With a 5 month old baby I’ve found I’ve been gravitating to baby and children’s clothing websites – although my hubby doesn’t need to know that. ;-) In my browsing I have discovered that there are hundreds of gorgeously designed sites with heaps of beautiful clothes and accessories. Far too many to buy from even if I wanted to. And the baby market is not alone in the competition stakes, most online niches face the same dilemma. So I got to thinking – how do you stand out? What can you do to differentiate yourself from your competitors? How do you make sure you get the online shopper’s dollars and not some other online store? The following article will provide you with tips and advice to help your online store stands out from the crowd.
The first step is to make sure your site is built in a way that is easy and engaging for prospects to use so we’ll start with the basics.
Design & Usability
I feel this is almost too obvious but with the amount of poorly built sites out there I guess it’s not. A well designed website that is easy for your prospects to use is a must. A website that looks professional instills confidence in potential customers and reassures them that they can buy from you safe in the knowledge that their goods will be what they wanted and arrive on time. It tells them that they are dealing with a professional company. A company whose products are of high quality, who answers correspondence promptly and who ships goods quickly.
The usability, or ease-of-use of your website is equally important. If the site is hard to use, information difficult to find, or confusing to navigate your prospective customers will go to the next website on their list. One of the best ways to test the usability of your website is to watch friends and family as they use your site. Set them a task of finding and purchasing a specific item and watch as they perform the task. Things to look out for include:
- Can they find what they are looking for quickly?
- Do they have to keep backtracking through the site?
- Does the site search return relevant results? Any results?
- Can they easily view enlarged images of the products?
- Are the images of high quality? Do they represent the products well?
- Are they able to easily add items to their shopping cart?
- Is the checkout easy to use?
As well as the above ask for their feedback and then make changes based on your findings.
Design and usability is the place to start. If you get this right you’ll have a better chance at converting the people who browse your website into buyers.
Shipping & Returns Information
Provide clear shipping and returns information and make sure it is prominently displayed on your site. Customers want to easily see whether you ship to their location, what it will cost them to do so and how you handle returns if there is a problem. Don’t hide this down the bottom in a link, make sure it is clear and easy to see on every page of the site.
Finally, make sure to display testimonials from happy customers throughout your website. There is no better way to show prospective customers that they can confidently buy from you than with positive feedback from people who already have. Include a wide variety of testimonials including ones that focus on the site’s ease of use, quality of product, speed of shipping and fast resolution of issues when they arise. In a nutshell include testimonials that cover all aspects of the buying process.
Once you’ve got the basics right it’s time to go that extra mile to entice those prospects to buy from you. Remember you’re not the only eCommerce site that is well designed and easy to use. Here are just some of the ways you can entice shoppers to buy from you.
Shipping & Delivery Specials
In my experience many a shopping cart has been abandoned near the end of the checkout process due to the shipping rates. Expensive shipping, and I mean expensive in the eyes of the shopper, is a real turn off. So reward your customers. Offer free shipping if they spend over a certain dollar amount.
And when I say fast I mean super fast. Overnight if possible. We’re an impatient lot and if you read the same mags I do we want instant gratification. So there’s nothing worse than ordering something online and waiting forever for it to arrive. And believe me forever can be 4 days. So try and offer next day shipping. And don’t punish your customers by charging the earth for it. Trust me next day, reasonably priced shipping will increase your sales dramatically.
If you sell a products that people can buy in quantity consider offering a discount the more they buy. It’s a great way to encourage larger orders as let’s face it we all love to think we’ve saved money. Even if we had to spend twice as much in the first place to get that discount.
Another great way to attract customers and make sure they become repeat customers is to offer a loyalty scheme. Offer a percentage discount which increases on every order – capped at a certain amount – for life. You’ll find people will want to make more purchases with you to get to the magic capped amount. And then they will continue to shop with you, not your competitors, as that’s where they get their discount. Now that’s loyalty.
Do you offer a product that people may want to try before buying? If so consider selling trial packs at a cheaper rate to encourage people to try your products. Slip in a discount coupon for their next order and you’re sure to get their business.
Following on from the above, reward people who order from you by giving them a discount on their next order. Most eCommerce systems will allow you to offer a percentage or flat discount amount.
Encourage Word of Mouth
Finally, we all know that one of the best ways to promote your business is to have happy customers tell their friends about you. So reward them by offering a scheme such as “Tell A Friend” whereby the referrer receives a gift certificate to use against their next order for every friend they refer to you.
In many ways the online world is no different to the offline world. Businesses who offer good products and excellent customer service and are able to market themselves smartly will be the ones who succeed and do well online. So don’t just put up an eCommerce site and hope for the best. Work hard and be smart and reap the rewards.
That’s it for me. I’m off to do a bit of online shopping as my DS (darling son in net speak) needs some more cute stuff. ;-) Continue reading eCommerce 101: Why Should I Buy From You?