7 Proven Methods Smart Retailers Use to Get More Customers

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The post below is really awesome, but also really long. If you don’t have time to read it, I’ve put together a quick 2 page cheat sheet that shows you how to use this strategy. It’s free and you can get it when you click this link.

Most local retailers don’t go into business solely for the money.

I mean, obviously it’s a business and you expect to profit.

But that’s not generally the thing that makes “your heart sing.”

What most local retailers are truly passionate about are their productsand most imporantly – the people who buy them.

Loyal customers. Flesh-and-blood people.

That’s why it can leave a bad taste in your mouth when you’re told your business ‘has to be online’ to succeed. Sometimes ‘going online’ –with all its nameless, faceless transactions–doesn’t feel very people-oriented at all.

But the good news is that if you do things right…you don’t HAVE to make a choice.

You can have the best of both worlds–be online AND grow a loyal customer base at the same time.

And this article is going to show you exactly how…

How The Web Can Steal Your Customers – If You Let It

Katie is on her way home from work, when a beautiful window display catches her eye. She goes into the shop to get a closer look at that watch in the window.

She tries it on…

She learns a little more about it from the salesperson…

She gets the price…

Then she takes off the watch, browses a little more, tells the salesperson how much she loves the store…and then…she leaves.

Why? Hint: It isn’t the price, it isn’t the salesperson, and it isn’t the store.

It’s because Katie needs more information before she buys.

She’s noted the details of the watch. Now she’ll go home, go online and look it up. She’ll get the specs. She’ll read reviews. She’ll find your competitors who offer the same watch.

But will she find you?

Why Your Online “Location” Might Not Be Enough

According to Internet Live Stats, there are about 40,000 search queries on Google every single second. Do the math and that breaks down to about 3.5 billion searches per day. That’s not a misprint… According to Retale.com, $1.2 million is spent online every 30 seconds.

Then why is it that (according to Inc. Magazine) as much as 50% of retailers don’t even have a website?

It doesn’t make sense… There’s obviously a huge demand. But retailing online is just not that easy to do.

For starters…

You Need A Website, But Getting It Found Is Hard

When a retailer builds a website, the vast majority of shoppers will never actually find it. If you’re using pay-per-click advertising and trying to rank in organic search results, it’s getting harder every day for customers to find you. If you don’t come up in the top 5 results on the first page of Google, chances are, Katie simply won’t find you.

Amazon, eBay or Shopify are Enticing But…

While jumping on a platform like Amazon, eBay or Shopify will definitely increase your chance of being found, they have clear drawbacks:

  • You will likely have to pay a monthly fee regardless of whether you’re making sales or not.
  • Your brand presence might be diluted. So if Kate buys from you on an Amazon, EBay or Shopify, she’ll probably only remember their names -not yours. Frequently the bigger platforms will minimize your branding, not allowing links to your own website or even direct communication with customers.
  • In effect, you get a ‘transaction’ with a stranger rather than a relationship with a customer. You will likely find yourself competing solely on price. Unless you’re a discount store, that’s not always good for your brand. You don’t want people thinking of you as “cheap”.

7 Proven Steps For Retailers To Get More Customers Online

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Given all of these challenges, why don’t we take a look at the 7 tips to grow your retail business and get more customers from the World Wide Web?

1. Show Your Personality

People love your bricks and mortar store because of you – because of the personality you’ve given it. Take advantage of every opportunity to show who you are.

Customers will even pay a little more if they have good reason, such as a truly unique shopping experience, a sense of humor, and a general sense you share their values. You can take advantage of opportunities to showcase who you are with cleverly written descriptions, product images, tag lines and promotions no one else offers.

Let more YOU come out in your messages to your customers…customers can go anywhere online now, but there is only one you.

2. Use Video

Use video…everywhere.

Use it on the homepage to animate product images. Use it on product pages to describe the item in your own words.

Videos don’t have to be studio quality, either. A 30-40 second video of you – the person most passionate about the products – will sell more than 100 static images.

3. Ship Fast & Ship Cheap

Online customers are impatient to receive their packages.

The big retailers figured this out pretty early and they’ve set the delivery bar pretty high.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Ship orders immediately
  • Make sure customers know the cut-off time for placing an order for shipping the same day
  • Offer upgraded shipping so packages arrive on doorsteps as soon as possible
  • Ship as cheaply as possible
  • Offer free shipping for a minimal order amount

You’ll be surprised how many will happily pay a premium to get their order tomorrow or the next day. Test after test has shown that in a choice between two identical items, shoppers will choose the slightly more expensive item that ships free – even when the total spend is the same.

4. Follow Up

Once someone buys from you, don’t let him or her drift away.

You’ll send order and shipping confirmations, so don’t let them to go waste. Make those emails personal in order to reflect your store’s personality.

In the days and weeks following the purchase, reach out again (if you have permission).

Offer tips on using the product or discounts on things that go with it. But DON’T send sales pitch after sales pitch. Customers will abandon your list and forget about you.

A good rule of thumb is 80% helpful information, 20% sales or promotions.

5. Get the Merchandise to the Cash Register

The statistics are pretty grim: nearly 70% of online shopping carts are abandoned before the sale is complete. If you have the shopper’s email address, send them an automated, friendly message (again, infused with your personality) about the items they added.

But whatever you do, don’t try to get them to come back with a hard sell. Instead ask if there’s anything you can do to help them decide on the items.

You might even offer a discount coupon if they respond within a certain time.

Give links back to the shopper’s cart to make it easy to finish the purchase.

6. Leverage Your Data

Once you’re online, you’ll start to generate massive amounts of data about how your customers shop and buy.

But you need to know how to ask the right questions of that data:

  • Are items purchased together online located close to each other in the store?
  • Do certain items sell better at certain times of the year?
  • How do different demographic groups shop?
  • What draws the most attention online and in-store?

This market research is priceless. Collect it… Analyze it… And ask the right questions and react both online and off.

7. Choose the Right Platform

Even though you may be considering launching your own website, some shopping platforms give you unlimited access to data and customer relationships and seem really tempting. If opting for one of those websites make sure to keep an eye out for ones that:

  1. Charge low or no monthly fees. Those fees are fine when your store is ringing up sales, but they can really hurt in months when you’re not selling as much.
  2. Allow you to compete as you. Look for a place where you can really express your brand image and compete on quality, uniqueness, service and personality.
  3. Put the spotlight on you. An e-commerce platform that comes between you and your customer wrecks your chance of building a relationship. Look for one that spotlights merchants and merchandise.
  4. Make everything easier for you. It should be super simple to upload your branding, contact information, inventory, pricing, descriptions and media.

How Your Customers Want To Buy

Remember Katie?

The whole time she’s researching that watch, she remembers your store.

How helpful the salesperson was.

If she can find you there’s a good chance she’ll complete her sale with you.

That’s why your brand personality matters.

That’s why shipping quickly and inexpensively matters.

And being able to understand the data from both your online and bricks-and-mortar locations – that really matters.

But the thing that matters most is having the tools and freedom to build a relationship with Katie.

Our Recommendation:

There is one shopping platform that lives up to all of these guidelines and more. To learn about ShopOnMain and how we can help your business grow, check us out here.

Is Online Shopping For Men or Women?

by rice1 0 Comments

 

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Image1Word on the street is that shopping is a woman’s world.

After all… women are the ones who love to buy shoes. They’re the ones keen to grab the newest designer purse. And they’re the ones who crave a “girl’s day out” at the shops. Shopping brings a woman happiness…

Right?

As we enter a new age of online shopping, we at ShopOnMain want to ask: does this stereotypical view of shopping still hold true even when you hop online?

If you delve deep enough, it is clear that even if ‘shopping’ is often described as a ‘woman thing’, online shopping (at least as it exists today) is really better suited for the masculine psyche?

What Do Men & Women (Really) Want When They Shop

Image2Let’s take a good hard look…

When men shop, they are most often looking for:

• The convenience factor. When it’s 3am and nothing is open, what’s your solution? Shopping online. When you’re too lazy to put a shirt on, what’s your solution? Shopping online.
• A bargain and easy comparison. It’s a bit easier to file through prices of multiple stores on a computer than by foot. Cheaper prices can also be obtained by buying online from the manufacturer.
• A slew of choices. Online shopping features many choices. (Sometimes too many!)
• A way to avoid people. Nobody likes a crowd. Most men have faced the scary pre-Christmas crowds where they’ve forgotten that special gift for their significant other. Who wants to repeat that experience?

In other words, men tend to be slightly anti-social and very practical when it comes to shopping. They know what they want and they want the most direct line to getting it. They want their products to arrive with no fuss and at the cheapest cost.

But how about women?

Image3When women shop, they are looking for:

• Discovery. Unlike men who make a beeline to their specific shopping destination, women view shopping as a spontaneous adventure. They relish the thrill of window shopping or the fun of wandering through the store wondering what they might discover today. Even if they set out to buy a specific outfit for a given event, women love the idea that at any moment they could stumble upon an unexpected treasure. Shopping is not a transaction –it’s more akin to a transformation.
• Experience. In the end, women aren’t into shopping only for the end game. They love the process of shopping—the journey. In terms of both the products and the environment, women’s shopping relationship is both lateral and experiential (versus their male counterparts who tend to be more linear and goal-oriented.
• Like the complete 360 degree feel of the shopping experience—from the sights and sounds of the store to the feel of a dress or shoe. Again, great photography on an online site can help that but nothing beats the ‘real’ textures of an actual item.
• Feedback from their friends. Simply put, women love the interactivity of shopping—weighing the pros and cons of any purchase with their friends and family. And she takes her time about it. Some studies have shown that it takes a woman 40 hours until she makes a purchasing decision.

chartCan our prehistoric beginnings explain the difference?

When it comes to online shopping, men and women do however share one preference in common. They are both looking for ease.

However, the real differences emerge in terms of the experience they are looking for. Women seek a shopping adventure. They love the surprise of finding an undiscovered treasure and are eager to share the discovery with friends and family.

Men are more practical. They have a goal to buy something and want to get to their goal quickly and for the best price.

But why the difference?

There is a theory that this difference between the sexes predates to several hundred thousand years before 8000 BC.

At this time, men were considered “hunters” which meant they were focused on hunting and killing animals for their community. That behavior has now potentially been translated to shopping where they head out into the world with one purpose in mind: to buy a specific item.

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As for women, they were traditionally “gatherers”, searching for berries, leaves, and so on… They would take their time to pick the best choices for their own community. Nowadays, we can see that behavior when women shop. Women take more time to discover their purchases and to enjoy the process.

So is Online For Men or For Women?

Image6Whether you buy into the evolutionary explanation for these gender differences, it is key to point out that online retailers have been focusing their attention on one sex: men.

When you get online, you have an easy way of seeing your options and seeing what price is right for you. It’s a very linear process which is fantastic and offers both men and women the ease they are looking for. However, online retailing sorely lacks the sense of discovery that women love and desire when they shop.

Online shopping is really much more of a man’s world—it’s practical, easy, and fast.

Proof of the pudding? Men spend more money online. 

There’s one thing that’s for certain, online shopping sites such as ShopOnMain are the way of the future because we seek to offer the convenience of online shopping with the full experience and sense of discovery of the offline world. By doing this, we seek to ensure that online shopping caters perfectly to both men AND women.

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Warby Parker—Online Retailing On Fire!

by rice1 0 Comments

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When David Gilboa went on a trip to Thailand, he accidentally left his eyeglasses in the back of an airplane seat pocket. When he went online to figure out how to replace them, he was stunned to find out that a new pair was going to set him back a cool $700.

An impossible amount for a college student trying to make ends meet. An amount he decided not to spend which meant he spent the first semester of grad school with no eyeglasses at all, unhappily squinting through every lecture.

That was the bad news.

The good news was that out of this predicament, the idea for Warby Parker was born.

Gilboa joined forces with the other three founders (Neil Blumenthal, Andy Hunt and Jeff Raider ) who had all had similar experiences trying to buy eyeglasses that didn’t burn a hole in their pocket. (It didn’t hurt that Neil Blumenthal had some experience in the area of eyeglasses having already run a nonprofit called VisionSpring that trains women in the developing world to give eye exams and sell glasses.)

Warby Parker today is nothing less than an online retailing phenomenon, having changed the face of ecommerce forever.

Here are some of the lessons to be learned from this innovative company:

 

Lesson One: Every brilliant online retailing idea begins with a problem.

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Warby Parker was founded for one reason only. There was a gaping hole in the marketplace when it came to eyeglasses. They were simply priced too high—buying glasses online was prohibitively expensive.

When the founders of Warby Parker started to dig deeper, they discovered there was essentially a single company which ran the eyewear industry. Which meant they had a virtual monopoly and could price eyeglasses as they wished. This left customers with scant choice and crazily high prices.

The Warby Parker founders reasoned there must be a better way.   They assumed (rightly) that there would be a lot of consumers out there who wanted their eyeglasses for less, without compromising quality or fashion.

 

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So they rolled up their sleeves to provide just that service.

The key?

To keep the prices down while ensuring the quality level was high.

They decided the best way to do both was simply to design in-house. Making glasses, they found out, was actually pretty inexpensive.

And in the end, Warby Parker was able to offer glasses, including lenses, at a super affordable $95.

Within a very short period of time, the Warby Parker ecommerce site was up and booming (with a waitlist 20,000 + long!) Dubbed the ‘Netflix of eyewear’, people couldn’t stop talking about them. This still remains true today with a whopping 50% of the company’s sales still being driven by word of mouth.

But the seed of their success was that their product solved a big problem for a lot of people.  

 

Lesson Two: Online retailing is not just about products.

 

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Warby Parker offers a great product–eyeglasses at cheaper prices without scrimping on quality or fashion.

But what Warby Parker is more than anything else is a lifestyle brand… It has a personality and it caters to a very specific audience. It is a company created by millennials, for millennials.

Their product, the look and feel of their site and their emphasis on social good speaks 100% to their core client.   A great example of this is their now famous devotion to charity; for every pair of glasses Warby Parker sells, it makes a donation to its nonprofit partners so people in the developing world can get eye exams and glasses cheaply

 

Lesson Three: An online retailer shouldn’t necessarily ‘just’ remain online.

 

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Once Warby Parker proved its proposition online, they decided to start creating brick and mortar stores.   This is interesting because we hear about examples of companies going from brick and mortar to ecommerce but rarely see this happen in reverse order.

They started out as an online store for some very straightforward reasons. They wanted to:

  • Cut out the middle man
  • Offer cheaper prices
  • Avoid the overhead costs that are associated with a physical presence.

Once their proposition was ‘proven’ online, they then decided to open brick and mortar stores. Their first stand-alone brick and mortar store opened its doors in New York and many more have popped up since then.

And while the company still makes the majority of its profits from online sales, the physical stores are adding more to the experience of the brand.   Simply put, it gives people the chance to have physical interaction with the product. People still like to feel, touch, and try on items before purchasing, and that’s why their physical stores were a great addition to their business venture.

The creators of Warby Parker actually had brick and mortar shops on their mind from the very beginning. They recognized (and continue to recognize!) the great value of having that customer relationship and connection with the product in a physical setting.

Plus they knew people wanted to ‘touch’ the real product because from the very beginning they received hundreds of requests from people to come to their apartment just so they could try on their glasses! This eventually evolved into their online ‘home try-ons’ which allow people to test 5 eyeglasses for free online. But in the end, they knew that nothing would really replace a physical presence in terms of a ‘real store’.

 

Lesson Four: Good Retailing Ideas Have A Very High ROI

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Named the “first great made-on-the-internet-brand” by Fast Company and hailed as one of the most innovative companies in 2015, Warby Parker has a well-earned reputation as an edgy online retailing brand. Four years after their launch, the company announced they had distributed their millionth pair of glasses (up from 500,000 just a year before). And after only five years, the company is valued at over one billion dollars by the Wall Street Journal. And according to co-founder Dave Gilboa, annual sales continue to accelerate at a fast clip.

 

The Biggest Take-Away From the Warby Parker Example?

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If there is something to be learned from the Warby Parker example, it is their keen attention to what people want from the get-go. The core concept of the company was born out of a gaping need on the market. Their addition of free ‘home try-ons’ was pure genius. Their move to brick and mortar stores was a recognition that consumers wanted to physically interact with their products.

Today, Warby Parker provides both a superior online product and a rich ‘real store’ experience. The company has solved a BIG problem for millions of consumers, not to mention paid handsome dividends to the owners.

Here at ShopOnMain we love this kind of retailing success stories. We too seek to offer the best of online convenience with the ‘look and feel’ of the real store experience.  Want to create some online retailing magic for your store?  We’d love to talk to you!

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How To Juggle Virtual Clients Like A Pro

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There’s no escaping the virtual world.

We all live on our phones, our tablets, our computers, and pretty much anything connected to the World Wide Web.

As a shop owner, it’s crucial to jump aboard the virtual train.

Many retailers have already embraced the wave of the future and have set up their virtual stores.

You might even be one of them. Maybe you’ve got your social media accounts ready. Your brand-spanking new website is up. And you’ve already had a few paying virtual customers.

But here’s a question we hear all the time at ShopOnMain: is running a brick and mortar store the same as running a virtual store?

The truth is yes and no.

When it comes to building infrastructure and processes, there are a lot of differences. With a real live store, there are countless things you will need to think of:

  • Who will your in-person staff be?
  • Where will you stock your product?
  • What will the product displays look like?
  • How about cleaning the space?

Your virtual store is going to have a whole other set of challenges:

  • Making sure that your website keeps running
  • Managing shipping
  • Worrying about staying on top of all that social media.

The one thing that doesn’t change between the virtual and real world: your role with your customers.

In today’s article, we’re going to take a look at the 3 balls you need to juggle in order to make sure that your relationship with your clients stay the same both online and offline.

Ball 1: First Impressions

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We all know first impressions are everything.

We’re used to judging a book (or a store) by its cover. Would you spend your hard-earned money in a poorly run store where the floor is dusty, the light is dark, and the quality of the products dubious at best?

The answer is no.

Your customers want a pleasant environment to shop in. And most importantly, they want an easy environment to shop in.

In store, that’s an easy (is) thing to accomplish. First off, you’re going to make sure that your store is clean and that those displays are eye-catching. Your staff is going to be friendly and helpful to each and every client who walks through the doors. You can control your potential client’s experience by the mere fact that you can watch their reactions and be there right in time to swoop in if there’s a problem.

On an online website, you’ve got to do the exact same thing.

Not sure how? Here are a few tips…

To make sure that your website is just as inviting as your physical store:

  1. Use vibrant photography to capture your customer’s attention.
  2. Display your products beautifully.
  3. Each product should have a complete (but not too lengthy) product description as well as customer reviews to give your customer the most accurate view of the product
  4. Consider including (Take a look at ASOS who show off their awesome clothes through video).
  5. Make sure you have user-friendly, easy navigation so that your customer doesn’t get lost halfway through the purchase.   (Check out our tips for setting up your Ecommerce site)
  6. Pay close attention to customer support. How will you answer your client’s questions? Via email? Consider investing in a support desk like Freshdesk or Zendesk to help you organize your tickets. Other options include live chat or phone support.

Ball 2: Engage, Engage, Engage

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Now that your online website is as beautiful and inviting as your brick and mortar store, the next question is how to make sure that you’re engaging the customers in the same way.

In a store, you can come to a potential client and talk to them. It’s as easy as that.

On a website, you unfortunately cannot greet your visitors. So how do you make sure that they get as much attention as they should be?

You need to be:

  • Between the content on your website, the emails you send out, and your customer service representatives, you need to make sure that your communication is always open and transparent. Your policies must be upfront and clear, your warranties shouldn’t be sketchy, don’t have any ‘strings attached’ that include hidden costs. This is the quickest way to lose trust.
  • Responsive When it comes to complaints, your motto should be: Always Respond & Always Respond Fast. If one of your clients has mentioned on your Facebook account that they are thoroughly unhappy with one of your products, you need to respond ASAP in order to show that you care and that you’re proud of your business. Invite them to speak offline and provide them with an email address or a phone number where they can reach you so that you can deal with their problem promptly.
  • Always Available. Be available for your customers. Make sure your contact information is visible. Put your information on an easy to find “Contact Us” page.
  • We’ve all been to those websites where it seems absolutely impossible to figure out where to contact support. Don’t be one of those frustrating websites!

Ball 3: Virtual Reality

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Your third ball is all about making the virtual a reality. In other words, you need to make your online and offline experiences totally coherent; your customers who walk into one of your stores should feel like they just ‘stumbled’ across your website and vice versa.

Your offline and online universes should never be separate—they are all part of a consistent whole.

 

Here are some practical examples for your brick and mortar stores:

  • Remind your brick and mortar client of your website by inviting them to use QR codes to locate products online
  • Encourage instore clients to sign up for your social media sites (and use some of the fun hashtags you’ve created).
  • Use the videos your customers have seen online in-store (and vice versa).

And how do you accomplish that same shopping coherence online? It’s easy: give clients control.

In a store, your customers are able to physically move around and touch your products. They can physically transport them to the checkout counter where they manually pay for their purchase. They are in control of their shopping.

The same goes for their online experience.

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You want your client to feel like there are easily picking their purchases and that they are in control of when and how they purchase. They need to be able to pick their shipping times, make potential changes to their order, change their shipping address, and so on…

If they struggle to take control of their shopping experience, their frustration will turn to you as a business. And that’s not what you want.

The key is to make the process as smooth as possible.

Can You Learn To Juggle Both Worlds?

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Absolutely.

Your online and your offline store are going to tell the customer who you are, what you stand for as a business and implicitly show them why they should buy from you.

(If you have doubts as to how to express your identity or your brand, then check out our blog post next week. We’ll be talking about branding online and offline and how important it is to merge the two.)

They key to making sure that you juggle both worlds: always always always treat your client like he just walked through the door.      

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11 Non-Negotiables For Every Ecommerce Website

by rice1 0 Comments

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Ever wondered what makes a good website GREAT?

And more specifically ever wonder what makes an e-commerce site SHINE?

Here is a list of 11 critical elements that will help transform the most casual browser into a serious shopper (and sale!) for you.

 

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Online shoppers are task-oriented. They often don’t read text, looking instead for visual cues to lead them through their task.

That means you need to present a crystal clear path from landing page to products to shopping cart to checkout.

The difference between bad navigation and good navigation is conversion.

If you make it hard for users to find your products, get to their shopping carts and checkout, you’ll lose them.
Simple as that.

So, then, what is good navigation?

There isn’t a single style or template because every merchant is different, but the simple answer is this: good navigation never leaves a user asking: Where am I? And how do I get where I want to go?

That means your main navigation should present your most important categories and pages and you should use drop-downs or submenus that allow users to drill down.

• Flag the Important Pages: For example, Human has a simple header with top categories, account access and link to the cart. Clean and easy to understand with no questions asked.
• Organize your products into Product Categories: No matter how many products you have, your product categories need to simplify the journey for the shopper on your site. A good example is Kohl’s. Kohl’s has a huge inventory but they simplify navigation with at drop down that offers clearly labeled divisions within categories. The user can therefore easily navigates to a sub-category or any very specific location.

 

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• Ensure a search option on every page: Make sure that your search function is everywhere: in the headers and on every page so that no matter where your interested shopper can also easily search their desired item.

 

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How easy are your product pages to decipher? Can users find the important features, technical specifications, reviews and pricing of each product easily? Do you provide enough information for them to make a purchase decision easily?

Crutchfield sells pretty complicated products, but gives product information simply, breaking up the information so as to not overwhelm the shopper. They use tabs to break up the information into various levels of detail:

• Overview: contains the main features and selling points.
• Reviews: are up next so people can see what other shoppers think.
• Details: includes a list of what’s in the box and more detailed feature information.
• Accessories: is an upsell page to remind buyers of items they might want or need to go with the product.
• Q&A: lets users see questions from other users and the answers.
• Articles & Video: presents any manufacturer information or industry reviews.

Take a look at the following example from Crutchfield:

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http://www.crutchfield.com/p_47216TCBLU/Apple-iPod-touch-16GB-Blue.html?tp=237

 

The tabs are easy to navigate and give users access to all the facts without endless scrolling or information overwhelm.

 

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More and more people are shopping on their mobile devices from phones to tablets to watches. Your site needs to respond and adapt to each device, whether it’s a pocket device or a giant desktop monitor.

Responsive design is quickly becoming the standard for ecommerce thanks in part to Google. The search engine giant considers your site’s mobile friendliness in their rankings. Sites that comply rank higher. Those that don’t get lost.

Skinny Ties is a great example of a responsive site. It’s touch-friendly and the look and feel remains consistent from phone to tablet to desktop.

Premade themes are out-of-the box mobile friendly and they’re easy for most merchants to set up and launch. But if you’re working with a designer, make sure they can provide a responsive store. If they can’t, hire a new designer.

Otherwise, you’ll lose customers to more mobile-friendly competitors.

A better option might be choosing a platform like ShopOnMain that takes the work and worry out of all of that.

 

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The Internet is visual. Your product photography should feed that experience. Make your product images really pop off the page – whether it’s the product page, the homepage, or a suggested products sidebar.

On the product page, give users as many angles as you can. Let them zoom and see a 360-degree view of the products.

New Balance does a great job of using product images on item pages and throughout their site. They use overlays and super-sharp images to draw the eye and motivate a purchase.

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Huge images that fill the entire homepage are all the rage right now. Those eye-catching graphics that fill the screen not only draw the eye to the merchant’s most important messages, they create an immersive brand experience.

Lens merchant Moment’s homepage demonstrates one of their popular products in action on an iPhone. It’s a beautiful image, which you would expect from a lens merchant. It’s a brand-immersive experience that also demonstrates their photographic expertise.

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Amazon’s homepage uses a series of large, rotating banners at the top of their landing pages. The banners may or may not show products. They often use the space to alert users to sales or special offers.

But most importantly, these images immediately present a site visitor with a crystal clear call to action, whether it’s a product or promotion.

 

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Privacy is important to online shoppers. Not only do they want to know that their financial data is secure, they want to know what you’ll do with their email address and other information. Place a link in your site’s footer that takes readers to a clear, easy-to-read privacy policy so your shoppers know exactly how you will and – will not – use their personal information.

 

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Make registration an option. Allow shoppers to check out as guests, but give the option to register and outline the benefits of doing so:

• Enter their billing and payment information only once.
• Quicker checkout.
• Access to special promotions.

Outline your specific benefits with bold statements and images, and give a clear call to action to register during checkout.

 

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Give users a clear shipping and delivery policy. Tell them how long it takes to process, pack and ship their order and give clear shipping table that shows delivery windows for all the services you offer.

 

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Shopping online should be as easy – or easier – than checking out at a brick-and-mortar store.
You should offer as many payment options as you can, including PayPal. While it might be slightly inconvenient for you, it makes things easier for shoppers.

Users should be able to complete their purchase in fewer than two pages. Better still if you can combine all the steps into one page or offer a feature like Amazon’s 1-click for registered users.

Every page a customer lands on during the checkout process is an opportunity for shopping cart abandonment.
Keep it simple, short and secure.

 

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You have 3 seconds to deliver your page or you’ll lose about 40% of your traffic. If your gorgeous design is slowing down your site, you’re shooting yourself in the foot – because nearly half your audience will never see it!

Use compression tools, content delivery networks, plug-ins and a solid platform like ShopOnMain to deliver your content. If you host your own site, make it clear to designers, writers and developers that speed is critical.

Here are a few super-charging tips:

• Test your homepage load time ALL the time. As sites grow in size, they tend to develop bloat. Make sure you know how fast your site is loading. Pingdom has a free test or you can use Google’s tool.
• Compress everything. There are dozens of free services that allow you to compress large image files, video and sound. Compressed files will greatly improve your upload times.
• Get a decent hosting company. If you aren’t on a platform like ShopOnMain, you need to make sure your hosting company can handle your traffic. Keep an eye on your usage and boost bandwidth and file storage when you need it.

 

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Google’s ecommerce tracking tells you the thing you most want to know about your most profitable customers: where they come from. Once you know that, you can tweak campaigns to ensure the best results.

It’s fairly easy for the Google-savvy, but here are a few things you should remember when you enter the world of ecommerce tracking:

• Goals: You can tag newsletter signups, page views, conversions or just about anything as a goal. It’s a way to keep a spotlight on the things that are most important in your business.
• Connect to Adwords: If you’re using adwords, make sure you connect it to your analytics account. Take the time to set it up correctly so paid search traffic isn’t reported as organic or vice-versa.
• Campaigns: Track emails, Facebook, banner ads and any URL you want to understand how your marketing campaigns are working.
• Safety Net Profiles: Google lets you set up multiple profiles and this comes in really handy if one of your goals or filters is set up wrong. Set up safety net profiles that collect only raw data in the background in case something goes awry.
• Filter Out Internal Traffic: People in your organization are tracked through analytics just like everyone else. Filter out internal traffic for a true insight into how customers and new visitors behave, not your employees.
• Webmaster Tools: New reports from Google let you see far more than the keyword clicks you’re used to. Now you can see which keywords have the most impressions, click through rates, your rank for keywords and clickthroughs for landing pages.

You want shoppers to stay on your site, to engage, to buy and to share the good news about your brand?

Build a world-class site with the eleven non-negotiables. Or you can make things easy for yourself and simply talk to us here at ShopOnMain where we are dedicated to creating ‘off the chart’ experiences both for you the retailer and the shoppers who come to your site.
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Online Retailers: Is Failure Your Best Friend?

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When it comes to your business, sometimes failure can be a recipe for success.

Failure (or ‘taking a step back’) can come in many forms.

Maybe you’re an entrepreneur who keeps trying idea after idea without any success.

Or you’re a business owner who’s had a successful business for many years but all of the sudden are facing difficulties because you’re not staying at the top of your game.

Or perhaps you’re a new business owner, passionate about your product but ‘thin’ on your understanding of how to launch your brand.

Every type of failure makes way for the opportunity to learn from your mistakes and those of others around you.

One thing is for sure…the best recipe for success is failure—it’s a way of learning what doesn’t work so you can point yourself in the right direction.

Today, we want to look at three retailers who, after taking the time to analyze where they were going wrong and where their peers were mistaken, created successful and vibrant retail businesses.

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Birchbox

The Internet startup craze included many beauty sites that carried a variety of beauty products. Millions of dollars were poured into sites like Reflect.com, Beauty.com and the like.

Almost all of them failed.

Why?

They failed because they all offered up the exact same thing and there was nothing to set them apart from one another.

They lost their radiance faster than a woman in a sauna wearing eyeliner.

The lesson:

  • Be different
  • Stand out
  • Innovate
  • Think about what your customer wants first, rather than the sale

Birchbox watched these ‘failures’ and learned its lessons well. What they did was introduce an innovative sampler makeup and beauty box that was (quite literally) a godsend for women who are perpetually indecisive about their makeup choices, and those just ‘have to’ try every product available before choosing the one that works for them.

Using a reasonably priced subscription plan, Birchbox sends samples of new products to its customers every month. When a customer falls in love with an item, they are invited to ‘upsell’ to the full size item.

The Birchbox concept is a huge success because it is built on a customer need (and a gap in the market), i.e. the desire to ‘sample’ different types of makeup before committing to one brand or type.

 

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Zappos
Buy your shoes online! Zappos is a pretty simple concept. Everyone needs shoes, and everything is sold online nowadays, so Zappos works, and works well.

quote_640-x-640But at the beginning, Zappos future success was anything but obvious. Initially, investors were unconvinced to pour their money into a ‘silly’ online shoe store.

Not to be defeated by the naysayers, Nick Swinmurn (Zappos’s owner) decided to prove his point.

He photographed shoes in the store and posted them online.

When he made a sale, he simply went out and BOUGHT the shoes at full retail value. And sent them along to his new customer.

Obviously, earning 0 profit—and even ending up in the red.

But this little money wasting experiment proved that there was a market for an online shoe store. And

Zappos was born.

The lesson:

  • Even if it means losing money, sometimes an exercise like the Zappos one is necessary to get the necessary investor interest and funding necessary for the next step.
  • The ‘experts’ (i.e. investors!) are important but they don’t always know everything. Don’t let anyone shoot down your ideas.
  • Sometimes the simplest ideas are the strongest. (The Zappos shoe kingdom is a perfect example)

Failure doesn’t necessarily beget failure. It can more often than not beget successes. Through failure we learn lessons about what works and doesn’t work; nowhere is that more important than in the fast moving online retailing arena.

As students of online retailing successes and failures, the team at ShopOnMain can really help you move your brand and products ahead in a BIG WAY. Why not check out what we have on offer for your store here?

 

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Spanx

No retailer on the planet celebrates failure more than Sara Blakely, the billionaire owner of Spanx.  Blakely, who created Spanx when she realized there was a huge gap on the market for body shaping undergarments, was quite literally raised on the concept of failure.

At the dinner table, her father famously asked her and her brother every night, “How did you fail today” and was disappointed when they couldn’t think of anything. For him, failure is not a weakness but an inevitable (and positive) outcome of constructive risk taking.

And Blakely obviously took her father’s failure philosophy to heart as she stumbled her way to billionaire-dom.  Here are some of the obstacles she had to overcome on her way to creating her Spanx kingdom:

  • Zero experience in the hosiery industry
  • No business education at all
  • A tiny budget of $5,000
  • No staff (initially she did everything from marketing and PR to shipping and handling)
  • An industry full of naysayers (“I must have heard the word ‘no’ a thousand times”) that didn’t want to manufacture or sell her idea

The Lesson:

  • Failure frequently and fast—you and your business will learn great lessons from your ‘mistakes’
  • If you do everything ‘right’ all the time, you are probably playing it too safe
  • Never be afraid of failure—embrace it as a much-needed tool for course correction.

Spanx now sells over 200 products in 11,500 department stores, boutiques and online shops in 40 countries. And Blakely is one of the world’s youngest billionaires.

Failure seems to work just fine for her.   Maybe it’s time to dust off our old notions of failure (i.e. that it is something to be avoided at all costs) and start realizing that to fail is ever so ironically an essential ingredient for success.

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The Dos and Don’ts of Online Shopping: Is It Better To Buy From Smaller or Larger Vendors?

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Image2aAs we all know, the Internet has everything available to you at the click of a finger.

You want that novelty Star Wars paraphernalia? There’s a website for that.

How about that state of the art popcorn machine you’ve always wanted for “Family Movie Night”? Yep, there’s also a website for that.

Anything you’ve ever wanted to purchase is so easily available. The question is when you’re whipping out your credit card, who should you be buying from? A large, well-known vendor? Or maybe a small ecommerce website that has just launched?

Should You Stick to the Giants or Buy From Smaller Businesses?

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The beauty of the Internet is you get to look at all competitors large and small at pretty much the same time. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of buying from a small vendor as opposed to a corporate giant….

The Pros of Going For The Big Guy:

• Selection. Bigger merchants can carry bigger inventories, which means a lot more to choose from. We’ve all seen how wonderful (and overwhelming!) a selection a retail giant like Costco can have!
• Price. Smaller vendors are just unable to offer the same low prices as their larger competitors. Unfortunately, the burden lies on the small business to convince you that its products and services are superior despite their small budget.
• Convenience & Structure. E-commerce giants like Amazon offer their customers tons of conveniences like 1-click checkout, storage for music and movies and more. Shopping with them is as easy as apple pie. Clients have come to expect that these stores have a streamlined process in order to make their purchase go as fast as possible.
• Trust. Larger retailers have a well-known reputation. You know when you buy from Amazon that you will get your product in pristine condition. Not so sure when you opt for a smaller retailer. You’re also able to relax while paying online because of the trust you have in the company (Curious as to how you can make sure your wallet stays safe online? Keep an eye out for our article on the do’s and don’ts of buying online, coming soon on our blog).

Image2cAnd their smaller counterparts have some pretty strong competitive advantages.

The Pros of Shopping Small:

• Stellar customer service. Small businesses tend to be obsessed with personal service. They don’t have thousands of procedures, or, worse, automated customer service functions. They care about you as an individual customer. If you have a problem, they’ll be quick to address your concern.
• Unique products. Instead of mass-market merchandise, you’re more likely to find artisanal works, one-of-a-kind products and personalized goods. Not only that, but since smaller vendors tend to have more flexibility, they’ll be more likely to cater to your individual needs. Do you need a specially made blanket for your baby? Shop small and you can get exactly what you were looking for.
• Better quality. Smaller vendors tend to focus on specific products. Therefore they focus on making sure that their products are the best they can be. This can come in all kinds of forms… either better material, an emphasis on providing environment-friendly products, or even a more innovative product. Unfortunately, this excellent quality tends to come with a price tag.
• New Jobs. According to the Small Business Administration, 63% of new jobs have been created by small business between 1993 and mid 2013. By supporting small business, you are allowing people to create new and fulfilling jobs across the US.

The Ultimate Online Shopping Experience-Only You Can Decide

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At the end of the day, smaller vendors are not perfect.

But they’re working at it.

If you’re a true shopper at heart and you’re craving to discover what’s new and happening out there, give small vendors a chance. Not only will you be helping millions across the US support themselves and their families, but you’ll also be encouraging the Internet to be a place of variety and innovation when it comes to shopping.

If you’re interested in the optimal shopping experience, come check out our website to see how we at ShopOnMain can rock your shopping world.
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Calling All Shoppers: What’s Your Perfect Shopping World?

by rice1 0 Comments

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1Imagine yourself in an empty store.

How would you design it? What colors would be splashed about and how would the displays be showcased? What would make the space an easy and gratifying place to shop? How would you transform this space into what you want?

Don’t worry about other customers, think about what you want.

Here at ShopOnMain, we believe everyone should have a magical and personalized shopping experience. As human beings, we are different in everything we do, so why shouldn’t shopping be tailored to our individual needs?

When thinking of your dream shop, did you stick to a traditional physical store? Or did you imagine a store that you could “walk into” with a click of a button instead? Is it flashy and vibrantly colored? Or is it minimal in design with a focus on the product?

Now that you have your dream store in mind, we want to tell you that your wishes can come true. And how?

One word: technology.

Why future technology is moving retail towards customized and tailored shopping

2In the last few blog posts, we’ve talked about how Warby Parker has changed the consumer experience by offering an “in home try on” of five pairs of glass to try for customers to see which they like best. It’s a genius idea to bring that sense of touch and sight right to your front door.

But what else will happen in the shopping world? Will drones deliver items to our doorstep within an hour of purchasing? Or perhaps they will bring a few shirts for us to try on so we can see how it fits before buying.

Will our computers have the ability to “print out” swatches of clothing so we can feel a blouse before we purchase it? Or perhaps one day we will have the ability to smell lotion or perfume prior to committing ourselves to a purchase that we will be wearing everyday for next few months.

Technology knows no bounds and it will bring our virtual shopping experience to the next level. But technology can also transform our in-store experience. Imagine being able to shop in-store and never having to deal with the store running out of your size or the ‘perfect’ color you want.

The virtual and physical shopping experience will never be the same once technology takes holds and drives us straight to a utopian shopping world.

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Here at ShopOnMain we are dedicated to harnessing technology’s powers so that each and every shopper can enjoy the shopping experience they want—their own version of utopia.

We are excited about our breakthrough approach to shopping and believe our platform will provide an online shopping journey unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.

Check out what we are doing here.
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Our Retail Heartthrobs

by rice1 0 Comments

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When it comes to epic retailers, we’re like every teenage girl. We have one or two crushes on the most innovative and inspiring companies in the field.

While there’s always room for more and more groundbreaking ideas for successful retail, we want to take a second to look at top 5 in the game.

Because here at ShopOnMain we love to see businesses questioning everything, pushing boundaries, and trying out ideas that, on the surface, might seem ridiculous! They inspire us to think outside the box.

These five companies have tried selling their products in different and unique ways that we can’t help but love. Check it out…

 

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Everyone knows this beast. You might even be able to recognize these famous bikes from just listening to one of their engines roar.

This quintessential motorcycle company upped its game with the ladies.

What they do differently: When they realized that about 10% of their market were women, they decided to go all out. First off, they started manufacturing their motorcycles with lower seats to accommodate women. Next, they started holding “women only” garage parties that offered tips and presentations for motorcycle riding. That’s right… an all ladies garage party. All of which helped drive up sales for their overlooked female demographic.

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Why we love it: Even though Harley Davidson does not operate a classic ecommerce website, they are using their Internet presence to communicate and connect with people. Not only did they create helpful videos (like a how to pick up a fallen bike as demonstrated by a woman) but they also were able to get the crowds necessary for their garage parties.

Looking at connecting to an untapped market through the web… when you think about it…the possibilities are endless!

 

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The name ‘Apple’ is synonymous with ‘revolutionary technology’. They’re the very definition of innovation. And they’ve continued to blow our minds in their retail stores worldwide.

What they do differently: You no longer need a cash machine to check out. Pick up the item and a friendly customer service agent will have you pay right there and then. No need to wait in a line.

Or—even more innovative—you don’t even need to do that. You can simply buy your favorite Mac item from an app without interacting with a human being. Checkout—floating or otherwise—at Apple is fast becoming a thing of the past.

Why we love it: One word. Efficiency! Have you seen the line at Apple, especially during a holiday or when a new product hits the shelves? It’s about as close to hell as we can get here on earth. So having the ability to checkout and pay without having to find a real human being and waiting in line is nothing short of genius, and of course totally groundbreaking. A classic example of a company taking a retailing problem that people hate, turning it on its head and making it into a compelling point of difference.

Selling your products, without having the traditional customer queue at a checkout counter, might be the next big thing since sliced bread.

 

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Raise your hand if this has happened to you: You missed a package delivery because the time they were going to be at your house ranged from 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM and at the exact time you left the house to get that Chinese takeout order (because you’re stuck at home with an empty fridge), they came and you missed your package. You literally missed them by 3 minutes and you so desperately wanted that package.

Yup… we’ve all been there.

What they do differently: So Amazon Lockers came into play to help you with this delivery time conundrum. Here’s the same scenario as above—but this time using Amazon Lockers…

You missed your package, but instead of having to wait again the next day for it or having to drive to the post office and wait in line, you get a unique pickup code. You take that code to an Amazon Locker location and get your item ASAP. This can also be used for people returning items so they can go sans the post office visit.

Why we love it: This is taking online retail ordering to the next level. Everyone shops online now, but not everyone can afford to sit at home waiting on that special package that needs to be signed off on. In effect, the inconvenience of waiting for the package often cancels out the convenience of shopping online in the first place. An innovation like Amazon Lockers solves that problem in one fell swoop.

 

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How many times have you looked through a catalogue and wanted to buy it but never did because you forgot about it later. After all, you’re just browsing through a magazine. There’s no “add to cart” button. Same goes for when you’re at the store. Maybe you see something you love, but they are out of your size.

Wouldn’t it be great to just scan these items on your phone and order it right there?

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What they do differently: Sportsgirl has tackled this problem with their innovative phone app. Scan something you see as you walk around a store or an item in a catalogue and it saves your purchase for when you’re ready to buy it online.

Why we love it: How much easier can this get? The ultimate way to shop is to virtually shop and purchase, but we always see something we want out in “real life.” So here’s a way to still purchase those things at a time that’s convenient for you. So don’t worry about shopping on your lunch break anymore, you won’t have to wait in line with the rest. Just scan and purchase later!

 

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Usually stores go from brick and mortar to online retail, but Bonobo went backwards and has had huge success. We all love to shop online, but sometimes we want to go into a store and see the fit, touch the material, or at least have the option to. That’s what this modern menswear store did.

What they do differently: They don’t offer your average Joe’s clothing. They offer better fitting men’s wear. They also listened to their customers. They gave them a choice. Even though many men ‘say’ they hate shopping and would prefer to purchase items online, there is a demographic that likes to shop in person. So they expanded their online presence to actual stores and discovered that their first time in-store customers spent more than the first timers online.

Why we love it: Bonobos gave men what they wanted. A highly personalized shopping experience where their high quality items could be seen AND touched at their store. The problem with their online-only store was it lacked both personalization and physicality. By opening a store, men got to experience both sides of the brand, which proved to be an excellent decision on Bonobos’ part.

Make sure to tune in next week when we take a closer look at similar store which has been wildly successful, Warby Parker ( another one of our retail heartthrobs).

So what does it take for a business to be successful? To be innovative? New and fresh? Sometimes all you need is to look at the status quo and question it. That’s what we’re doing here at ShopOnMain. We’re here to blend the online shopping world with real life experiences.

 

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Online Retailers: Turning Your Frustration Into Success

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It’s no secret: running a business can drive anyone mad.

Between setting up your operations, choosing which products to sell, and defining your ideal customer, you’re constantly learning and answering new questions.

It can be tough to always be making sure you’re up to speed.

And moving your business online can be just as frustrating.

Well first, we at ShopOnMain believe it’s important to understand that you’re not alone—lots of questions are par for the course when you are making the transition to becoming an online retailer.

And the most pressing issue facing each new online retailer is simple: how can I ensure I make a profit on my new online venture?

Like many before you, you already have your brick and mortar store up and running. The issue now is how do you take your limited resources and create an online presence that makes you money.

 

Putting It All Together

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The big question is…. How do you put it all together in a way that gets you cash now?

When it comes to setting up your online presence, it’s a bit like being at a beautiful brunch buffet table with an empty stomach. There are so many options but you’re just so starving you grab whatever comes first. Before you know it, you’re full before you’ve even gotten to the good stuff.

In other words, setting up your online presence is an arduous process with so many options that we sometimes grab what’s easiest and most convenient. But that’s not always the best approach….

In today’s blog post, we’re going to focus on the most important things to keep you on the straight and narrow when you enter the online world. While we can’t wave a magic wand and create your perfect website for you, here are what we call the Three Ps that you should consider when looking to reduce your Frustration Factor.

 

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Your platform will determine so much—from your popularity to your profitability.
The first thing you’ll need to think about is whether you keep your website simple or set up shop on an ecommerce website like Amazon.

Here are the ‘pros’ of going solo:

• You get the chance to really develop your brand. You can show your customer exactly who you are and what is important to you.
• Your products get the front seat.
• You manage your customer experience from A to Z.

Here are the ‘cons’:

• Developing a website can be super expensive.
• Trust is a factor. From the get go, you have to ‘prove’ that you are trustworthy at all levels—from your product to your customer service.
• Getting traffic to your site is a never-ending challenge.
It is important to point out that an online platform like Amazon solves all of these negatives. They make it easy to get your online retailing presence up, they enjoy trust in spades and they have millions coming to their site every single day.

Amazon makes everything easy from customer service, shipping, and getting your products online. But as in all decisions in life, there is a trade-off. The biggest issue you will have in partnering with Amazon is a branding one. Never forget that when you partner with Amazon, clients will be buying with Amazon and not with you.

The good news is there are other alternatives out there. For example, ShopOnMain is a brand new platform that offers the benefits of Amazon while still building YOUR brand. To find out what we can do for you, check us out here.

 

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The second ‘P’ stands for people.

Specifically your client. Without a happy client, you will not have a happy business.

You probably have a ton of experience dealing with your customers in your brick and mortar store. You’ve learned the importance of excellent customer service. You’re dedicated to those who take the time to shop at your store.

But how does the whole customer experience work online?

Many retailers view their online customer as a ‘whole new monster’…

But is that really true?

Here’s the secret: To achieve trust and a loyal clientele, you need to apply the SAME tried and true principles you do to your brick and mortar store.

Here are some of the Key Principles:

Be fair. Treat others as you wish to be treated. Put yourself in their shoes and do what you would expect from a professional company.
Be honest. You should have a zero policy against any kind of deceit. No faulty products. No misleading discounts. You’re a great business and you should be proud of what you offer and be absolutely fully transparent with your customers.
Be personal. Refer to them by their name, and keep things light. These are people, not numbers, and they should be treated as such. Remember you’re often communicating with words only, written words at that, so be very careful how you word everything so the customer feel comfortable. Make your words ‘smile.’
Be accessible. Communicate efficiently and quickly. Don’t make someone wait a week for an answer. Chances are, that customer is long gone by now. On that same note, if a customer is requesting something a bit different than what you offer, can you make it happen? That extra bit of effort you put into that request will be a huge difference. Don’t be rigid. This may even open up something new for you if the demand is high enough.

 

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Getting your online pricing ‘just right’ is tough.

Price too low, and your product might be looked at as cheap and having no value. You also might find it difficult to cover your own expenses and make an actual profit. It’s obvious that discount pricing can be a great way to attract clients. But it must be used with care. Between endless coupons, rebates, and seasonal pricings, your clientele may end up branding you as a bargain retailer which is not necessarily the image you’re looking for.

Price too high, and people will turn to your competitor in a flash. At best, you’d attract an upper scale market, but is that the only demographic you wish to attract? Are you excluding other potential customers this way?

In the end, your pricing will depend greatly on the ideal client you seek to attract. If you want to target the bargain hunter, then you need to slash prices in a variety of ways. If instead, you are looking to attract a more upscale audience, premium pricing could solidify your exclusive positioning.

 

Don’t Binge At the Internet Buffet

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Instead of eating everything on the buffet, think about judiciously picking the dish that’s right for you. Considering the three P’s (platform, people and price) is a good way to start.

Having an online retail store is the future of shopping. We are on the forefront of changing how people shop and how people grow their online business presence. Our platform will help ensure profitability by helping you with your platform, deliver superior products and services at the right price. Why not join us today and become part of a tribe of online savvy (and successful!) retailers.

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