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On today’s episode, we will be talking to Kevin Hermansen from Storecoach.com. This is the eCommerce Marketing Podcast episode 3.
Robert: Welcome to the eCommerce Marketing Podcast. Today’s guest is Kevin Hermansen. Kevin is a co-owner along with his brothers Dave and Mike of Storecoach.com, which teaches people how to build, market and operate their own profitable online stores. Kevin and his brothers have run over 50 profitable eCommerce stores, many of which have made over $6000 per month and they’ve sold them for 6 figures. They have been featured on Fox Business News and in the New York Times for their blueprint on creating niche eCommerce stores. Welcome, Kevin, to the eCommerce Marketing Podcast.
Kevin: Thanks, Robert. Glad to be here.
Robert: So today we’ll be talking about conversion rate killers to avoid. So can you tell us a brief background about conversion rate killers, what you’ve seen from your experience with your own different eCommerce stores and also from your website, Storecoach.com.
Kevin: Yeah definitely. The reason that I kind of chose this topic and wanted to share this with your listeners is that it plays such a huge role in the profitability of the store. And having run like 50+ stores ourselves and then also having coached thousands of eCommerce store owners, it seems like storeowners oftentimes get stuck in the mentality of focusing so much on traffic – SEO and link building and keyword optimization, all of the SEO getting ranked stuff that all of our time get sucked into that. And oftentimes we see that eCommerce store owners pretty much just kind of overlook conversion rate factors and it’s really a shame because we’ve seen, I’ll share an example here in a minute, but we’ve seen if you’re avoiding some common conversion rate killers, you can often double or triple your conversion rate, which is going to double or triple your profitability without needing a single additional customer. If you’ve got a store that let’s say is getting 10,000 visitors a month, you can double your profits by either doubling your traffic, from 10,000 a month to 20,000 a month, and we all know how big hairy of a task that’s going to be. Increasing your traffic takes a lot of work. Or you could double your traffic by making some tweaks to your website, which is going to take you all of maybe a day or two, and get rid of some common conversion rate killers and double your conversion rate, which is going to double your profits just like doubling your traffic would have been. That’s why it’s just such an exciting topic for me is everyone wants to double, triple their profits and it seems like oftentimes we get stuck in the mentality of “I got to double or triple my traffic to do that” but you can just as easily double, triple…well not just as easily, way more easily, double your conversion rate by getting rid of some common conversion rate killers.
Robert: Okay, so what you’re saying is…okay its good everybody is getting traffic. We all want traffic to our websites. We all want all these customers to come, but you’re saying you can increase revenue by investing some time at looking at your website, see what are some of these conversion rate killers that maybe you haven’t looked at, that you’ll end up bringing all these traffic but some of these customers will end up getting lost in your conversion funnel.
Robert: Okay. To bring it back, when you say conversion rate, conversion rate optimization, some people, some stores might not know this. Can you just define what conversion rate is, conversion rate optimization and all this stuff that people have to do. Can you just explain what it is? And once you explain that, then you can give us the things we need to avoid.
Kevin: Yup, sure. Conversion rate is basically just the percentage of visitors that you convert into a paying customer. That’s where the term conversion rate comes from. It’s the rate of converting a casual visitor that just happens to land on your site that you don’t make any on, converting them into a paying customer that you do make money on. It’s pretty common. It certainly varies from market to market and niche to niche but it’s pretty common to have a conversion rate somewhere in the 1% range. Some stores they are below 1%. Some might be 2-3%. But basically a 1% conversion rate just basically means for every 100 visitors, 1 places an order.
Robert: Okay. So now that we know what the conversion rate is, what are these things that we need to avoid that once we fix are going to double our revenue and increase our sales and convert more customers?
Kevin: The approach that we like to take, like in our storecoach.com training course for building, marketing, operating an eCommerce store. What we always tell our clients to do is first make sure you’re not guilty of any of the conversion rate killers and that’s what we’re going to be talking about today. But then once you…these are kind of check the box – yup I’m doing this. Yup I’m doing this. Nope, I’m not doing that. Let me fix that. Once you get through these conversion rate killers, then it’s an ongoing process of making little tweaks and modifications here and there to increase your conversion rate over time. The killers are kind of a one and done kind of thing. Make sure you’re not guilty of any of these, but that doesn’t mean you’re done. I mean to increase your profits over time, you want to constantly be making tweaks and modifications to boost your conversion rate higher and higher and higher. We don’t have time for this today but you’ll do that through A-B split testing and running version A versus version B and all that kind of stuff. But anyway I’m kind of getting ahead of myself. Today we’re talking just the conversion rate killers.
The first one that we talk about is what you don’t want to do is accept only PayPal and this seems pretty obvious but there are a lot of sites out there that still accept only PayPal. To be clear here, I’m not saying don’t accept PayPal because you definitely should. Every store on the web should accept PayPal. But what I am saying is you got to accept more than PayPal and I think a lot of store owners just don’t realize how affordable it is to get a merchant account and get setup to take credit card payments on site. Today, we probably don’t have time to get into each of these items in all that much detail but that’s conversion rate killer #1.
Robert: Okay so the first one you want to accept multiple methods of payment. Don’t just stick with PayPal. You want to create a merchant account. Accept credit cards, PayPal, Stripe…is Stripe another method of payment?
Kevin: Stripe is one merchant account option. I mean there are dozens and dozens, hundreds of merchant account options but the key here is you want to accept credit cards on site. The deal with PayPal is the customer actually has to leave your site during the checkout process and they’re sent over to PayPal, they make payment there and then PayPal sends them back to your website. A lot of customers just aren’t thrilled with that whole scenario. They’d rather check out on your site. That’s why it’s so critical to accept payments on site.
Robert: Okay. So the first one – accept multiple forms of payment and make sure that the customers are not leaving your website to make the payment on a different website because at that point you’re going to lose them.
Kevin: Yeah. And here you want to give them the option. Like I said, accept PayPal. We accept PayPal on all of our stores but it shouldn’t be the only thing you’re accepting.
Robert: Okay. What’s the next one?
Kevin: Conversion killer #2 is no toll-free number or live chat, and you don’t necessarily need both. You can get away with one or the other. We typically like to offer both, a toll-free number and live chat, just because you’re going to have customers that prefer one and then other customers that prefer the other. I think one of the big reasons why a lot of store owners don’t have a toll-free number live chat is: a. they think it’s too expensive, which is just false. I mean each of these you’re talking $10, $15 a month. If having a toll-free number or having live chat helps you make 1 additional sell per month, it’s paying for itself. But then #2 reason, for a lot of small kind of people that are running a store on the side of their day job kind of thing, a lot of them choose not to get a toll-free number live chat because they’re not going to be available to man the phone, take the phone calls or man the live chat. Typically what we say to that is that’s fine. You don’t really need to be there. In fact most people that see your toll-free number aren’t going to call it anyway but it just makes you look legit to have a toll-free number up there. And when people do call the toll-free number, you can setup a very professional sounding voicemail that basically just says “thanks for calling our customer service department. We’re busy helping other customers right now. Please leave a message and what product you’re looking at and we’ll get back at you.” So you don’t have to be there to man the phone. You can let people leave messages and just call back those that sound promising, that are likely to buy. It just really looks unprofessional to not have a toll-free number and/or live chat available.
Robert: Yeah. That definitely makes sense to me and I hope it also makes sense to a lot of our audience, because if you want to build trust with a customer, you want to have a toll free number or a live chat in case they have questions about your product or just the fact that you have that number on your website and the live chat, it definitely builds trust between your brand and the customer. And for some reason, some stores don’t do that but I don’t know what they’re thinking is, what their mental hurdle is for that, but definitely I do agree that you do want to have either the phone number or the live chat. You can just have both.
Kevin: Right. Yup, we like to have both on our sites.
Robert: And what’s the third conversion rate killer?
Kevin: The third one’s very obvious. I mean a lot of these might sound quite obvious to people but the third one is just too high of prices and I want to make sure to be clear here that in our experience you do not need to be the rock bottom lowest price online in order to make sales. In fact for most of our stores, we’re not the very, very lowest price available. Price is an important factor but we’ll be the first to tell you it’s not everything. Trust and giving the customer that warm fuzzy feeling that they should buy from you, that’s just as important, if not more important than price. All that being said, price is important. Your prices can’t be just in the night, just far and away higher than others. I think the issue here, I think when someone first builds a store, they’re very careful to look at the competition, do a competitive pricing analysis. Initially they’ll price their products just fine. I think the problem kind of arises by not staying on top of it over time. You get busy with other things – SEO, managing pay-per-click, fulfilling orders, all that other stuff, and you just let months and months and months go by without just redoing a pricing analysis and making sure that your prices are at least among the lowest of the top ranking competitors. The key here, what we do is we just…whether it’s on your phone or your calendar app on your computer, whatever, just setup a schedule. It’s kind of based on how fluid prices are in your market. You might only need to do this every 6 months or every year. But in a lot of markets, you should really be doing a pricing analysis every month or so just to make sure you’re staying competitive.
Robert: Yeah definitely that makes sense. You want to be priced competitively. Once you start doing this testing and looking at all of these different conversion items, you will learn your customer. And once you start understanding who your customer is, it definitely does gives you a better idea of where you want to price your product so that you can increase these conversions, especially if you’re getting all this traffic and you’re losing all these customers. There must be something that you’re missing. You can even ask them. Am I price too high? You can do a survey, but like you said you can do the price analysis. I do like the suggestion where you say do it every month.
Robert: That’s definitely good for us to do.
Kevin: Alright. Conversion rate killer #4 is checkout mistakes. Checkouts are pretty important part of the whole shopping experience obviously and I’ll just briefly mention three common checkout mistakes that we see people make. The first is requiring your customer to create an account. Most every shopping cart platform out there, there’s a setting in your admin panel where you can allow customers to just check out as a guest and you should definitely allow that. If you want to also give them an option to create an account, great go for it. But you should never require them to create an account, especially for specialty type shops, where someone’s not going to be coming back and making more purchases every month or whatever. If this is just kind of a one-time purchase and they likely won’t come back, they don’t want to create an account at your site. They don’t want another username and password to keep track of.
Robert: Is that a conversion rate killer because it’s just taking more time for the check out or is it just the fact that it’s just an extra step, right?
Kevin: It’s an extra step. You want to streamline it as much as you can. But there is also the fact that customers, you’re not Walmart.com. You’re not Amazon. They’re not going to be coming back month after month to make more purchases. They just don’t want an account. It’s just kind of a…they look at it negatively when “oh I have to create another account in another website. I don’t want to remember another password. I don’t want to enter my password I use for everything else because then there’s another site out on the web that has my password. It’s just kind of looked upon negatively to have to create an account.
Another checkout mistake that we’ll see stores make is trying to hide the shipping amount until the very last step of the check out process. Shipping, we talked about prices a minute ago, shipping is part of the price. If at all possible you should offer free shipping or a low flat rate shipping amount, but you need to let the customer know what that is early on in the checkout prices or if you do offer free shipping, highlight it all over your site, up in the header, a banner on the homepage. When a customer lands…everyone’s had the experience of thinking they found a good deal of something, getting to the very last step at checkout and “oh that shipping just doubled my price.” Just an outlandish shipping amount. And so every online shopper is kind of leery of “okay what’s shipping going to be?” So if you can let them know “we offer free shipping” or “free shipping on orders over $99” or “low $8 flat rate shipping.” Whatever it is, let them know early on and that will boost their trust as they shop on your site. But certainly, don’t hide the shipping amount until the very last step of the checkout process. People hate that. The third thing I’ll mention here and then we’ll move on is except in very, very rare circumstances, you should never charge any kind of handling fee or surcharge or anything like that. Just bury it in the product price if you feel you need to charge that. But on today’s web it’s pretty negative. Customers are not going to be happy if they see some random handling fee or any kind of surcharge of any kind. Shipping is one thing but you shouldn’t have any other cost besides that.
Robert: Yes. Especially if you’re competing with stores, websites like Amazon.
Robert: I think whenever you have an Amazon, I use Amazon. They spoil you. You just get used to, like I have Amazon Prime. Everything just comes quicker. And if you go to a different store and then you see either they hid the shipping and showed it at the end or they have that additional handling fee, it’s just a definite turnoff and they will immediately close out the browser window and check does Amazon have this.
Kevin: Yup, yup.
Robert: Yeah, so definitely.
Kevin: Yeah it used to be, several years ago, that it was pretty common to add $5, $10, $15 on for shipping at the end. But more and more, most sites offering free shipping. We try to offer free shipping whenever we can. Only in rare circumstances do we add on shipping at the end, so.
Robert: Okay, what’s the next conversion rate killer?
Kevin: Sorry, Robert. I know we probably need to push this along here.
Robert: No, absolutely just take your time. There’s no rush. There’s no pressure. We’ll just take our time. We just want to highlight and give the right information so that businesses and store owners do the right thing. So however long it takes, we’ll do it.
Kevin: Alright, sounds good. Killer #5 is “homemade images”, “homemade logos”, “homemade banners.” Honestly we tell people if you have a choice of doing a homemade image or just having text, go text. It’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words and homemade images are going to kill you. There are a lot of pretty dang affordable options for getting professional quality logos done. We offer the service for $97, and same thing for banners and little trust graphics we like to call them, just little graphics here and there throughout your site, lowest price guarantee-type images and 30-day satisfaction guarantee, made in the USA. All of those types of images they got to be professional or don’t have an image. Use text instead. It just screams second rate to have homemade images on your site.
Robert: Yeah, there’s something…I was at a meet-up, a growth [23:48] meet-up last night and they were talking, I forgot the study but they say customers and website visitors they usually look at images and the case study they are talking about, I don’t remember it. Hopefully I’ll have it for the show notes, but customers…these images are really important for websites. They do increase or affect your conversions and if you were doing your own home images, then unless you’re a developer or an expert, I definitely advise against it like you just said, because if images do help and increase conversions, you’re going to hurt your conversions by having very ugly images on your website.
Kevin: Yeah. I mean depending on the study you look at, you’ve got 3 to maybe 5 seconds when a new visitors lands on your site to convince him to stay. In 3-5 seconds they’re not reading text. They’re looking at your images. The logo…on one hand we have clients that obsess for weeks and weeks and weeks about their logo and this shade of gray and this and that. I mean that’s completely unnecessary. Your logo is one of those things that if it’s good and professional looking, you don’t even notice. I mean subconsciously you notice but people aren’t just going to sit there and stare at your logo, “wow! That’s amazing.” But if it’s bitmap-y, WordArt looking, homemade logo, it’s an immediate turnoff. If you can’t impress them, like I say, in 3-4 seconds, they’re gone. That’s why images are so important.
Robert: And what’s the next conversion rate killer?
Kevin: Next one is a busy, we like to just call it a busy old school website. One phrase that we’ll kind of joke about when we…we do site reviews, kind of a site audit quite a bit for our clients and one thing that we’ll say to each other amongst ourselves is “whoa, 1995 called and wants its website back.” And if you go to new age websites, they’re very clean. They’re very simple. There’s not a lot going on. There’s at most there’s one side bar. Having a left sidebar and a right sidebar with all kinds of boxes and images and all kinds of stuff going on, it’s just old school and people think “man, I need to pack everything I possibly can unto this page. Let them know about my Twitter page and show them this feed and show them about have a newsletter signup and link to my blog.” They try to just pack in so much that it’s just overwhelming to the customer and the way of the web today is just clean and simple. If you’re using a new age shopping cart platform, there’s probably some built in free templates that are pretty clean and kind of the new web 2.0 clean look, but just keep your website simple.
Robert: Keep it simple and keep it clean.
Kevin: #7 and this is the last one we’ll talk about is basically insufficient product descriptions. A lot of people that get into eCommerce, like when we talk to our students, “what’s something that has kind of surprised you as you’ve gotten into eCommerce and kind of learn the ropes?” The #1 answer we get is “man, there’s a lot of writing required. I didn’t realize there was going to be so much writing. But if you really want to do a website right, both to get ranked in Google and other search engines and what we’re talking about here today really is converting visitors into customers, your product descriptions have to be good. For SEO reasons, you do not want to just copy and paste the manufacturer descriptions. That’s duplicate content. Google’s basically going to look at your page and be like “okay, there’s already 18 pages on the web exactly like this.” If they do cache it, which they may not, they’re not going to rank it well because it’s just a mirror copy of 18 other sites out there, you know. But in regards to conversion rate, the product description has to convince them to buy. It’s got to be written well enough and be lengthy enough to convince them that this is going to meet their needs, that it addresses their inherent concerns, their inherent questions about the product and it just has to be well written. We see a lot of websites that are selling $400, $500, $600 product and they have a paragraph for their product description. You just have to think about it. Are you going to whip out your credit card and pay $500 after reading one short paragraph? I wouldn’t. The length of the description, this is kind of a rough rule. It doesn’t necessarily have to be this way. But the length of the product description should kind of parallel the price as well as the complexity of the product. But copying and pasting manufacturer description just doesn’t cut it, but we see it all the time.
Robert: Okay, so to recap, you’ve given us 7 conversion rate killers. If you can please repeat them, just the 7 items, and then this way the listeners know it’s 7 of them. I know the first one is PayPal but you can go ahead.
Kevin: Yeah. So #1 accept credit cards onsite. #2 is you should have either a toll-free number or live chat or preferably both, and again we’re talking $10, $15 bucks for each of those. #3 is not keeping your pricing competitive on an ongoing basis. #4 is checkout mistakes, specifically requiring them to create an account, trying to hide the shipping amount to the very last minute of checkout and then charging any kind of handling fee or other surcharge or fee. Killer #5 is homemade logos, homemade banners, homemade graphics. #6 is just a busy old school website, the left sidebar, right sidebar, 88 images and things packed into the header. Just keep it simple. And then #7 is insufficient product descriptions.
Robert: Okay, Kevin. Thanks for sharing these 7 conversion rate killers to avoid. But before I let you go, are there some great resources or books you think our audience needs to know of, listen to, read, that’s going to help them with the conversion rates and just overall marketing their eCommerce store?
Kevin: Yeah, well not to toot our own horn but if I were you, I’d go to storecoach.com. We have a free 7 phase eCommerce training course. I think most of your listeners probably already have a store, as opposed to someone just looking to build a store. The first 2 or 3 phases won’t apply, but phase 4, 5, 6, and 7, I mean we go over all of the ins and outs of launching a store. That’s phase 4. And even if your store has already launched, that’s still great information to look at, to make sure that you didn’t miss any critical steps that are going to hurt you long term. And then phase 5 of our training is all about getting ranked in Google and the other search engines, the whole SEO gamut. And then phase 6 is about primarily paid advertising, some kind of cardinal rules that you want to follow as you get into paid advertising, and then various other free ways to drive direct traffic to your site. And then phase 7 is more along the lines of what we’ve been talking about today. We call it maximize profits, so we go over anything and everything relating to conversion rate factors like we’ve talked about today, expanded keyword research, growth opportunities, maximizing profit per order, the potential of eventually selling your store for a big payday, all kinds of the different things. We’ve put together a pretty comprehensive training program on how to run a market a store.
Robert: Okay. And on top of storecoach.com, what’s another great resource or resources or books you think they should also check out?
Kevin: Well there are a lot books out there. As far as the web goes, there are quite a few forums now that allow, like Warrior Forum for example, I mean most people are probably familiar with that one where you can basically just discuss ongoing new opportunities and new challenges and ongoing developments in the eCommerce world. I mean I’m probably not answering your question directly here.
Robert: Actually Warrior Forum is a good mention. Is there another one that you know of?
Kevin: eCommerce Fuel is a pretty dang good forum. I think it’s kind of member-only kind of thing, but we know those guys and they do a great job as well. Rather than kind of reading a book that might be outdated or whatever, we like to stay up on forums and moz.com as far as SEO and stuff goes, just because in the world of eCommerce, things are changing so rapidly and evolving so fast that reading a book that was written 2 or 3 years ago, unfortunately it’s already outdated. Store Coach has a community forum that’s focused and exclusively on eCommerce. But that’s kind of the approach we take, forums and communities as opposed to a book written a couple of years ago.
Robert: Okay, Kevin. It’s been a great pleasure having you for the eCommerce Marketing Podcast. You’ve shared a lot of great information with the 7 conversion rate killers to avoid. Hopefully people will listen and avoid these conversion rate killers so that they can get more sales and thank you very much for being here today. Please send my regards to your brothers and it’s been a pleasure having you, Kevin.
Kevin: Thank you very much. It’s been fun. Thanks, Robert.
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