National Mail Order Association -- Expert Advice Series

March 2008

John D. Schulte's Expert Advice Column

One tactic guaranteed to increase your web sales.
by NMOA President John D. Schulte

When people think of increasing their web sales, most automatically think they have to increase spending to attract more people to their web site. Do you think that? What if I said you don’t need more traffic to your site to increase sales, would you think this old marketer has gone nuts?

I want you to think about it hard, do you really need more web traffic to increase your sales? You may not; you may just need to close more sales from the people that are already visiting your site. Until you’re squeezing out as many conversions as possible from the traffic you already have, you’re wasting money attracting more.

I hear from people all the time that tell me they need more traffic to their site so they can sell more product. But many of them have nothing in place to fully capitalize on the traffic they are already getting.

Part of the problem I see is that many websites have no easy way for customers to ask questions, no phone number to call, with email question submission forms that just reek with the feeling that you’ll be waiting days for an answer. The inability for people to ask questions while they are at your site, itching to make a purchase, is a sales killer. If you’re not there to answer questions quickly and easily, you are going to lose that sale and a new customer; a customer that has long-term-value!

Sometimes it seems that the only thought on the mind of many web merchants is, automate…automate, come to my site and buy, if you have questions…to bad, you’re not for us…go someplace else. And people do.

Remember, web marketing is mail order marketing (direct marketing) you are selling at a distance; you must eliminate all obstacles in the way of someone wanting to make a purchase. A retail store has a clerk to ask, and mail order catalog has plenty of copy to describe a product and its benefits, and if there is a question, there is a toll free phone number to call and ask.

To compound the problem, many websites have severely inadequate product copy and descriptive details for making a purchasing decision, which in turn leads to more questions. Combine this with no easy way to ask questions and you’re really fighting an uphill battle for converting visitors to customers.

Customers will not wait for you, you already know this. I’m here to tell you right now…you are leaving money on the table. Instead of focusing solely on how to get more people to your site, you should first be thinking about how to convert more of the ones you are getting into customers. In case you’re wondering, a 3% conversion rate is average for retail websites according to Internet Retailer Magazine.

So if you could raise your conversation rate, just think of the added net profit you would gain upfront, not to mention the future residual income from another new customer on the books.

I think you get my point, so I’m not going to drag this article out, what I recommend you do is implement a Live Customer Service feature to your website, often called Live Web Chat. And I recommend you do it before you spend another penny on driving more people to your web site.

We implemented a live help service a few months ago using a service called WebsiteAlive and it has really paid off. They have a 10 day free trial and a 60 day money back guarantee. So there is no reason not to test this type of tool on your website. It’s a no lose situation. And you don’t get that very often in business.

The other important thing about using this type of service is that you get to learn first hand what the real questions your visitors have. This helps you trouble shoot your site for shortcomings and continually fine tune it.

Finally, make sure you continue to refine your product copy and descriptions. Putting good copy to each of your products is time consuming and expensive, but it needs to be done. And make sure when you’re doing it, you use keywords for search engines.

If you missed my last Expert Advice Article on Web 2.0, A Six Week Plan, you can click here to read it. I cover important points that must be part of your website optimization tactics.

To your success,

John D. Schulte