Five Ways to Take Advantage of Social Shopping and Increase Conversions on Your Ecommerce Site

Consumers today are not just buying goods online without doing their homework. From comparing product prices to reading reviews to asking their Facebook friends what they think of a brand name, consumers are engaging more and more in what is being termed as social shopping or social commerce. Furthermore, these social shoppers are increasingly making their purchases via mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. What do such online shopping trends mean for your ecommerce site and how can you capitalize on these trends to increase sales conversions?
Here are five ways in which you can make your ecommerce site more social as well as adaptable to mobile devices:

1. Involve your shoppers

You may already have a Facebook page for your ecommerce site, complete with a “Like” button that enables visitors to endorse your page. To involve your fans even further, consider providing periodic updates on new products, sales, coupons, etc. Encourage seasoned buyers to post product reviews. Provide a link back to your ecommerce site so that your fans can go immediately to buy your advertised products.

On the other end of the scale, be sure to place a “Like” button on your ecommerce site as well. Visitors to your website who “Like” your site are literally endorsing your products. Since there is a 68% increased chance of a consumer buying a product that is endorsed by a Facebook friend (1), the “Like” button can actually be quite useful for increasing sales conversions on your site.

2. Implement a QR code

A quick response (QR) code is a two dimensional bar code that encodes data on both its horizontal and vertical planes. This enables the code to contain significantly more information than a standard bar code. For the most part, QR codes are uniquely targeted at smartphone users who, in 2011, numbered over 82.2 million in the U.S. alone. Using a smartphone, a consumer can scan a QR code and be taken immediately to an ecommerce website or learn about an upcoming event. Retailers can scan a QR code from a smartphone and apply the encoded promotional discount or coupon.

When it comes to ecommerce applications, you can use a QR code to take the consumer to your sales landing or product page. If you wish to enhance your social media presence, you could direct consumers to your Facebook or Twitter account and offer them a free product sample once they “Like” or “Follow” your page. If you wish to gain email subscribers, you can encourage consumers to sign up for your online newsletter in exchange for a white paper or software download.

One of the biggest advantages of the QR code is that it can be used for online and offline applications. Merchants have been known to place QR codes not only on Facebook and Twitter but also on flyers, storefronts, T-shirts and hats. QR codes are even appearing on business cards, offering a convenient way to scan and retain a merchant’s contact information if the business card is lost or thrown away.

3. Make your website tablet/smartphone-friendly

Today’s on-the-go consumers are often viewing your ecommerce site via tablets and smartphones. At least 30% of tablet and 25% of smartphone owners have used their devices to shop online. Because both of these items have a reduced screen size, your ecommerce site needs to be optimized to a more limited format.

While the screen size of tablets is almost the same as that of laptop computers, they will often not support Flash-based programs. Furthermore, tablets typically have touchscreens instead of a mouse, meaning that your website users will lose mouse-hover capability. Images, text size, Javascript and custom scroll bars can pose issues for both tablet and smartphone screens. To address these issues, you could build a custom ecommerce website or app for such mobile devices. Alternately, you could utilize basic HTML and program your website to adapt to mobile device formats.

4. Enhance your online reputation

With online consumers having a plethora of ecommerce sites to choose from, ecommerce merchants must find new and better ways of increasing sales conversions. Many ecommerce merchants have accomplished this goal through online reputation management, which is the practice of maintaining credibility and expertise in one’s niche area.

Online reputation management can be accomplished in a number of ways. You can obtain third-party verification through businesses like the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Geo Safe or even Paypal. If there are any professional organizations related to your business, you could join them and provide this information on your site. Also, listing your actual contact information and phone number(s) will enable consumers to feel safer when doing business with you.

To enhance your perceived expertise, post at least five (or more) “pillar” articles about your products and/or their use on your website (8). Consider posting authoritative content on article directories such as eZine Articles. Also, find blog sites within your niche area and offer to write guest blog posts for these sites in return for a backlink to your ecommerce site. Creating and posting such quality content will help increase your online reputation as well as traffic to your ecommerce site.

Once your content is posted, don’t forget to provide social media links to it via Facebook “Like” buttons or Twitter posts. Solicit comments and advice from your readers on your published content. In this way, you (again) involve your shoppers in your ecommerce shopping experience.

5. Learn to handle online dispute resolution

According to LoyaltyOne’s COLLOQUY report, 84% of Canadian and 75% of American consumers will tell family and friends about a bad consumer experience. With social shopping, it’s even easier to write a bad product or site review and have that report go viral, leading to a loss in customer loyalty and sales conversions. Since many consumers read consumer reviews and reports about products prior to making a purchase, effective online dispute resolution is critical for your ecommerce site.

To combat customer disputes, you may wish to purchase a third party resolution program (e.g., SquareTrade) that will act as a mediator between you and online consumers. Alternately, you will need to pay due diligence to consumer issues and complaints, addressing them promptly and providing online follow-ups when they are posted to your ecommerce site.

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