Five Ways to Boost Your Online Holiday Sales

Dec 09, 2009 4:55 AM  By

In a brick-and-mortar store, only a catastrophe would cause shoppers to abandon their shopping carts in the checkout line. But online, it is par for the course.

Most online shoppers who take the time to load a shopping cart and begin the checkout process never finish. In fact, in the $600 billion e-commerce industry, more than 60% of all transactions end in abandonment.

Online retailers must come up with creative and compelling ways to prevent visitors from abandoning their carts — especially during the chaos of the holiday shopping season. Here are five ways you can encourage more shoppers to complete transactions on your site; what you can’t put in place for this season you should be thinking about for early next year.

1. Differentiate your product with third-party incentives
Many online sellers use free shipping as a way to differentiate themselves from their competition. But oftentimes it’s just not cost-effective, especially for low-ticket items with small profit margins.

Instead, you can differentiate yourself by offering a free product, gift card or valuable coupon from another company or advertiser as an incentive. The perceived value of the incentive will be much greater than the perceived value of free shipping.

And because advertisers will be willing to exchange their product or service for exposure on your site, it will cost far less than the price of shipping and handling.

2. Incorporate user reviews
Your customers are by far the most compelling spokespeople for your product. According to a recent survey, consumers trust user reviews 30 times as often as they would trust a critic. Incorporating user reviews on your site can build trust for your brand and add credibility to your product or service—not to mention help increase your sales.

3. Offer a variety of payment options
Not too long ago, the only payment choice online shoppers were offered were credit card brands such as MasterCard and Visa. But thanks to the growing alternative payments industry, customers have many options when it comes time to check out. With millions of shoppers putting away the plastic in favor of more secure, convenient or affordable payment options, you may be turning customers away if you only accept credit cards.

4. Include a customer service contact
No matter how much you simplify your checkout, some customers may still require assistance. It’s important to include customer service contact info or a help menu directly on the checkout page. Otherwise, a confused customer will have no choice but to abandon his cart to find your site’s help page, or worse, make a purchase on your competitor’s site instead.

5. Expand your product catalog by cross-selling
Online sellers are intrinsically linked by the Internet to all other industries—which leads to fantastic opportunities for cross-selling third-party products. By allowing shoppers to add complementary products from noncompeting merchants to their carts, not only can you expand your product catalog, but you can also increase sales by giving customers more value for their dollar.

Other merchants will gladly offer their products at a discount because you are expanding their distribution channels and offering these promotions only to shoppers at the point of sale, eliminating channel conflicts.

Ultimately, you must cater to your customer base to make the most of your online sales. Streamlining customers’ online shopping experiences and implementing attractive promotions will drive an entirely new level of consumer satisfaction, which will result in higher conversion rates and more successful transactions.

Alex Rampell (alex@trialpay.com) is the cofounder/CEO of TrialPay, an online payment provider that specializes in promotions such as purchase incentives, coupons, cross-selling and bundling.