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How to build a better online identity

Sep. 2, 2010

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In today's increasingly competitive business environment, there are many ways to help improve sales and customer loyalty to your brand. More and more today, consumers and businesses alike are using the Internet to purchase the products and services that they need everyday. And that trend has been growing steadily since 2003. For the past seven years, they have been using ecommerce websites for those purchases and all experts agree that the trend will continue to grow even faster for the next 10 to 15 years.

If you rely on eCommerce sales for your business, we will give you a few tips in this article on how you can increase your online sales, build your brand for the long term while at the same time improve your Internet identity.

Tip No. 1 - Let your online customers access your whole product portfolio.
Think of your website as the online equivalent to your brick and mortar store. It's as simple as that. With a well-designed site, you can expose all visitors to your complete product portfolio and cross-sell or upsell in ways that other retailers can't. In general, some e-retailers are brand-agnostic. This means a customer choosing to buy a Sony television online might be offered a Pioneer DVD player or a Panasonic surround sound system as other items to complement and complete their purchase.

It isn't really surprising to see that companies are choosing to become e-retailers in their own right, where they can cross-sell and upsell products in addition to selling their goods and services through other channels, but is that really the best way to do it? If your site visitors can see all your product portfolio at a glance, there's a much better chance that they will buy from your site instead of your competition.

Tip No. 2 - Efficiently manage your resellers if you have any.
If you happen to have resellers in your entourage, make sure that they are managed correctly, fairly and efficiently. Hold regular meetings with all of them. Although you can hold conference or video conference calls with them in order to save time and resources, face-to-face meetings are a lot better, and you will get a much better sense of the 'feel' they have for your products or services, as well as your overall brand recognition.

Depending on your exact contractual commitments to your resellers and partners, you may select to direct some traffic to specific reseller section on your site, allowing customers to choose based on geographic location or overall price, or you may have other contract obligations to direct more traffic to newer or established reseller channels based on specific customer retention criteria or growth strategies. The choice is yours.

Tip No. 3 - Are you really delivering what they asked for?
You would be surprised at how often even big companies don't deliver exactly what the customer has ordered. And it does happen more than you think. This is a good opportunity for you to tailor exactly the online experience for all your site visitors. The more information you can collect about them, whether implicitly or explicitly gathered, the better you can tailor information and promotions presented to meet their needs. But you need to find a secure and convenient way to have that information placed in a central database, preferably not hosted with your site's files for obvious security reasons. That can really build the value perception of your brand.

If you're not 100 percent certain of what it is exactly that your site visitors want, you may implement a sort of check box system on your site with a heading like: 'What else would you like to see on our site?' or 'Is there something missing here that you need?' You will be amazed at what new ideas or new concepts visitors might give you as clues.

Tip No. 4 - Do you really know who and when visitors come to your site?
This may sound like very elementary to you, but there are still many site owners and eTailers out there that don't really know who visits their sites, when, in which country, what pages of the site they have browsed, etc. Taking the real-time analytics readings of the traffic and behavior on your site can not only help boost conversions, but also help you better understand visitor behavior so you can adjust the messaging about your brand or products. Very basic, yes-- but it's a fundamental part of the equation that is often overlooked by many, especially to new site owners and managers.

For starters, determining what isn't working on the site might be a lot more important than measuring what already is working. The ability to adapt rapidly and change content easily and test out different messaging or promotions will quickly improve your bottom line. Trust us on this!

Tip No. 5 - It's all about branding!
Have you ever asked yourself what makes your company so special? What really distinguishes your product or services from your main competitors? Do you offer after-hours or extended customer service hours? We call this branding since many customers like to deal with a company that provides great customer service, and a company that really cares about it's users. Is this really a part of your brand and what interactivity do you need exactly in order to fully assist customers both before and after their purchase on your site?

Overall, when people make a purchase online, site managers can learn a lot about an individual's specific profile and preferences. You can pinpoint user characteristics even more with the right site analytic tools offered today. Now you can have a really meaningful relationship with your online customers and with the availability of new content management software, email and social commerce technologies, you can offer them a great and exciting branding experience that will make them come back for more.

Tip No. 6 - Help yourself by making them come back
If branding is important, so is customer loyalty. Ask anybody that has been in sales for any lenght of time and they will tell you that a repeat customer is one of the best customer you can have since he or she already knows your company and what you sell, and already has a trust relationship with you. That said, building your online eCommerce presence means you have more control over promotions and loyalty programs that can benefit your customers, and your brand.

Consider how to keep your resellers engaged with these same programs but drive additional traffic from new purchasers back to your site to register for new products, earn discounts or reward points toward their next purchase on your site. This may sound complicated but it's not, really. Just let your imagination work. Another good idea is to ask your staff or sales managers. If they've been working for you for more than three months, you can almost be certain they have some good ideas or comments to share with you.

Overall, the careful planning and attention to minute details in site design, usability features and a well thought out user interface, especially when it comes to the products catalog and the shopping cart of a modern eCommerce site will go a long way in boosting sales, creating a great user experience that will convert one-time customers into loyal, long-time buyers that will return over and over to your site for more.

Also, never underestimate the power of viral marketing and word-of-mouth! A satisfied customer can bring you dozens if not hundreds of new customers over a period of a few years. He or she will be more than happy to share with his family, friends or business associates his great shopping experience he's had in the past by shopping at your site.

You know what they say: word-of-mouth advertising is the best there is, and, what's more, it's absolutely free.

Good luck with your ecommerce site! Your comments or questions would be greatly appreciated.

Source: ECDS.

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