Here’s how to ensure your online business doesn’t need a government bailout this holiday season.
#1: Make sure all your products are included in your online store.
People can’t buy it if they don’t know you have it. Make sure your inventory is current and priced correctly.
#2: Promote shipping and return policies.
Make it easy for online shoppers to know when and how their merchandise will arrive to them. Prominently feature shipping times and costs before the order checkout process. Use low flat-rate and free-shipping promotions to attract and convert price sensitive shoppers. Let your shoppers know how returns will be handled. Recent studies show merchant return policies to be amongst the top concerns of online shoppers.
#3: Clearly communicate why people should buy from you.
Competitive products and suppliers exist in most every industry. Rarely does a product or service have zero competition. Buyers need to understand why they should buy from you instead of your competitor. Communicate how you are different from others in ways that bring value to customers.
#4: Market to existing customers.
Existing customers are on average five times more profitable than new customers to your business. Market to existing customers regularly. Send out newsletters and promotional offers, including gift card options for holiday season sales.
#5: Create original product descriptions and pictures.
Most online sellers use pictures and product descriptions provided by manufacturers, making it hard for consumers and search engines to differentiate one merchant from the other. Create unique descriptions that contain product numbers, manufacturer names, and answer the question, “Why should I buy from you now?”
#6: Synchronize your SEO and keyword buys with your landing pages and product catalog.
You absolutely must direct shoppers to the page of your website most relevant to their search. Do not send all visitors to your home page and then have them navigate through your website or storefront to shop. All shopping pages of your site should contain reasons why shoppers should buy from you and compel the visitor to go deeper into your website.
#7: Help a shopper trust doing business with your company.
The internet is full of scam artists and spammers. Help prospects understand that you are not one of them. Prominently feature above the fold and on as many web pages as possible your website security certificates, BBB and other indicators of business ethics, logos of shipping partners, payment methods and more. Your job is to overcome consumer fears, uncertainties and doubts. Most of all make it easy for customers to contact you. A telephone number prominently displayed on your web pages makes you very different (in the right way) from most of your competitors.
#8: Provide reviews, user feedback and competitive information.
Let your shoppers know the experiences of others.
Encourage customers to leave comments that can be seen by other shoppers. Provide testimonials from others and offer customers the option of seeing competitive products. After all, an insurance company made a fortune by allowing others to compare prices of competing products. Your buyers can search for this information anyway…keep them on your site in your store by making all pertinent information available to them.
#9: Promote and sell gift cards and free gift wrap if applicable.
It’s estimated that gift card sales will exceed $100 billion this year. They are the most-wanted gift among women and the third most-wanted among men. Take advantage of the trend and make sure you promote gift card sales from all relevant pages of your online store. You’ll also be amazed at what free gift wrapping will do for conversions and sales. It’s a better option than cutting your price and it is a huge motivator for the busy shopper.
#10: Synergize online and offline efforts.
Many consumers use the web to research offline purchases. Harness this activity by promoting store locators, hours of operation, and in-stock availability of popular products and items.
#11: Position yourself as a one-stop shop.
Use site search so that shoppers can find what they are looking for, quickly and easily. Many shoppers have a long shopping list, making gift guides and gift finders a huge help to them and a big boost to your bottom line. Gift finders and gift guides can even suggest items by recipient (mother, father, teacher, etc) and personality. This helps increase your average order value while helping your shopper at the same time. You may also find suggestive selling techniques applicable to your online store. Suggest related products and services…McDonalds made a ton by suggesting you add fries to your order.
#12: Get out of your own way.
It’s important to eliminate anything that would turn off a customer.
Act like you are a customer on your website and go through all possible options someone can take when buying from you. Is the process clear and concise? Is the shopping cart efficient and easy? How about payment processing and product delivery? Use the customer service options (online and telephone) and make sure your company and its services are performing at their peak. Take corrective actions where needed so you put your best efforts into this holiday season.
Check your analytics throughout the holidays to make continuous improvements in merchandising enhancements for products, suggested items and discounted specials.
Be ready for shoppers early in the holiday season, especially with flat-rate and free shipping offers. You can expect the season to start in mid-October in most instances. And the season runs late-many online sellers report strong activity well up until the 20th of the month.
#13: Offer live online chat.
Properly deployed online chat services aid shoppers and increase profits. It’s that simple. Online live chat allows for customer interaction with your company in a way that drives shopper satisfaction while increasing your sales.
#14: Use multi-channels for your marketing.
Shift variable advertising towards paid search.
Use email marketing to promote gift ideas and shipping offers/delivery times.
Drive traffic into your brick and mortar store by offering online an in-store product pick up option. This brings the customer to you twice and gives them additional chances to spend more with you.
Try different marketing channels, comparison shopping engines, vertical search engines, shopping destination sites and other areas to market your storefront product catalog. Find out what works best by testing and measuring.
#15: Spread a little holiday cheer all throughout the year.
Use automated email systems to communicate and bond with your customers. Thank them for visiting your site and looking at your products. Use email for order confirmation, delivery tracking information and delivery confirmation. Continue the relationship with newsletter follow-up, loyal and preferred customer promotions, new product launches, specials and promotions.
RSS Ray is the host of the radio program Online Marketing with Ray, carried live each week on wsRadio.com. He specializes in helping small and mid-size retail and service businesses increase profits, grow revenue and improve lifetime customer value through internet marketing. Get Ray’s monthly internet marketing tip sheet and free internet marketing podcasts. Visit Ray online at RssRay.com.