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Making the Sale: How to Sell More on Your Website

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If there's one thing I've learned in my years of marketing, it's that no matter how much authors love what Amazon can do for them, they'd rather sell books on their own site than share a cut with the giant online e-tailer. Doing this, however, can be tricky.

It seems that every time we turn around, some big chain is admitting that they were hacked. If you were one of the millions who shopped there, your information could be in the hands of God-knows-who. With so much attention on shopper security, it's leaving a lot of shoppers even more hesitant to shop online.

Last year, Baymard Institute released a staggering statistic: 67.89 percent of shoppers abandon their carts before completing the purchase. That translates to around $1.79 trillion dollars in product or services purchased online. Why does this happen? Well, there are a lot of theories on this. According to Shopify the list of the top reasons that people abandon their purchase with you includes things like:
Presented with unexpected costs; I was just browsing; found a better price elsewhere; overall price too expensive and a variety of others, you can see the full article here: http://www.shopify.com/blog/8484093-why-online-retailers-are-losing-67-45-of-sales-and-what-to-do-about-it#axzz2upov5N3i

Though I don't disagree with this per se, I would take this a step further, because not only are security concerns at an all-time high, there are a variety of additional reasons you may be losing people. Also, how to get shoppers and keep them varies by industry so let's look at the ones that will matter to authors and publishers:

  1. Overall Look of Site: There's a high trust factor with a site that looks professional. I don't want to buy from a site that looks sketchy. Would you? If you want to sell from your site, you'll need to have one that's professionally designed. I would say that this goes even before we start the shopping cart discussion because you won't get anyone to even entertain buying off of your site if it doesn't look like a place they'd want to shop.
  2. Checkout Process: I see a lot of authors (and even business owners) who make the shopping process difficult. I'm not sure why they do this or why their web designers recommend this. Every click you make someone do can cost you five percent of your traffic, meaning that if you require several clicks just to get an item into their shopping cart, you've now lost 20 percent of your traffic. Make the buying process easy. Put "Shop" or "Store" or (if you have one product) "Buy Now" on the home page so folks immediately know where to click. Visitors won't take the time to figure it out. If they can't find it on your site, they'll go elsewhere and in the age of Amazon they're likely to just default back there.
  3. Site security: Show shoppers that their purchase is secure is also very important. Buyers want to know you're taking care of their personal details so showing security messages -- even things like "Secure checkout" make all the difference. In fact, according to a recent Entrepreneur Magazine article, adding security messages can increase a buy by 16 percent.
  4. Sign in/Sign up: I don't know about you, but the minute someone wants me to create an account before buying an item, I'm usually gone. If you want folks to sign up on your site, have them do it after they've made a purchase. Studies show that conversion rates can increase by 45 percent if you allow buyers to shop as "guests" throughout their visit.
  5. Unexpected Costs: We all know that Amazon has pretty much ruined us for shipping costs. Thanks to things like Amazon Prime, and other free shipping opportunities, most of us abhor these added costs. If you feel charging for shipping is something you have to do, consider offering free shipping as an incentive instead of a guarantee. Staples, for instance, offers free shipping when you buy a certain dollar amount. Other e-tailers have free shipping days, or, if you want to further incentivize site sign-up, you could offer free shipping to members only which would encourage them to join your site so you could remarket to them later.
  6. Cart abandonment: Window shopping happens, even online. SeeWhy did a study last year and found that 99 percent of people won't buy on their first visit to your website. This is why having an email newsletter, or some other benefit-driven giveaway, is not only important, but mandatory if you want to make the sale. Email newsletters allow you to remarket to your visitor. No, they may not buy on the first try, but a helpful, content-rich newsletter will remind them who you are and encourage a buy for later. It is a lot of work, yes, but so is building a store on your site that no one buys from. Alternatively, you could also consider pop-ups or sidebar messages that show up during the purchase process, offering customers five percent off.
  7. eCommerce options: I know many folks who have extensive eCommerce options which are great but also costly. Being able to take credit cards, especially if you are small, is an added cost you may want to incur but, you may not need to. When we switched from our extensive pay system to just offering PayPal, we found that our shopper conversion almost doubled. Also, PayPal no longer requires users to register with their system so you can give your shoppers the peace of mind of using a secure system, without having to register.
  8. Love the Love: People like what other people like, which is why for most (if not all) retailers, you'll see reviews and customer feedback right on the page. Most authors don't have the bandwidth, time, or money to create a sales system that's quite that elaborate, so adding reviews to the sales pages is very helpful. Adding reviews with a picture adds even more credibility to the page. Remember that your customer can, with one click, meander over to Amazon and buy the book there so give them a reason to stay.
  9. Pricing: If you're going to keep shoppers on your site, you'd better up the ante on your pricing. We already know you need to ship for free (at least on certain days or with minimum orders) now let's consider your "offer." Maybe you just wanted to offer the book. Sure, that's fine, albeit a tad boring. Sorry, but they can get the book on Amazon, too. If you really want to lure folks to your site and make the sale, you'll need to give them a slam-dunk deal they can't resist. As an example, when we changed the offer on our store page from 3 books for20 to four, sales doubled. Keep in mind that there is only one print book that's mailed, the rest are digital and delivered as soon as payment is taken so there's nothing else for me to do. Digital product is easy to add on because there are no hard costs with it, beyond the initial creation of the product. So what else can you add onto your book to help entice shoppers? What about offering the eBook with the print book so they can have one for their Kindle and a print book in hand (something a lot of readers still enjoy)? Maybe you could pair your book with someone else's e-product. When you take some time to brainstorm, the possibilities are endless.

In the end, what you really need to do is think of your website as a brick and mortar store. If you created any of these roadblocks at Macy's, or a Barnes & Noble, you'd really hurt your sales process. Authors often assume that a website store is different. It's not. We want easy, we want fast, and we want the best price. If you can bring all of these elements into your website store, you'll increase sales considerably.