My, how the world has changed. Many of us still remember the scepticism and snide jokes that were bandied about when online shopping first became available, with many claiming it would never catch on. They said the same about mobile phones. They said the same about jazz and rock n roll. They probably said the same about the television, soap and the wheel, too. The fact of the matter is that more and more of us are relying on online shopping for an ever-increasing percentage of our purchases. Groceries, clothes, children’s toys, wine… you name it, there’s an online shop providing it.
While this has had an adverse effect on the high street – we’ve seen the slow but inevitable death of bookstores, record shops and travel agents, to name but a few – this has surely been an overall positive trend. For the first time ever, the normal consumer no longer has to rely on what is locally available, and has more choice than ever before. Global competition for more or less every product and service has made companies lower their prices and make their services far more efficient and customer-friendly than ever before, and we’re all enjoying the benefits this has brought.
If you’re the owner of a business or the manager of a website which deals with online shopping, and you aren’t feeling the same benefits other similar businesses are enjoying, there could be a number of reasons for this. To be a player in the world of online shopping, it is of vital importance to keep up to date with new trends and the latest fashions for online shops. It is all too easy, in this fast paced, competitive market, to fall by the wayside. To be even a year out of date is drastic and potentially fatal nowadays, so take into account these five simple steps to ensure you’re doing all you can to bring success to your business. As is always the case in these matters, it’s often the little things that make all the difference. Even by updating your product photos (make them sharper and more professional looking) will massively improve the image of the company your customers receive.
- Offer the extras
It’s all too easy to offer the bare minimum nowadays. Because of the competitive nature of online shopping, somebody is always waiting to undercut your prices and offer something which you are not. Customers are not as loyal as they once were, and your competitors are nothing more than a mouse click away. As such, small extras such as free shipping (which everybody everywhere appreciates enormously), loyalty rewards for return customers, and free advice and consultations can make a world of difference, and will bring customers back to your site time and time again.
- Keep your customers up to date
This one should go without saying, really, but so many people fail to take this simple and effective step. It takes little more than a monthly newsletter to maintain interest in your products and services. Most website providers and site building companies now offer incredibly cheap and easy solutions to communicating directly with your customer base. Spend a little time every couple of weeks writing attractive, tempting newsletters, informing your clients of progress in your company, offers and discounts, or new ideas, and directly invite your existing and potential clients to click on your links and see for themselves what they’re missing. People appreciate the personal touch, and it is a great, warm way to invite people back who’ve visited in the past.
- Encourage reviews and feedback
This one can’t really be overstated. You’re proud of your company, and you know you’re products and services are great. But in this age of youtube comments, tripadvisor star ratings and ebay reviews, consumers expect and demand to know the deal from existing customers, not from the boss. Open up a feedback page on your site, or regularly publish positive reviews and thoughts from your happy customers. You can then highlight what people love about what you do, and this will encourage new customers to see how you can make them happy, too. You can never please absolutely everyone, but the consumer knows that a majority of positive reviews is more likely to sway their decision than anything else.
- Make sure your website is looking good
First impressions make a huge difference, in life and in business. Websites that look old fashioned, uncared for or badly designed have a massive impact on how long a customer stays on the site and browses your products. A bad looking website raises a lot of reasonable questions in the head of the consumer. Questions like: if they can’t manage a modern website, how well are they going to manage my money? It isn’t unfair to assume that because a website looks shoddily put together, your services and products would be the same. Would you buy your dinner in a dirty restaurant, even if the chef tells you the kitchen is clean? Of course not.
- Clearly state your returns and refund policies
At the beginning of this article, I said that online shopping was originally met with some hostility and scepticism. For many people, this feeling remained. There is always an element of risk with online shopping, as after all, you haven’t had the chance to see the product in situ, haven’t been able to touch it, see it from all sides, or try it on. There is an increased likelihood, therefore, that it may need to be returned at some point. For customers with this worry in mind, they need to be clearly reassured that should they be unhappy with their purchase, the returns policy is simple, straightforward, trustworthy, and written on your site in plain black and white. The chances are, they’ll be delighted with their purchase, but this little extra bit of security is likely to give them that final push in the right direction.