If you want to succeed with online sales you must first of all recognise that in principle it is not hugely different from any other kind of selling. Making lots of sales to people who browse on the internet has many of the elements of ordinary sales and marketing but with a few subtle differences.
For example, the types of people who shop on the web can be quite unlike those who mainly stick to bricks and mortar retailing, unless you happen to be selling the latest hi-tech equipment or unusual gadgets. Although more and more customers are moving towards buying online there is still often a difficulty in persuading people to splash their cash on products that they feel they need to touch, taste or smell.
This is where it is vital to build trust or use other selling aids such as videos or 3D rotating views. Customers will need to have confidence that food will be fresh, clothes will fit and furniture is comfortable etc. You have to build a bond of trust by establishing a reputation, or by reducing the risk to the buyer by offering no-quibble guarantees. Without it your business will certainly suffer.
The key to ensured sales is all about offering what the customer wants at a price that they feel is good value. Once they are in your online store, the buyer cannot easily ask questions, so you need to provide as much obvious information about your store as they will require for them to make a commercial decision. It is all too easy to drive someone away on the web; your competitors are only a click away – so remove as many barriers as you can to prevent people buying.
Never ask visitors to log in or supply any details before they can look at your range of products, if you do many potential customers will simply leave your site. There will be plenty of time to get their details once they have decided to make a purchase. While you may think it looks impressive to offer regular customers some form of recognition, like showing their name, it can backfire and seem more like an over-familiar salesman. It is well proven that most visitors would rather go elsewhere than fill in a form.
Try not use Flash, large images, or intrusive audibles on your site. Ask yourself whether you want to impress with gimmicks, or whether you want to get down to selling something? At the same time do make it easy to find your products and services. If you have a home page, have a clear link to your shopping section. Clever graphics, animations or slow-to-download flash is not necessary to sell.
Always make it easy to illustrate what it is that you are trying to sell. Make sure there are good quality, in focus, pictures of the products that you sell in each category, remember some of your buyers may not speak your English, but they know what they want to buy and can still choose it from a picture.
If you sell branded goods on your site, be sure to use the brand logos to reinforce your credibility and to speed people through, but do get permission first; you can even link logos to the relevant selling area.
Keep your site simple and easy to navigate. Make it obvious to the visitor how to add something to their shopping basket. If they cannot see how to buy, they won’t even try. Why should they bother when there is always another store to go to?
Provide a good search facility on your site – lots of people like to key in a search term rather than trawl through a long menu. It helps to put a drop-down list of the common attributes of your products and add it to your normal keyword searching.
Make sure your site is bang 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 are quite explicit about what happens if you do run out of stock on certain items.
A great selling wheeze is to show special prices and your fastest moving goods on your home page. Provide hot-links through to the main part of the online catalogue but try to avoid having any sort of buy link on the home page; this encourages visitors to have a look round at other items, and possibly buy more. This said each listed product should have a buy and checkout link for those customers in a hurry. Always make it easy or they will go if they have to think too hard.
It is good policy to offer to keep details of buyers; you can use a cookie on their browser to avoid security issues. This will allow your visitors to checkout without having to type all their details in again. Most will thank you for it and it often is an incentive to come again since people enjoy familiar territory. Do however give them the option to not store the cookie.
Finally make your mission promises and online store guarantees clear and without controversy. You can make them part of the checkout process, even if they appear elsewhere on the web site. You should always strive to inspire confidence in buyers who know nothing about you or your site. Have a company policy that if you have any issues with customers, just make the refund without an argument – this way you will hang onto your reputation.