Chris Barling (pictured), CEO of ecommerce software supplier Actinic, offers six tops tips
The days of the Wild West web have largely gone and plenty of people are succeeding online. Sadly, there have been numerous casualties, but the good news is that you don’t have to follow in their footsteps. Here are some tips and best practices on how to sell online successfully and profitably.
It’s about your product, not technology
Internet technology has enabled the whole ecommerce revolution to happen, but if we just focus on technology, we will never succeed commercially. The rules of ecommerce are like those for any other business: you have to have something that customers want, at a price that they can afford and that people are prepared to buy online. Then let your prospects know about it.
Marketing, marketing, marketing
If your great idea is ever to be profitable, people have to know about it. You need to find out how people search on the internet. What are the key words they use for your type of product? What other ways do they look online? It’s true that your prospects are online, but it is also true that they are all offline more of the time. You need to ask whether traditional marketing like advertising, PR or direct mail can help.
Make it easy to buy
Once someone arrives at your site make it easy to find and recognise your products. If you sell branded goods, use the brand logos (get permission) to reinforce your credibility. If you have a separate home page, have a clear link such as ‘Shop Here’ in large letters.
Do not use animations, Flash or graphics that take a long time to load. And don’t ask visitors to register before they can look at your catalogue. Any unnecessary hurdles and it’s easy to leave - remember, a rival site’s only a click away.
Build trust and confidence
Buying online is an impersonal experience and involves a lot of faith. So reassure people as much as possible. Make your promises and guarantees clear and unequivocal, and maybe reduce the risk to the buyer with a no-quibble guarantee. Consider joining one of the merchant accreditation schemes like ISIS, TrustUK, Safebuy or Verisign.
Using reliable service providers will also help. There’s nothing worse than losing a paying customer due to unreliable delivery, for example. It makes sense to team up with a good shipping firm and online payment providers. Asking for advice from local businesses that also ship out goods can be very helpful here.
A comprehensive list of UK payment providers is at www.actinic.co.uk/services/occs.htm. And, if you ever have an issue, just make the refund - unhappy customers tell more other people than happy ones do.
Go for it
Finally, you may have been wondering for a while whether ecommerce would be worth it. Well, the results are now firmly in, and it’s very clear. Ecommerce is really on the rise, while conventional retail is at best static. No one tries any longer to deny that online sales are growing rapidly. Online consumer spending rose 33 per cent to £10.9 billion in 2006, according to Verdict Research, an expert on UK and European retail markets. What’s stopping you getting your share?
To read the full version of this article visit www.actinic.co.uk/ecommerce/money.htm