Give Shoppers What They Need from Your Business Website

By Greg Holden

To be successful with your online business, it is of paramount importance that you understand the needs of online shoppers and you do your best to meet them. That’s the best way to end up with a healthy balance in your bank account.

Show customers what you’ve got

Customers may end up buying an item in a brick-and-mortar store, but chances are that they saw it online first. Shoppers now routinely assume that legitimate stores have a website and an online sales catalog that is likely to include even more items, accompanied by detailed descriptions, than a shopper would find by going to the store in person.

“It’s not enough to just say we have this or that product line for sale. Until we actually add an individual item to our online store, with pictures and prices, we won’t sell it,” says Ernie Preston, who helped create an 84,000-item catalog. “As soon as you put it in your online catalog, you’ll get a call about it. Shopping on the web is the convenience factor that people want.”

Suppose you don’t have an 84,000-item catalog. Instead, you have only 20–30 items and you’re just starting out. What can you do to build trust and encourage shoppers? Observe three basic rules:

  • Make your sales catalog organized so items are easy to find.

  • Talk about yourself and your background.

  • Provide lots of details and good photos.

Here’s an example. Nanette Thorell sells egg art (eggshells she has turned into jewelry and other products) on her website, Enchanted Hen Productions. She follows the example of “triangulation” by selling on eBay, Etsy, and ArtFire, as well as marketing herself with a blog, a newsletter, and on Facebook and Twitter. As you can see from her home page, her links are simple and clearly organized.

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Earn customer trust to gain a sale

Many customers who are relatively new to e-commerce still need to have their fears addressed. They want to be sure that providing their names, phone numbers, and credit card information won’t lead to identity theft. And shoppers who are pros at shopping online want to avoid being flooded with unwanted e-mails. In regard to the sale at hand, many fear that they will pay for merchandise but not receive it.

State your policies clearly and often, providing assurance that you don’t give out personal data without consent. If you plan to accept credit card orders, get an account with a web host that provides a secure server. And be sure to include comments from satisfied customers. If you run an eBay Store or a store on another marketplace such as Bonanza, your feedback rating provides assurance.

If you’re a member in good standing with the Better Business Bureau, you may be eligible to apply for the BBB Business Seal for the web to build credibility and confidence among your clients. Businesses that participate in the BBBOnline program show their commitment to their customers by displaying a BBBOnline Reliability Seal or Privacy Seal on their websites.

One of the best ways to build trust in you and your products is to tell visitors about yourself and your background and experience.

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Point the way with links and graphics

Because most customers are comparison shopping, it’s wise to put the cost, measurements, and other important features right next to each item to promote speed and convenience.

Microsoft Office gives you access to clip art images that help highlight sales items. (You can find more clip art images at the Microsoft Office Clip Art and Media Center.)

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You can also direct shoppers through your site by providing plenty of links from one section to another. Even when they’re exploring one section, you should provide links back to the home page or to other areas of your site.

In the case of Enchanted Hen Productions, if you click Jewelry, you go to a category page with two links: Earrings and Necklaces. Click Earrings, and you see the section opening page. Even as shoppers are exploring the earrings section of the catalog, clicking a link guides them back to the necklaces section if they wish.

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Give your customer the essentials

One of the big advantages of operating a business online is space. Not only do you have plenty of room in which to provide full descriptions of your sale items, but you also have no reason to skimp on the details you provide about your business and services. Here are some suggestions on how to provide information that your customer may want:

  • If you sell clothing, include a page with size and measurement charts.

  • If you sell food, provide weights, ingredients, and nutritional information.

  • If you sell programming, web design, or traditional graphic design, provide samples of your work, links to web pages you’ve created, and testimonials from satisfied clients.

  • If you’re a musician, publish a link to a short sound file of your work.

Don’t be reluctant to tell people ways that your products and services are better than others. Visit the Lands’ End online catalog for good examples of how this well-established marketer describes the quality of its wares.

The more details you provide about items, the longer someone will stay on your site, and the more likely they’ll click Add to Cart or Buy. In your description, try to engage shoppers’ imaginations. Nanette Thorell provides a list with specifications, a clear photo, an easy-to-find price, and this phrase: “…they [the earrings] will turn and sway as you move your head.”

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