The Internet can provide store owners with a wider channel of distribution for their products. Although there are some inherent differences, the basic customer service principles of selling offline can and should be transferred to the online realm. When it comes to customers, you must make them feel comfortable and confident in your company, service and the products themselves to win them over. If you do not, they will leave.
In a brick-and-mortar store, it takes a bit more effort to lose customers, as they must walk out the door. They have much more to lose if they leave. They spent time (driving) and money (gas) to get there, and if they leave they will have to spend even more time and money to hunt elsewhere for the product they desire. Online, losing a customer can happen with the single click of a mouse. Finding competitors is reduced to a few clicks of a mouse, and due to this, visitors are more apt to leave if they feel the information you present does not adequately answer their questions and fulfill their need.
So how do you win over online consumers when they have the upper hand? You go back to the basics of customer service in order to win their confidence. Brick-and-mortar stores do this by their very nature, but it seems many ecommerce stores have lost or ignored this important portion of the equation.
Chances are, if you have ever shopped online, at some point during your buying experience you had questions. The questions can concern anything from store polices to shipping to security of the transaction to validity of the company itself to product-related ordering problems and more. If you recall from my last article, visitors are those who come to your site but do not buy. They can be compared to window shoppers. Customers buy from you. Thus, we can maintain that a visitor becomes a customer at the moment they complete a sale. Visitors who want to become customers will naturally have questions. It's your job to answer them if you want their business. If you want an edge on your competition, you need to learn how to answer questions before they ask. How do you answer someone that hasn't actually asked a question yet?
Merely providing customers with a FAQ's page won't get it done. You need to do more. You need to answer questions before your visitors ask them. You can do this by placing the proper customer assurance elements in front of the customer at the precise moment during their buying cycle when they would likely have a question; i.e. during the checkout, on the product pages, the credit card information form and the order confirmation screen are just a few examples.
If you have done your homework, then following this strategy will enable you to provide answers to questions before they are asked. As a result, rather than visitors leaving your site, you will increase your chances of turning them into customers.
This strategy is called "Building Customer Confidence," and it goes a long way toward increasing sales. Customer confidence building includes website elements such as:
- Customer points of assurance (customer phone number, contact info, etc.)
- Proper calls to action (add-to-cart buttons, checkout buttons, etc.)
- Clear display of store policies (shipping, returns, security, privacy, etc.)
- Secure logos in the right locations (display of ssl certificates, padlocks, etc.)
How do you know when a visitor will have a question? One way is to put yourself into the visitor's position. Become a visitor yourself. Go through the motions and shop at your own store as if you were an outside party eager to find a product to fulfill a need.
Take the time to think about what you look for when you shop online. What questions do you have? What do you look for and when do you look for it? What makes you feel comfortable enough to buy from an online store? Pay careful attention and make a note of the precise moments at which you look for answers to those queries. Do those elements appear in your store? If not, add them. This strategy forces you to think from a visitor/customer perspective, which is always how you should be looking at it if you want to increase sales conversion. If you are asking it, your visitors are probably asking it too.
Remember, the next time you shop online, pay close attention to your thoughts and actions. Then go back and check your own website for the same things you sought in other stores which helped make you feel comfortable enough to make a purchase. If you are missing those items, you are missing sales.
One final method you can use to your advantage is to review your list of questions that have been asked in the past. Find the elements that continually arise and place answers to those questions directly at the point at which the visitors asked them. By providing visitors with answers you should notice two things.
- A decrease in questions asked, which reduces your cost.
- An increase in sales.
Eric Leuenberger is an ecommerce conversion expert and author of a leading Ecommerce Optimization blog (www.ecommerceoptimization.com). He coaches etailers, wholesalers, distributors and manufacturers how to increase their website sales through skillfully crafted online search advertising, targeted market strategies and website sales strategies. He can be contacted at 1-877-481-2323, or visit www.enhancedconcepts.com for more information.
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