Every website needs traffic and conversions, whether the goal is converting a visitor to a member, a subscriber or a purchaser. But it’s when conversions relate to cold, hard cash that the real competition begins. Say you have an e-commerce site selling shoes. You’ve created a great looking site with an efficient back-end system. You’ve laid out your stock clearly online and the shopping cart function is ready to take payments. You’ve got your SEO provider to optimise the site with great content, coding, structure and back links and your site is now on the front page for the keyterm ‘buy shoes online’. Yet you’re languishing behind your competitor in shoe sales; what’s the problem?

While you can’t make someone buy your product (a product that may be inferior to your competitors, over-priced or simply not as in demand) there are clear ways you can help improve your conversion rates. Here are some top tips to help get those cyber tills ringing:

Sell visually
Visual merchandising of high street stores is a vital part of sales, with stock laid out in specific ways and areas of the shop to achieve the highest sales. While an e-commerce site can only feature its stock on the product pages, selling visually is still highly important. Sharp, clear images showing your products, with multiple views if possible, all help tempt the visitor to convert to a purchaser. Online fashion retailer Net-a-porter.com offers a master class in visuals: there are at least 3 or 4 views of each product, both mannequins and models are used, as well as links to the product featured on the runway of fashion shows.

Net-a-porter.com and many other fashion sites also know how to up-sell, with suggestions of co-ordinating items. Putting together looks with multiple products adds value for the site visitor by serving as a stylist of sorts, while tempting those visitors to convert to purchasers (by seeing the products in context) and even to add accessory products to their cart. There’s no reason why e-commerce sites selling tools or stationery couldn’t up-sell in similar ways; Amazon suggests similar book titles, for instance.

Don’t neglect your product pages
Your home page is vitally important when it comes to keeping your guest on the site and tempting them to click through to deeper pages. But never forget that individual product pages are where the sales happen. The majority of e-commerce sites are let down by product pages that don’t make you want to buy! Boring specifications, a singe image and an ‘Add to cart’ button may be utilitarian, but you won’t be converting any browsers without a little more effort. Amazon may have a huge budget to play with, but the way they manage a massive inventory of stock without sacrificing the quality of any individual product page can inspire smaller e-tailers.

Harness Web 2.0
Using Web 2.0 interactive features such as peer/user reviews not only reassures potential purchasers that you are a safe and secure site from which to purchase, but also positions you as a popular e-commerce site with a following of happy shoppers. You may not have the capability for Amazon-style reviews (and caution should be taken with regards to negative comments even if you have) but using testimonials is a simple yet effective way of helping to create a feeling of community.

Consistent call to action
Make it easy to shop by having an unmissable ‘Add to cart’ button and a simple check-out procedure. Then use repeated call-to-action signals to nudge people towards that cyber till. Consider the positioning of your ‘Buy now’ button and how many clicks it takes for people to find what they want and buy it.

Get inspired by old school commerce
Smaller e-commerce sites may not have the budget to add features such as multiple image views or customer review sections, but even the smallest e-tailer can take some inspiration from good old fashioned high street retailing. Stock on shelves has to look appealing in order to sell; products related to one another should be easy to find (printers and ink cartridges, for instance) and prices should be clear. Shop assistants should be helpful, indicating where in the store you need to go for a particular product, and knowing the specifications of what they are selling. And stores do well by creating urgency in seasonal sales or ‘Today’s Special Offer’. All of these simple strategies can be utilised by e-commerce sites to help drive sales, but surprisingly few sites actually do.

Finally, the shop with the best stock at the lowest prices which utilises the most effective sales strategies will remain empty if it languishes in a back alley and fails to advertise itself. Make sure your SEO provider (or in-house SEO specialist) is getting your site the visibility in the search engines that you need in order to drive sales; otherwise all of your good work above will be wasted.