The small business owner's guide to converting site visitors into e-commerce sales

Kate Jones

Your website is a vital gateway to your business. It needs to engage visitors and, most importantly, convert them into e-commerce customers.

But unlocking the key to online conversion is a tricky business. Despite spending much time and money on increasing web traffic, many entrepreneurs still struggle to clinch the deal.

Nowhere is this more visible than the abandoned online shopping cart. The average online retailer will experience 68.5 per cent of their customers putting items into their online shopping cart before bailing at the last minute, according to research firm Baymard Institute.

So how can you make sure your site is optimised for actual sales?

Be the customer

The trick, says Associate Professor Dr Susan Lambert from Torrens University Australia, is to put yourself in the shoes of the customer. From this viewpoint you can spot any site problems blocking potential sales, she says.

“Think about what stops people from buying,” Dr Lambert says.

“This requires you to remove any uncertainty from the visitor’s mind. What would you want to be sure of before buying this product – can it be sampled, described, displayed in different ways?”

Ensure your site includes all the basic information most customers want to know. This includes clear details on delivery costs and the returns policy.

Like a bricks and mortar shop, you must have easy and convenient payment options. Minimise distractions in the checkout process by not flooding customers with upsell and cross-sell offers.

Minimise distractions in the checkout process by not flooding customers with upsell and cross-sell offers.

Clean, simple design

Simple site structure and design is least likely to confuse customers. Remove the visual clutter so your customers don’t get diverted from making a purchase and make sure your ‘buy now’ button is exactly where the visitor needs it to be.

“The structure and design of the website should lead visitors from one thing to another just the same as traditional retailing and merchandising,” Dr Lambert says.

“Maximise the stickiness of the site by providing high quality images and concise but informative information about the products.”

Be trustworthy

Whether consciously or not, every site visitor is scanning for security. In fact, online security is the top priority for 87 per cent of consumers, according to a study by Radius Global Market Research.

Use testimonials from existing customers, online trading third party assurance certifications and simple to read privacy and security policies.

Kate Jones

Kate Jones writes for the business and money sections of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. She also writes for The New Daily, TAC, RMIT and is a news writing tutor at Monash University.