We all understand the value of a well laid-out high street shop, selling the right products at the right prices, along with a complementary ambience and helpful sales people. Not only does this make the customer feel good and return more often, it also affects how much they spend. So why are the same principles often overlooked with online stores?

A great deal of time and care is spent setting up and maintaining the most successful high street shops. The owner takes the time to decorate their shop in a way that their customer will welcome. They watch the flow of traffic around their store and lay it out in a manner that will tempt their customers to make a purchase. This should be the same with online stores too. So here are a few pointers to get you thinking about your online shop and how you can increase sales:

1) UX and Analytics

An e-commerce store may not have the advantage of a real sales person, ready to guide you to the right part of the store and talk you through your purchase. But as an e-commerce store owner you have the advantage of UX tracking and analytics. It sounds complicated but it really isn’t – it simply helps you to work out what’s selling, what isn’t and, more importantly, why.

UX tracking and analytics lets you see the busy and quiet areas of the shop, the route people are taking through it, and even how they got to you in the first place. It just takes a bit of time and training to help you master this and increase your sales as a result.

Customer Interaction Heatmap

2) The Shop Assistant

Before purchasing in a physical shop we often want to ask a few questions to a salesperson about the product, just to make sure our understanding is correct. So how can we recreate that experience on a website?

Live chat is one answer to this. The customer can very easily ask their questions and get fast, direct answers from an assistant or technical specialist. It’s even possible to add in FAQ sections and extended product guides, along with video, to reassure the visitor that this is the right product for them.

Live Chat

3) How can you recreate a live demo from a sales person in a store?

One of the advantages  of a physical shop over an e-commerce one is that you can get hands on with a product – you can even get a demonstration of how it actually works. But we have some very powerful tools at our disposal these days, that can really bring your online products to life. It all begins with very clear photographs of the product from all angles. This should include packaging details and how it’s used, along with any technical diagrams, if applicable. Meanwhile, a 360-degree product photo gives the viewer an experience that’s almost like holding the item in their hands. Video can also be used to talk the viewer through the product, showing examples of how it can be used. Combine all of these principles from the outset, and you’re providing your prospective customers with the closest thing to hands-on experience!

Photographing Product Demo

4) Store Signage

Clear store signage in a physical shop is invaluable to help visitors navigate quickly and easily to the items they’re interested in. But canny shop managers make sure the route takes them past other products that are also likely to attract their attention.  And this should be no different when shopping in an online store. Clear navigation will direct site visitors to the key areas of your store. But with the use of graphics and photos you can attract them to other products too, or parts of the store they hadn’t anticipated visiting.

User Friendly Navigation

5) The Ambiance

Owners of physical stores go to great lengths to get the right look and feel within their store, to get you in the mood for your purchase. If you’re shopping for an electric guitar for instance, the shop will look and feel very different from a shop selling classical pianos. But this is an area very often overlooked by online stores. Many sites are built on one-size-fits-all templates, meaning they all look much the same. And little thought seems to be given to making the customer feel at home.

The look and feel of your online store needs to be very carefully considered and tested. As an e-commerce store owner you have the ability to make quick and painless changes to your store, then test and track the changes you made, without the inconvenience of getting the decorators in every few weeks. You are in a powerful position of being able to set up your store based on real-life data and ongoing testing.

It takes a bit of care, and thought, to get the most out of your online store. But the same basic principles apply for both e-commerce and high street shops. Try giving each part of your online store a different look, by changing the decor or ambience, just as you would in a bricks-and-mortar shop.

Shop Floor Layout

6) Checkout

Very few of us like to queue in a physical store to pay for our purchases. Studies have shown that even in real physical stores there are many abandoned shopping trolleys as a result of long queues or overly-complicated sales processes. And it’s exactly the same for an online store –  make the checkout process too complicated or lengthy, and you’ll attract more your fair share of abandoned shopping baskets.

Social media allows you to usefully engage with people, whether through groups, videos, how to guides or providing useful information about products and services. And the real beauty of social media is, that if you get it right, people will share your comments and videos with other people within their own communities. In effect, your audience are doing your marketing for you, yet you don’t have to engage in any hard sell, so it never seems forced.

Feature Rich Checkout

7) The Upsell

One of the skills good sales people possess is upselling, They’ll stress the importance of a good shoe protector with your new pair of shoes, or maybe the matching handbag, which you had walked straight past. It’s quite easy for a sales person to add a further 25% of sales to your transaction through upselling..

Online retailers don’t have the advantage of good in-store sales people, but they do have some pretty impressive upselling tools at their disposal. You just need to uncover these tools in your e-commerce platform and start testing them. It can take quite some time to set them up properly, but the effort is well worth it with the increase in turnover they generate.

Shop Assistant Upsell

8) Returns

It’s no secret that a physical shop with a simple uncomplicated returns policy will do better than a shop which makes returns difficult. And it’s the same for an online store – you’ll make far higher sales if you make your returns policy really easy. You also need to make returns information easy to find from each and every product page across your site. In fact, why not insert a brief returns description next to each product, rather than requiring people to click away to a separate page?

Customer Returning Items

9) Complaints

It doesn’t matter how hard we try to make our products and services as perfect as possible, things will always go wrong from time to time. In a physical shop the sales person will often be the one who receives these complaints and can deal with them in a very timely manner. In an online store we can’t present the customer with a physical sales person, but we can still be very helpful and efficient. And the best way of demonstrating that is by replying to each complaint with a personalised message. You will find that dealing well with complaints can actually increase sales – it demonstrates how well your perform when things don’t go to plan.

Disgruntled Customer Complaints

10) The Follow Up

Another skill a good sales person possesses is recognising returning customers and greeting them personally. Customers really enjoy being made to feel special! But you can build a similar ‘bonding’ experience in your online store, using personalised greeting pop ups, follow-up emails and exclusive discounts.  You can even invite customers to join private groups, where they will receive news about sales and special offers before everyone else.

Happy Successful Shop Owner

Get inside your shop and make brave changes!

As you can see, it really is possible to make your online store as welcoming as a high street shop. But you do need to put a bit of time and thought into getting it right, and you need to track and analyse your data too, to check what’s working and make any necessary changes.  But you have tools at your disposal that a high street shop owner can only dream of – you can totally redecorate your store within a day if you want. You can even put it all back the way it was the next day! And once you start tracking the results of your changes, you’ll see how easy it is.

So be brave and make some changes.

The biggest downside we see with online stores is with shop owners becoming detached from the shop front itself. The owner of a high street shop is on their shop floor everyday, experiencing what the customers experience, what they hear, what they see and what they feel. They get to know what the customers like and what actions will result in the most sales.

In contrast, we find many e-commerce shop owners fall into the trap of only ever visiting their shop via the backend to process their orders. They forget it’s the front end that actually drives the sales. They don’t take the time to observe the front end of the shop as a customer would, or walk through it to test out the navigation and product layout. And yet they are missing out on maximising sales in their store.

So get into the front end of your online shop and walk through it like a customer would do – you’ll be surprised what you’ve missed. You may even find parts of your site have become a little outdated.

So give our suggestions a try. We’re confident you could increase your turnover each month by at least 15% with very little effort involved. Spend a bit more time about it, and we think you could easily build that up to a 25% – 35% increase or more. If you need any advice, help or support, just give us a call or send us an email.

Shop Floor Feature Shot