What's New in Technology for March, 2011

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Technology: Turning Online Prospects into Clients

If visitors to your website far outnumber actual sales of goods and services, it might be time to take steps to improve conversion rates. E-commerce has changed all the rules when it comes to sales cycles and customers’ buying options and habits. Estimates suggest that more than 80 percent of online shoppers (goods and services) who start a transaction abandon it before actually buying. Comparison shopping on the web is relatively easy due to the increased sophistication of search engines; as a result, many online shoppers will visit four to five comparable sites within a 30- to 40-minute period when looking to make a purchase.

What can you do to improve your ability to turn prospects into clients?  Here are a few ideas on how to start:

  • Know as much as you can about the prospects who visit your site. Google and other providers offer analytical data that shows you how visitors found their way to your site. Make use of it. Most will also show you the content that visitors click most, and where they spend the most time. This will help you decide if you need to eliminate some web content to make the site friendlier for browsers. Are the forms you ask visitors to complete too long? Do potential customers abandon filling them in halfway through?  Does the data suggest that visitors are more interested in information-gathering than making a purchase? Answers to these questions will help determine whether you need to revise your website content. If a high percentage of the people visiting your site are not part of your customer demographics, you might want to take a look at your search engine optimization strategy for marketing and promotional materials and revise the information or the descriptions you are using.
  • Enlist some business associates to act as secret shoppers. Ask them to visit and negotiate your website as well as those of your competitors, leaving sufficient information for a follow-up call from the businesses. Get their feedback and critical assessment of how well your website – and your sales follow-up team – work.  It’s important you encourage the secret shoppers to be totally honest in their assessments with you.
  • The pace of business has increased phenomenally. When you are made aware of a visitor’s interest – perhaps you receive emails or inquiry forms – it’s vital to respond immediately. Remember that the prospect probably is already looking at a competitor’s website and might have browsed others before clicking on yours. If you don’t have enough staff onsite to respond to inquiries, consider hiring an outsourced lead management service who will call prospects back in a couple of minutes. If the lead management personnel determine that this is a real prospect, they can put you in direct contact with the potential customer. Fast follow-up and personal attention can make all the difference when a new customer is ready to buy.
  • Don’t forget the value of personal contact in our digital age. Schedule and make follow-up calls to prospects who don’t respond to your initial contact. Lead management companies suggest it might take as many as six calls to turn a qualified prospect who has visited your site into a client. Your follow-up efforts don’t have to all be by phone.  E-mails offering a promotional deal or relevant information can also help capture a prospect’s attention.

The fast paced demands of our information age can be a special challenge for small companies without staff to monitor ongoing web traffic.  E-commerce is an important part of success for many types of businesses, and with attention to the basics outlined above, entrepreneurs can be strong competitors online, too.


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