Are you having a low conversion rate and too many of your shoppers seem to be leaving your store without buying anything? Here are some tips on what you can do to minimize it. Don’t require registration. Look at many of your huge online retailers like Zappos.com. Follow their lead as what they are doing seems to work or they wouldn’t become as big as they are. Write your product descriptions for humans and not for SEO. Be careful with too many out of stock items, many times people want to buy today and do not want to wait for you to receive new inventory before shipping. Have a nice clean homepage that is focused and organized, like josbank.com which has done a lovely job. If your shopping cart can handle it, provide an estimated arrival date. This will provide your users with useful information if they are anxious to receive their purchase. Offer many payment options, such as and possibly Paypal and/or Google Checkout. Don’t change negative reviews. If all you have are positive reviews on all of your products, this will look suspicious. Even the best products will have some negative reviews as you simply cannot please every customer, it isn’t possible. Do not display advertising on your site, like Adwords. There are so many reasons not to, like it is unprofessional. Lastly, make it easy for your customers to contact you with any questions, issues or concerns.
Cartfly is another shopping cart I’m reviewing today. Cartfly is an ecommerce shopping cart tailored to the mini stores that use social media network sites, blogs and personal web sites. It is being used on over 8,000 sites. Instead of luring customers to your web site, this cart allows you to come where the customers are. This can be useful since social media is a hot topic these days. The cost is free to setup and are charged 3% transaction fee when something is sold. The price isn’t too high, about what it costs for services, which you would still need. Their big advantage is it works with social media sites, which most carts do not. Their big disadvantage is it can be a basic feature set. They can also work with Facebook, twitter and myspace, bring business to a whole new market.
Today, I will be talking about an ecommerce merchant Yonderstar.com. The web site was launched in 2000, almost a decade ago. As you can tell by the name, it is a Christmas store. When they started the site, they were thinking it would actually be a beginning to opening a retail location but that never worked out as the ecommerce site keeps them busy enough. I would say the size of this company is still small. They have around 2,500 SKUs and very seasonal, but can be a very profitable business. They are expecting to hit $500,000 this year. Personally, I’m surprised by this as I do not think the web site is very professional. I also wonder if they had someone redesigned their site, would their sales double or even triple? They started off using Yahoo as their shopping cart system and still use them today. The big downside to Yahoo is they are only compatible with one particular platform, First Data Nashville. This limits the merchant’s choices when it comes to selecting a merchant account provider. One good thing is they do not outsource their ordering management system. They do it themselves and use Quickbooks to manage their finances.
Transfs.com has recently launched a free iPhone application. Transfs is a web site auction site for services. The way it works is a merchant fills out a bid form and submits it. Then the processors TransFS has in its system evaluates the customer’s processing information, such as volume and makes a bid. Once the auction has ended, the merchant then selects the processor they want to do business with. The chosen processor is then given the merchant’s personal contact information to continue the setup process.
Transfs has now released an iPhone application that merchants can use to utilize their web site and their services. I find the whole concept of their service interesting as I have always had a difficult time explaining the Interchange plus pricing program to most merchants and that is what their entire service is about, Interchange plus pricing quotes. It is indeed the best pricing program for any merchant, but many cannot grasp the concept of it and many times still prefer the 3-tiered pricing model for it is easier to grasp and understand.
Many small businesses are turning to cash advances to satisfy their funding needs. Many small businesses are unable to get loans from banks for the funding needs they have, such as expanding, covering holiday inventory purchases, etc. Banks are even more stringent with their money with the tight economy. Therefore, a lot of merchants are turning to cash advances from their provider. The way it works is a merchant is advanced a certain amount of cash that is then repaid back through their credit card charges & deposits. For example, a recent restaurant owner needed money to expand his building by a 100 sq ft. He was able to get a $100,000 cash advance from his processor, EVO. Typical advances range from the low 10,000 to the high 80′s. The maximum that most cash advance companies will do is $250,000.
OfficeMax is your standard merchant with fees. The other side of the table they are now getting into is the issue end. When it comes to processing a transaction, there are several parts of the whole process. It starts with banks issuing out credit cards. They are referred to as issuers. Visa/MC are the association that is tied to that particular card or bank. You then have the merchant account provider that processes the transactions for the merchant and assumes risk. Lastly, you have the sponsoring bank, where all merchant accounts must be sponsored by a bank. However, they receive such a small piece of the pie, it isn’t worth considering.
Now, as a merchant, they have a cost of accepting a credit card, which has its own benefits that comes along with it. On the flip side, they are now issuing branded Visa Cards. I assume they have some type of agreement with a bank where they get a kickback on all transactions their customer’s process. So now they are now not only getting the benefit of accepting a credit card, but are getting a little something back on the card issuing side. This ultimately reduces their costs to run those particular transactions that are associated with those cards.
In generally, businesses cannot add a surcharge to a credit card transaction for the convenience of the customer using the card. When a merchant signs up for a account, they are agreeing to a merchant agreement that states this is completely prohibited. The rule is coming from Visa/MasterCard directly. Their theory is they do not want their customers to be penalized for using their service. In generally, I think it is a bad idea anyways. Consumers expect merchants to absorb the cost like any other business expense. I see a lot of places in my area that do this and if their processor ever finds out, they would immediately terminate their account. They would then have an almost impossible time getting another one.
There is one exception to the rule. That is government agencies. V/MC have allowed these types of organizations to add a convenience fee to the transaction. Most government agencies are now accepting credits and many of them charge a 3 to 4% surcharge. In my opinion, that shouldn’t be acceptable as they are now charging more than what it actually costs. If their costs is that high with their provider, then they should get their fees reduce as Interchange tops out at just a little over 3%. This shouldn’t be an area that generates revenue for them.
During this economy, shoppers are looking for discounts from Internet merchants and if you don’t provide them, they may abandon their cart. Here are some ways to utilize tools & techniques to prevent this with discount offers. For starters, you want to make sure you reiterate your special offer or discount throughout the web site and not just the homepage. If you do not do this, the consumer may lose interest or forget about the offer before checking out. For example, if you are offering free shipping on all orders over $50, place some type of message or image stating this at the top of all pages on the site. Payment choices – it is best to offer multiple payment choices besides a option. Such as a bill me later type of service, checks or gift cards. Avoid the gotchas with sales tax & shipping charges being added later in the check out process. Always have this displayed and showed before checkout, when they view their cart. You also want to make your customers feel safe and secure. You can do this by displaying your security logos, such as an SSL certificate and that your site has been scanned for security breaches using a service like Mcafee. Lastly, go through your process yourself, as if you were a customer buying one of your products so you can see how it flows, feels, etc.
Industry insiders give great ecommerce tips all the time. Here is a list of them for November 2009. Localize Site – if you are a big retailer, then localize your web site with your retail stores. That way you have the same products available in store as is online. Message above the fold – it is important to keep your important messages at the top, such as newsletter sign up boxes, navigation, reviews, etc. Testimonials – it is always a great idea to post testimonials from your customers. It gives your company credibility when there isn’t a face to face transaction. Help – things are harder for everyone, if you help others, it will come back to you. FAQ – be sure to have a faq page that answers commonly asked questions. Such as if your company takes payments. This not only answers their questions quickly & effectively, but reduces your customer service calls. Goals – always have focused business objectives and clearly define when they have been achieved vs if you should go back to the drawing board. Sophisticated shoppers – do not forget to appeal to the sophisticate users, such as the ones that like to use videos, zoomable images, etc.
SEOshop is another shopping cart I’m reviewing today. The company is based in the Netherlands. The cart costs around $37 US and then they charge a small percentage of the monthly sales the store brings in, similar to how the Yahoo Stores work. Currently their average commission is 3.5%, but can be flexibly depending upon the merchant’s size. The cart claims to be very SEO friendly, which is very important for almost all Internet merchants. Without SEO traffic, an online store can not survive. Another strength is its compatibility with providers. This includes about 20 different payment processing services. A big disadvantage is it is not currently open to developers. They do plan on releasing a template engine some time next year. The cart can also be attractive to resellers as the whole system can be private labeled if desired.