By Robert Hensley
Whereas successful selling in traditional brick-and-mortar stores is said to rely on “location, location, location,” successful Web sales rely on the three pillars of effective Web sites: design, marketing, and hosting. And like a table with three legs, a Web site needs equal support from all three.
Pillar I: Design
Poor Web design will give visitors a poor opinion of your company and your products. With so many new businesses now offering Web design, it is important to choose a developer who can combine functionality and design to create a site that is visually simple, attractive, and easy to navigate.
Always design your Web site to reflect customer priorities. First find out what your customers want, and give it to them quickly. Make the user experience easy and fast.
This brings three common mistakes to mind:
- Web design is often based on the mistaken idea that visitors to your site want to know more about your company. This is why most companies feature the “About Us” link first as a visitor reads the page. Actually, a customer is looking for a product or service that solves a problem. With this in mind, correct site design will highlight the information about your main products first and show your company information last for additional support.
- Another common error is the use of impressive graphics without proper regard for user experience. Visitors are looking for information, not graphics. Graphics add loading time, so keep them to a minimum. A site will be an effective sales tool when you include all information your customers will need to make a buying decision.
- Avoid forms that require unnecessary information. Seventy-eight percent of respondents in a recent usability survey have bailed out of filling forms because the forms required too much effort. Eighty-four percent abandoned programs that required too much information,
- especially home phone numbers or household income figures.
Pillar II: Hosting
Integration of technology and design is crucial to the performance of your site as a sales tool. Web site functionality depends on efficient hosting and stable technology. This pillar includes all technical back-office details, from hosting to programming and newsletter list management.
Host your site on servers with sufficient bandwidth to easily and flawlessly handle your predicted level of traffic. Hire specialized database programmers to make your site interactive without a hitch. Purchase shopping cart programs that process sales efficiently and make it easy to buy. A good host will avoid down time, slow connections, interrupted service, and slow downloads to give your visitors a pleasant experience.
Pillar III: Marketing
Contrary to popular belief, effective Web marketing does not require a large budget. Eighty-one percent of respondents to a recent survey admitted they had visited a site because it was advertised. However, their main influence was the Internet (61%), print ads (57%), and e-mail promotions (51%). Television, for instance, didn’t even make the top five. The secret to cost-effective Web marketing is finding low-cost to no-cost actions that reach your narrow, primary target market. Avoid expensive shotgun advertising to large markets not interested in your product or service.
Some of the most effective low-cost marketing tools include:
- Listings on select portals and directories that draw traffic within your target group
- Search engine strategies to improve rankings on traditional search engines
- Strategies for pay-for-position search engines for immediate results
- Newsletters that reach your prospects monthly with helpful information
- Programmable autoresponders that deliver your message seven times or more
- Affiliate programs that encourage other sites to refer customers
Take into account the three pillars of Web site success and reap the rewards of the Internet.