Published on January 19, 2014 Use branding to sell even more
Whether your store is just opening or has 100+ orders a week, good communication with your existing and potential customers will be a crucial part of growing your customer base and getting repeat orders. How can you take advantage of the built-in tools in your online store to do this?
Branding is used in corporate marketing, but it can apply even to small businesses
Branding can help you no matter whether you’re a large store or a small home business. It can help you no matter what your industry. The big multinational companies that you deal with on a daily basis shower us with brand images so in general branding is thought of as something that only applies to the very largest companies. But that’s not true. Your brand is the overall message that you send to your customers through every last piece of communication you do – from your logo to the look of your store, to the way you write your emails, to the way you answer your phone. Your brand can make the difference between your store getting remembered by customers and a one-off purchase based only on price.
Think of branding as an essential task in your online store if you want to make it succeed. How do you do it? Work out how you want to present yourself and then communicate that in everything you do.
Communication is more than sending order emails
To many online sellers, communication exists of ensuring their online shop is set up to send out order emails and putting the occasional post about a new product on their social media channel of choice, like Twitter or Facebook. These are things that you should be doing to grow your store, but they will not be enough to help you succeed in an increasingly competitive online market.
From pet supplies to hardware products, customers expect to have their questions answered promptly and be kept up to date with the progress of their purchases at every step of the way. After sales follow ups can also help you secure repeat purchases. To follow are just some of the things that you can do as an online store owner, using the built in features of Ozcart to improve your business to customer communications and grow your business. If you’re not establishing good communication, then your chances of turning a single sale into repeat purchases will be greatly reduced.
Communication with your potential customers starts well before they even click the add-to-cart button in your shop. Your website branding and design will play a part in setting the right scene for a buying environment. This stems from basic human psychology – a buyer in the right “buying” mood is more likely to form favourable impressions than the same person who encounters something that is not as inviting. People will form positive associations about your products if you have a highly professional well-thought out websites, than one who puts the same products up for sale with an inferior quality website.
The things that buyers will look at will be similar to the things that a person would look at when going into a physical shop, or attending an event:
- The colour scheme – do the colours of your website go together, or do they clash?
- Your logo – does it look professional and present your business in the best possible way?
- The home page slide show (if you have one) – do the slides have a consistent message and are presented in a professional way?
- The navigation scheme – do you make it easy for customers to find where they want to go quickly and easily? Is there a search? Are there filtering tools? Is the product/category structure clear? Can they find the brands they are looking for (if brands are important in your industry?
- Product photos – do your products look like they are quality products? Are they presented well? Are the backgrounds a consistent colour or appearance? Are they in focus? Are they all the same size?
- Product descriptions – do they give the customer the information they need from you?
- Accessibility – is it easy for potential customers to contact you if they have particular questions about your products?
- Trust – what information do you have about your company, and why should they trust you?
Many new online businesses don’t realise that communication starts before the buying process even begins as you are communicating even if you aren’t interacting. Judgements are formed based on the professionalism of your website before the quality of the products are even considered. Stores with a terrible website may lead visitors to think that you don’t care about your products either and form a more negative perception of your products than they would otherwise do – or go looking for faults in your products because they assume they will find them.
Communicating your point of difference
It is important to establish a unique position for yourself in the market and create a professional impression for your store. So before you even start creating your website, you need to think about who your customers are and why they might buy from you. What motivates them to make a purchase of the products you sell? Why might they buy from you? Why might they buy from your competitors? What makes you different in the market? For example:
- Do you have cheaper products?
- Do you have different sizing options or a wider range?
- Do you cater for groups of customers that your competitors don’t?
- Do you have new products coming out more frequently?
- Do you have superior after-sales service than your competitors?
- Do you have lower overheads?
You should also consider how easy it would be for your current competitors to duplicate your source of advantage or reduce the extent to which your advantage exists. How would you respond to a competitor if they were to copy the way you were running your business to try and reduce your advantage? It really pays to understand what your source of competitive advantage is relative to your competitors, because your competitors will respond to you if you start depleting some their sales and you need to know you will be able to react when that happens. What if they sign a new deal with a new supplier? Can they replicate your level of service for the costs? Could they hire someone to lower your source of advantage? What would you do if they did?
Create inviting pages throughout your website
Shopping cart websites typically have entry points that are not the home page, as customers searching for a particular product or service in a search engine may get a link to a page other than your home page. You can’t assume that every customer will come to your home page first, understand everything, start browsing through your site in a logical way. Customers may be window shopping for information about your product before they buy. Make the right first impression to get your store in to the memory of your visitor and get them coming back. Here are some things you can do:
- Create prominent links to your shipping page and About us page throughout your site
- Display trust signals like links to your brands or payment providers in the header or footer of your website. If you are using Ozcart you can use the built-in banners and layout blocks tools to display an image as a block on the side bar of your site or in the header or footer sections.
- Write good content in your About us page. After the home page and contact page, the About Us and shipping pages are frequently one of the most-read pages of your website. Tell the story of why you started your website, where you are located, how long you have been operating and why customers should buy from you. Make the content as appealing as your home page.
- If you don’t have good quality product images, then you should do your utmost to obtain them. Ask your suppliers if they have high resolution, unwatermarked photos of their products and use them if you can. If your budget extends to it, consider hiring a photographer to re-shoot all of your photos.
- When you are writing your product descriptions, consider carefully your target audience and the level of detail they will require to buy. Don’t give them too much but don’t leave them wondering or else you may find them looking elsewhere for that information and one of your competitors closing the sale.
Use landing pages
Advertising before customers even get to your site is also an important part of your communication mix and should not be discounted. The message in your website’s advertising should link in with what people see when they get to your site. This gives customers a more complete experience and improves the chance that your advertising will get the result that you want: an add-to-cart and a checkout. You can create landing pages in Ozcart and add blocks of text and graphics to them using the built in content pages editor in the admin area of your website. You can create links through to the products you want to sell with some supporting advertising that links in to the message in your advertising.
Managing your orders through Ozcart
When you do get a customer to click through and purchase products in your store there are a number of ways you can keep the dialogue going and provide a good level of overall customer service. There is a lot of information available on the order management screen, and communication tools at your fingertips.
You can see this in the screenshot above:
- All of the order basics – billing and shipping address, payment information and the products ordered.
- Customer notes which are displayed on the invoice. This includes notes that customers have written to you during the checkout process and any notes you add to the order yourself from this screen.
- The current order status (see top right hand corner). In the example above this order is completed, but a new order might be showing as pending payment or processed (paid but not sent). Shopping carts like Ozcart also allow you to set up custom order statuses so you can match up cart order processing with the work flow in your company. Each status can optionally set up to send a customized email to customers – and you can edit these yourself.
- Shipment information screen – when your order is sent out you can add the tracking number, or if your package has to go out in two boxes you can keep them up to date about that as well (and add multiple tracking numbers if necessary). This is very useful if some of the items are out-of-stock and the ones that are in-stock are dispatched. You can keep track of what hasn’t been sent and tell your customers as they go out.
- You can click the add-ons tab on an order and turn on Order Communication. This allows you to send emails to customers to keep them up to date about anything to do with the order and they will be able to reply from the account area of your website. This helps keep everything in one place about the order and track communications about an order between you and your customer.
Turning on order communications is easy…
You can then add a message on an order…
Write what you need….
Communications can be managed on a per-order basis
No matter what you sell, at some point there will be an issue of some kind. It is how you handle those issues that can be a big determinant on whether that person becomes a repeat buyer and advocate or someone who never buys from you again and doesn’t recommend you. In an online store, customers cannot see you so if there is poor communication they are left to form their own judgements about what is or isn’t happening, and this could invariably be wrong.
If you are using Ozcart you can take advantage of the built-in Returns Management system for customers to request replacements, refunds or returns for product faults, and if you accept returns for a change of mind then you can use this facility as well. You can pre-define valid returns actions and issue returns authorisation numbers for valid requests as well so that when the items get returned you can keep track of them..
Use your social media
If your cart integrates with social media tools like Facebook, you can set them up so that they allow people to share products that they like with their contacts which can increase exposure for your store with less marketing activity on your part. Ozcart makes it easy for customers who use Facebook to join your store as they can log in with their Facebook accounts and a like button can be added to your store as well. You don’t need to go as far as setting up a completely different store on your Facebook page (as that just gives you more to manage) but you can make strategic posts on your social media to drive traffic back to your store via your followers. Apart from Facebook, you may try other social media, like Instagram. It is another popular platform and the number of users is rapidly increasing. Many users look for an Instagram bot and other tools for management.
Personalise your service
Take advantage of opportunities that you can to deliver personalised service. What is appropriate will vary by industry and business but if you can offer elements of personalised service in a way that does not drive up your costs or slow down your order processing then you will be able to build more store loyalty than if you didn’t personalise your service, other factors equal.
Consider following up with your customers – perhaps customers over a certain order value could receive an email asking them politely for feedback or a written review either in your store or on Facebook. Ozcart has a reviews system built in if you wish to use it, but you may find that external reviews are more trusted by your customer base. It depends on your products or customers. Building loyalty amongst existing customers is something that shouldn’t be overlooked as driving additional sales through people who have already bought from you will be easier than trying to win over someone who has never dealt with you before. You can use tools like Ozcart’s email newsletter system, coupon codes, volume discounts and per-group discounts to create promotions just for your existing (or very best existing) customers. Ozcart also has a loyalty points programme built in if you want to take advantage of if you have sufficient margins in your products, to encourage customers to buy from you again and again instead of taking their subsequent purchases to competitors.
Communication is key
In an online shop, customers cannot see you so how you conduct yourself is critically important to your success. Yes, you do need to be vigilant about fraudulent orders but you need to communicate clearly and frequently with your customers before they buy and after they buy if you want to secure your customers as loyal repeat buyers rather than one off window shoppers. Think about giving your customers choice, making your policies and information clear and appropriate, ensuring the design of your online shop website is as professional as possible and that you are taking advantage of the communication tools built in to your shopping cart software. Cover off the bases well and you are setting yourself up for the best possible chance of growth.
- How to choose the right product to sell online
- How much information do you need in product descriptions?
- How offering choice builds more trust and online sales
- How to make your online store stand out in a competitive market?
- Starting your business with online media?
- How to choose a stocking strategy for your online store
- How to name your products for maximum effectiveness