Are you a good communicator? Because one thing I’ve observed lately when attempting to purchase products and services online is that a lot of otherwise professional businesses really just are not. Your website is meant to be a facilitator of business, but with many it seems more to get in their way. Indeed, this especially applies to offline business owners, who set up their website as an “extra,” not quite understanding the sheer reach of the Internet, and have already written it off as a failed endeavor.

Bad Communication

Source: flickr.com/photos/87913776@N00

Let’s have a closer look at what I mean – here are five tips the vast majority of ecommerce sites could leverage to improve their sales conversions and make their website a better communication experience for customers.

1. Build the Ultimate FAQ Page

A lot of webmasters look at an FAQ page as nothing more than an exercise in wasting time. Many don’t even bother, and others make a half-hearted effort, tossing up their three to five most likely (or sometimes even most insignificant) questions.

But this is a major opportunity to not only communicate with customers better but save yourself a lot of time and effort.

First write down all the questions you expect your customers might want answered. Don’t just stop at a few though – dig in really deep and think about any questions that might come up, even if they’re not exactly that common. This will help you a lot because it will fend off those random questions that fill up your inbox, thus saving you time on answering unnecessary emails and addressing all your different prospect needs.

Keep in mind that the answers you derive to these questions can also be used to give a bit of a sales “pitch.” People who email about a question or visit your FAQ page may very well be right there on the fence about buying based on the answer to that question. This is a sales opportunity.

So if there’s a chance your answer could lose a sale, you should also try to explain why that answer is so and try to turn it into a positive. If the answer could gain a sale, well, hammer it home.
But don’t stop there. Once your FAQ page goes live, it should enter into a state of evolution. Write down all the questions and concerns prospects and buying customers email you about and add these to the list with well-thought out answers. These questions really are the ones that are “frequently asked,” so leverage them. They can also be used to improve your product or service or fine-tune your sales pitch.
Too many site owners just quickly answer these emails, which are little gold nuggets of marketing knowledge, and then let them go to waste.

Frequently Asked Questions

Source: http://planetofsuccess.com/blog

2. Give Extensive Ordering Info

How clear is the ordering process on your site? Here’s a clue – your ordering process should be apparent before your customers place an order rather than after…
What locations do you serve? How will the order be delivered? Are their certain limitations or stipulations? If it’s a physical product order, what are the shipping charges and how will they be calculated? How will the product be shipped and what are the different delivery times available?

And come on – what payment methods do you accept?!

You would think this is basic stuff, but so many don’t do it. You arrive at their site and just sit there looking at the catalog, wondering what you’re going to be charged or whether the item is even available to you (this one is especially important to me, for instance, as many companies won’t ship to my current location).

And in many cases you may end up deciding to go find another company that makes things more clear from the get-go. No one wants to go through the entire process only to find out they can’t even finish the order because you don’t accept PayPal or the shipping costs are too high. Think about it.

Some online entrepreneurs think they’ll get more orders by just keeping it vague and getting you into the funnel; not only do I doubt this, but even if it’s true, what type of precedent are you setting with your prospects? Do you think they’ll want to come back to your site in the future if you waste their time?
Probably not, and can you blame them?

3. Tell What Your Product or Service DOES

What about ecommerce sites that just have a catalog with images, titles, and a few words about their product, as if they expect the customer just to buy based on a picture? You can’t expect people to buy when they don’t know the basic details. Let’s get real.

But on top of that, you need to sell your stuff! That means describing what it does for them – the benefits – rather than just stating its features. This is basic Marketing 101 here. You don’t have to have a internet marketing style sales page to talk your products up. Your customers expect it and want it.
So make the sale!

4. A Streamlined Contact Process

This one really drives me nuts, and when I see it, which is far too often, I want to slap myself in the forehead in despair. I see it manifest in so many ways. Some companies don’t even bother with a contact form or contact information because they, I’m guessing, don’t want customers to bug them.

Huh?
If you don’t let your customers contact you, I can assure you that you are missing out on sales. This isn’t rocket science here.

Broken Contact

Source: flickr.com/photos/shelleygibb

Other businesses have ways to contact on their website but either let these contacts go stale or don’t check them often enough to realize that they aren’t working properly. What could be more damaging to a company’s credibility online than a prospect going to get in touch bases with them and finding out there’s no one on the other end of the line?
Check this stuff regularly to make sure everything is functioning properly. In fact, it’s a good idea to use several different contact methods just in case something isn’t working.

5. Tell Them What NOT to Expect

One more point I want to cover today is that you shouldn’t just explain what your customers can expect out of your product or service. Not everyone is the ideal customer for you, and screening is also part of the buying process. So, you should also tell them what your product or service does not do, and who it is not for.

This not only helps you communicate with their most pressing buying concerns ahead of time, but it also makes life easier on you because you deal with less disgruntled customers getting in touch to complain, ask for refunds, or leave bad reviews.

These might seem like some basic ways to improve on and streamline your buying process and customer communications, but trust me when I say that each of them has the power to make or break sales while creating more customer satisfaction and giving you easier days on the job. Don’t underestimate these tips.
Do you have your own pet peeves about ordering online? Let’s hear about it.