More Tips for Selling Products Online
5: Have Amazing Customer Service
A major goal of any business is to retain customers and keep them happy, and everyone knows the best way to do that is through exceptional service. This is important everywhere but especially so in the online world, where it can take a disgruntled customer all of a few seconds to find one of your competitors. When your business is online, customers can contact you at any time, so you always have to be ready to respond in a friendly, efficient fashion.
Your website is the first place your customers will go for basic service information, so make sure it's easy to use. Clearly spell out your shipping procedures and return policy (which should be as flexible and low-cost as possible), and put contact information in a prominent spot. If you can, list a phone number where customers can talk to a real person — this gives an enormous sense of security and confidence in your business. Even if they don't ever call, it can be reassuring to know it's there. Slipping little gifts into shipments and sending thank-you notes is an effective way to lend a personal touch.
Another advantage of an online business is the ability to spring into action if a customer has a complaint. Disgruntled customers can also spring into action pretty quickly to write scathing reviews, so you have to make things right before that happens.
4: Act Fast
The speed at which things happen online can be both a blessing and a curse. If you act at the right moment, you could be on the forefront of something exciting. If you hesitate for a second, you could easily fall behind and be yesterday's news before you even realize what's happened. Online store proprietors have to walk this line every day.
Depending on your market, this can be a difficult task. Younger audiences — or ones that are intensely devoted to their niche — tend to be more demanding and fickle. If you're not totally up to date or immediately jumping on new trends, they might abandon you for the new kid on the block. That's another delicate balance: staying fresh without losing your brand identity. You certainly don't want to overhaul your site every other month, but you don't want things to get stale, either. The same goes for customer service. If you don't rectify a problem, pronto, you might be the target of a social-media firestorm.
3: Be Descriptive
We've all had the experience of being turned off by bad photos and vague product descriptions in an online store. If the item looks like it was photographed in someone's dark garage and there's no way to tell how big it is, why would you want to buy it? Don't let this happen to your site.
Taking and posting photos and writing detailed product descriptions can be a tedious, repetitive task. There's no way around it, though, and you have to focus on quality — please don't write a few basic words for each item and call it a day. The more information you can give, the better. If you can do it in an interesting way that showcases the voice of your brand, that's even better!
Another thing you absolutely can't "phone" in is your photos. A phone camera isn't going to cut it — if you want to look like the real deal (and we think you do), hire a photographer or invest in a good camera, and learn how to use it properly! Use plenty of clear, well-lit, high-resolution photos to show your products from all angles. That's the only way for customers to know exactly what they're getting.
2: Be a Social Butterfly
Building your brand and driving traffic to your site has become a whole lot easier with the explosion of social media. Being active on social media is now a central aspect of being an online entrepreneur. In some niches, it's the single most important and effective marketing effort you can make.
Your social media push can (and should) start even before you launch your site. Set up a Facebook page for your business, and post often about your progress. Start figuring out the influential tweeters and the Instagram trendsetters in your market — follow them, and try to make connections with them. Send them products. Reach out to bloggers. Post on Reddit about your store, and get a conversation started there. Start talking yourself up in any venue you can find, and hashtag away.
When you get the ball rolling, you'll find it's not just a one-way street. People will start posting and tweeting about you. Feature social-media sharing buttons prominently on your site. Once your store is open, encourage your customers to share their purchases. You might find that the social-media aspect of your business becomes all-consuming, but at least it's more fun than endlessly pitching the press — and a lot less expensive than paying for ads.
1: Build Your Brand
"Image is everything," said Andre Agassi in those '90s commercials for Canon, peering rakishly over his shades. We hate to be shallow, but this is still an important mantra in online selling. The large majority of your potential customers are going to form an instant opinion of you from the opening page of your site, so it has to be impeccable. People will be drawn in if your site is able to instantly communicate your brand and what's important to you.
The website is a permanent representation of your brand, but you need to stay true to this image in everything you do. Your job will be infinitely easier in so many ways if you're passionate about your products, and you have to broadcast that passion when you're building your brand. Use a consistent voice in all of your communications. Steady social media engagement and interaction with your customers will help you create a unique culture surrounding your brand. Once you have this, you'll find that things might start falling into place. Traffic will increase, and you'll have a stable of loyal customers who want to spread the word about you and your brand.
- Google. "The Small Business Online Marketing Guide." (April 14, 2015) http://static.googleusercontent.com/media/www.google.com/en/us/ads/pdfs/small_business_online_marketing_guide.pdf
- Lazazzera, Richard. "What to Sell Online: 8 Strategies for Finding Your First Project." Shopify. (April 14, 2015) http://www.shopify.com/blog/12932121-what-to-sell-online-8-strategies-for-finding-your-first-product
- McColl, Peggy. "Hidden Costs Behind Selling Products Online." Huffington Post. June 9, 2011. (April 14, 2015) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peggy-mccoll/hidden-costs-behind-selli_b_871805.html?
- Stillwagon, Amanda. "Preparing to Sell Products Online: Steps in the Process." Small Business Trends. Dec. 12, 2014. (April 14, 2015) http://smallbiztrends.com/2014/12/preparing-to-sell-products-online.html
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