How to Prep Your Site for Holiday Shoppers: 35 Tips to Raise Sales

SUMMARY: During last year’s November – December holiday season, $12.5 billion was spent online. This year there are more online shoppers than ever before. And comScore research indicates that as of last week, the immediate e-Retail slump caused by the events of September 11th was for the large part over.

We contacted six leading experts who specialize in helping sites convert more visitors into shoppers, and shoppers into buyers. Each gave us invaluable tips, based on their experience with many sites, to help you improve your online sales (without a complete site rehaul.)

NetConversions Shares 4 Secrets “Beyond the Click”

Ever wondered what your site visitors do when they’re not clicking? How much do they scroll? Where does their mouse wander on your home page? What do they try to click on (even if it’s not hotlinked?) NetConversions studies this for clients such as AOL, PhotoAlley and a Fortune 500 financial services firm. Here’s what they’ve learned:

1) On average, 30% of site visitors never scroll vertically and view any content below the fold. Companies that have critical information below the fold, like their Buy button, risk having 30% of their potential buyers never even seeing the buy option. So it is critical to optimize above the fold content.

2) For sites that require horizontal scrolling to see the entire content of the page, about 92% of visitors did not scroll horizontally. So it is important to design with variable screen width.

3) People who are shopping for items often choose to see a larger image of the item before purchasing it. If the ecommerce site offers the option to see a larger picture of the item, they should also offer the visitor the option to purchase the item on that page as well. Many ecommerce sites neglect to offer this convenient option to potential buyers.

4) Sites that eliminate or modify the navigational bars on their checkout, registration, or application page experience a higher success rate than sites that maintain their same template throughout all their pages.

digiMine’s 5 Common Sense Rules to Boost Online Orders, and JCrew are among the B2C and B2SB clients that use digiMine’s datamining services to improve their online sales. Nick Besbeas, digiMine’s Chief Strategy Officer, shared what he’s learned while working with them:

1) Limit the steps of your purchase process to as few as possible.

2) Apply analytics to your purchase process to identify at which step (purchase method? shipping method? shipping address?) the most customers abandon the process. Perhaps that step is confusing or subject to a technical error on your site.

3) Sell what sells: Apply site analysis to determine which product area or which products are receiving the most views and purchases. Then present them more prominently on the site!

4) Apply data mining to determine which products are most often purchased in combination. Merchandise them together! This will boost average order size as well as conversion rates.

5) Analyze your search logs! You just might discover your visitors are searching for a product you don’t carry (yet). At the very least, this will help you understand which products to emphasize on your site.

comScore’s Three Recommendations to Improve eretail Sales

comScore tracks 1.5 million Web shoppers continuously on behalf of clients such as Microsoft, BestBuy, Starwood Hotels, Dell, and Fingerhut. Dan Hess shared these three recommendations with us:

1) For e-retailers that also use direct mail catalogs, make it as easy as possible for a consumer to view products in the catalog but then shop online by directly entering a catalog SKU number as quickly as possible (e.g. on the home page) — as opposed to requiring visitors to browse the site to do so. We find that sites that have mastered this tend to have much higher conversion rates when compared to competition. Plus these retailers’operating costs tend to be lower.

2) Don’t assume that more visitors will automatically mean more buyers, either for you or your competition. Changes in your pricing, site merchandising, etc. can dramatically change the conversion of visits to your site.

Take Amazon for example: from Q1 to Q2 of this year, the site drew 11% more visitors but sales dropped nearly 5%. Why? A price increase taken at the same time caused fewer visitors to buy and some buyers to spend less. And the addition of informational, non-commerce content to the site probablybrought more people to the site who were not on-line buyers.

3) Don’t place ads, sponsorships etc. on sites simply based on the size of their audiences. For example, Netzero can deliver the eyeballs of nearly ten million machines, but those computers spend about half as much online as the average Internet user. By contrast, just under 800,000 visitors to in September spent four times as much as average. We see countless similar comparisons every month. Spend your ad money wisely byputting it against the sites that attract spenders.

The e-tailing Group’s Top 10 Gifting Ideas to Satisfy Shoppers

Although the e-tailing group isn’t planning on releasing the results of their 7th consecutive quarterly B2C e-merchandising survey until after Thanksgiving, we persuaded them to share some advance results. Their Top 10 Gifting Ideas to Satisfy Shoppers are:

1) Multi Channel Convenience – In-store returns, printable shopping lists

2) Marketing Integration – “As Advertised” listings of in-store events

3) Suggestive Selling – Up-sell and cross-sell to increase average order

4) Optimized Search – Sort inventory based on recipient/occasion. Try this test: Enter Keyword: “Gifting” then measure the relevancy of the results.

5) Customer Segmentation – Use features that appeal to all your shopper types

6) Pre-Orders – Encourage early shopping for hot products

7) Gift Centers – Aggregate gift ideas into one easy-to-shop gift area with tools

8) Prioritized Customer Service – Allow for real-time inventory & order status

9) Gifting Focused – offer wrapping, boxes, cards, address books, reminders

10) Communication – Gather opt-in email addresses to build a database to then send emails with gift suggestions & enticements to drive holiday shopping

Note: To see the full four-page summary of this new research, including fascinating numbers on best online merchandising practices as practiced by 100 leading Web sites, check out:

Hanrick Associates’ Top 7 Tips to Please Online Shoppers

Here’s what Hanrick Associates learned as they helped clients such as Daimler Chrysler, General Electric and Sur La Table better please their Web site visitors:

1) Keep registration and purchasing processes short: You’re fortunate if you only get less than 10% drop-off at each step of the process.

2) More than 50% of a site’s visitors typically fail to go beyond the entry page, so you need to select home-page content very carefully (Note: This does NOT necessarily mean cram in extreme amounts of content; we’ve had multiple clients for whom simpler proved to be better.)

3) Web users are highly impatient, usually clicking through a page in less than 20 seconds, so content should be simple andstraightforward.

4) Paradoxical to users’ impatience, though, is the group of motivated users. They will explore sites very deeply – over 30% of job seekers told us they would spend more than 20 *minutes* on a good corporate jobs site, for example – so provide plenty of hyperlinked content.

5) Customer segmentation is key to improving conversion rates, whether for commerce or other “success metrics” like subscription signup on a content site. Analyze how “successful” customers’ behavior differs from unsuccessful behavior, for example, and you’ll likely find many more hints on driving ROI.

6) Update featured products regularly – In our experience, clients consistently show interest in anything new on a site, as CTRs for those links will be higher for a short period of time.

7) Privacy policies are valued by surfers, and every site should have one. A surprisingly low segment of users, however – generally less than 35% – are so offended by any data mining or personalization efforts that they will use a site less because of it. Be up front in your privacy policy, and don’t beso afraid – users aren’t as skittish as you might think.

Future Now’s Five Tactics to Increase Conversions,, and others use Future Now to help them figure out how to make their site’s convert more visitors to buyers. Here are their top tactics:

1) Decrease your download time. Over the years numerous studies show visitors start losing patience at around 8 seconds and start bailing between 12 and 15. Nevertheless, it continues to be a major challenge. Put your pages in a diet. Likewise, keep your emails short and positive.

2) Alleviate anxiety and create trust. Consumers who arrive at your site or receive your emails are skeptical. If you want them to take action, use reassuring language and “Shop with Confidence” messaging.

3) Put assurances, guarantees, etc., at the Point of Action – the place where they matter most to your user. For example, putting your liberal return policy on your home page won’t matter much, while not putting it on your checkout page is a mistake.

4) Make it risk-free for people to add something to their cart and more of them will do it. Amazon did it right, then tested an alternative, and had to go back to doing it the old way. First they had the message, “you can always remove it later”. Perfect. Then for some reason they removed it from their sites a few weeks ago and sales suffered. Within a couple of days they put it back.

5) Offer a clear and prominent USP – Unique Sales Proposition. It’s not a slogan; it’s a compelling statement that tells your user why they should do business with you and not somebody else who might be offering essentially the same product or service – even if the similarity is only in the mind of your prospect. If you don’t tell them, who will, and if they don’t know, what’s to keep them from going elsewhere? Remember, we all have the same question in mind; what’s in it for me?

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