How to Boost Your Startup’s Web Sales

By Consumer Dummies

Good web marketing for small businesses is still quite rare, despite the flood of sales over the web. It may be that right now, the costs are low enough to allow marketers to get away with B or C level work. But why stop there? Wasting time and money by blasting ads at poorly defined audiences is plumb stupid and annoying to those who don’t care about the product. In fact, it’s not even marketing, if you define marketing as helping to bring about a sale. These tips will help you target web messages effectively with tactics for boosting orders on your web store.

Take well-lit product photos

Seeing is believing, right? So make sure your website offers good views of what you have to sell. Your photos should clearly show your products. Make sure your products are well lit in your photos. Bright, diffused light is the key to clear, high-resolution photos (or videos) that don’t have a grainy look, whitewashed spots, or dark areas.

To capture the best lighting possible, use studio-quality lighting sources (which are brighter than ordinary lighting) and diffuse the light with a photo screen or white umbrella. If you can’t afford professional photography, you can simulate studio lighting by hanging a thin piece of white cotton a few feet in front of two powerful halogen work lights positioned at a 45-degree angle to the product.

Choose the right backdrop

An effective backdrop for your product shot is second only to quality lighting. The goal is to make your product stand out, so stick to neutral or clean backdrops that allow the product to pop. To create a neutral backdrop, hang a white or off-white cotton or linen cloth (without any wrinkles!) behind the product. Taupe may work better than white for subtle colors or for products displayed on a human model. Black can be effective for contrast, especially when the product is very light in color (such as a white dress or a string of pearls). Whatever you do, avoid bright red or bold textures, which typically draw the eye’s focus away from the product.

Also give some thought to the color of your web page because it will be the backdrop for your product photos. A modest contrast that doesn’t call too much attention is best. For example, a pale blue background for your web page sets off a white background in a product photo.

Include info for comparative shoppers

Most web shops don’t offer enough information about their products. Any details you can provide about your product (think technical info, measurements, performance specifications, compatibility guide, and so on) are helpful to shoppers and can give them the confidence to buy.

Consider including a table to summarize the main features or benefits of your product for at-a-glance viewing. And if you can honestly show that your product beats the competition, include columns for the competition, too. If your web store gets big enough to make scanning all the offerings at once a chore, add a feature to your site that makes shopping recommendations based on customers’ search and purchase histories. Personalized recommendations often increase the size and frequency of web orders because they present products shoppers may find appealing.

Comparative shoppers may want to check both your website and a shopping engine service, which cues up the best prices on products from multiple sources. To make sure you’re visible and competitive on shopping engines like Google Shopping, PriceGrabber, and Become, either contact each site directly and follow its instructions or work with a web ad agency skilled in this area.

Add streaming video

Streaming video can boost sales by giving shoppers even more information and confidence about your product. Show the product in use, walk viewers through a 20-second review of the product’s greatest features, and include short clips of happy customers giving honest testimonials. But don’t force everyone to watch the video; some shoppers may value speed and simplicity of purchase and be chased away by a video that stands between them and the order form.

Provide prompt email support

Buying is a process, and emails can keep the buyer company and help her stay oriented throughout that process. Make sure you integrate plenty of informative, helpful, and prompt email contact into your customers’ web shopping experiences. Every time someone fills in a form, requests information, participates in a promotion, or makes even the smallest purchase, she should immediately receive a confirmation email.

If you do business on a small scale, you can write these emails yourself, but usually the frequency is too great, so an auto-responder (a software application that sends prescripted responses) is necessary.

Supply a “Contact Me Now” option

Some people don’t feel confident enough about the product, or about the seller, to make an online purchase. For shoppers who need a more personal touch, include a Contact Me Now button that produces a simple contact form for the customer to enter her name, address, phone number, and email address and type up a short note with her question or request and how she prefers to be contacted.

By offering this feature, you won’t lose people who are unsure of what to purchase on your website or who don’t think they see exactly what they need. Or if you have retail stores that carry your products (or offices that deliver your services), provide a Store Locator function.

Design a clean, uncluttered site

Cramming too much into your opening page can turn off potential customers. Make your web store’s home page simple enough to take in at a glance. Take your most important content and cue it up front and center, putting other content behind tabs or clickable buttons in a side column. Most product lines follow the 80/20 rule, where roughly 80 percent of sales come from 20 percent of the products or services, so showcase the top sellers on the home page and let shoppers navigate deeper for the less-frequently bought items.

Offer straightforward site navigation

Don’t let your website navigation get too complicated; a prospective customer should always be able to move around your web store or site easily. Avoid dead ends and long, winding pathways. Keep the links logical and don’t give the site too many layers. And make sure the shopping cart icon is visible on every page, because purchasing something should be quick and easy every time. Test your web store over and over to identify any quirks, confusions, and complexities that need to be removed.

Try putting the shopping cart in a pop-up window so that shopping in the store can continue uninterrupted. Update the cart as customers add to it. If your shopping cart program doesn’t do this or feels awkward and outdated, look for another.

Build an appealing, trustworthy brand

Branding is just as important on the web as it is in the real world, so make sure your logo and name are presented in a clean, professional, and appealing manner on the top of each and every page of your site. Also, use colors and typestyles that complement your logo and remind shoppers in a subtle way that they’re still under your brand umbrella.

Put your web address everywhere

Use your other marketing communications to promote your website. Every email that your business sends should have an attractive, clickable logo, linking to your site as well as your address and phone number(s) for follow-up. Add QR codes on your signage and packaging. A special offer with a landing on your home page with the details of the offer is a great way to draw people to your web shopping environment. A Facebook page, blog, or other social media adventures can help build an image and following for an appealing web brand and should always have links to your site. Also put your web address on absolutely everything you print, including business cards, envelopes, brochures, bills, packaging, and letters. Make it easy for people to find you.