How to Create a Website That Sells

The first thing to know when creating a website that is supposed to sell a product or several products, is that first and foremost, the website is supposed to SELL a product or several products. In other words, a person should be able to come to the website, find what they are looking for, and buy it. That is the simplicity of it, and that is what we always do here at Visual Edge Design, Inc. (www.visualedgedesign.com) when building sales sites for our clients. Sounds pretty straightforward, but you may be surprised to know that websites are created every day that do just the opposite. The fact is that omitting certain things on a SALES WEBSITE can kill the sale in an instant.

To create an effective SALES GENERATING web site, there are specific points that MUST be included in the web site that will:

  1. Make it easy for a visitor to see what is for sale.
  2. Instill confidence that they are in a REAL store that is legitimate.
  3. Give them a compelling reason to buy the product(s) at that store.
  4. Make it easy for them to actually BUY the product(s) from that store.

If any of the 4 points above are omitted, it is VERY likely that the visitor will leave the web site without buying anything.

Let’s take a real life retail store-front for example:
Say you wanted to buy a new pair of shoes today. You would either go to a shoe store you already know of and trust or you would look online for a store near you, or simply open the yellow pages to find the nearest shoe store.

In any case, you would find a shoe store nearby. Now, if that shoe store was hard to get to, you might try another store somewhere else. However, if you arrived at the store, but there appeared to be very few shoes, no cash register, no signs indicating that they take any credit cards, and no one to help you, you might turn around and walk out. What if the shoe racks were disorderly, and shoes were NOT sorted by size or style? What if there was a “store clerk” that had NO register, was dressed slovenly and then asked for your credit card, which he took in back and then came back after a while with a “thank you” note, but no receipt? What if there was NO sign indicating that anything in the store was guaranteed? What if they had a NO RETURN policy? What if the store had hand-written signs with marker on cardboard throughout? What if they made you give them your credit card and purchase the item BEFORE they told you how much you were spending? Would you feel comfortable shopping at such a store? I know I wouldn’t.

Believe it or not, there are many on-line stores that are the equivalent of such a store. In other words, you get to the website and it is difficult to find what you are looking for, there are no indications of how to pay, no guarantees, no phone numbers to get live help, no contact information on the website, no privacy statement or ordering information, and in some cases the store is set up so that you “add the item” to the cart, then checkout and give all your contact and credit card information BEFORE you can see how much you are spending. All of these points create an unfriendly shopping environment and REDUCE the confidence in the person who is trying to buy something. These seemingly simple points when overlooked can cost a website 75% OR MORE of their sales. I’m not going to go into great detail on perfect design, professional sites, etc. as these are a given.

7 Elements That Add Up to a Website That Sells!

You want to sell stuff from your website. So what are the key elements that add up to a website THAT sells?

Here are 7 elements that are a MUST for a web site that sells:

1. Make it Really Obvious What is Being Sold

It should be obvious for any visitor to see exactly what is for sale. If there are a number of products, then the site should be laid out so that one can easily see all of the products at a glance. In a larger e-commerce site, then these can be broken down into categories with sub-products in each category so that the visitor can “drill down” to the single product they are looking for.

For example, let’s take a website that sells books, DVDs and CDs. It might have a navigation structure that looks like this:

Books > DVDs > CDs

and after one clicks on CDs:

DVDs > Action > Children’s > Comedy > Drama > Family >

You get the idea. It’s EASY to see what’s for sale and it’s EASY to find what you’re looking for. And of course, there should be a product search box that is EASY to locate and use.

If the website sells a single product, it should be obvious from the home page and it should be easy to order. If a button says “Tee Shirts” then the link should go to a page about Tee Shirts, NOT “Women’s Apparel” or some other stupid phrase OTHER than what it said the first time. There are even huge company websites that are notoriously difficult to navigate because when you click on a category or section, it does not take you where you think you are going. This creates frustration and sends the visitors running to the competition.

2. How to Order

It should be easy and obvious for a visitor to order something from a website. An ORDER NOW button should be right beside the product being offered and should go straight to that product in a shopping cart. The shopping cart should have easily identifiable buttons like “Add to Cart”.

The point is that it should be obvious and easy to order. There should be as little additional pages or steps between locating the product and purchasing it as possible. Ideally, they should be able to see what they are buying, and how much it costs, add the item to their cart, view the subtotal and then checkout – meaning fill out their credit card and billing information.

A customer should NEVER have to fill in their credit card and billing information before they have their totals as you could lose them at that point.

It is also essential at “checkout” to get the necessary data from the customer to complete the sale only. This would be their Name, Billing Address, Phone, Email, and Shipping Address (if different from their billing address), their Credit Card number, expiration date and the little code that verifies that they have the credit card on hand. This is NOT the time to try and get every last detail about their demographics, survey questions, etc. Just collect the key information to get the sale DONE. Once the transaction is completed, you can ask them to do a short survey or whatever on the transaction receipt page.

3. How Much Each Product Costs

There should be a price next to every product so that one can tell EXACTLY what they are spending on that item. If they are buying multiple items, they should be able to “View Cart” and see their sub-total at a glance so that they can add more items or remove something if they are over-budget.

4. Methods of Payment

Obviously if it is an on-line store, it is highly advisable to take major credit cards and the site should clearly display which major credit cards are accepted. If the site is designed to take PayPal, then that should be included as well. This is easily done by including the credit card icons that are accepted at the top and bottom of each page.

5. Secure Shopping Reassurance

It may seem like a small thing, but adding a line of text that says: Secure On-Line Shopping or Secure Shopping or Secure On-Line Transactions can make the difference between making a sale or losing a sale. This line of text can be accented with an icon of a padlock or a check mark, but the bottom line is that shoppers want and need reassurance. It goes without saying that you would have an SSL Certificate (secure socket layer) so that any transactions are secure. Many SSL Certificates have a “site badge” or icon that you can put on your website to show off to the world that your site is secure. This is an image that looks fancy or simple and says “secure” or “Verified secure” or something like that. It reminds the shopper visually that their purchase is safe and secure. Which makes them much more willing to buy from you.

6. An Incentive to Buy

There are dozens of ways to give incentives to buy, but one should take some time and care in creating these so that the website reinforces the notion that a visitor should buy something NOW. Below are some more common examples:

  • Buy 1 – Get a 2nd for HALF PRICE
  • FREE SHIPPING on Orders Over $75
  • FREE GIFT with EVERY PURCHASE of $50 or More!
  • LIMITED TIME ONLY – 10% OFF EVERY ORDER!
  • BUY ONE – GET ONE FREE
  • OFFER VALID ONLY WHILE SUPPLIES LAST
  • FLAT RATE SHIPPING JUST $5.95 PER ORDER
  • 24 HOUR TURNAROUND – FAST SHIPPING
  • LOWEST PRICE GUARANTEED
  • JANUARY SPECIAL (or FEBRUARY or WHATEVER)

All of the above examples have been proven to work. The point to understand is that in the vast sea of Internet stores, it is important that a website has some incentive to BUY from them and not the competition.

A Word of Caution:

Take care in creating an incentive though, that it is a REAL incentive that can be offered and delivered on. You would not want to put “LOWEST PRICE GUARANTEE” on a website that obviously does not have good prices. Likewise, it would not be prudent to have a BUY ONE – GET ONE FREE offer on a low profit margin item that results in no profit with every sale.

The above are simply some examples of real incentives that have worked for others. Regardless of what is done, the bottom line is that there must be an incentive to BUY. Once it is worked out, it should be repeated on every page that has anything to do with BUYING. This can be included in the overall design, as an icon on the top or sides, next to ORDER NOW buttons, etc.

7. Website Traffic Stat Tracking

Every sales site should have stat tracking to see where visitors are coming from, which pages they go to, where sales are lost and which pages or links lead to the most sales. This is KEY to knowing how effective a website ACTUALLY is. You can not assume that just because the sales are slim, that the website is not working without looking at stat tracking. What if the site gets 25 visitors a month and 10 of those buy??? If you didn’t know it had 25 visitors and you just assumed that the site wasn’t working “because only 10 people bought something last month…” You would be making a deadly assumption. In that scenario, the solution is to get TONS more visitors to the site, but you would not have known that WITHOUT stat tracking.

So use the 7 Points above to create a website that sells and then pour the coals on marketing the site. If the website has a product that is desirable by the public and is reasonably priced, then the website should make money if the 7 points above are followed.