Church eCommerce: Item Information

With more pastors writing books and worship bands recording CD's, it is becoming more common for churches to feature products on their website they wish to sell. Even smaller churches may want to consider this. As more and more commerce moves to the digital space, why not sell Mother's Day flowers and tickets to your spaghetti dinner through your church website. Regardless of the approach and services you choose, you should have a top notch item information page.

In my second article, written in July 2011, I declared your church website is selling something. I wrote that article when my primary experience was with companies that offered an offline service and used their website to provide information and promote themselves. I originally thought churches fit into that same bucket, and aside from soliciting donations online, would not sell physical goods. The good thing is that later in 2011, God moved me to a new chapter in my professional career, working for an eCommerce company. In the past two plus years I gained much insight into the thought that goes into selling a product online.

While listening to several podcasts from churches around the country, I realized many are producing high-quality products for both their congregation and outside audiences. This included books, music, videos, teaching material, and fundraiser-related products. While they may have settled on different methods of selling those items online, with either physical deliveries, or digital downloads; the one thing that needs to be spot on is the product detail page. This crucial element is the pivotal point between searching for something to buy, and starting down the purchase funnel. Here is what I feel every item detail page should have:

Good Photography

If people are going to buy something, they require a solid presentation of it. This includes a combination of good visual and textual information. Yet, in many cases, it is the photography that truly draws people in to buy. The first quality I will mention is how clear and large it is. If you put out a good product, do not be afraid to make a fairly high resolution image available. Attempt to use good lighting and a high-grade camera. While your congregation may not expect a professional grade photo, it will certainly boost your credibility. Lastly, it should include multiple angles and close-ups. Is there a feature you want to highlight, such as the embossed lettering? Zoom in on that feature and leave nothing to the imagination.

Factual Descriptions

While photography may initially be very person friendly, it will be the text that settles the deal. Answer all the questions you think anyone could possibly want to know. This may include seemingly small things such as physical measurements and weight; but those details matter. Explain all the features, as well as any drawbacks that may be present. Are there restrictions on where you can ship your product? Make sure you leave no surprises for your customer. While you may not highlight them, make them easy enough to find on the page.

Marketing Speak

Yes, I am advocating adding your sales pitch. However, I urge you to position everything in terms of the benefits to the buyer. Your visitor does not care if something is the best in its field; they want to hear WIFM, or what's in it for me. What problems will your product solve? How will it make them feel? Answer the ultimate question, "so what?" after each statement to ensure what you said matters to your visitors. For more information, listen to my podcast episode "Always Ask 'WIFM?'"

Easy Call to Action

If they decide to buy your product, what should they do next? Do they click a button to add to a shopping cart? Perhaps your eCommerce engine is not up and running, and they need to place a phone call. Regardless, let them know what the next step is.

Action Item: If your church is considering selling items online, there are multiple aspects that will change based on what sort of strategy you take. Realize that the one that will not change much is the item detail page. Provide good imagery, descriptions, a reason why they want your product, and an even easier way to buy it. Lastly, if the profits of a sale are going to support a good cause; do not forget to mention it. While we want to support our church, knowing where our money is going reassures and even encourages customers. So start reviewing your pages, and start selling!

Photo courtesy of Asif Akbar

Author: Stephen Morrissey

I have been making websites since 1996, and using social media since 2006. My current profession is designing user experiences for corporate software, websites, and mobile applications. I started sharing my knowledge with the world in 2011, about a year after a revival in my faith.