For a small business, selling products online is an awesome way to drive sales and reach new audiences, but many businesses experience disappointing online sales. This is because they mistakenly assume that selling stuff online is like selling stuff face to face, which just simply isn’t the case. When you are selling a product in a live setting, you can adapt the message that you are sending about that product or service based on real-time feedback you receive from the potential buyer. This feedback includes everything from facial expressions and body language to vocal tones. Remember, this personal interaction is lost when you are selling online. However, there are so many advantages to selling things on the internet. To begin, let’s talk a little bit about why businesses sell things online.
The customer's point of view
So, why do consumers purchase things online anyways? Why not just go to the store, pick it up right then and there and avoid shipping costs? Well believe it or not, online shopping is actually a more convenient way to purchase products versus physically going to the store for many people. Online, shoppers can find a wider selection of products. For example, say you sell clothing out of a physical location and an online store. In your physical store, you might not always have enough retail space to display your entire inventory. But online, you can sell the entire inventory you have all the time without worrying about having enough space to display it. This gives your buyers access to products that can only be found online.
Also, online shoppers can buy products directly from the seller that manufactures them, lowering the cost to the consumer for the products. Not to mention, many business wave shipping costs when you purchase a certain amount. In late 2011, Nielsen reported in the US Digital Consumer Report that 29 percent of smartphone users use their phone for shopping related activities. Selling your products online makes it easy for people who shop using their mobile devices or tablets to purchase your products on the go.
The seller's point of view
- Boost Sales: The simplest answer to why you should sell stuff online is to boost sales. Especially for online marketers or retailers who sell face to face or have a physical store front, you create the ability to make more money by selling stuff online.
- Reach New Audiences: The amount of people you can reach online is tremendous. All the restrictions you have with selling your product in a local store front are no longer an issue. You have the ability to sell nationally and internationally. Through the use of online advertising like SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and PPC (pay-per-click) advertising, you can market your business to just about anyone that is in search of a product you offer.
Now that we have covered the customer’s point of view and the seller’s point of view to selling online, let's discuss the differences between face to face and online selling, how to adapt you message the right way when selling online and how to identify your ideal buyer and speak to how your product can benefit them.
Face to face versus online
Many small businesses have a hard time selling stuff online because they assume that online selling is similar to selling in person. Again, that’s not the case. When you are selling face to face, there is a very important element that is present that is not present when selling online. This element is called “real-time feedback”. Real-time feedback includes the instant reactions you get from someone you are selling to in a live situation. These reactions include facial expressions, body language and vocal tones. Real-time feedback can be instantly analyzed, which gives you the ability to adapt your message and address their questions and concerns immediately. This personal interaction in live selling is lost when you sell products online. So, you have to keep a few things in mind when you are adapting your message for your online store and don’t have the ability to answer a buyer’s question or battle their objections right then and there.
The first step to adapting your message in an online setting is to identify your ideal buyer. Oftentimes, many businesses focus on themselves (their products) when they are selling online. But, you can’t forget about the most important factor – the buyer! You have to get to know who your ideal buyers are so that you can create products, offers and sales strategies that appeal to them. Most importantly, you have to know what their pains and problems are. What gives them anxiety and keeps them tossing and turning at night? Then ask yourself, how can your product solve those pains, problems and anxieties? In order to speak to their needs, you have to know what they need. Once you have answered these questions, you can start understanding how to make your product and product messaging appeal to your prospects online.
When you have identified your ideal buyer, cut out all the fluff! Clearly state and reinforce the benefits that your product offers them and why it is essential for them to purchase it. Talk about how your product will ease their pains or help them accomplish their goals. If your product is a commodity, make sure you talk about why the benefits of your solution are better than your competition’s. The motto is: Identify the need, sell the benefits. So remember, face to face selling is much different from live selling due to the absence of real-time feedback. And, in order to adapt your product messaging for an online platform, you have to identify your ideal buyer or identify the need and then sell the benefits of your product.
Create Great Product Descriptions
Now, let's talk about how to create great product descriptions and the importance of using quality product photos.
When you are sitting down and writing out the description for one of your products, it needs to be clear and concise. It needs to focus on what the product can do for the buyer, not just what the product is. You have to make the product’s solution immediately apparent in its description. So, when the buyer reads the description, they can say, “Oh yeah, I need that product to solve this problem.”
The idea is to make your products irresistible to your buyers so they can’t turn away without making a purchase. Just think about a time when you've seen something online with a great product description that offers you the solution you were looking for. Most likely, you purchased that product without thinking too much about it. You want to create that same shopping experience for your customers.
Using Sharp, High-Resolution Photos
The truth is, if people can’t clearly see what they are thinking about buying from you, they aren't going to buy it. You need to use detailed, crisp, high-resolution photos taken by a professional photographer (not with you cell phone camera). If you can, provide multiple views of the product to provide as much visual detail as possible to your customers.
Also, depending on what you sell, a video demonstration might also be really useful. The advantage of using a video is that it gives buyers a more realistic view of the product in action than a still photograph can.
Great Product Descriptions
Having great product descriptions and using high-resolution pictures are two important parts to successfully selling products online.
In the final part of the series, I will be covering how to write compelling sales copy, how to use social proof to boost trust and how you can handle purchase anxiety upfront.
Compelling Sales Copy
Next, let's discuss how to write compelling sales copy, how to use social proof to boost trust and how you can handle purchase anxiety upfront.
Creating great sales copy is really an extension of getting into your customer’s head and addressing what his or her needs are. If you don’t understand your customer’s needs, you can’t create great sales copy. Online, you have to persuade your customers to buy in a number of different places. These places include:
- Your Homepage: When potential buyers come to your homepage, they should see their pains being addressed immediately.
- Product Descriptions and Copy: Product descriptions should always emphasize the benefits and solutions your product offers. Product copy should imply or state how your product can solve your customer’s problems.
- Customer Testimonials: Testimonials should be used on product pages and in the shopping cart. They should emphasize great solutions and excellent customer service.
- Your Guarantee: Guarantees throughout your website should reinforce that it is risk free for buyers to take action and purchase your product.
There are many people that won’t buy from you if you don’t look reputable enough. You can inspire confidence by displaying trust logos throughout your site from organizations such as the Better Business Bureau, industry associations, partners, influencers in your space and most importantly, your happy customers. Use testimonials to prove the reliability of your products and cite any research that has been done that references the successes of your products.
Although online shopping is convenient, some people avoid it if they can’t find the information they are looking for upfront about your shipping options, your return policy and more. Make sure you handle these concerns upfront, even before they get to the shopping cart to checkout. Do this in a really obvious way. Here are some examples:
- Make your return, refund and replacement policies easy to find and understand.
- Always include a FAQs section about purchases and policies that is easy to find and understand.
- Include several ways to order, including via phone or fax.
- And, if your product is a commodity, make it clear what happens if they find a better price somewhere else. It is a good idea to consider price matching when your price is higher than a competitor.
Remember when you are selling products online to write compelling sales copy, establish your business as credible and trustworthy using social proof and handle purchase anxiety upfront, making the buying process easy from start to finish.