Designing Choicemaking a smarter living online
Last month I learned a few more valuable lessons about doing business online.
I didn't know it, but I was committing a mistake that was costing me thousands of dollars each year.
I really should have know better actually. I've been marketing online since 1996. And I've been told by many folks that I have a good grip on how to do business online.
What's that old line, "physician heal thyself?" Well it applies here. Three years is a long time to be making the same mistake at my website. But that's how long this had been going on.
I thought you'd never ask.
I've been pushing away potential customers by dragging them through more trouble than necessary at the most crucial time during their visit to my site -- right when they were ready to place an order!
Actually, I refused to truly acknowledge the problems until I was forced to reckon with them. I had received a fair amount of complaints from potential customers who had trouble ordering at my site, but the complaints were well spaced out so I figured it was just part of doing business online. Then again, most problems you tend to ignore until something brings them to a head. That's what happened at my site just before the holidays...
It all started when the third party website that processed all secure orders from my site essentially went dead. Along with it, my orders all but stopped. When the company (which shall remain nameless for their own protection) could not get the ship righted in a few days, then a week, then two weeks, I finally smartened up and took action.
And what started as a real pain in the you know what, ended up as a blessing in disguise.
After investing lots of time and a little money, I have increased the orders being placed at my site by a full 20%. Without generating extra traffic. That's a lot of money, especially over the course of a year. Scratch that, especially over the course of THREE years!
As any webmaster knows, the lifeblood of your business online can be the secure ordering process you offer to your customers. So when my secure ordering system shut down, the last thing I thought it would be was a blessing in disguise. But that's just what developed. The lessons I learned were invaluable. I only wish someone else had suffered them and wrote about it in their ezine first! :-)
Anyway, here they are. Don't take them lightly...
Lesson #1 and 2: You absolutely MUST keep the secure ordering process at your website simple, streamlined and fast. If at all possible, offer a one-page, secure checkout for your customers. And you may not really need that shopping cart!
My own example elaborates on this perfectly...
First, here is the "Old Way" I accepted secure orders at my site: (Bear with me, this is a bit tedious...)
My old secure shopping cart system took customers through no less than four separate web pages before they were done ordering. At each page they would enter some information.
Page one was off my site altogether, was not secure, and resulted in scaring away about more people than I realized. From there shoppers who were bold enough to continue had to click the "checkout" button to go to the secure area. (If they accidentally clicked "continue shopping" they were brought back to my site instead of to the checkout page.) If they DID click the correct SSL checkout button they moved to the secure area. That is, IF their ISP kept them on the same server. If not, and many ISP's do not, their cart was reported as empty. Bye bye customer. The surfers who made it to step three usually continued through and placed their order.
Sounds sloppy right? Well believe it or not, many shopping cart providers have inherent problems similar to these that you do not learn about until you've invested too much time or money.
For this reason, I strongly suggest you take a look at your site. Do you really need a full blown cart? Maybe not. If you are selling a small number of items, the answer may very well be no. You could actually do much better with simple stand-alone order forms. I certainly do! Just take a look at my...
"New Way" to accept secure orders at my site:
The surfer clicks "Secure Order" and is immediately brought to a secure order form in the SSL area of my server. The form is a single page which lets the buyer complete their transaction in one step. Done. Order placed.
The nearly instant 20% increase in orders has taught me (the hard way as usual) that web surfers want a simple way to place their secure order. They cannot be bothered with learning how to use your cart or clicking through too many pages. The quicker you get them in and out of your checkout process, the more likely they are to complete the transaction.
It makes sense really. Have you ever walked out of a store because there was only one register open and the line was too long? Well that's what you are doing to your web surfers if you can't give them a speedy checkout process, or express line!
And I learned one more lesson from all this...
Lesson #3: Think twice before you hire any third party company to provide a service that you may be able to perform without them. This applies especially to something as crucial as processing your orders.
There are many things that webmasters hire third party companies for. But things like website maintenance, product shipping, credit card transactions and the like, may be very simple to do in-house. In most cases you'll find software that can automate or at least simplify most tasks so that they can be handled without a third party provider. Not only will you save money doing this, you will also have the peace of mind that comes along with depending less on other companies.
If you are just setting up shop online this lesson will really help you save money and aggravation in the long run. If you already have a web presence, make a commitment to sit down and evaluate it. Can you pull things in-house that are being handled by other companies right now? Even if it means shelling out cash for your own merchant account or SSL server space, you may be very glad you made the move some day.
That's not to say you should never hire other companies online. Undoubtedly you will need to hire SOME web services that are just too costly to do in-house, such as web hosting or real-time processing providers. But the fewer third party services you employ, the less likely you are to be left in a compromising situation that is beyond your control. And that's not good if it handicaps your ability to do business online.
So take some time and learn from my mistakes. I promise to keep making them as long as you get something from them!
Owner - BizWeb2000.com
Article by Jim Daniels of JDD Publishing.
Jim's site has helped 1000's of regular people make a living online.
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