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Ecommerce Forum

How Much Can a Website Increase Sales

 5:55 pm on Dec 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

I am trying to determine how much a website can increase sales to a physical store (as an example, consider a hardware store, ABC Widgets). I know that this might be a hard question to answer, but I am trying to get some idea.

The store has long-time customers and sometimes new customers walk in to the store and make a purchase.

At the moment, the store does not have a website, and it does feel that it is losing some business because of people buying their hardware supplies online.

The website built, however, would not be selling anything online; it would serve to provide information about the physical business.

Sometimes, the business does receive calls asking if it has a website and it has to say that it does not.

If the store has a website, it could show up when people do searches online and drive traffic to the store.

I would appreciate your thoughts.



 6:34 pm on Dec 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

Of course the website should sell online.

I feel so weird that someone doesn't even have a website...


 7:26 pm on Dec 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

Impossible to say really. It depends greatly on the efforts made by the people who create the site... the effort put into SEO... and a bunch of stuff. However, if these people aren't very up on that stuff, it's very easy for one of two things to happen... They either assign somebody they personally know, who does a terrible job. Or they hire somebody who isn't very good, and does a terrible job. Either way, you can end up with something that actually turns people away, more than brings them in. But if you can get somebody to do a decent job, it's kind of hard to go wrong. Even without direct sales, it can't hurt. But if they want to do sales, they really need to get somebody who's involved and knows what they're doing. Not just drop it in the lap of one of their regular employees.


 7:28 pm on Dec 17, 2013 (gmt 0)


The sales will be done on the phone or at the location. I used the example of a hardware store, but it is a different industry, and I don't think that there will be online sales.

What I am trying to get an idea of is how much a company's sales can increase with the presence of a website, even if it does not sell online?


I agree with what you are saying. They will be asking someone who knows some SEO.

But if they want to do sales, they really need to get somebody who's involved and knows what they're doing.

When you say this, do you mean SEO and content writing (informative but avoiding over optimization)?


 6:06 pm on Dec 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

I just mean finding somebody that has the discipline to get in there everyday and do what needs to be done. And... Someone who has enough technical skill to do it. You don't have to be able to hand code, but you do have to know how to fix stuff, test stuff, and just basically be diligent. I have to purchases lot of parts and materials myself, and I can't tell you how many times I've come across sites, where it's obvious the owners have no clue, and they just dump it on some person who has terrible work habits. I just emailed somebody on a site the other day asking about doing a regular order of parts, and got no answer. They probably setup a site, put it in the hands of some employee with zero motivation, and then just walk away from it. So in that scenario... Not only did I not buy from their site, but I won't buy from them period. If you can't even answer an email, you probably won't bother to do a lot of other things too. So a site can be a sign of being a great business, but also a big giant sign of incompetence as well.


 6:37 pm on Dec 18, 2013 (gmt 0)


I agree with what you are saying. The site has to be a good one. If it isn't, then not only is it possible that someone will not buy from a business online (if they sell online), but they may also not buy from the physical store.

The business that wants to build this site is thinking of including a phone number on the site but not an email address because they are saying that the email address may cause them to receive spam and also many inquiries from people that are not serious.

Do you think that it would be okay to include a phone number but not an email address?

Robert Charlton

 7:30 pm on Dec 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

It's possible to encode an email address so it can't be scraped.

Instead of email, you can also use a form that requires a human confirmation step (eg, a captcha... or, there may be captcha alternatives).

Unless you're going to have someone at the phone 24/7 who's good with customers and knowledgeable, I think email or a form is necessary. For some types of shopping, I personally prefer email to phone, because I like the time-shifting aspect of email, but I sometimes prefer phone. In part, it depends on the type of business and how fast response is necessary.

I've worked with sites that had both (that's the option I recommend), and I know that on a busy site, the telephone requirements can grow large, to the point where it becomes a factor in the final price... but that's true of email too.

Email support requires that you have adequate staffing that can write good replies. Templated or inarticulate email responses that don't answer the question are the kiss of death.

If support is not good, you will lose customers. Good customer support has made me a loyal customer of several sites I use... and I mean a life-long regular customer.


 8:00 pm on Dec 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

Lot of good points.

I think I will suggest to the business that they use a form in addition to including their phone number.

Could I write the email address in plain text so it reduces spam, and not use the form?

Robert Charlton

 8:51 pm on Dec 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

Could I write the email address in plain text so it reduces spam, and not use the form?

Think about why I posted above...
It's possible to encode an email address so it can't be scraped.

See this discussion, and the discussion it links to, for thoughts about how to prevent address scraping. Plain text is certainly not one of them....

Block mailto:
http://www.webmasterworld.com/webmaster/4412767.htm [webmasterworld.com]

I can't report on whether the Hiveware Enkoder, which is the approach I'd recommended, is still effective... but the coding is pretty elaborate compared to what I think Google can easily crawl.


 10:47 pm on Dec 18, 2013 (gmt 0)


Thanks for the link. It may take me a little time to understand all that is written in that thread.

On this business's site, there is going to be one page. There won't be a contact page. I don't think that this changes whether captcha should be used instead of an email address, but I just wanted to ask: Does the fact that the captcha or email address will appear on the home page have any impact on which one should be used?

Robert Charlton

 11:31 pm on Dec 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

gouri - You're going to have to think some of this out for yourself.

I myself would never put up just a one page site... just a feeling that it lacks a certain critical mass and makes content harder to focus.


 3:32 am on Dec 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

Hate to say it, but somebody saying something like... they don't want an email address because they might have to deal with spam or annoying requests... That is not a good sign. That signals to me that they might not have the heart to deal with it enough, and the very scenario I mentioned will probably happen. Dealing with junk and requests, is just part of the game. It's like car sales... You just have to pretend like they're all going to buy a car.

Maybe one thing they could do is hire a young ambitious person and give them a little cut. Good motivation to work hard. But dealing with non web savvy businesses is a tough nut to crack. I tried doing web design years ago, and I quickly learned that businesses like that, can be a giant pain. They want results, but they're often too stubborn to change their ways and adapt to new ideas.


 10:04 pm on Dec 19, 2013 (gmt 0)


gouri - You're going to have to think some of this out for yourself.

I agree with you. I have to give this some more thought on my own.

I myself would never put up just a one page site... just a feeling that it lacks a certain critical mass and makes content harder to focus.

They want to use the page to describe what their business is about and provide their contact information, and hope that people find them when doing online searches.

I hear what you are saying, but I have heard that a one page site that is well written can rank well in the SERP.

When I think about the business, I think that one page might be okay because they are not planning on selling anything online. They want phone calls and visits to their store. They will probably say that an email address is okay when I mention some of the things that have been mentioned in this thread.

Have you seen a one-page site rank well in the SERP in e-commerce or another area?


I am going to talk to them about including an email address and I think that they will agree. If I can figure out how to do a CAPTCHA, I think that I will do that.


 12:14 am on Dec 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

I have heard that a one-page site is pretty hard to rank. I helped someone fix a one-page site for a brick-and-mortar business probably about three years ago. Rewrote the content and did keywords and made multiple pages. It went from not being on the first page to being number one. They had their name, address, email, phone, and most of all, PRICES for their serivces. Customers use the site and it actually has saved them phone calls because the prices are right there.

I will say for myself that it is aggravating to me to go looking for something and find a site that is supposed to have it and then see it is some amateur site put up by a brick-and-mortar store so they can say they have a web presence. It wastes my time. It makes me not want to buy anything from them. If they want to have an online presence, they have to have one, including email and phone. Like dpd1 said, being in biz means having to deal with people who are never going to buy anything and who are just wasting your time. That is part of the deal. But I think of it as part of the cost of doing business, just like paying a cut to the credit card companies means yes, you will have chargebacks and have that expense and PIA, but you will also quadruple your income. If they are going to be halfassed about it, they should just plain not do it and do some regular ads instead, like in their newspaper or even their newspaper's site.


 3:47 am on Dec 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

How about if I make the site two pages? The home page providing information about the company and what it offers and a contact page (instead of putting the store's physical address and email address or CAPTCHA on the home page).

Do you think that this might add more legitimacy to the site and also help it to rank well in the SERP?


 4:24 am on Dec 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

There is a simple to use contact form with akismet and captcha that can be used on a WordPress site as a plugin or on a plain old html site as a single contact page. It is free and I use it on both types of sites, it is offered by Mike Challis who also offers a Weather station interface for MAC. He's a competent and helpful guy. The instructions are step by step and easy to follow. There is no reason to leave out an email contact unless the business is not planning to check for messages and respond to them. In that case a web presence might do more harm than good, as others have noted.


 11:16 am on Dec 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

They probably setup a site, put it in the hands of some employee with zero motivation, and then just walk away from it.

My experience is that a generic address will be routed to an individual and nobody will remember to redirect it when that person moves on until a letter arrives complaining about lack of response. A similar issue is when all members of a team are convinced that checking the team mailbox is somebody elses problem.

Going back to the OP I know that when I have looked for specialist B&M stores on the web I look first at those with web sites of their own that give me a clear idea of what ranges they stock.


 1:41 pm on Dec 20, 2013 (gmt 0)


Thank you for the suggestion for the contact form. It does seem like a very good option and I might do this.


I will tell them to sort of make sure that there is someone to read the emails that they receive. That way they all don't think that someone else is handling emails.

This is a question that you may have wondered about yourself if you have built a site for a store you own or for a client. I know that it is hard to answer, but I was hoping that you guys could tell me what you think.

If a store doesn't have a website now and builds one (although you can't buy from the website), is it possible for a store to maybe increase annual revenue by $50,000?

Can a website make that kind of difference?


 5:26 pm on Dec 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

I wouldn't budget on that level of increase in sales its a piece of marketing on a par with having a decent window display and being in appropriate local print directories.

Its a well known saying that half of all advertising is wasted but you can't tell which half.


 6:26 pm on Dec 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

If I am going to have a contact page, would it be necessary to include the physical address and phone number in the footer of the site?

And if you say that I should include them in the footer, should I make the phone number in the footer clickable from a smartphone? I will probably make it clickable from a smartphone on the contact page.


 5:41 pm on Dec 31, 2013 (gmt 0)

I had a couple of more questions that I was hoping you guys could help me with.

I was reading that forms are created with CGI scripts, and CGI scripts are sometimes targeted by bots (may add a CAPTCHA to the form, which I believe is PHP, but the CGI scripts would still be there). Would it be better to write the email address as plain text instead of using a form? The business is saying that it feels that it will mostly be contacted by phone, not email. Also, more and more people are searching by mobile these days, and I am thinking that filling out a form on a smartphone may not be so easy. People may prefer to send an email. They can copy the email address to their email program and write a message.

I was also wondering if the presence of an email address on a site gives the site a more personable feel?


 9:04 pm on Dec 31, 2013 (gmt 0)

Since it sounds like they really prefer phone contact, I would let that be known on any contact page. The problem is hours across time zones may not coincide with their business hours and some people want to ask a quick question without needing to provide much information. If their phone is set up to handle communications at all hours, and email is not often checked - or answered- they would be better off not providing email. Any email form needs to let them know they won't start receiving communications unless they request them (unless they will) because too often, that's what happens. IMHO I believe most people expect a business to have more than one means of contact.

The form I suggested is php and you can add the email in text format on the form if you wish. It can be set up to appear to go to different "Departments" if that would help. The form's content and appearance are controlled by your settings. The page it fits on is yours. It includes a Captcha activated with an Akismet key but it can be excluded for sites not concerned with bot spam. I get zero spam which is why I recommend it. A clickable phone in link can go there too.

A plain text email address gets scraped and sold all over; (it's the '@') some people put in an image of the email address in text, but that isn't very useful without a link. There is an o0Oold javascript that works very well too, it is just dependent on visitors' javascript being enabled. Search for Dan Appleman, he rewrote and updated a verrrry old email encryptor script by Jim Tucek. I used it on my ecommerce site for years without problems.


 11:38 pm on Dec 31, 2013 (gmt 0)


Thanks for the response. I think that they prefer phone contact, but they do answer emails. They also answer the phone for some parts of the day when they are not in the office.

I will mention to them what you said about most people expecting more than one way to contact a business. Maybe they will go with the form. Thank you for the explanation of the different ways that the form can be set up.

A plain text email address gets scraped and sold all over; (it's the '@') some people put in an image of the email address in text, but that isn't very useful without a link.

Can they maybe use plain text and instead of using "@" they can use (at) Would that help with scraping problems?

If I don't use a form, should I make the phone number on the contact page such that it is clickable on a smartphone or should I use plain text? In your experience, does having a phone number that is clickable lead to a lot of scraping and marketing calls? When I look at websites, I see more sites using plain text for their phone number, but that could change.

Also, HRoth mentioned earlier in the thread that a one-page site is hard to rank. Have you seen this? Do you think that a two-page site (home page and contact page) would be easier to rank than a one-page site (home page only)?


 3:56 am on Jan 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

I am not an expert, just sharing my own experience. I would take a look at comparable sites, places they will be competing with to see what those sites are doing. Show them what the other sites are doing and see if they get other ideas.

Since the place will not sell products online and does not plan to show products online (not on one page) maybe they just want a page to show one or two best sellers, tell people abut themselves and their business and give them the phone number to call. It sounds like people who call and ask about a website want more information than they can get from a phone call. Unfortunately if people call and ask about a website they still won't have one that does much more than give them the phone number. If they rank well it might bring in business, but it does not sound like they want more than a billboard. Not an effective or competitive site.

They sound like they have been in business for awhile and only want a site because people ask for it but have no idea of how businesses use websites. They need to use words and images to help sell their product and to tell people who are possible customers what to expect from them and why they're a better choice then other options. If they can do that on one page, then it is enough.

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