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Secrets of Successful Online Stores

Emily Niemiec

Thinking about selling your products online? Already manage an online store? Ever buy anything through the internet? All of this qualifies you as a participant in the phenomenon of e-commerce.

If you have (or will soon have) an online store, you should know that Goldman Sachs is predicting that e-commerce worldwide sales will reach 963 Billion Dollars by 2013. That’s a LOT of cash.

In order to take full advantage of the growth of e-commerce, you must be certain that customers are enticed to click into your store – and stay there until their purchase is complete. What does it take to keep them clicking?

The answer is the same as successful retail stores: great customer service!

Traditionally, successful brick and mortar store employees are trained to greet customers in person, make eye contact, ask about the customer’s needs, speak with kindness and respect, and have complete understanding of all products.

The goal is to understand the customer’s expectations, then meet and exceed those expectations. Employees who can do that are rewarded with high sales, return customers, and reinforced brand recognition.

As an online store owner, you can have all that too. How?

You need do only one thing: make all those qualities shine through your customer’s computer monitor.

1. Understand Your Customer’s Expectations

When you design your website, keep your customers in mind – and how they’ll conveniently find your products. You must think like your customer: they don’t live and breathe your business like you do…

They enter your online store, and hope to find their favorite item without hassle. Successful online stores have a simple, easy to understand layout that leads the buyer through their purchase with ease.

Not sure if your website accomplishes that? Gather a few test subjects and watch them try to purchase something from your online store. Is it easy for them to complete a purchase from your store? If the answer is no, it’s time for a change.

2. Make Eye Contact

All right, you can’t really do that online… But keep in mind that your customers are not looking for a demonstration of your web designer’s newly acquired skill with Flash – they are looking for your product!

Help them make “eye contact” with your product as quickly and easily as possible, and be certain they can find every detail about the item. Many shoppers miss the tactile sense of traditional shopping, so try to give them as much information as possible to fill in that gap.

3. Speak With Kindness and Respect

For online shopping, this happens over the telephone or through instant messaging chats. Research shows that online customers highly value the ability to talk to a customer service representative or participate in an online chat while they are shopping… Which could very well be at 2am.

Twenty-four hour shopper-support, staffed by knowledgeable, friendly people, will keep your customers coming back for more. A virtual assistant company is a viable option when you are looking for this type of support.

4. Understand Your Customers’ Needs

Help your customers buy more of your products… Allow them to easily store multiple addresses and credit cards. Help them track orders. Give them the incentive to return again and again, because they know the purchase process will be efficient and effective.

Send automated email updates throughout the shipping and handling process. Make them feel confident that you are (albeit electronically) “with them” through the entire purchase process!

5. Exceed Expectations

Be friendly and transparent with your customers. They will want to use coupons and discount codes, and they’ll want to know right up front if their codes will work for a particular purchase. They’ll want to understand the shipping and handling charges…

Give them whatever tools they need to make those calculations. Some online stores have customers enter discount codes on the homepage for validation. Others provide calculators on every page. Whenever you can, make it easy for your customer to tally their spending and complete the transaction.

Researchers around the world will tell you that great customer service is the very best marketing. The secrets of successful online stores are not really all that mysterious: design a website that shines with great customer service, and you will be part of e-commerce success!


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