To be a successful online retailer it is essential that you put some fun and excitement into your customers' shopping experience.
With bricks and mortar shopping, there are lots of opportunities to have fun. You can window shop, try on clothes, sample gourmet foods, stop for a cappuccino and biscotti, and share the experience with friends.
Now that online shopping has begun to challenge bricks and mortar shopping, some of these pleasurable attributes have been stripped away. While it's true, you don't have to trudge from store to store to compare brands and prices, and you don't have to carry packages home, you also can't touch and feel the merchandise.
Here are some ideas for you to add fun to your customers' online purchasing experience.
If you are reselling a complex product that is hard to understand or use, you can “consult” with your customers by giving them strong visual resources to increase their understanding of your product, and therefore to strengthen their desire to purchase it.
Creating How-To Videos is especially helpful with assembly products, not only because it helps people see exactly how pieces are supposed to go together, but also because it reaches out to people who do not read well. Remember that the majority of your customers reason visually (60%), some verbally (30%), and a minority through experience (10%). Video will satisfy all groups. Subscribe to our ecourse on Creating Video For The Web to get accustomed to creating product movies cheaply and effectively.
Live chat is a great way to make the personal connection. Most people have become very used to live chatting, so they are comfortable with this form of information exchange. Having a good, knowledgeable person available can make all the difference when someone is having a problem. The downside of live chat is that it's expensive to keep someone available to users over many hours of the day, but it can increase your conversions dramatically while making your customers' experience more fun.
Here's an alternative that essentially elevates the live chat to expert status, and also allows the interaction to be scheduled. If your product is expensive enough and your purchasers might anticipate having problems, the expert consultation can remove a major barrier to purchase.
For example, if you sell water pond kits, your potential customers are not only making a big investment, they are also taking on the job of being a landscaper. You might offer a free 30 minute phone or video cam consultation along with the kit. Sure, it's a chunk of time but, if it makes the difference in a £1000 sale, it's well worth it. Plus, if your assistance can ensure that your customer is able to use your product correctly, you will avoid dissatisfaction and returns.
Transforming your role from sales person to consultant can make all the difference in selling your products.
People love to give their opinion. There are lots of ways for you to capitalise on that desire.
Allow your customers to write reviews of your products. The research suggests that online shoppers like reading customer reviews and are often influenced by them. Or take it one step further. Does your product lend itself to pictures? Ask your customers to upload photos of themselves using your product. Wouldn't it be great to see someone enjoying a cup of coffee in that Spanish pottery you sold them? Or get a photo of a sweet little dog in the personalised pooch sweater they got on your site?
Here's another really excellent tool if your web people can make it work for you. Put up your newest items or, a new product you're thinking about reselling. Ask your users to give you feedback about colour, price, etc, etc. then give immediate feedback about where their comments fit vis a vis feedback submitted by other users. For example, 30% of our site visitors like our new plaid skirts but 60% think there should be more colour choices, especially a blue/black option. Your visitors will be engaged and you will gather incredibly important market research data.
What do the people who buy your product have in common? Do you sell children's toys? Perfect! Encourage them to talk about kids issues, creative ways to use toys, how they handle Christmas and toy overload. Put up a section for questions and have people write in their advice, e.g., 'How do you get three year olds to share their toys?'
Wish List or Registry
Do you have the kind of site that lends itself to a wish list or gift registry? If so, encouraging people to sign up or simply click a button to establish their wish list has many, many advantages. You learn something about what your users are interested in buying. The wish list is likely to draw the potential customer back to your site. The wish lister may well pass along the site information to people who may want to buy a gift for them. Bottom line, it's all good for your bottom line, while adding the fun factor to your site's shopping experience.
Turn your customer into your selling partner through incentives
This technique might not increase your initial margins, but it's a great cheap method to acquire new and likely long term customers. Here is how it works. One of the smartest ways to convert a potential customer into a purchaser is to give both them and you additional value. Here's how this method adds value to your customer's purchase.
Advertise on your home page and product landing pages that if your customer can bring three more sales of equal or greater value to your site, you will refund the purchase price of their order. You can also do this on a product basis.
You will need a system that allows a new purchaser to enter the name of the referring customer (or you can achieve this automatically using your affiliate program software), so that you can keep track of purchases. You may want to restrict the offer to purchasers who are new to your site or that have purchased from you at least once in the past. Here's an example, using one of several ways to arrange the offer:
You sell gardening supplies. Customer A buys £25 worth of supplies (£10 margin to you). Customer A refers three customers to you whose purchases total £100. You make £40 on the sales. You return £25 to Customer A. Now it's true you've only made £15 on the four customers (£40 margin - £25 returned). However:
- It's a one-time offer so now every time Customer A returns, you will get the full margin (and they will return, because they got a great deal the first time around).
- You have three new customers you wouldn't have had otherwise, who are likely to return and purchase more because your site was recommended to them by a trusted friend.
- You didn't have to spend any money on advertising to acquire the three new customers.
- One or more of your newly arrived customers may take advantage of your offer and send more business your way.
- Not all referring customers will achieve the 3 referrals quota.
- Your offer may be blogged or tweeted, creating an avalanche of inexpensive marketing for your business.
The package that keeps on giving
Now that you have your customer, keep the relationship alive! When you send out the package, add discount coupons and encourage your customer to share them with others. When the coupon is used by a new customer, the coupon number is tied to the original customer's name and generates a coupon sent to the referring customer's email.
If you sell products that are small and inexpensive, you can add samples to the shipment to encourage additional purchases. Add a free gift to the package; it doesn't have to be anything big or fancy – it could be as simple as a small tester of your consumable products, a small bag of candies to sweeten the deal, a nicely printed page of tips for product use, or coupons for other products that are of interest to your customer.
There's a lot of value in creating elements of your site that encourage people to enjoy themselves, stay on your site, get to know you and others who buy your product and, yes, then buy from you because they feel happy and comfortable and connected.
Your customers also want to have fun, give them interaction and enjoyment for a better shopping experience and you will increase your sales and profits.