We have to face the facts: more and more people are shopping online from the comfort of their own homes, and in turn creating enormous opportunities for those venturing into online business. Today’s intelligent online consumer is usually looking for a ‘quality bargain’, expecting the same items that are available in brick-and-mortar shops to be available much cheaper on the web. People are getting very good at this, surfing the web for offers and price comparisons not only from home, but also in-store on their smart phones. There is one factor, however, that is keeping e-commerce from exploding and wiping out high street shopping: the fear of internet fraud. A successful retails or service site will therefore take into account not only customer satisfaction and product quality and price, but also customer security.
Fancy a slice of the pie?
So online shopping is growing at a fast rate, and this is of course good news for those wanting to begin a business on the web – even though competition is tough and you have to get things right to make a go of it. If you do become successful though, the world is your oyster. Because nothing has ever brought the global market to us like the internet does.
What we most fear about online shopping is having our credit card or personal details stolen. Mainstream media is rife with horror stories about identity theft and fraudsters emptying out unsuspecting customers’ bank accounts, and no one wants to fall victim. The online shopper is therefore a cautious animal – research company Ipsos confirms that nearly three quarters of people who shop online are frightened of having their identity or money stolen. Having a clear and visible privacy and data protection policy and telling your customers exactly how you are practically protecting them are vital for creating trust. In fact, all your terms and conditions should be easy to locate and read on your site, including your refunds and returns policies, as well as guarantees and delivery times. Even better if these can be downloaded or printed – and the same goes for receipts, delivery documents and orders. To promise a secure payment system is not enough, it has to work, so make sure your site is SSL encrypted and getting a third party to vouch for you if always a good idea. Register your website with well-known, credible directories or get VeriSign certification and see these articles for more information on marketing strategies based on security and credibility and on building consumer confidence.
Feel-good retail therapy does not have to be limited to shopping centres and the high street. People increasingly value online shopping experiences that are fun and interactive; an amalgamation of price comparisons, product reviews and social media creates a highly interesting online environment where browsing for goods and services qualifies as a pastime. Making sure your site looks good and engages the consumer is paramount for bringing them in, but giving them new, exciting experiences whilst browsing will keep them coming back.
Camera, lights, action!
If a picture speaks a thousand words, then a video is worth a million. Explaining the selling points of your product or service audio-visually is an idea that sells, especially if the video is short, sweet and to the point and the film has a high quality look to it.
Immediate customer service without having to wait for reply e-mail or sit in phone queues, whether for queries or for complaints, is good for both customers and the company. People who shop online are computer savvy enough to use chat rooms and making sure your customer reps have access to this communication tool can seriously ease the flow of your business’s workday, as well as providing another reason for your clients to shop on your site, as opposed to someone else’s.
Know your customer and your market
Low prices are not the only thing keeping online shopping at the forefront of the economy, and neither is the convenience of the web buy. If you really want to capture and keep customers, you must offer value for money. Nielsen Online published some very interesting research about how mothers are becoming the fastest growing consumer group in online retail. Many mothers stay at home looking after children and the web provides them with a great tool for connecting with the world – socialising, forming support groups and for entertainment. A winning shopping site will offer shopping mothers not only good prices for the many household and children’s items they buy, but also draw them into a fun, interactive community that will generate referrals and repeat business.
One step ahead the rest
Even if you don’t offer a direct shopping facility on your website, you can still use your knowledge of web retail trends to create better marketing strategy and an excellent online environment for nurturing long-term custom. Make sure your sales soar by providing comprehensive information about your services and products on your site, and any other useful information your clients need. Go even further by projecting your company as the expert in its field by offering relevant news stories or a blog. Product reviews, forums, and products from other companies, are also great ways to pull in interest and establish your site as not just a static representation of what you provide, but a useful and valued place for customers to hang out.