A strong understanding of optimisation is a major factor in e-commerce success. But sometimes the most effective drivers of online sales are often the most surprising.
Whether your customer clicks the “buy” button may depend on colour – that is, the colour of the button. This may seem hard to believe but it’s true, according to Paul Robinson, marketing manager at successful online retailer, ABC Shop.
“Findings emerged from our multivariate testing to evaluate customers’ behaviour,” he explains. “Mind you, it’s not a big difference – under 2 per cent. But, in online marketing terms, every little bit helps.”
So, what are the preferences of colour-sensitive customers? “Lighter colours in colder months; these cheer them up, make them more likely to buy,” says Robinson. It’s for this reason that the ABC Shop often changes the colours of its buttons. With warmer months approaching, “Buy Now” buttons are currently a dark blue.
One tactic to reduce cart abandonment – a perennial problem in online retailing – and increase optimisation is making experiences simple and safe, says Robinson. “Making it easy means resisting temptations to use sales routes to gather information. You shouldn’t have people filling in loads of information before they spend money. Information gathering belongs elsewhere on sites – not in sales processes.”
And safe? “Give them many options for paying,” he suggests. “Let them choose preferred methods: PayPal, credit cards or others. Highlight your site’s great safety.”
Understanding your demographic is also important, adds Robinson. “We have many older people and some won’t put credit card details on websites, particularly after scaremongering by sections of the media,” he says. “Since we don’t want to lose them, we offer alternatives, such as ordering by fax. Some may argue faxes aren’t safer than websites, but our research shows they find faxes reassuring. And they’re the ones making decisions whether or not to buy.”
Efficient, fast delivery also keeps customers happy, making it more likely that they’ll return, Robinson believes.
“In Australia, delivery is a massive issue – free delivery is expected,” he says. “We find when free delivery is offered, it’s taken up in droves. People also buy more to reach thresholds – say $80 – above which free delivery is offered.”
But while customers demand free delivery, they’re willing to pay extra to insure shipments, he adds.
The ABC Shop also makes clever use of calls to action throughout the site where these are appropriate. Terms such as “limited availability”, “limited numbers” and “order now” persuade customers to purchase immediately rather than navigate away from the page and reconsider the offer.
Keep it simple
According to James Griffin, a partner at advisory company SR7, “online marketers should keep thinking about how to make sites simpler. After all, people don’t have to buy from you. Minimise clicks and inputs. Don’t have too many fields on forms.”
Griffin predicts the “next big wave” in e-commerce will be sales through social media, such as Facebook. “Online retail marketers should be looking at how best to use social media,” he says.
Cart abandonment can be an overstated hazard, says Charles Nicholls, a leading industry expert on e-commerce and founder of the SeeWhy Conversion Academy. “The problem with such thinking is that while broadly correct, it’s too simplistic: only 3 per cent of all visitors convert and only .25 per cent of new visitors. So, it’s important to recognise that the way customers buy is through a series of visits – researching, placing items in carts for later, abandoning – and comparing your offer with other sites.
“In practical terms,” he says, “this means having a nurture strategy – reassuring and gently nudging visitors into making purchases.”
- Know your audience and its purchasing habits.
- Keep it simple; make it easy to click “Buy Now”.
- Provide clear trust markers to demonstrate to your audience that your site is safe.
- Follow up your customers’ purchases with efficient delivery.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and the interviewees, and not of Australia Post.
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