1. Separate your Direct/No Referrer Traffic from everything else. Most catalogers and offline marketers don’t bother doing it and it’s a huge (as in colossal) mistake. There is (or should be) a BIG difference in adoption to cart and/or conversion from people who know you and people who don’t.
2. Fix your Catalog Quick Order form. It’s obviously broken. How do I know that? Well, look at your results. Are you getting 80%+ conversion on it? If so, you’ve got nothing to worry about. If not, you’ve got some work to do starting with what you call it. Catalog Quick Order is for ordering catalogs. “Ordering from a Catalog?” is for, well, ordering from a catalog.
3. Show a picture of your catalog in at least one (preferably two or three) places on the first view of your site – on your major entry pages for all direct/no referrer traffic. (This is only applicable for direct/no referrer traffic. If you can’t separate your traffic yet, only show one representation of your catalog per view, preferably in the righthand corner under your offer box.)
4. Use carousels on your major entry pages. Carousels are those simply-animated banners in the top middle columns of sites. They usually have 5-6 rotations (more rotations than six isn’t usually wise.) The purpose of those banners is to get people to drill deeper into the site so you need to make sure that every rotation has an action directive (click here now, buy now, shop now, and so on.) Need a good example? Check out www.budk.com (B2C) or www.marcopromotionalproducts.com (B2B).
5. Look carefully at your text search. This is one of the top two places where a lot of catalogers drop the ball. Unlike pureplays, you need to be able to handle item numbers. Not just item numbers but more specifically error handling for item numbers. (15ish percent of the folks are going to screw up the entry — it’s your responsibility to correct/fix/handle that.) You also want to look at your word connect. Online companies have this figured out (mostly because of SEO) but traditional marketers (catalogers and direct mailers) often don’t get this at all. Having a difficult time figuring out how to best approach your text search? Start with the words people are using to find you and then compare them to the words they are using on your site. Also, be sure to look at both successful AND unsuccessful searches. Just because you present finds doesn’t mean that they were what the user was looking for.
6. Show at least three items you can buy above the fold. The exception is your product pages where you are only featuring one item. Category, department, and entry pages all need a selection. Consultants can debate whether or not people scroll till the cows come home but whether or not you will actually scroll (you will) doesn’t really matter. 80% of our activity happens on the first view. Make sure to work it hard.
7. Use instigated chat. Live Chat works. Instigated chat REALLY works. Instigated chat means that you start the discussion with the customer as opposed to the customer clicking a button to initiate a chat with you. Try it on the places that your visitors have the most trouble with – text search results (or no results as the case may be) and checkout. Then, when you’ve got it mastered there, look at your entry pages and your product pages. Instigated chats tend to work best here if they are based on time spent on the page so you’ll need to play around a bit before finding YOUR magic formula.
8. Sell your soul to the devil for your users’ e-mail addresses. Sure, you can e-append your house file but you’ll often get different (and sometimes better) e-mail addresses if you ask the user for them. Collect e-mails in every view – especially the first view – till you have them and then all but one of the capture boxes can disappear. By the way, there are two major e-commerce providers whose “best practices” are to put the e-mail capture on the bottom and only the bottom. From what I’ve seen, this has to do with their programming, not what actually works for their clients. E-mail addresses are one of the most valuable things you can have in your database so do what you have to do to get them even if you have to “break template.”
9. Choose brains and brawn over beauty. Use a lefthand index and a righthand column. Yes, it’s ugly but it really is the very best formula. Using ONLY top navigation puts way too much dependence on the user’s skills, which you’d likely NOT bet your house on. Your lefthand column should include your e-mail sign-up, text search, highlights of your store, an alphabetical listing of the stuff you sell, your about us and customer service information and possibly a friend-get-a-friend box. The purpose of the righthand column is to “save” your visitors from exiting. What works best there? Plugs (non-animated banners) that get the user to drill deeper into your site. Check out www.eastwood.com for a good example of a cataloger who knows how to work their plugs.
10. Refine your abandoned cart program. One e-mail is not a program so if that’s all you have, you’ should start embellishing it. Look at developing pops on exit, a series of e-mails and then catfishes or midis to welcome them back. One of the biggest keys to success for abandoned cart programs is timing so if you haven’t played around with when you send things out do that now. Each company has its own secrets to success so you have to play around a bit before you find your mojo.