Monday, 19 January 2009

Less Products and More Sales

Micro-sites Sell More



For businesses both new and old often there is a belief that the more products that you have for sale online the better. However it really depends what you are looking for as a result that should focus your attention. Large websites with 1000's of products online are not always the best way to get quick results. Why? Basically because choice often slows down the conversion process and results in abandoned shopping baskets. To be successful online you need rich content that provides information about the product you are selling. That can be much harder to maintain when you have 1000's of products. Potential customers want to see what the product looks like but it is hard to provide 1000's of quality images if you are not a large organisation.

Smaller online businesses can struggle to maintain content for 100's or 1000's of products. Generally we hear from clients that it is only maybe 20% of the product portfolio that are good repeat sellers.

Specialised Landing Pages



Online businesses have been building and using special landing pages for sometime. The idea is that there is a page on your website with a direct URL that is targeted at a special purpose, maybe a product promotion or marketing program. These are often pages that are hidden on the website but accessible only via the direct URL that might look like www.mywebstore.com/promotion. Once at the website the visitors often start to browse around and the focus on the landing page is lost.

But Landing Pages are important and if you are running Google AdWords or other paid search you should always create a landing page and not just send the leads to your home page. By creating the landing page with the use of text and keywords related to the ad you will also get a better Quality Score in Google.

Landing Pages versus Micro-sites



So once you see the value of the Landing Page then your on your way to understanding the value of Micro-Sites. Like the landing page the micro-site is focused on a specific purpose. Visitors are directed to the site from online ads, newsletters or other promotions. Once at the site there is a limited choice of products and pages. The whole site is focused on getting a conversion. In a micro-site there may be only one product but it will have great images and descriptions. The next step will always be very clear and other content is minimal. So the visitor has no doubt on where to go next.

  • The micro-site is a complete online store but with targeted products and content.
  • The visitor never needs to leave the micro-site to make a purchase.
  • The steps from arriving at the site and checking out are minimal and may only involve a few steps.
  • Branding is important as it must reflect your business brand but also that of the product being promoted.
  • The micro-site needs to be safe and so it is important to use secure payment methods and have a SSL certificate correctly setup.
  • It is also important to have the legal stuff setup correctly like Contact Information, Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions with a Refund or Returns Policy clearly stated.

A micro-site might expect a conversion rate of over 50% compared to much lower conversion rates in large online shopping sites. Typically the promotions associated with a micro-site will be short duration of a week to a month. So new offers are created regularly. But these offers also need to be good deals, offering quality products and taking advantage of offers like free shipping as an example.

We have seen some great results from this type of targeted micro-site with our customers recovering the total annual cost of running the site in profits from one days sales. ePages lends itself to establishing these micro-sites quickly as you can have a new website up and running in just a few hours. Because of the way that ePages handles the website design management you can setup a new look and feel easily and have them ready to go live with each new promotion. So one ePages website can be re-skinned for a new promotion each month while a different design can be in development and waiting for the next promotion.

Can You Just Have a Micro-site (or sites)?



The short answer is...of course you can. If fact if you are new to selling online and are just getting started then it may not be a bad idea. You will be able to get a very professional web store up and running with minimal effort and it can help you understand some of the challenges you might face.

So it does not matter if your business is very small and new to eCommerce or if it a large and establish online retailer Micro-sites can help you get results.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Online Sales Hold Up Over Christmas 2008

Can eCommerce Help Beat The Economic Meltdown?
We have been seeing some interesting trends over the last few months and they seem to indicate that online shopping and eCommerce offers some great opportunities in the global economic crisis for small to medium enterprises; but also for consumers looking for a bargain. The key indicators for us are the volume of
traffic to our stores, the monthly revenue in online sales and new businesses going online.
In the USA since 2005 the Monday following Thanksgiving has been termed Cyber Monday. comScore (www.comscore.com) reported that e-commerce spending on Cyber Monday was up 15 percent to US$846 million year over year. You can read the full story at http://www.comscore.com/press/release.asp?press=2607. In general we are seeing that online sales are hold or growing marginally. But they are certainly not in free fall like many of the traditional off-line sales channels. At eCorner year over year from November 2007 to November 2008 we have seen an over 90% increase in traffic volume recorded by unique visitors, number of hits and number of pages viewed of our customers web shops. More importantly we have seen more than 70% increase in total online sales recorded by our customers.

eCorner runs multiple environments with different types and sizes of business in each. In our Australian SME cluster with over 170 online stores representing almost 80,000 products and 68,000 consumers, we saw a growth of unique visitors of over 25% in the last quarter and 17% in the month of November 2008. Visitors for December exceeded more than a 20% increase over December 2007 and a 25% increase over November 2008. The average order value has increased year over year by almost 30%. Conversion rate has increased by over 50% in the same period. Of course our customers sell a wide variety of products from home theatres to glass beads. But the general trend that we are hearing is all positive.
A further indicator is the total volume of monthly data traffic has doubled so far during 2008.
What this all adds up to is that more people are browsing and buying online from our customers online stores than ever before. We have seen this same trend carrying on onto 2009.
Why do we see this trend in difficult economic time?
We believe that as more consumers are challenged financially or even just fear what might happen they will look for alternatives to traditional shopping methods. Most of us know that there are bargains to be had but you have to look for them. So searching and buying online has become an attractive and a realistic alternative.
Online retailers in general have much lower overheads then their traditional “bricks and mortar” rivals and this can easily be passed on to consumers as cheaper prices or maybe a unique offer like free shipping.
The trend also is for all of us to be busier and our work consumes more of our time available. Family units very often see both partners in the work force so less time is available to browse the shopping mall. Shopping is often delegated to whatever time is available thus making online shopping the best alternative. Some large retailers, at least the smart ones, can also see this trend occurring and are establishing better online shopping capabilities. It is not unusual to find special offers that are only available online from the more traditional retail chains. Why? Because the total cost of sale is lower and the offer can get to a much larger consumer audience much faster.
Are more businesses going online?
The trend that we are seeing is that there are more traditional businesses moving to improve their online presence. We also see new businesses starting with online sales channels only and growing successfully.
Most of the large traditional bricks and mortar businesses have had some form of web presence for many years. However there was always a view that if you sold online you competed with your own stores. That view has begun to pass and retailers are seeing that online channels add new opportunity and don’t steal from the in-store sales.
New businesses that are starting online are different from what we were seeing just a few years ago. These businesses are starting with solid business plans, capital for growth and professional attitudes.
Success is based around the quality of our customers’ online stores and available products and services. To be successful online you need more than just a sexy website and a geeky programmer.
Success today online is a formula that can be replicated. It is all about a professional approach, safe and reliable technology and quality of goods and services. It required many channels to market and professional partners for technology, payments and marketing.
Many businesses have considered an online store or even a website as an afterthought and really not essential. In today’s economic climate and based on real data that we are receiving an online store or eCommerce website is essential to be a successful business. An online webstore is another channel to market and should be the face of your business on the World Wide Web.
The next 12 months will be turbulent for many families and businesses around Australia but at least we can see some small silver lining around an otherwise very worrying financial storm cloud.