How Online Retailers Can Make More Money by Next Week

Incorporate these tips to your existing site to improve your cash flow quickly.

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By Lindsay LaVine

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This week, more than 5,000 ecommerce evangelists descended on Chicago for the National Retail Federation's Annual Summit to share best practices and learn what's new in online retail. We spoke with two experts who shared their top tips for how a few changes to your digital site can translate into more sales – as soon as next week.

According to Jason Goldberg, Vice President of Commerce Strategy for Seattle-based digital agency Razorfish, there are generally three ways to improve sales on an e-commerce site: increase traffic, be more persuasive to your existing traffic, and make it easier for shoppers to make a purchase. The fastest method of the three is to make checkout easier for customers, here's how to do it:

1. Reduce barriers to checkout.
Goldberg suggests eliminating fields in your checkout process. For example, use one field for the shopper's full name instead separate fields for their first and last name. Don't require customers to create an account in order to make a purchase - let them complete the sale without having to register or log in. Also, avoid using a large Promo Code field at checkout. "Most customers see that empty field and suddenly realize that they are paying too much because they don't have a promo code," Goldberg says. Instead, use a link that, when the user clicks on it, reveals a field for them to enter the code.

Related: How to Innovate in E-commerce

2. Check your site's speed.
The amount of time it takes a site to load can have a dramatic effect on sales, Goldberg says. "Even making a page 100 milliseconds faster can have a significant impact," he says. Goldberg recommends two free tools for businesses to gauge their speed and diagnose issues. Webpage Test, developed by AOL and maintained by Google, allows users to test their website's speed on servers around the world. The second, SOASTA, is a Real User Monitoring (RUM) site that records page speed and delivers real-time analytics of user experience on a business's site.

Sam Decker, CEO of Austin, Texas-based social engagement platform Mass Relevance, encourages businesses to take social media out of traditional social channels and integrate it into a real-world experience.

For example, in the months leading up to last year's Presidential election, outdoor retailer Patagonia teamed up with the band Wilco and several environmental groups to create a tweet-based campaign encouraging users to vote for environmental causes and share their experience on Twitter under the hashtag #becauseilove. Users could participate in stores, online or at Wilco concerts. The campaign drew nearly 12,000 tweets, reaching millions of people.

Earlier this year, clothing retailer Hollister offered customers the opportunity to "flock to unlock" a $5 t-shirt deal that became available after users sent more than 40,000 tweets. The brand experienced a sales increase of 45 percent over an average day.

Small businesses can also take a page from television shows such as Dancing with the Stars and The Bachelor that integrate content shared by fans of the programs. According to Decker, these shows have seen a 400 percent increase in amplification of content with Twitter and Facebook. Businesses can use a variation of this technique by offering a Q&A with a personality or executive via Twitter, and republish interactions on its website.

Related: Tips for Ringing in Sales This Holiday Shopping Season

Lindsay LaVine

Lindsay LaVine is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has worked for NBC and CNN.

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