is something you would normally sell to a customer at the time you check them out or write up an invoice, they need to be offered the same product or service (at a minimum) when they finish a transaction on your website. That’s not hard to set up with your web design team, and you’ll definitely see the difference in your bottom line.
5. Don’t Forget About Inventory and Fulfillment
To this point we’ve looked at a few tools and solutions that can increase your sales, but don’t forget about everything that happens after an order has been placed.
Buyers are always impatient to know when their items will be shipped and delivered, but that’s particularly true this year when so many industries and supply lines have been disrupted. If you’re going to add merchant features to your website, or improve the ones you have, it makes sense to address inventory and fulfillment.
You can put automated systems in place that notify customers about the status of their orders and help them keep track of shipping. You can even combine inventory and ecommerce platforms so shoppers can see what’s available on your website in real time.
These sorts of add-ons can increase sales, but more importantly they lower your customer service burden. When buyers can get the information they need about their transactions directly from your website, they don’t have to call or email your team.
As with the other improvements we suggested, adding inventory and fulfillment tools to your website doesn’t have to be a huge, expensive project. If you’re already thinking about raising your ecommerce capabilities this might be a good time to consider it.