In the fast-paced digital age where everyone wants a piece of that sweet Internet money, competition for small businesses is greater than ever. Fortunately there are more tools available to small businesses than ever as well. Still, there are so many factors to consider, and so little time.
WebProNews sat down with Paul Boisvert of Yahoo Small Business to talk about some things that small e-commerce companies are doing wrong and how they can improve their approaches to ultimately get more sales.
Making the Most of Limited Time and Resources
"The big issue with any small business is having enough time," says Boisvert. "There's so many different trends that are out there, having to keep up on the education with what's new...what's current, what are the new tools they should be using, what are the new trends...it's a little bit daunting, and so we try to simplify things with our services, and try to educate them and direct their attention to things that are going to generate the highest ROI."
In fact, this subject came up more than once at PubCon this week. Read here and here for some additional thoughts on this from Chris Brogan and the New York Times' tech columnist David Pogue respectively.
"In a nutshell, the biggest thing I see that they're doing wrong is they're not focusing," says Boisvert. "They're not embracing their passion. When people get in and try to sell every product to every single person...you can't possibly be an expert on everything."
"You know, Amazon has tens of thousands of employees, but they have people that are experts on their specific topics," he adds. "So all small businesses need to kind of embrace what that core product is that they really have a lot of knowledge on, and then you'll be able to speak with authenticity. You'll be able to speak with authority, and that's going to persuade people to buy from you, and buy the products that you're selling as opposed to anywhere where they could get the same product."
But e-commerce success isn't just about time and product focus. Things like site usability and shopping cart optimization can make a huge difference when it comes to getting people to actually buy.
Improving Your Shopping Cart Process
"A few pointers I would throw out on shopping cart optimization..." says Boisvert. "You obviously want to have your contact information there, you want your 1-800 number there if you have one (if not, if you have a live chat, you want it there)...it's just a reassurance. Even if people don't use it, they know that that number is there. You're a reputable company, and if they have an issue they can contact you. It's not hidden."
"So you kind of want to reduce all the fears that people have as they proceed into that checkout process, so they don't have any of those questions and they can just pull out their wallet and pay you," he explains.
"Other things like trust marks are also very important," Boisvert adds. "Just having them on the site and reassuring somebody that you're a brand that another larger company has vetted to a certain degree, whether that's Yahoo or Verisign or any of the other trust marks that are out there, but those are really important in kind of reducing the fears that people have."
Trust is one thing, but you also have to think about the process itself. How easy is it for a customer to check out? If there's any hassle involved, you risk losing the sale, because your competition is only a click away.
How Many Pages Should The Checkout Process Include?
"You do have to guide the consumer,' says Boisvert. "You want to have a smooth flow. You want to reduce friction in your checkout process, but I think the whole argument around one-page or two-page or three-page is largely overblown. I've talked with many merchants. They've tested both versions. Our shopping cart supports all the various combinations: order review in place, order review not in place, single-page, multi-page...people have tested it, and they find out that the results for the most part are the same."
"I think the key differences are the people that are kind of on the edges," he notes. "If you sell a very low average order value, like a $20 purchase such as beads for jewelry or something like that, a single-page checkout makes sense because it doesn't require a lot of having to address a lot of fears and uncertainties with a low purchase value."
"However, on the flipside, if you're selling expensive watches or appliances, you want a multi-step process so somebody can feel comfortable with you...comfortable with the product they're going to get at the end of this checkout process," he concludes.
Watch the video above for more from Boisvert and some things Yahoo Small Business specifically is doing for e-commerce businesses.