Business Performance

7 Top Tips for increasing revenue via the web

Kevin Costner lied to us.

‘Build it and they will come’

It may have worked for disgraced baseball playing ghosts in the Iowa corn fields, but that doesn’t mean it will work for your website.

The internet has long promised to be a Mecca for entrepreneurial types to make their fortune, but it’s never been a simple matter of laying out your website (or baseball diamond) and waiting for the customers (or ghosts) to appear.

It takes a lot of work and some smart, joined up thinking.

So wasting no time, how can you increase the revenue generated from your website?

Tip 1: There is no online and offline

Stop thinking of these as two separate entities. They are just channels. If you run them independently, as silos, then you’ll miss many opportunities to increase your revenue. You may need to hire people with different skill sets, but they should to be working together to achieve your business and revenue goals.

For example, if you run an event such as a music festival, are you acquiring customers’ contact details when they register for tickets, so you can send email alerts for future gigs?

Tip 2: Instil Confidence

Appearances are important. A poorly designed website will act as a deterrent not a facilitator to sales. You don’t necessarily need to hire an expensive design agency, just a skilful one that understands your brief and is able to apply learnings from their experience building transactional sites.

And security is crucial. You must be able to clearly demonstrate your site is secure or your potential customers will be gone, off to your competitors before you know it.

Tip 3: Show the product

Youtube just announced that 24 hours of video footage is uploaded to their site every minute. Why? Because people respond to imagery. We love to watch. A picture paints a thousand words is a saying for a reason.

Don’t just tell your customer about your product, show it to them. Use photos or video, whichever lends itself to your product. If you’re selling books, a cover photo will suffice (better still, show them inside the book), but it you’re marketing a cruise or a motor show, use video to convey the experience. The words are important, but the imagery can bring it to life.

Tip 4: Social proof

The wisdom of crowds, as social proof is known, is when individuals look to others’ behaviour when faced with making a decision. The principle follows that if I see all my peers buying an iPad then maybe it’s the right thing for me too.

Examples you can use on your site are customer testimonials, ratings & reviews, number of subscribers, recommendations, number of products sold, press clippings, etc.

Your site can be set up to collect these as part of a process or as a feature, but don’t forget to take advantage of your real world interactions with your customers. If you have sales people, give them a Flip video camera and get them to interview their clients.

Tip 5: Test, test and test some more

If you have a shop, you probably move your displays around to see what works best for getting customers to fill their baskets. The same applies online. Here it is called A/B testing and multi-variate testing.

I’m a big fan of testing. Making small changes to your web pages can return huge dividends in sales. A common problem with most websites is that once built, they are left alone. The developer or web designer’s preferred approach is deemed the right one – i.e. the best way to convert a visitor into a paying customer.

Conversion rate optimisation challenges that limiting approach and finds the true path to financial enlightenment…the one trod by the customer.

I recommend reading my post ‘How to increase landing page conversions by 100%’ for a detailed explanation and case study.

Tip 6: Reduce waste – retarget

To maximise your advertising you need to ensure more of your visitors convert to sales. Conversion testing will help that from a process perspective, but you need something else to bring back the browsing visitor who is researching before purchase.

new form of display (banner) advertising is available based on behavioural targeting. It works by dropping a cookie on a visitor’s computer when they view a product (but don’t purchase) enabling you to present them with relevant display adverts on other sites they visit.

This is super targeted advertising. For instance, if you visited a job site, looked at a job but did not apply, the banner will show you the job you looked at, plus similar jobs. Every visitor will see different content in the banner, depending on the jobs they viewed. The reason why this type of advertising is so successful at driving conversions is because it serves relevant ads to the consumer whilst they’re ‘in-market’, in a buying frame of mind.

Tip 7: Capture email permissions

Finally, we come to email. If you don’t yet have a customer email database, get one. You can go through all of the above steps and successfully convert a visitor to a sale. However, if you implement a successful email marketing system and database, you can make multiple sales.

You have to get it right though, as breaking the rules can be costly to your business. You don’t want to go to all this effort just to get hauled in front of the Information Commissioner for spamming or having your emails blocked by the ISPs.

Read up on the legislation. Then read it again and make sure you’ve set up your system correctly. Remember it’s all about the permission. Don’t assume you can email individuals just because you have their address. Seek permission first.

Don’t stop with email addresses and permissions though. Try to collect more information on your customers – unobtrusively – so you can segment your audience.

For instance, what did they buy? When? Where do they live? Do they repeat purchase? What else did they look at? Etc. Use this data for future mailings, offering products and services of relevance. This way you can increase the yield per customer, whilst minimising the number of unsubscribe requests.

Innovation Mobile

MOBILE: iPhone or Android – which is more App for your business?

Have you seen our iPhone App? Do you have one? No? Really?

Been asked that recently? I wouldn’t be surprised if you had, mobile seems to be on the lips of everyone. If you haven’t got an iPhone app, some would have you believe it’s a minor miracle you’re still doing business.

So, should you be rushing out to find a mobile developer?

Yes, no, maybe, well, it depends.

Don’t be a lemming

First of all, you don’t have to follow the crowd. Just because it’s cool and trendy, doesn’t mean it will be successful (see the ‘popular’ kids at school as an example). There are some fundamental questions you need to ask of your business first, before you can determine your mobile strategy.

Five Questions to ask of your business:

Does your business lend itself well to mobile?

You have to be realistic. There are just some businesses that don’t lend themselves well to the mobile web – certainly the App market – and you have to ask yourself, is yours one of them?

Anecdotally, the average lifespan of an iPhone App is 2 weeks – in all likelihood because the App is pointless or poorly thought out or designed. To justify the expense of developing one you need to be sure it will be used.

Brainstorm a few ideas and share them with your customers. Feed the response back into the decision process.

Can you improve the customer brand experience via mobile?

If your customers access your product via the web, could you make their life easier by providing mobile access too? The key here, is to ensure that the mobile and web version are integrated, otherwise there is a disconnect and you compromise on the customer experience.

Should I do something right now?

Tricky one. Ask yourself whether you’ll be left behind if you don’t – and if your brand will suffer if you release a shoddy product. Rushing doesn’t guarantee the latter, but it’s a risk. You need to find a balance between speed and quality. ‘Bells and whistles’ could always come in the version1.1 update, whilst you gather feedback from the initial release.

Which first – iPhone, Android, Mobile or other?

Ah, the hot potato. There is a lot of information out there on mobile use and many of the numbers are conflicting. However, what all the Mobile experts can agree on is that big things are about to happen in the market.

In a nutshell, we can thank Apple, their iPhone and their marketing budget for kick starting the smart phone market. That got consumers interested, now Google are coming along with Android to mount what is expected to be a serious challenge.

So which should you do first? Well, it depends on your business. If you’re ready to go now, it could be worth launching an iPhone App to go with market surge. Once live you might want to get started on the Android version pretty quickly to jump on that bandwagon as the platform gathers traction.

Conversely, you might find that your niche is already a little overcrowded in the iPhone App store, so you could dive straight into the Android space and be the big fish gobbling up market share before your competitors get there.

Or to continue with the nautical metaphors, perhaps you’d be better off swimming against the smart phone tide altogether? Whilst apps may be sexy, the mobile web (i.e. sites accessible via mobile browsers), may be where your biggest wins could be found.

Would you be better off making a great mobile-friendly site so any internet enabled phone can access it? It’s certainly a bigger market.

Do my audience want a mobile offering from my product?

Exactly how big a market is actually an important consideration. The global uptake is huge, but that doesn’t really matter to you. How big is it in your market?

Try this. Go to your analytics package and look up the Browsers/Operating System report. You probably don’t delve in there too often and you might be a little scared by what you find when you start adding up the number of visits from Mobile devices.

Look at the data over the past year or two – how much has it grown? One site I worked on recently, experienced a 136% increase in mobile visits in just a 9 month period and nobody knew.

So the worrying thing is you may already have a mobile audience and they can’t use your product. Is the audience big enough to jump the smart phone Apps in the development queue?

Decision time

It’s clear when you consider the answers to the five questions that it’s not as simple as just responding to the excitement of the iPhone with an App of your own. What’s in the best interest of your company?

It’s an important time for businesses as we adapt to the changing media consumption of our audiences. We must move swiftly, but not hastily, and embrace the opportunities new technologies provide.

So what will Mobile mean to you?


Great Customer Experience – Every Little Helps

It’s well established that a great experience can make all the difference in keeping a customer beyond their initial purchase. The best customer experience is when you can make their interaction with you so pain-free and simple that it becomes a no-brainer to return for more.

Healthy stock levels, useful product info, error-free payment processes, and prompt delivery – they’re all hygiene factors if your business is to provide a good customer experience. However, for a great customer experience, you need more. You need to think smarter.

Intelligent Shopping

Talking of smart, there are undeniably smart people at Tesco. Anyone familiar with the brand will know their Clubcard is a thing of CRM legend. Some very smart thinking went into that, understanding that utilising customer data to increase spending, whilst offering relevant discounts and additional rewards for being loyal, was going to be key to growth and market dominance.

That Clubcard has now arrived, to much acclaim, in the Apple iPhone App Store. Whilst its convenience is undeniably smart, it is the less heralded Tesco Finder App that caught my eye.

If the Clubcard App is the popular and attractive Prom Queen, the Tesco Finder App is the geeky Maths Club President who probably goes on to develop the next Google.

To be clear, this is not a sexy app. It doesn’t look spectacular and it undoubtedly has its flaws. It appears to be a work in progress, an experimental plaything of the Tesco R & D team. However, there is a smart idea behind it.

What they have done is to look at their internal tools and have asked themselves whether opening them up to their shoppers would improve the customer experience. In doing so, they realised that a tool they had built to speed up product selection for their Home Delivery Pickers, would in fact, make an ideal tool for those less familiar with store layout and content– such as their customers.

So now using the App, you can type in Green & Black’s Maya Gold Chocolate and you’ll be able to find it in-store in ‘Aisle 8 on the right side counting 15 units along then the 8th shelf up from the floor’. Simple, but very smart.

Your Hidden Gems

Now think about this for your own business. What internal tools or information do you have access to that make your life easier? And now what would happen if you put those in the hands of your customers?

In this digital world, we have an abundance of data. We probably only use a fraction of it. How could you use your data and tools to improve your customer experience?

Here are a few ideas to start you off:

Stock levels – how many items do you have left in stock? Can you save time and frustration for a customer who will discover their item can’t be delivered when they want it?

Expected delivery dates – internet retailing is about speed and convenience. Make this information clearly available to inform the buying decision

Best time and day to advertise – if you deal in classifieds (jobs, cars, dating, etc.) share this data to help your customer get the best response to their ads

Help guides / instructions – don’t make me ring a call centre to order a new copy of the instructions that were missing from my flat pack wardrobe, put them on the website for me to print off

Appointment availability – if you run a hair salon, doctors/dentist surgery, or MOT garage put your booking system online, so I can secure my appointment slot when it’s convenient for me, 24 hours a day

Hotel room selector – your may know which room overlooks the great sea/mountain view, but why not empower your future guests and let them select the vista they want? (Whilst you’re at it, add panoramic video views so I can really tell what it’s going to look like)

New product development list – you don’t want to give away all your plans, but why not make customer suggestions more freely available to others and collect votes to determine priority?

Think about how many of the above (or variations on the theme) could save your business money through reduced manual servicing, as well as producing happier, more satisfied customers.

You already have that ability in your hands; you just need to put it in someone else’s.