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7th January 2010
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One indisputable growth area over the last few, financially fraught, years has been online sales. Recent figures from Retail Decisions show a 21 per cent increase in online sales in 2009, with more than 33 million Brits buying online last year.

While online is clearly the way to grow, competition is rife and etailers still need to have the edge when it comes to making the purchase process easy and enticing for their customers.

But how do you know what will work?

The 2009 Consumer eTail Report from GSI Commerce has highlighted the online sales methods which consumers themselves say will have products flying off your shelves.

More than anything, their research shows you should not expect an ounce of patience from the purchasing public of 2010.

Streamline first, market afterwards

So, before paying big money to bring thousands of potential customers to your site, make sure the basics are there so they won’t turn on their heels the minute they attempt to buy something – working on this final stage can prove amazingly profitable.

As GSI Commerce’s Steve Davis says: ‘Retailers are seeing that investing in a streamlined online strategy is highly profitable, and can yield significantly more than investing in traditional growth areas.’

Here are 5 simple ways to streamline your purchasing process in 2010 and see your sales rocket as a result.

1. Keep it brief

Customers are no longer happy to wade through a complex registration before buying. In fact, three quarters (75%) of consumers asked in the study said that a lengthy registration process would be the factor most likely to make them abandon an online purchase in 2009, more than twice as many as in 2008 (33%).

2. No frills necessary

Almost half (45%) of consumers said they would be so annoyed by being shown irrelevant information that they would choose not to spend – keep it concise and trim the fat where you can.

3. Just one page

Only 8% of people hated multi-page payment processes enough to decide against buying in 2008, this went up to 38% in 2009, proving it is definitely now worth putting it all on one page where possible.

4. Offer free delivery

If a product is offered at the same price on two different sites, 94% say free delivery would be the deciding factor, up from 68% in 2008. And offering a variety of delivery options is now seen as highly desirable by consumers. Twenty-nine per cent claim their decision to purchase would be positively influenced by retailers offering multichannel shopping, such as ‘buy online, pick up in-store’, up from just 5% in 2008.

5. Watch and learn

While there are plenty of general rules to make things easier for consumers, every site is different and there is nothing more valuable than seeing exactly what your customers are getting up to when they buy.

Usability and eye-tracking testing can be as simple as paying three strangers £50 each to let you watch them while they make a purchase on your site.

‘Watch the experience; ask them to talk you through it’, says Davis. ‘You’ll be shocked at how many opportunities you have to simplify and enhance your shopping experience.’

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