The Difference Between Affiliate Program Success and Failure Starts Here
Web Design, Dimension, File Size, Sale Process, Purchase Process & Monetization Tips
When building a web site to convert sales, one must establish comfort in the visitor and avoid the frustrating pitfalls that commonly plague online merchants. It is important to remember that keeping visitors on a site and guiding them through the sales process is just as important as getting them there. Several tips for visitor retention and monetization are outlined below.
Design - Aesthetically, a site should be clean, clear, and attractive to the eye, saving bright colors only for important sales process features such as the headlines, offers, important details and purchase links. Avoid offending visitors with vibrant animated gifs or flash advertisements. Not only are these disruptive of the sales process and may lead visitors away from your site, but they also distract and annoy the visitor causing them to leave prematurely.
Dimensions - Different screen resolutions require that you test your site to make sure that all relevant information is available at as low as 800x600 pixels. Make your site no wider than 750 pixels to ensure that no side scrolling will be necessary. A visitor that has to scroll for every line of text will likely leave. Use your space wisely. It's probably better to have a small amount of empty space than to cram every detail into a small area. On the other hand, you don't want to leave out any valuable information.
Load Time and Compatibility - Be sure your site loads efficiently and correctly on all major browsers through a dialup connection. Many novice site designers are reviewing their work over broadband connections. Just because an image is small does not mean the file size is small. It is recommended that you compress your images so that your site loads in under 5 seconds on dialup when it is not cached on your drive. Try using jpeg format for images containing gradients or many colors such as photographs. Use gif formatted images for buttons and text art containing only a few colors. Also, try to use HTML color whenever possible instead of images.
Sales Process - Clearly present an attractive offer such as a discount or free sample and establish a sense of urgency. Your offer is your hook. Make certain it is attractive or you have nothing to help you stand out against your competition. Accompany your offer with a testimonial or guarantee to establish trust and summarize the features and benefits of the product. You can provide more details about the product on a different page for those who want to know more, but it is advisable to keep the front page of your site simple and sales oriented. Purchase links should always be visible.
Purchase Process - Be sure your purchase process is simple. Remember, at this point you have the sale. You should be doing everything in your power not to lose it. A visitor should be able to get from your home page to an order confirmation in no more than 3 clicks. This may sound difficult, but it can greatly increase your conversion. A huge mistake that is being made in online marketing is the long and involved registering process and subsequent requirement of customers to login. The so-called benefits of this feature are to save customer information and acquire opt-in information. However, this process can greatly affect conversion. If you must have customers register, gather their information after they have entered their credit card number and avoid having them enter the same information twice.
Billing information should always be gathered first. Make the customer commit to the purchase prior to entering shipping information or up-selling other products.
Monetization - Monetization means squeezing additional revenue from sources on your site other than your primary offer. Unfortunately, many have misconstrued this concept to mean that one should place affiliate banners throughout the site through which commissions can be earned. This is a huge mistake. Try placing related offers on the order confirmation page or exit pop-under window. This way, you can sell your product and make affiliate commissions without disrupting the sales process. Additionally the purchase can be followed by auto-response emails with special offers or reminders on a periodic basis to retain customers.
You can also earn additional revenue or gather valuable information from a non-buyer. For example, if a customer does not have a cookie in their browser indicating they purchased from your site, a pop up could be displayed which offered them an entry to win a product if they sign up for a newsletter. This is an offer many can't refuse. Choose something you can afford for your sweepstakes, and don't give it away until you know that the information you've gathered is worth the wholesale price of the product. You can then promote your product in your newsletter and retain the ability to promote your offer in the future.
Monetization can also be achieved through the use of an up-sell. Up-selling items allows you to offer the visitor a complementary item during the purchase process. These items should require a minimal commitment on the part of the customer and minimal explanation on the part of the merchant. For example, if a customer were purchasing a snowboard online, a snowboarding magazine could be offered at the point of purchase. This should only require the customer to click off a single button indicating that they want the additional product. The information can then be fed securely from the form on the merchant's site to the purchase form for the product on the partner's site through an affiliate link so that the merchant can earn commissions and thus monetize the site.
Greg Shepard is the CEO of NetTraction, an online marketing firm that specializes in site monetization, advertising and partnership acquisition. He has 8 years of experience in online marketing, and 16 years experience in business development. He has spoken at multiple venues including the University of Southeastern Louisiana. Visit http://www.NetTraction.com to contact Greg directly.