DavidL, that's just what I was thinking! It's alright now when I'm getting really targetted visitors from strategically placed links, but what about when traffic increases?
I suppose to some degree traffic should increase from sites I'm already linked with, so that may or may not convert into $$$. Also, there will be repeat customers. One of my websites sells the same product and gets regular repeat customers, many buying every 1 - 2 months. This site sells food.
Products on this food related site are quite competitively priced and are of a niche nature. Most items come in around $6 plus shipping.
But like DavidL says, lots of traffic doesn't always convert. I have a site which sells gifts and receives a steady 800 unique visitors per day. However, I get only 30 sales per month on average. However, this jumps dramatically in the months preceeding Christmas.
The gifts sold on this website are priced from around $20 all the way up to $450. They are all handcrafted, handpainted etc etc. The site should be converting much more, but it isn't. So I have begun to completely redesign the entire site taking into account SEO, marketing, branding, ease of use etc etc, all great things I've read up on at WW!
So when I compare and contrast the 2 sites I see some major reasons which, I think, explain the differing conversion rates. These are namely:
1. Product - Can your customers get it anywhere else? You can buy gifts in loads of places, online and offline, but the food I'm selling is fairly unique.
2. Price - If your customer did look somewhere else would they find the same product at a cheaper price. The section of the gift market I am in is crammed with people who undercut almost to the point of selling at cost price. The food I sell on the other, is hard to find, therefore, prices are hard to compare. Also, people are less prepared to spend $100 on a handpainted plate than $6 on a bar of handmade chocolate, for example.
3. Design - Does the site look and feel good? Would you buy from your own site? I ask myself that and have to say I would have my reservations about buying from my own gift shop. Why? Because it looks dated, there are random broken links left behind after years of messing round with design, help sections and contact forms are hard to find etc etc etc. My food shop is new and takes into consideration these things. It's clean looking, product pages explain prices, shipping costs and the timescales involved. Pictures are bigger and clearer. It's easy to find a contact form. All these things can make or break a site.
4. Targetted traffic - If I had a penny for every time this has been said I wouldn't need to write this, I'd be in the south of France relaxing by the beach. But it is true! My gift shop gets around 800 unique visitors per day, but they come from personal sites, directories, lesser known industry sites..... most of which bring in crap, uninterested window shoppers. My food shop has few links, but the ones it does have bring in people who are interested in the goods. That means you're already at second base. If they like what they see they will buy easier.
5. Trustworthy - We hear Microsoft go on about it, but it also applies to commercial websites. On the gift site there is precious little to indicate that we are the online extension of our 'bricks and mortar' shop. The food shop is a totally separate, exclusively-online operation, but still gets a higher converstion rate. The difference is that I have a postal address clearly displayed at the bottom of each page. It's very little, but it instills a feeling of confidence that it is a real person behind the site.
6. Ease of use - It falls under design, but I thought I'd bring it up anyway. On my gift shop, which is now about 3 years old, it is very difficult to find what you really want. There is something like 400 products on it, but I think it has become a bit of a maze. Some people might call it an intelligent application of the principal of sticky content, I prefer to call it a mess. There is no proper search facility, you can't get to any other major section on the site from any page easily. All this adds up to too much effort for a prospective buyer, it needs to be much simpler, like a one way street to the checkout!
Compare the gift shop to the new, WW-inspired functionality of the food shop and I see some major differences. The food shop has a clearly placed search box at the bottom of every page. It works wells, I can see people searhing for products in my log files. The top navigation bar has links to the major categories such as articles, recipes, products, help and then has links to each product. This works because it is a small site with only about 10 products. On the bottom I have text links which reflect and expand on the top nav bar, there's the postal address and the search facility. It makes a big difference to sales, simply because it takes less effort to get to where you want to go.
7. Niche Market - This has also been touched on before, but I just wanted to place further emphasis on it. My gift shop sells a product that isn't extremely easy to find in an ordinary, high-street gift shop. But there are hundreds of online gift shops of varying size and success who sell it. This means greater competition and inevitably there is a greater chance that the visitor will just go and check the same product somewhere else: it's only a click or 2 away. The food I sell is a different ball game. Difficult to find, involves a fairly large upfront, initial capital investment, weighs a lot, costs more to ship, but critically is in demand. My gifts are also in demand, but because there is so much competition, the demand is practically nullified for a small online retailer. I think it's better to go with a niche market with substantial demand, it means there is a much higher chance of getting sales, even if your products cost more and shipping is a little more expensive.
This has gone on too long, I'm sure many who read this will know it all anyway. I just wanted to provide an insight into the contrasting conversion rates between 2 sectors of the market.
If anyone wants to see the sites please sticky me. Thanks,