Top tips to take advantage of the Valentine’s Day shopping hike.

With Christmas a distant memory and Valentine’s Day 2012 fast approaching, e-tailers are busily gearing up for an influx of website visitors, who promise to be more fickle with how they make purchases than ever. With online competition fiercer than ever, how do online retailers ensure they are making the most of their websites and in turn, maximising those conversion rates? Colin Mould, Head of Customer Services at Sage Pay, gives us his top ten tips.





1. Increase your marketing

Sage Pay’s e-business benchmark report revealed recently that almost half of respondents who had above average conversion rates spent no more that nine percent of their annual turnover on marketing related activity. This proves that it’s not necessarily what you spend but where you spend it. Make sure you’re targeting your key market and if you’re going to invest money in ads, now’s the time to do it. Don’t forget to make the most of our free social channels such as Twitter to advertise your site and build brand awareness.







2. Up your SEM or PPC (pay per click) campaigns

Optimise your content to make sure you appear at the top of results listings such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing. It’s the simplest and most powerful way to reach an audience that is actively looking for your services.







3. Special offers

Limited time offers and freebies all help to entice a customer to buy from your site so make sure any special offers are clear and visible on your homepage. Romance aside, UK shoppers love a bargain so slashed prices are a sure fire way to attract customers. Research from the annual Sage Pay e-business benchmark report shows that 76 percent of high performing e-tailers entice customers through special offers.







4. Spread positive word of mouth

If you have case studies and quotes from happy customers then you should be shouting from the rooftops about it. No matter how much marketing you do, nothing is more effective than previous customers as advocates of your brand.







5. Make sure your website is friendly and usable

Making sure your website is easy to navigate and is performing at optimum functionality is vital. Customer confusion is one of the biggest sales conversion killers for ecommerce businesses. You can get a professional third party to give you feedback but honest feedback from friends and family is often just as useful.







6. Push your best sellers

Make things easy for your online customers by promoting your best sellers. Think about placing these on your homepage or creating a new area to showcase these. Online shoppers are a fickle lot and by making things as easy to find as possible, you can reduce your drop-out rates.







7. Stock up

There’s no bigger mistake than under-ordering stock to see you through a key national holiday for the consumer market. There’s no point driving traffic to your site, only for potential customers to find their wanted products out of stock.







8. Offer free or next day delivery

Consumer expectations are at an all-time high and shoppers now not only want a good deal, they want it quickly. Free or next day delivery is another vital offering to help encourage customers to place their order with you.







9. Increase resources

Checkout abandonment rates are a natural part of online shopping with many customers changing their mind last minute. But in many cases, it doesn’t mean you should do nothing. Make sure you're not losing customers that would otherwise convert by contacting them either on the phone or via email to identify the barriers. If you can find out what the problem is you can analyse, fix and proactively re-engage with shoppers.







10. Watch out for fraud

With all the excitement, don’t forget to keep an eye out for fraud. 31 percent of our Benchmark report respondents said they had lost money to fraud in the past year, with a further 5 percent stating they didn’t know how much money they had lost. With a sudden influx of transactions, it can be hard to monitor, but the three key things you can do to help mitigate the risk are:





  • Analyse the results provided by your fraud screening tools
  • Check the postcode against the area code at the start of the telephone number
  • Look out for a low cost transaction followed by several high cost transactions.