Published on September 22, 2012 Mindset changes in moving to an online shop
What’s the difference between selling offline and online? There are a number of mindset changes that are required when selling online due to the key differences in the selling environment.
Online is another source of potential sales for your business, but if you want it to be successful, you need to treat it as more than just another sales channel. There are new opportunities in the online space that you cannot tap into using other sales methods.
Why do people buy online?
Research shows that some of the main reasons that people buy online are:
- Packaging convenience – they can get a bundle of products quickly and easily without having to go to a store multiple times
- Time – people are more likely to spend money in a less threatening and accessible environment that’s open for business whenever they want
- Selection – online shops may show a full range of a company’s stock whereas a physical store will only show what is on hand at any given time
- Bargains – people go online looking for a cheaper price. But they don’t always choose the cheapest price, because the things they worry about are the quality of what they are getting and whether they are getting what they think they are. Great product photos and flexible policies can be as important as price in an online space.
Online selling differs from offline selling in that:
- It’s a 24/7 business. Your website is always open and ready to take orders in many different time zones and countries. Many people may be shopping outside of regular business hours so you need to think about how you will do things like respond to customer questions. Will you only reply in regular business hours? Whose business hours are those?
- There’s more “floor area” and multiple entry points. In a physical store, you’re limited by a specific path that customers will follow through the door, past the racks and up to the counter. In an online store, people could directly come into your store and straight to a product, straight to a category (“rack”), straight to a policy page, straight to a landing page, from a search or browsing a data feed or a link from another site. There are many more possible entry points, and less control over how someone might arrive at your site and what they see first. You need to make sure your store caters to all these different possibilities with a striking and inviting design and easy navigation – taking advantage of features such as product filters if you have them.
- Your customers and competitors could be local, national or global. It’s up to you to define your target market and take into account potential competitors from anywhere. As you can reach out further, so can your competitors so you can’t just look at your one closest competitor and feel satisfied if your offering competes well with them. Look at large offshore companies selling direct to Australians as much as small local startups in your local shipping area. There are strategies you can use to compete against the large companies, but you need to first acknowledge those competitors. Likewise, your customer could be anyone from anywhere you’ll send to. You could equally target local customers who may know and trust you already, or overseas buyers who cannot get your products in their local markets.
- You have to work harder to convince customers to buy from you by establishing trust. It’s easy for customers to research your products and competitors in parallel to you. They can even shop on both yours and your competitor’s sites at the same time.
You need to be accessible on different devices (mobiles and via computers), be shown to be trustworthy (verified by trusted third parties like SSL providers), and have complete information on your website about your business and policies. You need to make a strong first impression, demonstrate how you are different and solve people’s buying problems.
You can’t come up to a customer and talk to them about their situation and how you can help, so you have to make it easy to find and answer the questions they may have. Things like reviews and live chat options really help in this regard.One thing you have to be careful of when selling online is not to overload customers with information – otherwise you run the risk of confusing them. Catering to the different needs of different users means clever layout of your online store – providing additional information for the people who want it (via things like product tabs) and an easy add to cart button and minimal information for those who already know what they want and are just shopping for the best bargain.
How can you take advantage of this?
Here are some strategies that you can follow:
- Reassure customers about delivery costs: offer free shipping – people compare the price of buying an item online to buying it in a physical store but they don’t take into account the cost of getting to the store and home in their comparison. So take the shipping cost out of the equation by offering free shipping.
If you’re worried that this will make your store uncompetitive compared to your competitors, then think about doing things like bundling products, offering additional services for additional spend, building free shipping into product prices, or offering free shipping only on purchases over a certain amount.
- Use live chat: Shopping cart packages like Ozcart allow you to add the script code for professional live chat services live Liveperson into your store very easily (and our support team can do it for you if you prefer). So you just have to sign up with the chat provider of your choice – and if it doesn’t work out you can choose a different provider. When customers come to your store you can engage them in a chat to find out more about their needs, or they can come to you.
- Demonstrate that you can be trusted: For starters, make sure your site has all its policy pages completed, has an about us page completed and you show badges for trusted services you belong to or have available to you (like your SSL certificate that encrypts data on your checkout). There are also third party services that will certify the authenticity of your business and policies and give you a badge you can add to your site.
- Build a brand – start by ensuring your design is unique and striking: You have only a small amount of time to make an impression on your customers and your design not only needs to be appealing, it needs to be memorable. Everything you do should be in-synch – using the same colours and same look and feel. You need an integrated programme of communications to the outside world and not a website that is out of place with everything else that you do.
- Review your policies: can you ship faster than your competitors, can you offer products in a different way or bundle them in a different way. What can you do differently?
- Build a niche: to compete with the large competitors in your industry or potential threats, have a unique position or offering in the market. Marketers call this a unique selling proposition, point of differentiation or overall marketing strategy.
- Don’t ignore your offline store: Integrate your online store into what you do rather than have it as a standalone online shop.
Never stop reviewing what you are doing, understanding your customers and objectives and evaluating where your traffic is coming from, whether it is converting, why customers are/are not buying and what you can do better. Selling online is hard work but can give you new opportunities that are not possible if you just treat it as another selling channel for your offline shop. Embrace online if you want to succeed.