E-commerce Best Practices Series (Part V): Making it simple for visitors to buy

Tips for turning Website visits into sales

Last of a five-part E-commerce Best Practices Series:

By Brad Smith

In this series, we’ve focused on driving customers to your Web site and the importance of intuitive navigation. It’s critical that you enhance the customer’s experience and make it as easy as possible to purchase your products securely. You are being compared and evaluated against every other retailer that visitors have encountered. You must provide them with a reason to order from you rather than your competition — whether online or at your dealership. It’s important to communicate a compelling value statement that encourages customer loyalty.

This article will examine ways in which you can convert your online visitors from shoppers to buyers.

Should I price products lower online?

One of the most common mistakes is offering no price differentiation between your online and physical store.

Selling online may reduce many of the expenses incurred in your brick-and-mortar store such as floor space and staff. While an online store may reduce your cost of sale, it’s important to remember that consumers may incur additional costs such as shipping and handling. Prices that are not adjusted to accommodate this can deter potential buyers.

Be competitive. With the increased sales volume, you may encounter larger discounts or rebates. Being mindful of costs, you can offset consumer transaction fees with discounts or promotions.

What kinds of incentives/discounts can I use on my Web site?

In addition to lowering prices, there are several other incentives and strategies you can use to help offset additional consumer costs.

Consider the following additional ways to increase your online sales:

Free shipping/discounted shipping: The Holy Grail of online selling. Shipping promotions increase both sales and results. To help offset your shipping incentive, you can negotiate rates with your shipping partners based on volume.
Clear call to action: Use promotional “carrots” that entice visitors with limited-time or online-only specials that are prominently displayed on your home page.
Coupons or discounts: Help convert a visit into a sale by offering the customer a discount. Coupons or savings codes give customers a reason to buy immediately.

Promotions that use discount codes or coupons not only provide a good incentive for Web visitors to buy, they also have benefits for you. By using discount codes or coupons, you can measure the effectiveness and return on investment (ROI) of each of your marketing efforts. For instance, you can measure conversion rates with coupons versus rates without coupons. This information can then be used to help refine your incentive strategy.

Clearly identify savings! List your price compared to the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) on product pages boldly, calling out the savings. During the checkout process, reinforce the savings again, by emphasizing value and savings; you’ll build a loyal customer base.

How can cross promotion help drive my Website sales?

Cross promotion is an excellent way to encourage customers to buy more. Expendable items — such as oils, filters, belts, blades, spark plugs, tune-up kits and other items that wear out on a regular basis — are great items to cross promote.

To capitalize on these opportunities, be sure to display items related to a particular product or search result, including products purchased by other customers.

Can selling parts and accessories online increase my sales?

The answer is “yes!”

Making it easy for consumers to look up and order merchandise on demand can produce significant gains. Providing an intuitive online store saves customers time while increasing Website traffic and sales.

Another way to increase sales on your Web site is to feature fast-moving parts and accessories on your home page. This makes it quick and easy for consumers to find and order the items that they need.

What types of payment options should I offer online?

The most widely used method of payment is PayPal, an online payment system owned by eBay. It serves as a universally accepted and trusted middleman that can be used across many stores and Web sites. It presents significant advantages for customers and dealers in both security and convenience.

Regardless of which merchant you select, it is important to assure your customers that their purchase is safe. You can do this by performing regular PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliancy checks.

Make sure to use a security certificate from a trusted vendor — for example, a certificate from VeriSign is built into the ARI product — and display it during the checkout process. There are additional services, such as Hacker Safe, that you can embed into your Web site to assure customers the site is protected against malicious attacks. 

Remember, in order to close the sale and keep customers coming back, they must feel secure when making a purchase on your Web site.

How can I build customer loyalty on a Web site?

Treat your Website customers the same way you do customers who walk into your dealership. While you can’t shake their hand at the end of the sale, you can personalize the sales transaction.

Send an e-mail thanking them for their business.
Provide updates on the status of their order, including shipping and tracking information.
Send e-mails featuring special offers and discounts on their next online purchase.

Most importantly, make sure your Web site is easy for customers to use. If you do, it’s more likely they will continue to buy from you. Keep it simple. Keep it secure. And keep it selling.

 Brad Smith is product manager of web services including WebsiteSmart Pro, PartStream and PartSmartWeb for ARI, which provides technology-enabled services to dealers, distributors and manufacturers. From electronic parts catalogs to dealer e-commerce solutions to search-engine and direct marketing and more, ARI helps increase sales and productivity for companies in several industries, including outdoor power equipment, powersports, motorcycles, marine, recreation vehicles, appliances, agricultural equipment, floor maintenance, and construction. ARI currently serves more than 20,000 dealers, 100 manufacturers and 150 distributors in more than 100 countries worldwide. For more information on ARI, visit www.YourEveryAdvantage.com.

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