Note: This article is part of our e-commerce series where we discuss how to start an online store and building an effective sales funnel

As more and more consumers turn to the Internet to buy the products they want and need, website sales are becoming a crucial component of profits, whether you’re a brick and mortar retail store with a small online shop or an ecommerce giant. So how can you maximize your website sales and, in turn, maximize your bottom line? Be sure to take a look at the ultimate checklist to boost your website sales.

Target to specific buyer personas

Before you begin to design and develop your website, you need to ask yourself: “Who is my target audience?

This means that you need to develop specific buyer personas—an image of your target buyer that details their spending habits, purchasing preferences, needs, and relevant demographic information (including age, income, education, and location). What makes a great buyer persona? The general rule of thumb is that the more detail and information, the better. You want your buyer persona to be as specific as possible.

Case study: Visual Creatives

Homepage of Visual Creatives
Homepage of Visual Creatives

Consider Visual Creatives Inc. This company knows that its buyer persona is typically some kind of agency owner or company founder.

By analyzing its most profitable and loyal customers, Visual Creatives was able to come up with an in-depth profile of its ideal customer, honing in on key demographic data like typical age, income, education, and location. In order to further refine the persona, the Visual Creatives team imagined a day in the life of this kind of person, mapping out their strengths and challenges. The team determined that the company’s buyer persona was probably someone who was struggling to find time to get everything done throughout the day, and typically found the information he or she needed on the web. They then established the type of experience desired by these buyer personas so that they could better meet their clients’ expectations.

Leverage the power of compelling content

If you want to boost your website sales, you need compelling content to hook your consumers.

All of the content across your website, from blog posts to product descriptions, needs to be of the highest quality. It needs to inform and engage. However, when it comes to leveraging the power of compelling content, well-designed and well-written headings are especially key. You want to include keywords that will attract the attention of your target customer, and use headlines to guide customers through your site, making it easy for them to scan through your site and find content that speaks to them directly.

Know your traffic sources

In order to effectively attract customers and drive sales, you need to know where to spend your advertising dollars. This means you need a comprehensive understanding of your biggest traffic sources, so you can figure out how your visitors are finding out about you and where they are coming from. For a comprehensive analysis of your traffic sources, it is best to check out Google Analytics.

Make sure your site is well designed

The bottom line is that a poorly designed site is a site that won’t sell.

If you want to boost your website sales, you need a site that looks professional, loads quickly, adheres to usability standards, and makes for an excellent user experience. Just a two-second delay in loading times can drive abandonment rates up by a staggering 87%, which translates into countless lost sales.

Furthermore, when it comes to a well-designed website, it is especially important to keep mobile design in mind. Close to half of Net users between the ages of 18 and 29 now use their smartphones to conduct searches, and many of these searches are made by consumers looking to find and purchase a product. Furthermore, 80% of smartphone users now shop using their mobile device, adding up to some $40 billion worth of purchases on a smartphone annually. If your site isn’t designed in a mobile-friendly way, you will miss out on this lucrative market segment. Econsultancy reports that 62% of companies that designed a website specifically for mobile saw an increase in overall website sales.

Create compelling value propositions

There is nothing a consumer loves more than feeling like he or she has scored a good bargain.

The more compelling your value propositions, the more you will sell—especially if you are offering something for free. The statistics speak for themselves. Consumers are up to five times more likely to make a purchase when you offer free shipping, and they tend to be receptive to free bonus products as part of bundled deals. For example, when Sims 3 wanted to get more people to register for the game, they revamped their value proposition. They redid the entire landing page, focusing on what consumers would get for free if they signed up. As a result, game registration increased 128%.

Case study by Journal of Marketing

Interestingly, a study published in the Journal of Marketing examining consumers’ attitudes regarding discounts found that, in general, consumers are happier to get something for free than to get something cheaper.

A 50% increase in product quantity is the same as 33% discount, and yet consumers overwhelmingly assumed that a free product was a better value in the study. The researchers found that 73% more hand lotion was sold when it was offered for free as part of a bonus pack, than when it carried an equivalent discount. To sum up this point, the key to selling more is to create better value propositions. Make your customers feel like they are getting something extra, whether you are offering a value proposition through a seasonal sale, a bundled deal, or a loyalty discount.

Understand buying phases

It is important to understand the different buying phases. Buying phases, sometimes called the buying cycle, refers to the different phases a consumer will pass through before making a purchase. These phases include awareness, consideration preference/intent, purchase, and repurchase. Understanding the buying phases is integral to building a sales funnel that converts. Ideally, you want to build targeted content for each stage and make this content available through appropriate channels, contingent upon the product you are selling and your buyer personas. For more information, check out this blog post on the basics of building a sales funnel that converts.

Reduce friction

The key here is to keep things simple. Friction refers to anything that prevents a website user from accomplishing his or her goal. So when a user can’t find the button to select an item in his or her cart, that is a prime example of friction, as something (probably confusing design) is preventing the consumer from meeting his or her objective. Other examples of friction include slow loading page times, distracting visuals, inconsistencies in the interface, or confusing functions. The key to reducing friction is to minimize the steps involved in a task. So make it as easy as possible for consumers to log into your website, navigate it, and purchase products.

How can you do this? A few tips:

Tip#1: Focus on content

As previously discussed, compelling content is key. However, you only want to include content that keeps users moving toward their goals. Otherwise, your content will be distracting. Focus on creating a streamlined aesthetic experience that conveys your brand personality and matches user expectations, and work to trim away anything that doesn’t help the user meet his or her goals, or add value to his or her experience. Limit visuals to what is absolutely necessary and opt for prominent, crisp typography.

Tip#2: Master the art of chunking

Breaking content into pieces ensures that users don’t feel too overwhelmed. For example, design agency Heydays makes use of a grid pattern in order to present content in a format that is easy for users to visually digest, making use of short section titles and contrasting images.

Tip #3: Use UI patterns to eliminate steps

UI patterns allow you to design your website in a way that is intuitive for users, reducing friction and making your website significantly more user friendly. Examples of UI patterns include Guided Actions, Default Settings, and Wizards/Stepped Forms. Let’s consider an example. Twitter makes use of guided action by directing new users to a signup screen automatically, on which the cursor is already activated in the information input field. This guided action allows the user to skip over two steps—clicking to go to the signup screen and clicking in the first field of the form to input information.

The bottom line is that less friction translates into more sales, so it is in your interest to invest in good web design. When the Weather Channel wanted to turn more people into premium subscribers of its services, it focused on reducing friction by decluttering its homepage and allowing users to subscribe in a single action. The results? Conversions increased by an impressive 225%. The moral of the story is clear: When in doubt, simplify and focus on reducing friction.

Focus on clarity

Clarity is key if you want consumers to buy.

Make it easy for the customer to put a desired product in their online shopping cart, and make it simple for them to check out and pay. The entire process should be idiot-proof. Less is more. Clarity is especially important when it comes to the checkout process. Ideally, you want to establish a linear process that is easy for the customer to follow. Even minor tweaks to the process can have a profound impact on sales.

Design and call-to-action done right - make it clear with their offer.
Design and call-to-action done right – make it crystal clear with their offers.

Add urgency to your offers

Research shows that adding a sense of urgency to offers can dramatically drive up sales. It boils down to simple psychology: Urgency forces consumers to arrive at a decision about a purchase more quickly. How can you use urgency to increase conversion and drive sales? Examples include showing low stock levels, encouraging customers to make a quick purchase to ensure faster delivery, last-chance offers, and limited-time-only sales, including flash sales. American Apparel, for example, along with many other online retailers, will alert a customer when a selected size in an item is low in stock, while online retailer ASOS is known to frequently run flash sales to move consumers to action.

Published by Jerry Low

Geekdad, Netrepreneur, growth hacker, SEO junkie, and founder of WebRevenue Inc. Live to eat, loves all things Internet, and owns more domain names he can handle. Say hello to me on Twitter!