Selling products online has become a boom industry and whilst there is the excitement of being part of a massive worldwide trend, competition is fierce and you have to take advantage of any opportunity to position your online store ahead of many, many others. The following 10 steps to selling successfully online will provide inspiration and instruction. The more of these steps you can adopt, the more successful your ecommerce store will be.
1. Know your audience
Without customers, you can’t sell online with any degree of success. You need to sell products that people actually want to buy and then you need to convince them to buy from you. You also have to speak their language, understand their wants and needs, cater to the way they choose to purchase and constantly evolve your products and processes to suit.
2. Sell products people actually want to buy
This one may seem like a no-brainer but many a business has died in the dust because there was no market for what they were selling. Or, the market moved on to other, more exciting trends. Before investing considerable expense in creating a retail website, do your research. What are the most popular products in the sector on which you want to focus? If you sell niche products, is the market big enough to sustain a successful sales website? Will you have to supplement these niche products with more mainstream ones? Regularly revisiting your product range is vital so that you don’t get stuck with stock and have nowhere to go.
3. Be better than your competitor
Every business has a competitor. Just because yours is the only website in the world selling reconditioned false teeth doesn’t mean you don’t have competition. People who have the money and inclination to buy reconditioned false teeth might buy reconditioned glass eyes instead if the website selling them offers something better than you do.
What techniques can you employ and how can you compete?
- Best prices
- Simplest returns policy
- Unbeatable customer service
- Unrivalled product knowledge
- Products never out of stock
- Express delivery
- International shipping
- The most colours available
- Biggest size range
- Fantastic customer loyalty / customer referral program
- Excellent after sales service
- Longest warranty
- Money back guarantee
- Prompt response to enquiries
- Plenty of payment options
4. Provide compelling product descriptions
When people are getting ready to hand over their hard-earned money, a little extra encouragement can tip the scales for them. Have you ever considered buying something but stopped short because there wasn’t enough information?
Product descriptions are critical in helping to close a sale. For some products such as fridges and dishwashers, dimensions may mean the difference between clicking on the ‘add to cart’ button or not. In fashion, beautiful descriptions and brand names matter. For food products and perfumes, flavours and fragrances have to be articulated exceptionally well. Don’t let your products down by omitting important specifications or by writing ho-hum descriptions.
5. Use inviting photographs
A picture tells a thousand words, it’s absolutely true. Think of how frustrating it’s been for you when you’ve tried to click on a photo to enlarge it and it doesn’t work. Or when you want to see the reverse side of a pair of gorgeous new heels but the photo is not available.
Product descriptions benefit from multiple photos showing different angles and even different applications. A picture of a serving suggestion could easily sell a jar of jam and a photo of room décor can help customers visualise how a rug could dress up their own living room. Always use professional, clear and up to date photos. Ask your suppliers for fresh images from time to time.
6. Remove barriers to purchasing
Once a would-be customer lands on your site, browses the products and chooses something they like, the sales process must be foolproof. Use well known labels such as ‘add to cart’, ‘add to basket’ or ‘buy now’. Creativity is unnecessary as online consumers are usually well accustomed to finalising their purchases without help.
Provide drop down menus so that customers can choose the size, colour, flavour, fragrance or quantity that they want without having to repeat the shopping cart process. Make all shopping information available on every page (such as in the footer). When a customer wants to read your returns or shipping policies or find your warranty information, they should be able to click on the relevant link and have it open in a new window.
7. Offer a range of payment options
Not everyone is happy to pay by credit card and not everyone trusts Paypal. It’s true that consumers are becoming more comfortable with parting with their credit card details online but in order to successfully sell online, you need to provide a range of other options so you don’t miss those extra sales.
8.Get your customers to sell for you
Many consumers thrive on opportunities to interact and to be brand advocates. By providing these opportunities, you are telling your customers that they matter to you and that you are delighted to listen. Forums are a great way of encouraging customers to talk about your products publicly. You can also invite text or 1-to-5-star reviews and even ask your customers to send in video reviews. In fact, consumers will often post video reviews on Youtube without being asked so check in regularly to see if your customers are already doing it.
Talk about your products on social media and ask your customers to retweet, repost on Facebook, Instagram or create Pinterest boards. You can incentivise them or simply thank them.
9. Use efficient product categories and content
As with all website content, you need to give Google every chance of understanding what you’re selling. Your content throughout the site – not just in your product descriptions – should include SEO-optimised text but written so that it reads naturally. Stuffing keywords into your copy will only be frowned upon by Google and besides, customers don’t want to read highly repetitive material.
As for product categories, try to stick to a maximum of ten. When naming categories, be specific and incorporate logical keywords. If you sell homewares and one of your categories is ‘manchester’, look up which keywords would be more successful: ‘bedroom manchester’, ‘bathroom linen’, etc. If you sell beauty products, avoid using ‘hair’, ‘nails’, ‘makeup’ and ‘accessories’ as categories. These can be better articulated as ‘hair accessories’, ‘nail polishes and accessories’, ‘makeup and cosmetics’ and so on.
10. Keep your sales website up to date and fresh at all times
Just as you wouldn’t feel like walking into a shop that looks out of date and run down, selling successfully online is about creating a space that is welcoming and interesting. Your customers will visit more regularly if they come to know that there is always something new and fresh to look at and buy.
Selling successfully online requires turning up for work every day, just as you would in a bricks and mortar store. You’ve invested money, time and effort into your site so pay attention to your stock, your customers and your sales approach and keep revising your processes.