Running an on-line shop is such a rewarding and exciting business.
It can also be frustrating when your online sales aren’t quite as you want them to be.
This is at the top of the list for a reason.
If your customer doesn’t like what they see when they get to your website or can’t easily find what they are looking for, you may as well shut up shop now.
The customer experience includes when a visitor first lands on your shop, to when they receive their order. Plus any communication you have with a potential or current customer either side of this journey.
The easiest way to review this is to put yourself in your customers shoes and load your website. The key thing is to see whether it will appeal to your potential customer, if it easy to navigate and you can find what you are looking for. Then make sure all the key bits of information a buyer will want to see are there too and easily found.
Now try to buy something? Does it work smoothly and is each step obvious? Is it a trusting process? After all this may be the first time the customer has shopped with you and they are giving you their card details. Then finally how is the order confirmed and is the customer thanked?
The next stage is the order processing. How do you keep the customer informed of the status of the order?
The customer needs to feel thanked and well informed. They need to feel really pleased that they shopped with you and excited about the imminent arrival of their order.
Then finally, how do you package and ship your orders? I think this is one thing that is overlooked so much by the big online shops. But it is one area where an independent shop can really make a lasting impression.
Think about what would wow you if you were the customer. But still ensuring everything is packed very securely for safe transportation. What would make your parcel a lovely experience to open? A personalised card, pretty paper, an information sheet, a small freebie, a little sticker, a funny joke or just that it is really easy to open.
This is one I really struggled with when I first setup my shop. But it is so important if you want to increase sales.
Initially, it was so difficult to choose a target customer as it meant excluding so many other potential customers. But then I realised that this isn’t really excluding anyone. It is just appealing more and finding more of your ideal customer. It is so much easier with all elements of your business if you choose a target audience, the more specific the better.
So, say for instance, you decide your ideal customer is female, lives in the UK, aged 25 to 35, owns a dog, has no children, works full time and loves walking in the great outdoors. This gives you the focus you need for your brand, for what products to sell, where to focus your PR and what to talk about online. But say you niche it down even further. They love walking by the coast, work in retail and live in Scotland. That makes things even easier for targeting your potential customer.
None of this would not necessarily exclude anyone but it does mean your ideal customer is more likely to fall in love with your shop and buy from you.
I like to create 3 customer avatars and give each one a name plus describe them. This way, whenever I am doing anything I like to think which one I am directly speaking to.
This is the next important factor. Do you have the right products, at the right price and are you presenting them in the best possible way? Do you have any gaps in your offering? Is there a new product or trend you should be including?
Based on the brand perception you are creating with your website and who your customer is, do you have the right product for them? For example you may be selling stationery. Depending upon who your customer is and the impression your shop gives will depend on what type of stationery you sell. Stationery for a student and stationery for a 50 year old female are 2 completely different products.
Price. Sadly (or handily, depending upon your view point!) the internet means price comparison is easy. Though I would not say your aim should be to compete on price, you do need to be value for money. But that does not mean under pricing to get the sale.
You need to be competitive with your products. So take a look at what others are doing. Take action based on what you find to improve what you offer.
Finally show your products in their best light and make sure the customer has all the information they need. So good clear photographs and product descriptions are key.
Build a community of raving fans and followers online. This is one thing independent online shops can do really well.
Social media and email list building does not need to be difficult or daunting. Share your products, share what you are up to and share how your products can help or enhance peoples lives. It is as simple as that.
The main thing is be consistent and make it all about the customer. What would your ideal customer want to see in their Facebook or Instagram feed? What can you share in an email that is worth reading?
Building a social following online takes time and patience. Post every day, be social by interacting with others and don’t be afraid to share what you are doing.
These days you have to pay to play. Gone are the days of free Social media. It is accessible to all businesses but it isn’t free. You can do it by not investing in ads but it will take so much longer and will not work as well.
An example for you. I ran a 2 week competition on Facebook. For 2 weeks I promoted it heavily and posted lots about it, not just on Facebook. I had a reasonable amount of entries but not the numbers I was after. For the last 2 days I decided to do a £30 Facebook ad. From one ad, which ran for 2 days, I gained 10 times more entries than the previous 12 days of hard work. Plus they were my ideal customer, as I had targeted the ad.
When I first started my online shop I knew what products I wanted to sell and to whom.
I soon realised this wasn’t enough of a plan for me to generate the sales I wanted to. So I created my Shop Sales Strategy or Retail Strategy.
The first step to doing this is to create an annual retail calendar. Plan out key shopping periods or events dependent upon your type of shop. Then put in key dates such as bank holidays, pay days, sporting events, TV events, seasons, school holidays etc. Finally put in your own key events such as promotions, new product launches etc.
This calendar should be flexible so add and take from it throughout the year. But use this for your marketing content planning and product buying.
Your strategy should also include your retail plans. So offers, launches, up selling, product bundles, channels, promotions, capturing customer emails, and how you are going to keep customers for the long term.
Then finally include the numbers and how are you going to review them. Sales, visitors, conversion, behaviour, acquisition, average transaction value, product volume etc. Set the targets and a way to review regularly.
If this seems daunting at first do the bits you do know and add to it as you go along. But don’t just wing it. You need a plan.
People love to tell you what they think so getting feedback it normally pretty easy as long as you make it quick and simple.
Getting feedback on your shop is a must. Whether it is testimonials from customers, using a free online service to review your website, doing a questionnaire or asking people directly what they think. All of these are useful.
Get feedback and take it on-board. Plus shout from the rafters about all your good feedback.
Choose to do one a week for the next six weeks and see how your shop is performing after each improvement.
Let me know how you have got on. Your feedback would be lovely to read.
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