Selling successfully to people who browse on the Internet has many of the elements of ordinary sales and marketing, but there are some subtle differences. For a start, the demographics of people who shop on the web can be different from those who shop in the high street, unless you happen to be selling hi-tech equipment or gadgets. Then there are the limitations of the medium.
The Internet is good for products where you can make a judgment based upon sight or sound, but less good where smell, taste or touch matter. If you need more than sight or sound then you will have to build trust – customers will need to have confidence that fruit will be ripe, clothes will fit and so on. You can build trust by establishing a reputation, and by reducing the risk to the buyer by offering a truly no-quibble returns policy.
The key to sales is offering what the customer wants, at a price they are happy to pay. In your e-store, the buyer cannot easily ask questions of you, so you need to provide all the information they require to make a decision. It is very easy to drive someone away on the web – the world is only a click away – so minimize the barriers to buying.
Remember, once they have arrived at your web site, the marketing has finished and the selling begins.
Do not ask them to log in or supply any details before they can look at your products
There will be plenty of time to get their name and address once they have decided to buy something. It is nice to offer regular customers some form of recognition, like showing their name, but if you ask for it too early, it’s like an over-familiar salesman. Most buyers will leave your site rather than fill in a form. Your job is to eliminate everything that gets in the way of making a sale.
Do not use flash, over-large images, front-doors or other gimmicks
If you really need a short introduction, then at least have the grace to offer a ‘Skip intro’ link. Otherwise, 80-90% of your visitors will leave without opening the door. The rest will watch the animation and then leave. Ask yourself – do I need to impress technically, or to sell something?
Make it easy to find your products and services
If you have a home page, have a clear link such as ‘Shop Here’. Clarity is key and particularly avoid flashing images or loud audio – everyone will assume that the rest of the site will give them migraines, and anyone shopping from work will be embarrassed.
Make it easy to recognise what it is that you sell
Have pictures of the sort of products that you sell in each category – some of your buyers may not speak your language, but they know what they want to buy. If you sell branded goods, use the brand logos (get permission) to reinforce your credibility and to speed people through. Link logos to the relevant sales section.
Provide good searching
Bad search kills sales. The two problems are no results and too many or irrelevant results. Use a thesaurus to help – is it a boat or a ship, or a yacht? Use email, live chat and pop ups to try to salvage failed searches. Make sure that searching is fast and accurate, and provide searching on alternate information such as price range, colour or manufacturer. Create a drop-down list of the common attributes of your products to supplement your normal keyword searching. If someone is looking for a four-door car on your site, they don’t want to have to guess if you called it ‘four-door’, ‘4-door’, ‘4dr’ or something else. The sales process should enable your customer to find the product most appropriate for them, and having found it, to buy it. Search is an important part of this process.
Keep your site up to date
If you have goods that go out of stock, take them off the site or mark them as ‘temporarily out-of-stock’. Make sure that your terms and conditions explain what happens if items do run out of stock. The Internet is very good at disposing of ‘dead stock’ at discount prices, but keep this in a separate section from your regular items so that you can update it easily. And if you have any fixed-term offers, take them down as soon as they have expired.
Have special prices and your fastest moving goods on your entry page
Nothing succeeds like success. You need to grab customers and start taking their orders at the earliest possible point. Your top sellers and best offers will always have the greatest appeal.
Offer to keep the name and address of buyers – you can use a cookie on their browser to avoid
This will allow your customers to checkout without having to type all their details in again. They will appreciate it, it doesn’t involve yet another password and it’s an incentive to shop again. But do make it clear that a cookie is being used, and give them the option not to store it – after all, they might be in an Internet cafe.
Make your promises and guarantees clear and unequivocal
Include them within the checkout process, even if they appear elsewhere on the web site. You need to inspire confidence in buyers who have never met you. If you ever have an issue, just make the refund – unhappy customers tell many more people than happy ones do, and will also waste lots of your time.
And if possible, provide ways that customers can ask for more information
Make sure that you respond in a timely manner. For instance, you might encourage them to email you questions. Alternatively, you might provide a telephone hotline, or enable an instant messaging service to that they can chat in real time while looking at your store.