Shopping online can be an affirming experience for many people, especially when shopping at a web store that has intuitive user design, easily searchable products and services, aesthetically pleasing content, accessible and varied customer service tools and options, and much more.
Customers should always leave your store with a smile and a feeling of satisfaction. An irate, dissatisfied customer could cause a viral social media storm if you are not careful about how you operate your business, and how your customers use and respond to your website. If you are a large company, customer grievances may not have a huge impact, but the same cannot be said for smaller, less established businesses. If this is you, take heed of the tips and tricks offered in this article to help you set up your online business for success. You do not want to be that company about whom customers write derisive songs.
When working towards setting up your web store for success, ask yourself some important questions:
- What kind of business am I operating? You should know what you are selling so that you can hone in on your target market. If you are all over the map, you will have a harder time appealing to any one demographic of potential customers.
- What do I offer that my competition does not? Having a competitive edge will help you carve out a niche for yourself and help you satisfy the specific needs of your customer base. If you offer nothing different than any of your competition, ask yourself why anyone would bother shopping with you. Take a look at your business, find something that really makes you proud, and use it to your advantage.
- Is your website optimised for positive customer experiences? If you are not sure, you can send out a survey to existing customers, or prompt a customer to complete a quick survey at the end of the transaction to get their feedback. There is no one better than your customers to tell if your website is effective at helping them do what they need to do.
If after asking yourself these questions you find that your business is lacking, do not fret. Your business is completely salvageable. All you have to do is make some simple adjustments to your website so that your customers have the best experience possible. Here are some important tips you can put into action immediately:
- Good site-mapping. People come to your website to find information. If that information is hard to locate, your conversion rates will plummet, and your business will suffer. A good site map lays out the entire structure of your website for the customer so that navigating is easier. Keep in mind that the more complicated your website’s structure, and the more pages you have, the harder your customer will have to work to find what they are looking for.
- Well-priced products/services. Competitive pricing is key. Customers can tell if you are being greedy if your products and services are more expensive than anywhere else. You might think you are trying to make an easy dollar, euro or krona, but you are just driving customers towards other businesses with better prices. If you are not willing to lower your prices on a general level, think about price-matching (if a customer finds the same product for a lower price, you offer them the product at that price to retain the sale and enhance customer confidence) and promotions in the very least.
- Attractive product photos. These can go a long way. Not only do they add to the aesthetic value of your website, but they also show the customer what they are thinking of buying from you. It is also fun to feature customer photos. It adds a more human touch, and can show the various ways that customers use the same product. You may even want to consider having a customer photo contest on a social media outlet to create publicity, engagement and excitement.
- Customer service and support. Your web store should always feature various modes of customer service and support through a questions & answers section or knowledgebase, instant messaging, email, phone, skype, video tutorials, and more. Having a social media presence for these purposes is also good practice, and provides customers with yet another outlet for queries, feedback, and even grievances (which you can publicly and proactively solve).
- Optimised usability. Think about responsive web design which allows customers to access your site through different devices and platforms. Consider adding an easy-to-find search bar on every page, quick page loading (laying off the Flash can help with this), a quick checkout process with only a few steps, and more.
Selling online can be a great experience for you and your customers. Tony Hsieh of Zappos, the tremendously successful online shoe business, has often quoted that “a great brand is a story that never stops unfolding”. The same can be said for your web store. It is a big part of your brand, and should always be evolving into something better and easier to use.