Selling online: Putting the customer first
In this article Damon Segal identifies three key areas a budding online business should master to maximise its selling potential.
By Damon Segal
Online retail sales increased by 14 per cent last year, to more than £50 billion. This figure is only set to grow year on year. But many brands spend millions on driving their online presence, with little guarantee their offering will result in an online sales boom.
Selling online is a science and with the cutthroat competition between online businesses to reel in customers and secure transactions, it is vital that a business that wants to enhance its online presence does so intelligently, by understanding the customer base and thinking rationally about pricing.
So, how does an online business turn ‘interested clicks’ into completed transactions?
2. Ease of purchase
The success of online selling, in essence, comes down to price or originality. With the rise in price comparison websites that offer highly competitive prices for a variety of products, it is important online businesses differentiate in terms of what they offer the customer.
The ‘big trusted players’ such as Amazon or eBay offer a range of products at attractive prices and customers are drawn to these sites, based on this factor. For new online businesses the aim should not be to out price these online giants, but to steer away from selling branded or readily available products.
New start-ups should also offer customers product groupings. For example, bundling a mobile phone with a phone charger and a phone holder means better management of your margin and proves popular with the customer. This gives the business a greater chance of completing the transaction and it is these strategies that can help an online business differentiate itself.
Ease of purchase
Ease of purchase is also an essential component of a successful online business. The ‘one click check out’ facet, companies such as Amazon use, relieves the customer of any difficulty in the transaction process. Customers have a good memory when it comes to buying online, so online businesses that have complex purchasing options will inadvertently divert customers away from their site.
It should be one of the primary objectives for online businesses to make purchasing easy for the customer. Bombarding customers with additional offers and questionnaires that block the route to the checkout will only frustrate the customer.
The ultimate issue that online businesses should address is trust. This is a more long-term goal for online businesses as the reputation of the site has to be built before customers start intrusting the site with sensitive information such as credit card details, addresses and contact numbers.
Visual impact and usability are the key issues here and to an extent they overlap with the ease of purchase. Customers feel happy with sites that they know they can use and that they have experienced few problems with in the past. The massive barrier to entry for start-ups means that online businesses cannot afford to relax over details. To gain the trust of the customer the website and the business needs to have a trustworthy face to it and this requires precision in both the design and the tools that the website offers.
A lot of the success online businesses achieve comes down to psychology. It will take a user just one twentieth of a second to decide whether they like the website or not and this fraction of a second can be the difference between securing the final transaction or not.
If the customer likes the look of the website in the first instance and, for some reason, the website is difficult to use, the customer is likely to be more forgiving and continue with the purchasing process. The visual impact of an online business is like the shop window of a high street outlet. If it looks attractive and welcoming, the customer will be drawn in by it.
The three points: price, ease of purchase and trust are essential areas to work hard on for online businesses. The price that is offered will inevitably determine whether or not the customer follows through with the transaction but, the ease of purchase and the trustworthiness of an online business complete the experience for the customer. This will not only result in transforming interested clicks into completed transactions, it will also strongly persuade the customer to revisit and reuse the website in future.
About the author
Damon Segal is currently the CEO of Intenix Design and Development and the architect behind Telaeo CMS. He is also managing director of Emotio Design Group. These businesses help clients get the most out of their online presence in the digital arena. Telaeo gives brands a definitive internet strategy and provides a website solution for anything from advanced databases to micro-sites.
Damon has been at the forefront of web design his whole career. Having seen drawing boards replaced with Macs and paint brushes cast aside in favour of the latest design tools such as Wacom Tablets, Damon has classical training in a constantly evolving industry.
In 1993, Damon joined the Marketing Guild and honed his skills towards the commercial frontier. From 1995 he was transforming AGI into a full branding agency and by 1996, Damon had built his first website using the now extinct Adobe PageMill software.
Damon has held a number of high profile positions, including the chairman of the Executive Association of Great Britain, an Internet partner for Superbrands UK and a practitioner on the Global Market Network’s Advisory Council.
Telaeo is the powerful yet simple way to create and customise intelligent professional business websites. Telaeo allows web designers and SMBs to create, host and manage beautifully designed websites, but with powerful business management processes.
Telaeo offers web designers the opportunity to create powerful sites that meet the designer’s vision quickly without the need for expensive developers. It gives businesses the opportunity to scale up and grow, delivering sites for just a few hundred rather than tens of thousands of pounds.
Telaeo is created for business, inspired by marketers, designed by web designers and built by techies.