Your Website is E-Commerce (even if you don't sell anything)

Aug 17, 2013Marketing Strategy

[mashshare]

I’ve been in the digital strategy consulting business now for a few years and there’s a common misconception many business owners have in common: they under-estimate the power of their online presence. They say things like:

My business’ website doesn’t sell anything. What do I care about website goals and conversions?

My business’ website is just for information.

Monetize my website? That would be too expensive.

Your misconceptions could be costing you thousands every year or worse. Here are three reasons why you’re under-estimating your online presence.

You may think you don’t sell anything online, but you do.

It’s true. You may not accept credit card payments online. You may not have to track inventory online. You may not sell a single product or service online at all. The truth is, you’re selling yourself even if your site is “just a brochure site”.

E-Commerce sites don’t have to sell directly. They can sell a business or a concept or even a consultant’s time (like this site does).

Think about this example scenario for a moment: a physician practice sets up a basic online website. The site offers up prospective patients more information about the physician, the services the physician provides and maybe even a few compelling testimonials from current patients. The site is content-rich, easy to navigate and displays clear calls to action (CTA) for the user to call the office or even schedule an appointment online. For each new patient the website refers, the physician’s practices can expect to make $1,000 on average from that patient.

The truth is that even though this example “brochure” website didn’t sell anything, generating a new patient lead generates a significant amount of revenue for the business. This brochure site is an e-commerce site, after all.

You may not make money online, but you can.

The above scenario was a simple, but realistic example of how a physician’s practice website could create a potential patient browsing information about the practice into a paying customer. The example made a few very key assumptions:

  • The website had pertinent, relevant content that was interesting to the user.
  • The website was properly structured.
  • The website was SEO optimized.
  • The website had clear calls to action, prompting the user to reach out to the business.

All of these are requirements, even on a website that doesn’t sell anything?

Yes!

Even businesses like a physician’s practice that are supremely personal and operate almost exclusively in the offline world can (and should) attribute some of their income from online sources. But generating leads from your website doesn’t happen on its own. Major companies spend millions (and millions) of dollars fine-tuning their websites to optimize the number of “conversions” it generates.

What’s a conversion and why should I care?

conversion rate

Web definitions
In internet marketing, conversion rate is the ratio of visitors who convert casual content views or website visits into desired actions…

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conversion_rate

A conversion is simply taking a casual content viewer and getting them to take a desirable action. What are a few examples of conversions on sites that’s don’t sell?

  • Newsletter Subscriptions
  • Appointment Request Form Submissions
  • Contact Form Submissions
  • Case Study Page Views
  • Social Shares (Facebook “Likes”, Twitter shares, etc)
  • Phone calls seeking more information

All of the above are examples of how sites that don’t sell can still generate income for any business. What actions would you like your website visitors to take?

You may think your users are anonymous, but they don’t have to be.

You can learn a lot from your users – even from anonymous users. How? With some assistance from a skilled strategic online consultant, you can setup tracking beacons on your site that help provide insight into what’s working and what’s not working on your site.

For example, image that a website has a simple conversion “funnel” that leads the user from a landing page down to a contact form. Proper tracking of this funnel (the pages that lead to the form) and goal (the contact form itself) can provide a treasure trove of information about your website and your users. The collection and interpretation of data can answer questions like these:

What pages are the weakest on my website?

What pages result in the most website conversions?

What pages are the most interesting to website visitors?

Why isn’t my site converting like it should be?

When properly configured, the use of free tools like Google Analytics can teach you a wealth of information about your own website and your potential customers just through observation of their behaviors as they browse your site. If you’re not using Google Analytics or a similar tool to improve your site, you’re leaving money on the web every single day!

What do you think?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please leave a comment below or feel free to contact me with your thoughts.

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