One of the biggest concerns of website owners is how they can achieve more business as a result of their online activity. The vast majority of online business goes through just a few websites – Amazon, Alibaba, Asos and so on. However, new research suggests that such sites are often just the starting point for research on buying things. People go there but often buy elsewhere, it seems. Indeed, according to the study conducted by UPS some 94% of all purchases are done in small stores, not large ones.

Chart of UPS Study

The problem is that with so much business being split amongst so many millions of small businesses, the returns for each company turn out to be rather small. So what can you do to increase the likelihood of people buying from your website? Thankfully, the UPS study of over 5,000 website shoppers reveals several important factors.

1. Focus on reviews

It turns out that reviews of anything you sell are the most important factor people look for on your website. Indeed, almost three quarters of shoppers say that reviews are the most influential feature making them more likely to buy. So, whether you sell paper clips or consultancy, reviews are important. You might call them “testimonials” for a service business, for instance, but the fact is that anyone buying what you sell wants to know what other people think of your items. If you want to sell more, publish more reviews or testimonials.

2. Establish great customer service

According to the UPS study “superior customer service is non-negotiable”. In other words, your online systems have to make sure that people can easily buy from you and that you have no quibbles about problems or returns. Indeed, the research found that most online buyers base their decision to purchase on whether or not the company does provide top-level service. At the same time, however, the study revealed that one-third of people are not satisfied with customer service. Having great customer service – including things like free returns, or live chat – is what attracts and retains custom.

3. Add more information

Shoppers want detailed information. Instead of a picture and a brief description, shoppers want much more in-depth information. The study revealed that 73% of shoppers want highly detailed information about what they are considering buying. The more information you add about each product or service you offer, the more people are likely to buy.

4. Use more pictures

The research found that people wanted more pictures and the ability to zoom into those images. In a real world store people will pick up items and have a good look around. They cannot do that online if all you have is a single image or just a pack shot. Six out of ten people in the study said they needed multiple images – especially of actual users of those products using them.

5. Set up a Q&A system

Allowing shoppers to ask you questions – perhaps using forum software – is another important method of improving sales. The UPS research found that almost half of all online shoppers wanted this feature. If you think about it, real world shops have the ability for Q&A anyway because we can talk to a sales assistant. Online, having a Q&A system is much the same. But, in addition, it helps people make a purchasing decision because they can see the answers provided to other shoppers. Including a Q&A system on your website could increase your sales.

These steps make it more convenient for your shoppers and show that you like them. In addition they help you make your site more informative, customised and knowledgeable. Convenient, Likeable, Informative, Customised and Knowledgeable spells “CLICK”. Interesting that the UPS research confirms the very points made in the book Click.ology.