Wednesday, July 29, 2009



Customer Interactions:

Maximize Sales Routinely

Many website owners find themselves interacting with customers in a number of ways. The website, of course, is interactive to one degree or another (more interactivity is better if you haven’t been paying attention to the ever-expanding Web 2.0 list of must-haves).

But you interact with customers before, during and after the sale and each of those contact points is an opportunity to sell your products, explain the quality of your service and encourage upsells – sales in which the buyer opts for a second item or a more expensive item than originally planned.

Before The Sale

Your site should designed to appeal to your ideal buyer – young mothers, corporate HR execs, kids, jocks – whatever your ideal buyer’s attributes, everything about your site should be focused on engaging those interests to generate a sale.

So, before the sale, be sure to point new visitors to daily weekly items on special and make sure they understand your iron-clad, 100% no-headache guarantee. “You don’t like it, send it back and we even pay the shipping. You risk nothing.” This kind of trust building should be evident in your site text – especially on the first page of the checkout sequence.

Restate your guarantee and provide assurance to site visitors that yours is a 100% hacker-safe site so “order with confidence.”

Provide complete product descriptions and product pictures. This is going to save you so much time and money on returns, client care and other time-consuming but essential administrative chores.

During the Sale

You must have an easy to use shopping cart system – one the user can access with a click to change quantities, add or delete items.

On some sites, the cart abandonment rate runs as high as 50% and you have to ask yourself why? Why did a visitor take the time to shop your site and even put something in the cart before clicking off to some other site? If the buyer doesn’t feel reassured and secure, s/he may simply leave so once the buyer has entered the check-out sequence, use text and icons to direct buyers through the process.

Provide the ability to back out to a previous page so buyers can make changes or just double, triple check without having to start the entire checkout sequence from start. That’s going to lose more than a few sales.

Provide steps that allow the visitor to consider and reconsider the order before finally clicking on the submit button. The visitor should be able to just click off, or back through the sequence to make changes. Make it easy to quit your site even if they’re on the final page of the checkout sequence.

Introduce additional products discreetly at the top and bottom of the first checkout page. These kinds of presentations generate impulse sales. Select products of interest to the buyer based on previous buying history. Personalize the experience of shopping on your site and your repeat buyer ratios will increase dramatically and quickly. Online buyers have shown dedication to specific sites for specific goods – until there’s the slightest problem. It doesn’t take much to throw out 10 years of good will on a shipping glitch.

Finally, keep the number of pages in the checkout to a minimum. Offer your regulars the one-click checkout option. Avoid confusing pages in the sequence. Instead, let the buyer take charge.

Change shipping method. Click here. Add gift wrapping. Click here. Send to another address. Click here. Guide the new buyer through the checkout process the first time and when they come back, the whole sequence will run smoother.

After the Sale

This is where automation should kick in and save you a lot of time on administrative chores.

Immediately send a printable invoice. Be sure to thank the buyer for the sale and suggest a ship and receipt date. Be sure to include all of the order information – address, quantities, etc. Provide the buyer with a 10-minute time window to reopen the order to make a change, fix a mistake or change shipping information.

Also use this text message to highlight other products of interest to this particular buyer, again based on a previous buying history stored in your database. It’s another point of contact and another opportunity to turn a warm buyer into a hot prospect.

Notify buyers when their orders have shipped and, again, spell out the specials of the day and be sure to provide a link back to the recipient’s account or to your site’s home page. Another contact point, another opportunity to introduce specials or products of special interest to that buyer.

Once you’re certain that the order has arrived safely (no telephone calls from angry buyers) follow up with a thank you note for “shopping with us” or “becoming a part of the Huffnagle family.” It shows the importance of customer care and, of course, provides another opportunity to introduce new products, services or the new sales rep in the buyer’s region.

Finally, after the sale, there are auto-responders. Most people expect to hear from companies from which they’ve made purchases but getting bombarded daily with your specials or your inspirational tip of the day, you’re going to get clicked over to the recycling bin faster than you can shout “But wait!”

The judicious use of auto-responders can keep previous buyers coming back if their senses and sensibilities aren’t assaulted with an automated weekly email blast trying to make another sale.

A few times a year to introduce new products and provide a business update is enough. The conversion rate on email direct marketing aren’t impressive, usually running between 2-3% so you have to send out a lot of ARs to make it worth your time. But, the fact is, happy customers may not buy for several years but if you keep in touch with helpful information (tips, recipes, advice, etc.), some of those long-absent buyers will come back – if you just give them enough time.

So, yes, keeping sending ARs to all the customers in your database but (1) don’t overdo it and (2) use these ARs as another opportunity to sell.

Each time you touch the client is an opportunity to sell your products, business, services of message. Don’t waste a single opportunity.

Need some help with your next AR campaign? Looking for ways to maintain a stable customer base? NP. Drop me a line and let's keep your web biz growing.

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