Many online retailers don’t focus on selling. An online store is a digital sales agent. It must interpret a buyer’s needs, pitch relevant products, and close the deal — much like in-store or direct sales associates.
But, in my experience, ecommerce merchants often fail at all or parts of this.
For example, retailers often present rich product content that looks like their competitors and therefore they feel good about it. In fact, because of syndication by manufacturers, the content is frequently the same. There’s no difference among competitors.
If your content is unique, do you ask for the order when prospects are reading or viewing it? Or, do your potential customers use your product catalog for research and then buy elsewhere?
Is your store is different? Do you offer customer stories that confirm the quality of your brand? Do you offer better products or an easier buying experience? Better pricing? Better customer service? More importantly, are you selling products that consumers are looking for?
Let’s review the old-school steps of a sale.
- Establish credibility. Earn buyers’ trust and establish that your company has a unique value proposition that meets their needs.
- Gather information. Understand buyers’ intentions and the problems they are trying to solve.
- Deliver appropriate content — product recommendations and supporting information — based on the buyers’ needs.
- Have a trial close. Adding products to wish lists and shopping carts are “trial closes,” as are signing up for email newsletters and various alerts.
- Overcome objections. Listen and respond to objections and concerns.
- Ask for the order. Don’t mess around. Just ask.
- Post-sale follow-up. Ask for feedback. How was the buying experience? What does the customer think of the products?
Does your online store support those steps?
Build a brand story that engages your buyers and differentiates you from competitors. Provide transparency about who you are, where you are located, how to contact the company, and who leads the company. Tell customer success stories, with images.
Try to make your site accessible for visually-impaired users. Try, also, to be compliant with the GDPR. If GDPR compliance is not financially feasible, disclose the information you collect. Make sure your site is secure. Offer multiple payment options. Don’t barrage the buyer with offers or email subscriptions upfront.
Gather information subtly — with navigation, filters and facets, search, first-party cookies, and website behavior. Ecommerce platforms have varying capabilities. Well-designed categories and navigation paths that will both guide users and help merchants understand their needs.
Data from analytics can group shoppers based on behaviors and infer the products they are likely to buy. Identifying those behaviors and categorizing shoppers into personas can greatly help in understanding their intentions.
More powerful platforms use search to infer those intentions. By providing type-ahead suggestions and using machine learning, search engines can predict the products that buyers are looking for.
Guided navigation is also a powerful way to learn about your buyers. Ask questions during the navigation process to narrow the options. Filtered search also helps.
Use items in shopping carts and wish lists to understand buyers’ needs. Leverage those items for product recommendations and promotional offers.
Deliver Appropriate Content
If you have listened and have well-designed navigation, you can show relevant products and info to shoppers.
Make sure that product info is rich, clear, and detailed. Provide user-generated content, customer success stories, and expert advice. Lifestyle images can align buyers with products.
Offer alternative products, too, including cross-sells and upsells.
Sales reps often forget about this tactic, but ecommerce sites use it frequently. Adding an item to a wish list or cart is a trial close. It shows a buyer’s intent to purchase. It can confirm that the merchant is showing the right products.
Other types of content can also confirm a buyer’s interest. These include signing up for email or text notifications. For furniture, cars, and appliances, applying for financing is a trial close.
Shoppers are typically concerned about shipping rates, availability, returns, delivery, pricing, warranty, and reliability. Be ready to respond to those concerns quickly and directly.
Show availability in your product listing and detail pages. State your pricing policies if you offer low price guarantees or price matching. Include prices, delivery options, and carrier choices (if possible). Provide details on warranties on product detail pages.
Ask for the Order
This is a simple one. Make it easy to initiate a checkout from your shopping cart or a mini-cart. Keep the checkout flow simple — ideally one page. Allow for guest checkout, but make it easy to create an account. This is not the time to upsell or introduce new promotions. Test your calls to actions. Make sure they are clear, accessible, and functional.
Send an immediate email confirmation of the order with the same details as shown at checkout. Clearly explain how to modify or cancel the order. Ask for feedback about the shopping experience. Ask buyers why they chose your store.
Offer a dashboard for buyers with accounts. This is typically a self-service console to inform customers of order status, order history, and support options. Allow them to manage their communications and privacy preferences. Encourage your customers to use that portal as a source of information and a method of contact and support.
Also, follow up with customers after they receive the products. Are those products satisfactory? Did they meet the customer’s expectations? Request a product review and encourage participation in a loyalty program.