15 Jan 3 small website tweaks you can make today to increase product sales
The number 1 question on every product-based business owner’s mind is “how can I make more sales online?”
I hear this all the time. As a social enterprise, you’ve got a great story to tell.
Your products sell well at markets and in person events.
They even get likes and comments when you post them on social media (although you wish your engagement rate was higher – thanks algorithms!)
But when it comes to your website, you just don’t seem to be able to make those sales, despite the hours you put into driving traffic.
Maybe you’ve even joined some online marketplaces to get more eyes on your products – but they’re equally frustrating when the orders don’t come rushing in.
Most social entrepreneurs I speak to think that driving more traffic (or offering discounts that they can’t afford to give) is the answer.
But unless you work on improving your conversion rate (the % of people that purchase when they visit your site), no amount of visitors or special offers is going to improve your income.
Over the Christmas period I made a pledge to support as many small businesses within the Ethical Hour community as possible through my gift shopping – as part of our #ShopEthicalInstead campaign.
It’s a crucial time of year for small businesses, with up to 80% of their annual revenue coming from the final quarter.
I personally purchased from around 20 small, ethical social enterprises – but I spent a lot of time browsing websites and product listings from different brands in the space.
As a marketing strategist for ethical businesses, I wanted to share some of my observations over the holiday shopping period, including some of the things that stopped me purchasing.
If you run a product based business online, now is a good time to review how your Q4 sales went, and what you could do to improve.
This includes taking a detailed look at your website, or speaking to an impartial third party (preferably with marketing expertise) to get honest, helpful feedback that will improve your conversion rate.
Today I’m sharing the 3 biggest factors that stopped me purchasing from ethical brands:
Production and delivery time
One of the most common complaints small online retailers hear is that orders haven’t arrived on time.
You’ve worked hard to choose a reliable carrier, and you might feel that delivery is somewhat beyond your control, but it’s important to remember that this is still a big factor in people’s decision to purchase – and you can have a positive influence.
We live in a world of next day delivery.
As bad as it is for the planet – and as unrealistic as it might be for smaller businesses – this has made online shoppers more impatient.
So the quicker you can get their item to them, the better.
This also means that shoppers have got used to leaving their orders to the last minute – so offering fast shipping is essential (especially during the holiday period).
However one of the biggest problems I’ve observed when online shopping from smaller businesses is that they don’t list their shipping times!
Even if your shipping options are visible at the checkout, they need to be clearly stated on your product pages too.
If this is a key question or concern a customer has, they won’t necessarily make the effort to add the product to their cart to see how long shipping will take – they will expect that information to be clearly accessible with the rest of the product description.
This was especially important over the Christmas period.
The last postage date was advertised by Royal Mail, but individual brands had their own cut off times. Unfortunately, they didn’t all communicate this!
Being a typical last minute shopper, I reached out to the brands I wanted to buy from via social media to check I hadn’t missed their last post – but I only felt comfortable doing this because I knew the brand owners personally.
If I didn’t have a strong connection to the brand, I would have just moved onto a competitor who clearly stated on their product page when my purchase would arrive.
It’s also important to bear this in mind if you make your products to order.
People are often more patient and willing to wait for handmade products – but they need to know how long they’ll be waiting.
Putting your production and shipping times on your website (even as an estimate) will also help reduce the number of direct questions you get, which will save you time! But remember that only the most proactive customers will reach out and ask – most will just move on to a competitor and you will lose the sale.
Go through your products one by one and check to see if you’ve mentioned estimated production and shipping times in the description.
It should be easy to find at a glance, so use bold formatting or bullet points to make it clear for skim readers.
Don’t forget to list the different times for international orders if you’re open to them as well!
Since Blue Planet II brought plastic pollution to our attention, even mainstream shoppers have become more conscious about plastic packaging.
As an ethical brand, your packaging should match your ethos and values – but sometimes using plastic is still unavoidable.
92% of the conscious consumers I surveyed on Twitter said that packaging plays a role in their decision to purchase.
Interestingly a lot of them replied to this tweet to say that if an ethical brand was using plastic, it wouldn’t necessarily stop them purchasing altogether, but they’d like to know more about what plastic, why and how to dispose of it.
Although this research is biased because my Twitter audience is generally very eco-conscious, it’s still relevant to you as a social enterprise, because they’re likely to be your target customers too!
Whether you’re using plastic in your packaging or not, one of the most effective changes you can make to your product listings is to add a description of the packaging you are using – and to explain why you’re using plastic if that is the case.
You might have shared your packing information in your ‘About’ section, on your Sustainability page or on your social media, but it’s a good idea to include it briefly in your individual product listings too – so that customers can access it easily when they’re actively thinking about making a purchase.
Go through your product listings one by one and add a couple of sentences about how the product will be packaged, what materials you use and how your customer can reuse or dispose of them.
When you sell your products at events people can touch them, see the colours in vivid detail and get a real feel for them.
That sparks the imagination. It helps the customer picture how they would use your product.
Basically, it makes them fall in love.
Unfortunately, it’s much harder to do that on screen.
Which is why your product photography has to be exceptional.
I’m not just talking about good lighting here either (although that is important!)
You need to tell a story visually with your photography.
So many ethical brands struggle to get this right because they’re operating on a tight budget, so they use the images their suppliers send them or they take a quick snap on their smartphone and hit upload.
I’m sorry to tell you, but that isn’t going to cut it.
The best way to help a website visitor fall in love with your products is through lifestyle photography.
If you sell ethical bedding, you need to make up a bed with your product, style the room around it and take some gorgeous photographs full of natural light. Create a scene that your website visitor wants to be a part of.
If you sell candles, style a coffee table. Make a hot drink, light a candle, stack some books, add some fresh flowers or wooly blankets. Help them picture a cosy night in with your candle as an essential part of their self care routine.
If you sell clothes or jewellery, hire a model, style them and head out somewhere fun!
Your lifestyle images need to align with your ideal customer’s aspirations – so if they’re the outdoorsy type, stage your photoshoot in a park or woodland. If they live and work in a city, then choose an urban location. If they’re an introvert, then make the images calming and cosy in a home setting.
Focus on the details.
Once you’ve told a story with your images, focus in on the details to help seal the deal.
Remember that colours vary from screen to screen and can be hard to photograph – so take a well lit photo in natural light and don’t filter it to show the closest representation of your product possible.
If your product has a detailed pattern, or contains lots of smaller items, include some close ups to help people see the detail.
The easiest way to do this is to observe how people handle your products when you sell in person.
What do they comment on the most? What do they spend time looking at or asking about? How can you convey that through your images?
You know your product inside out, but for some potential customers, seeing it on screen will be the only interaction they have with it before they buy. They will want to see it from all angles – including how it’s packaged and how it’s used.
Include as many images as you can in your product listing, and make sure the cover thumbnail is eye catching enough to make them want to click through!
Hiring a professional photographer who specializes in product photography will made a big difference, but if you really can’t stretch the budget that far, take your own to start with but invest time and energy into getting them right. That might mean several photoshoots!
Think creatively about how you can collaborate to make your photography easier.
Perhaps there’s other ethical brands you can team up with? If you all sell homeware or lifestyle products, split the cost of an Airbnb for the day, work together to style it and help each other with the photography.
A second pair of eyes who isn’t emotionally attached to your product and is willing to be a critical friend can be a big help!
Remember, you don’t have to do it all at once.
If you know your photography needs work, take a look at your best selling products and think of one photo you could add to those listings to improve them.
Perhaps they’re missing a lifestyle image and it’s time to plan a photoshoot?
Perhaps there’s a colour or a detail that isn’t clear enough and it’s a close up you need?
Take it one step at a time to make it more manageable and cost effective.
That way you can test which images get the best results and learn what to do for your next photoshoot too!
If you’d like an expert, impartial review of your website, including practical tips and changes to increase your conversion, book a Power Hour with me.
We’ll spend an hour together reviewing your website, discussing your marketing and devising a simple strategy to improve your income and impact.
In 2018 I worked on a strategy project with a vegan subscription box, which included creating a detailed website audit and conversion strategy. As a result of my strategy, they made an additional £300 in sales revenue in month one and successfully increased their recurring subscription rate by 92%, new sales by 78% and website visitors by 59%.
This is just a sample of the types of results I’ve achieved for the ethical social enterprises I work with.
If you’d like to see this type of result for your business, book your Power Hour today!