So you’ve gone ahead an invested in the creation of an ecommerce website, a place where your customers can buy your products online. Good for you!
What happens sometimes, with a lot of smaller stores especially, is you’ve built it but yet the people are not coming. Why is that?
Do people offline like your stuff?
Here’s a reality you might not want to face but…. is your stuff cool? Useful? Do people buy it at trade shows, craft shows, in your store, etc. but just not online? If so, it’s probably just your actual setup and not your product.
But if no one has ever bought from you and they aren’t buying from your online store, you might have a reality check to cash.
The very smart Ramit Sethi said this example once in a seminar (I’m totally paraphrasing.) Show a room full of people your product, tell them the specs and the price and you’ll have a room full of people who say they want it. Now tell them you have a supply with you and you’ll sell it to them right now. The people with their hands still raised after the second question are your customers and the people you actually care about pleasing.
Do people know you have an online store?
You can have the prettiest little website but if no one knows it’s there, you will get no sales. What are some simple ways to raise awareness you might not have gotten around to yet?
- Put up the web address in multiple places at your physical store location (maybe even on your shopping bags or flyers you put into bags).
- Tell each person who leaves your store to visit your online store.
- Put ‘Check out our online store’ with the QR code linking to your website in your window.
- Do the same in your print advertising. (Note: If you don’t like QR codes, you can create a custom shorty link by using a website like bit.ly)
- Once a week or so link to a product in your online store from your Facebook page, Twitter account, Pinterest account, etc.
Tell people until you think you sound like a broken record. Because you might hear yourself talking about it all day but your customers don’t.
I bet the day you start this stuff, you will have one regular customer who says to you ‘Oh, I didn’t know you had an online store!’
Look at a website like LL Beans:
As you see, you can say ‘buy stuff; without flashing red letters. Make this idea of you having an online cart super obvious on your website and at your store location.
Is your store easy to find online?
If you Google some of your well known products, do you come up? Here’s a screenshot when I do a search for Dansko shoes in Maine (a kind of popular clog like shoe in these parts):
As you see, below the ads comes an online clog store then Lamey-Wellehan, a Maine shoe store that sells Danskos in their stores and online. (JL Coombs shows you want they have in the outlet store and you can stop by and buy at their location.)
Can you compete with Zappos if your Lamey-Wellehan? If you’re local and have what I want you can!
Search engine optimization (getting your site ranked high in search engines like Google) is a whole field, and something you can pay lots for. But let’s go for some easy wins here:
- Getting more links into your site: Try to get more links. Are your vendors listing your website as a place to purchase their products on their website? Many retailers have something like a store locator and will list you for free. You can also use social media, blogs, online directories, and more to get more links into your website.
- Make your website search engine friendly: Do you have unique page titles? Detailed product descriptions with keywords people are searching? Search engine friendly links? A blog you update regularly?
I can’t explain it all here but there are steps you can take to make your site more findable by search engines. If you want to learn a bit more about SEO, I’ve written an intro blog post about it here: http://breakingeveninc.com/web-tech/better-seo-in-less-than-one-hour/
Is your store easy to navigate and use?
Find three people who would be your target customers (fitting age and other demographics) and offer them a gift certificate or some other small offering in exchange for watching them navigate your online store. Is there one point which they get hung up on, like the product search or how to get back to the shopping cart after they’ve been browsing? It may be (and probably will be) painful to watch but you will learn a lot about your website.
If you can’t bring yourself to do this, look at your website analytics (statistics). Is there some page on your site a majority of people are exiting on? Do you have a lot of abandoned carts (people who have put things in the online shopping cart and never finished the checkout process)?
Take steps to make your website easier to navigate based on the feedback you get from real people and/or your stats. Adding a search box, linking sizing charts to every product, streamlining your checkout process are just a few ideas. You will generate ones that are useful for you in watching your three people and looking at your web analytics.
Why should someone buy from you?
This might be the most difficult idea for any small business. In a world of Amazon.com, how are you supposed to compete?
Free shipping over a certain order amount and offering excellent customer service is pretty standard in terms of what people can expect online. What are some other ways you can stand out?
- Occasional loyalty discounts in the way of coupon codes. This can be done via the email database that’s stored in your online store.
- Custom creation/sizing made to order. J Hilburn makes custom mens’ shirts this way.
- People are more conscious of green products, made in the USA and other product information. When you visit Sailor Rose, you know it’s made in the USA… and are prepared to pay more accordingly.
- Let people get to know you. Emerson Salon posts before and after pictures of clients and lets people meet the stylists online before they even book their appointment (which you can do online- carts don’t just need to be for people selling goods you know!).
Do a bit of detective work (what the industry is doing) and soul searching (what you want to do) and see what you can offer in addition to your unique products without killing your bottom line.
Please note your offering doesn’t have to be expensive, just unique and unexpected. I once got a handwritten thank you note from our payroll company which probably took them all of two minutes to write but it was so memorable and nice). So pick your unique thing then publicize the heck out of it.
I (and many consumers like me) don’t mind paying a bit extra to get something unique or even just to support a smaller business… I just don’t want to have to pay $25 in shipping on a $25 purchase to do it.
So use your online store to its full advantage and you too can make your money in your online store!