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Our biggest mistake to date

And how to fix it.

     
7:42 pm on May 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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So we got our bright and shiny new eCommerce site and were delighted with it. We sent it out to everyone we know so that they could have look and give us some feedback. Everyone agreed it was lovely.

So like a good girl I began all the SEO I've read about and sat up late every night hitting "submit URL", just about everywhere I could. Mostly in on topic information sites or directories. So far so good. Seemed to be working as well, traffic already doubled this month on last.

However no sales - what's the problem? I thought maybe people were checking us out and not buying now, but maybe later. Maybe I needed to mix things up a little.

Then two days ago I signed up for a Free Website Course, seven lessons one a day. On day two the author says he's going to tell me the single biggest mistake he sees people making. Well, he wasn't wrong in our case.

To synopsis for you the basic message is to not have you "vision" or "company statement" or anything about you on your front page, as customers are really only interested in themselves and how your product/service etc can help them. Let then envisaged owning or using your product or service, what are the benefits to them? Simple eh!

As soon as I read this I knew this was what was wrong with our site. We had done exactly what he was saying not to do. As I feel we were guided in this direction by the company building our site I felt I should share this in the hope that others don't make this fatal mistake.

At least we found out now and not 6 months down the line.

Best wishes Caran.

8:49 am on May 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Hmm not sure I agree with that. If a visitor doesn't want to look at it, they simply won't. I suspect the problem in your case is that you are sending the wrong kind of 'traffic' to your website. You need to be sending visitors that are looking to buy your product, not someone whos simply browsing a directory.

In my opinion, this is the biggest mistake any ecommerce site can make. Relevent traffic is the key to your success.

9:26 am on May 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I think Caran is correct. To me, this ties into something I've been contemplating the last few days, which is offering meaningful experiences to site visitors.

The ideal site visitor wants to purchase a product. The ideal website will be meaningful to that visitor by offering to fill that need.

There are different kinds of site visitors though, who are at different points of the buying cycle, so you have to balance the site for each, be meaningful to those who are researching as well as purchasing.

Imo, a mission statement type blurb belongs in an About Us page, and should not dominate the home page. Selling your authority on the home page is one thing, but turning the home page into an about us page is something else.

9:36 am on May 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I think the most successful sites fill some need, whether they are commercial or not. -Larry
10:23 am on May 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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As an update to my post I can now add that it would appear that there has been a server problem from Worldpay associated with our account that has kindly been pointed out to me by a potential customer who has been trying to buy products. Ye gods!

This could go some way to explaining why the (I feel mostly targeted) customers weren't buying.

That said I think the advice given - and by the way martinibuster the specific advise is to move this type of information to an About Us page and leave it there as you say- is on the money.

It makes complete sense. I even feel that, this was my intention for this piece of writing and that the web designer made the decision to put it on the front page. If anyone is really interested they can go to About Us and have a look. Otherwise if they want to buy stuff hopefully you'll hook them straight away from specific selling points first off.

I'm going to have this changed and will post back to let you know if there's been an improvement. It could be difficult to monitor though as I don't know if anyone else was trying to buy but couldn't.

Obviously I'm going to try to find out and then scream loads if appropriate. Caran.

8:43 pm on May 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Biggest error of all is not having people place a trial order and see if it all links up.
5:28 am on May 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

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It's not a mistake to have *some* information about your company on the front page. In fact, it's often a mistake *not* to have it. But a mission statement doesn't count is info about your company. Nobody gives a flying flip about your mission statement. On the other hand, they might appreciate something such as:

"We've been selling widgets for 27 years and have a long list of satisfied customers. We don't always have the absolute lowest price but the quality of our offerings is unsurpassed, and our customer service is second-to-none."

7:20 am on May 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Caran, I agree with you so very much.

In marketing, it's called writing about benefits instead of features -- and it makes a HUGE difference, online or offline. The goal of copy is to get the prospect to visualize themselves using and enjoying -- benefiting from the product or service. This goes far beyond dry information. Once copy triggers that response, the job is nearly done.

Laundry lists of features won't do it, and corporate-speak statements about your company won't do it. You've got to have copy that grabs people by their feelings, their imaginations, and makes them want to enjoy whatever it is you are offering.

Sometimes you are re-selling a product that the manufacturer has pretty much pre-sold for you. But even then, when your copy triggers the senses and the imagination, you succeed in closing the deal much more.

It's a strong and important insight.

9:55 am on May 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I think this may be repeating Tedster's point, but I really like this copywriter's aphorism:

The customer in the hardware store doesn't want a spade, he wants a hole.

Share with the customer how easy it is to create deep, straight-sides holes with your product, and you have sold the spade.

Caran - you might want to look at some sort of analytics or tracking package, see how far through your site visitors are actually going. If several went through your checkout as far as the (WorldPay) payment page, and then bailed, then it would have highlighted a possible problem with the payment processing rather than your site content or quality of traffic.
Website Analytics - Tracking and Logging [webmasterworld.com]

Thanks for sharing your experience, it really is an important point for existing as well as new sites (as is Essex_Boy's advice to test!).

10:37 am on May 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Essex_Boy - 2 'trial sales' were done (by the website company), however this turns out not to be the same as 'live sales test.'

Maybe I should post a new topic 'NEW - Our biggest mistake to date trusting the professionals'

Yeah I know essentially the buck stops here. My concern is not the lost sales but the potential loss of confidence. However we are really fortunate in that a lot of the traffic will have come from our own email database of customers that I can now write out to and explain any problem they encountered.

I'm still changing the front page though.

Thank you all for your input, Caran.

11:49 am on May 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

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quiet_man, I've been trying to understand the tracking and logging and think many people did go past the front page. I have been to this forum but am struggling a little. That said I'm pretty sure quite a few people went as far as the checkout.

Just going to have to chalk it up to experience. I am very mad with myself though, even though I don't feel we are 100% responsible. Thanks Caran

12:54 pm on May 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

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When I was 16 and started my first job, my training manager told me stuff about selling in his words and about 4 years later & after some experience I word my experience as below.

1) You are not selling, Customer is buying. (I am sure; a good sales person can say other way)

2) You are not selling a product, but you are selling a solution. (It might be a product for you, but solution for the user)

3) Most customer don't care if you had to kill 100 trolls before getting to them, what they care is, how your product is going to be help them. (None of the customers are bad, as this is just normal human behavior, me and you have probably acted in similar manner in past)

4) Most customers have the money to buy, you just need to develop their interest and most importantly give them a reason to buy from you and not from someone else.

5) Last & most important. You are not selling a product and customer is not buying a solution (yeah I know it contradicts statement # 2, but still both are true), but you are selling a vision & customer is buying a dream. (talk to any real estate agent about buying a house, you will hear it)

Think of the last time you bought or test drove a car. How many thoughts you had on how you would look while driving the car or showing it off? I donít recall buying chocolate for the purpose of buying, however it is the taste of it that makes me buy them. Same applies to most purchases in life, some at higher level, while others at such a small level that we don't even notice them.

There are always exceptions and odd balls, however I believe above statement is generally true in most sales.

So I completely agree with Caren, when it she says about her learning "customers are really only interested in themselves and how your product/service etc can help them".

11:41 pm on May 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Great Thread:)
this has been bothering me about my e commerce site for sometimes now.
My question is, i been doing SEO for quite sometimes and know good content is maybe the most important fact on a website for a good SERP's position, but its harder to do them on an e-commerce website front page since all the big content about the product and the company should be in the 'About us' page.So lets say my page is about 'green widgets' and a visitor wants to maybe just buy some green widgets and doesn't care to read about them, so if they end up on the 'about us' page because it is the most viewable page from the SE's then they, they might leave because they dont care about all the info about green widgets and just wanna buy some.
12:05 am on May 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Good point, guess we have to find a way to do both.
1:17 am on May 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

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if they end up on the 'about us' page because it is the most viewable page from the SE's

I think it's pretty safe that your about us page won't rank for something you aren't talking about, especially if you don't have deep links to it.