6 E-Commerce Fixes Every Small Business Should Make
If you’ve ever analyzed an e-commerce purchase funnel, it looks a lot like any marketing funnel, only it’s focused on just your e-commerce site. The number of people who visit your site is larger than the number of people who, say, view a product page. The number of people who visit a product page is larger than the number of people who put something in the cart. And of course, the number of people who put things in a shopping cart is much larger than the number of people who actually check out. If you think about marketing’s role in e-commerce, a lot of it revolves around getting more people to each of the stages of the purchase process.
- Can you drive more visitors to the e-commerce site as a whole?
- Can you drive more product page visits?
- Can you get more people to add to their shopping carts?
- Can you get more people to checkout and ultimately buy?
Along the way, there are things you can do to help your customers get each end goal quicker, eliminating their doubts along the way and pushing them to close the deal. While we can’t detail them all, here 6 core fixes we’ve seen help e-commerce businesses optimize their processes, generating additional, incremental revenue.
1. Implement SEO best practices on e-commerce product pages.
Most larger e-commerce platforms have built-in mechanisms that direct site owners to implement SEO practices for their products and / or services they sell online through a store. But many small businesses either don’t take advantage of those functions or have a custom-built e-commerce site that hamstrings their ability to make changes and improvements. Here are a few areas where small companies fall down when it comes to optimizing pages for search.
- The URL: Oftentimes, you’ll see particularly custom e-commerce sites that produce gobbledygook URLs, ones with unintelligible characters or excessive dynamic parameters. For most product pages, the URL should be much simpler, reflecting the product or service name, separated by hyphens. But if it’s also a particular class of product, it should also reflect the product genre as well. For example, if I sell necklaces, making sure the word “necklace” is in the URL for the product page (separated by hyphens) is ideal.
- Robust Product Descriptions: We’ve seen a lot of small businesses limit the descriptive text or, in some cases, not have any at all. For search, the more you can repeat those high-value key terms or phrases people are searching for the better. A good product description also goes beyond SEO to help re-assure the customer that the product will work for them. It’s also a good practice (on all your pages) to typographically emphasize (bold italicize, or put in bullets, for example) those core high-value keywords. Product pages are no different in that regard.
- Image URLs and Image Alt Tags: Whether it’s laziness or lack of SEO knowledge, many small businesses don’t do some of the basics, such as naming image URLs (the image location) with those same high-value keywords separated by hyphens. They also often ignore the image alt text, which helps tell Google what the image is portraying. The alt text tag is another area to add those critical keywords.
- Internal Site Pages Linking to Product Pages: Our friend, SEO expert Myron Rosmarin, often says that a good rule of thumb is to try to have at least five other internal pages linking to a particular page on your website. The rule extends to product pages as well. (If you think about it, why should Google point to your page if you don’t even link to it?)
2. Add ratings and reviews to products.
Sometimes small businesses have some hesitation in allowing their own products or services to get rated or reviewed. “What if I get a bad review or a bad rating?” some ask. But the benefits of adding ratings and reviews are several-fold. First, research has been shown that it helps increase the trust in a site as a whole. And businesses that allow honest reviews of products or services both good and bad help consumers feel more secure about transacting. Second, adding ratings and reviews within a Google friendly structured data framework such as Schema.org can help boost rankings for those products and services in search. That’s because if Google can pull those ratings and reviews into search, the results themselves becomes more valuable. Though there is no absolute conclusive evidence that adding structured data boosts rankings, Google has suggested that it will indeed improve targeting and enhance listings making them more attractive to those who search. Here are two of the core Schema.org frameworks for ratings and reviews that you can work with your developers to employ on your site:
3. Reinforce security and data protection on your e-commerce site
For small businesses especially, customers can often be skittish about transacting on a site that’s new to them, or that they’re unsure when it comes to the security: “How secure is their data? How can I be sure that it won’t be stolen?” That’s why it’s important for small business websites in particular to reinforce security and help get customers to feel more secure as they go through the process. A few areas of focus can help here:
- Let customers know you know where they are. For sites that have multiple-stage checkouts, help the customer feel comfortable by indicating to them how many steps they have to go through in the process upfront, such as a progress bar or other method to show the customer you know what part of the process they’re in.
- Add “secure” to the checkout URL. A great example comes from the bananarepublic.com, which created a whole subdomain for the checkout “secure.bananarepublic.com” for its checkout process. The URL gives one more indication that transactions on the site are safe.
- Add “Why are we asking for this information?” links to information on data use. Customers can be hesitant to provide their phone numbers or other information, so many sites add this question near the form to help people understand that it’s to contact them in case something goes wrong with the order. Including such a message helps allay concerns customers may have and let them know the company understands their fears about data misuse.
- Add a message about credit card data / PCI compliance. Whatever payment provider you use to process the transaction make sure they are PCI compliant in the way the data is stored. There are many aspects to PCI compliance but the critical part for many customers is knowing that their credit card data is stored with access through a token, rather having the full card data in a place where hackers could reach it. Once you’ve confirmed the compliance on the part of the payment provider, make sure to message to customers that any credit card information they supply will be secure.
4. Simplify the checkout flow.
A complicated or unintelligible checkout process can kill customer desire to purchase a product. We’ve seen some small business websites where it’s hard to add a product to a shopping cart, where there is no cart to visit, or where it’s impossible to enter discount codes or add other products. Here are a few other areas to focus on to simplify the process.
- No roundtrips. Typically, this happens at the registration/user information stage. Have you ever entered in your customer information and then been taken back to the exact same place you were in before you filled in the forms? That’s called a round-trip. And it’s a no-no in terms of your e-commerce flow and checkout design. One best practice here is, after people enter their core information, take them directly to the checkout.
- Ask for only necessary information. We’ve seen small businesses add a number of fields to the user information section / create an account area. Why? Because that data is useful to them. However, adding too many fields can discourage the users that want to buy from checking out. So, it’s important to only ask for the information you need in order to complete purchase. If you’d like additional information from them, ask for it after they’ve purchased. Many e-commerce sites, for example, allow customers to check out quickly with a guest account then ask if they want to create an account by getting a password from them after the purchase.
5. Install an abandoned cart message (or several).
The average drop-off rate from cart to full checkout is about 70 percent. If you think about it, that’s a huge number of people lost by the e-commerce experience who expressed enough interest to put something in the cart. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes, people get distracted, sometimes they don’t have their credit card information handy. Sometimes, they are still weighing the decision or don’t really trust the site. And yes, sometimes, they aren’t actually interested in buying. But if the user has already entered their credentials and you know who they are, why not send set up and send them a reminder email (abandoned cart email) to help nudge and push them to purchase. Typically, you can do this with automated message after a particular period, say an hour, or sometimes 24 hours later. At Marketing Nice Guys, we recommend not stopping at one abandoned cart either, but including several follow ups to make sure you close the deal with anyone who is considering. One thing to make sure of: Connect your CRM with your marketing automation platform or other email software, running a script to ensure anyone who has purchased is no longer on the abandoned cart list.
6. Ask for reviews post purchase.
Want to know why Amazon is an e-commerce juggernaut? It’s because they do many of the above practices really well. Amazon also does a great job in asking customers to rate and review those products post-purchase. Typically, they do this by setting up an email trigger a week or two after the actual delivery. As mentioned above, ratings and reviews help the customers in many ways and help Amazon boost its product offering in search results. The email is also one small way they continue to engage customers in additional or related products and services the customers can also buy.
If you’re a small business with an e-commerce presence, we hope the above tips have been helpful. Our goal at Marketing Nice Guys is to help you excel at digital marketing. Contact us if you have any questions or feel free to leave a comment below. We wish you the best of luck in all your marketing endeavors.
At Marketing Nice Guys, we’ve done a lot of work in e-commerce, helping small businesses improve conversion and visibility for their products and services. Contact us for more information or about any of our services.