Selling online is so different than dealing with someone who has walked into your store: you can’t see them, you can’t talk to them and you can’t even tell if they’re confused unless they send you an email.
But many of the marketing methods that you may have learned in the ‘real world’ will still carry over. Your customers still need you to help them find the best possible product to purchase, they still are going to be more likely to buy if they know you as an individual instead of one more shop owner and they have to know you exist to ever even consider making a purchase from you.
Focus on Building Relationships
There are certain stores that I shop at because they remember who I am from visit to visit: at my favorite game store, for instance, the owner will tell me about anything just in he thinks will interest me as soon as I walk in, and he knows me well enough that his recommendations are usually spot on.
You may not be able to recognize who is visiting your website at any given moment, but you can still take a page from brick-and-mortar stores’ approaches to building relationships. You can get to know who is buying from you and who is willing to connect. Reach out through email, social media and any other tool you can use to start connecting. The more personal you can make the connection, the more likely a customer is to buy from you over and over again.
Search for mentions of your store and products online and start conversations wherever you find them. If a prospective customer tweets about trying to decide between two products, treat it just like you would handle someone walking up to the counter in a store and asking what the difference is. You’re selling the product, so you’re the expert. Tell them what they need to know.
Your relationship doesn’t stop with just one purchase. It’s a rare industry where someone makes a purchase and never needs another product again. Stay in touch with your buyers — as personally as possible. Even if you can’t email every buyer personally to check that they’re satisfied, get as close to that point as you physically can.
Talk About Your Business Everywhere You Go
Just because you handle all sales through a computer doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t promote your business when you’re talking to people away from the screen. You need to be networking and promoting your business no matter where you are — and you need to be looking at offline marketing opportunities, too.
Speaking at a conference covering your target audience can bring you in bigger sales than just posting an ad on a site that same audience frequents. Not only are you establishing your expertise in front of them but you’re also showing that you’re a real person. You’re someone that buyers can trust, because they’ve “seen” you in person. Trust remains a major concern for many people buying online: they’ll turn to big retailers because they know that those companies aren’t going anywhere. If you’re running a smaller, less well-known site than Amazon, you’ve got to take care of that trust deficit.
Take every opportunity that you can get to network in person. Even a chance meeting can result in a big sale. You can even up your marketing efforts by creating a mobile version of your store — something that you can walk buyers through in person, on a smartphone or a tablet. Even if the majority of your sales come from search engines, you have the opportunity to reach people who might otherwise never even know your store exists when you talk to them in person.
Keep an Eye on Your Calendar
Most brick-and-mortar stores have a cycle of sales that reflect the times that their customers may be able to come into the store and take advantage of those deals. It’s not just a question of when people can shop, though: setting a short-term sale means that buyers have a reason to make their purchases now. Without a reason to move, people can and will put off buying indefinitely.
Your calendar doesn’t have the same constraints as a shop that depends on actually getting people to come in. Your buyers can make purchases at any hour, even when they’re at work (whether or not they should be shopping at certain times is a totally different question). But there are certain spots on the calendar that you need to think about, such as days on which shippers won’t deliver. There may also be certain parts of the year that are better for you, so making sure that you’re creating reasons for buyers to visit your site at the correct time is important.
You also need those same incentives to make sure that buyers are completing their purchases from your online shop. It’s even easier for a customer to tell herself that she’ll just save something to her cart and come back later — and then forget all about whatever she was considering buying. Sales and deals are one way of speeding up such purchases, although offering only a limited quantity and other techniques can also be useful. But this comes back to your calendar once again: holidays are a particularly good time to offer certain types of sales because you have a clear reason to be offering the sale. You aren’t just offering a deal for the heck of it. It doesn’t hurt, either, that most shoppers have been trained to associate holidays and sales.
A Store is a Store, Online or Off
Being able to sell online, on a fairly automated basis, has revolutionized business. There are a huge number of new marketing opportunities. But while technology is great, the underlying principles of how to make a sale remain the same.
Your customers need to be able to trust you — they have to feel a connection with you and see you as a real person. And they need a reason to buy now. Using the same approach to marketing that you might for a brick-and-mortar store will pay off for an ecommerce shop.