How to Sell Online As Effectively As In Person

how to sell online

Wondering how to sell online?

Making this happen is particularly problematic if your buyers don’t know the correct name for what they want to buy. A good example of this is when DIY (do-it-yourself) homeowners need plumbing or hardware.

I recently came across an ecommerce site with two solutions to this dilemma, one of which I had not seen before:

  1. The ability to choose categories by looking at images instead of category names.
  2. They invite site visitors to send a picture of what they need.

While some gift sites have visual categories, I don’t recall ever seeing a site that invites customers to “send a picture” so their sales team can guide them to find what they need.

How to Sell Online if Your Products are Complex

Unique Customer Service Features Increase Sales

A look at the Qualified Hardware site below shows an example of an ecommerce store done right. This “send us a picture” feature is prominently displayed in their header area just under the search box.

That is perfect placement because when your visitor realizes they don’t know what to search for because they don’t know the name of the part, they can just send a picture. This could also prevent users whose search did not return the results they need from just leaving to go to another store.

Next to it is a Video Library and two toll-free numbers, one for most buyers and a separate hotline for contractors.

While the “send us a photo” feature is what caught my attention, making it really easy for your buyers to reach you is essential. This is especially important for businesses catering to DIYers.

Have Online Sales Staff Review Orders

how to sell online

If you have ever tried to repair plumbing or buy hardware for your home, you probably took the old parts into the store and found an expert to help you figure out what you needed to buy. Forget one piece and you have to make another trip.

When buying online, that means waiting for shipping time. That could mean doing without necessities until more parts arrive. Often, you don’t even know about another part, tool, or product you need to do the job.

For a plumbing project that might be plumber’s tape or PVC cleaner and glue. Or you might not know there are different sizes and types of floats in a toilet or what additional parts may be required. While I know that, many others would not.

Are you sure you know what tools it takes to build something? Did you remember every size screw or nail? Have you ever forgotten you don’t have the right drill bit size? Even contractors rely on store staff to make sure they don’t forget anything.

By having your online sales staff review orders and suggest missing parts and needed tools, businesses have the perfect opportunity to upsell in a way their customers will appreciate.

Stand Out From Your Competition

This particular store sets themselves apart by making it easy to buy with confidence. They operate just like a brick-and-mortar store with the same level of employee assistance.

They are in a position to personally save their customers frustration and mistakes while building a personal relationship that engenders loyalty. By focusing on customer satisfaction they can increase their profits.

Stop Hiding From Your Customers

Far too many online ecommerce stores seem to want to avoid having to deal with customers. They either make their phone number difficult to find or they don’t have it on their site anywhere (which is very bad for local SEO as well as sales).

After talking one ecommerce store owner into providing customer chat, I was dismayed to find they were never logged in even during regular business hours. Having it visible and never being available is worse than not having it at all.

Live chat is also an effective way to get the email addresses of your site visitors so that you can follow up with them. Instead of never knowing who most of your visitors are, you could capture them onto segmented mailing lists or at least send them a discount to encourage a first purchase.

Never Leave a Customer Question Unanswered

how to sell online

Customers do not buy unless they’re sure your products or services are exactly what they need. As long as they have an unanswered question, they don’t check out. This is another reason for the high percentage of shopping cart abandonment.

Imagine you’re buying parts and tools for a project you want to build. You put them into the shopping cart, but you’re just not sure the parts will work together. Or you have a question about what the best tool is to get them installed.

Which store will you buy from and remember? Will it be the one where the sales person made sure you knew what you needed and assured you that everything required was in your shopping cart? Or the one where you couldn’t reach a live human?

Improve Your Follow-Up to Increase Repeat Sales

Imagine you’re the store in this example. You have happy customers who bought from you today. It is essential that you can remind them to come back. Fortunately for you, there are now marketing automation solutions available priced low enough that even the smallest business can afford them.

You may wonder why there is so much buzz surrounding content marketing. One little-known reason is that the best way to increase repeat sales is to publish an answer to every question your buyers have on your site and then send those answers to the right buyers in a targeted way.

This is done through email list segmentation. While many businesses do build mailing lists, most are not using them effectively. It is not enough to just send one message to everyone.

  • Personalized Email Campaigns: Utilize customer data to create personalized email communications. This means addressing the customer by name, referencing past purchases, and suggesting products based on their preferences or browsing history. This personalized approach makes customers feel valued and understood, increasing the likelihood of repeat purchases.
  • Customer Feedback and Surveys: After a purchase, send out surveys or feedback forms to understand the customer’s experience. This not only provides valuable insights into your business’s strengths and weaknesses but also communicates to customers that their opinions are valued and considered, fostering a sense of involvement and loyalty.
  • Loyalty Programs and Exclusive Offers: Implement loyalty programs that reward repeat purchases with points, discounts, or special offers. Exclusive deals for returning customers or those enrolled in the loyalty program can significantly enhance customer retention, as these incentives encourage them to continue doing business with you.
  • Educational Content and Product Use Tips: Description: Regularly provide customers with useful content about the products they’ve purchased. This could be in the form of blog posts, how-to videos, or user guides that help them get more value out of their purchases. By establishing your brand as a helpful information resource, customers are more likely to return for reliable information and associated products.

Strategy to Target Content Through Mailing List Segmentation

how to sell online

Using the hardware site as an example, their highest priority would be keeping in touch with contractors. To do that, they can encourage buyers to subscribe at the end of the checkout process and again in the receipt they send.

When their purchases are being packed, they could also send a short handwritten note that has a printed invitation to subscribe with a short, easy to remember link to choose mailing lists they want to receive.

Marketing automation has the ability to automatically re-segment your customers based on their actions. It can note which links a subscriber actually opens, and move them to a list specifically about those topics.

Automatically Change Mailing List Based on Customer Actions

Setting up automation to move your subscribers from your general to more niche lists is especially beneficial for stores that cater to different types of buyers. If your store sells both plumbing and hardware, sending a generic email teaches your subscribers to ignore your emails because they are often not relevant to them.

If instead, subscribers who only open links related to plumbing could automatically be moved to a list that only sends out information of interest to plumbers. Subscribers who only open links related to hardware could be moved to a list specifically for carpenters.

How Workflow Automation Works

how to sell online

It is challenging to explain how to create a workflow in words. The best way to understand it is to watch a video showing how elements are dragged-and-dropped and then connected together.

Here is an example of a workflow from GetResponse marketing automation showing a common cart abandonment workflow to send an email offering a discount to the potential buyer encouraging them to come back and complete their purchase:

Workflows can be built to segment subscribers by:

  • Which specific links they clicked on.
  • Whether they made a purchase.
  • Because they left without checking out.

They can also be used for lead scoring. By assigning scores to particular actions, marketing automation can surface which of your subscribers is most interested in what you sell.

For a site that caters to contractors, lead scoring could be used to identify contractors your sales team could personally contact or to offer special discounts or other benefits to your best customers.

Many more examples of workflows and a video are in this post on marketing automation workflows.

Mobile Friendly Increases Sales

What do you do when your local hardware store doesn’t have the part or tool you need? Or maybe they have one, but the quality isn’t what you really wanted. What do buyers do? They go online right then using their smartphones.

If you want to be the ecommerce store that gets the sale, your site must be mobile friendly. Use these excellent tips to make sure yours is, but then go one step further: real world testing.

Did you see those stats in the SlideShare above? Mobile is essential and videos are key to converting. Every ecommerce site can benefit from adding video from the DIY site discussed previously to an ecommerce site showing off products in use and clothing being worn. Read more about why video converts even better than social media.

How to Do Free Mobile Usability Testing

While large companies will probably pay someone to do this type of testing, even small businesses can do this themselves. Ask people who work for you or know you to use their mobile device to find a specific product in your store.

Watch them search, add the items to your shopping cart, and go through the checkout process as far as they can. Only by actually watching people use your site to shop from various devices can you find out how well it works for them. This type of testing surfaces challenges finding and buying from your store.

If you want to do this particularly well, use a test site or have a way for them to go all the way through the checkout process without actually charging their account or by using a test credit card number.

Do not do this only once. Do this multiple times through as many different individuals as you can using every kind of mobile device and smartphone you can find. This is necessary to identify and fix issues with your site that are lowering your profits.

Usability Surprises Are Common

how to sell online

You may be really surprised by how someone chooses to navigate your site. Visitors may find that they struggle to put items in your cart or cannot get through the checkout process.

Did you know there is a difference between mobile friendly, mobile responsive, and mobile ready? To better understand this so that you can get your developer to fix any issues you encounter, or to know how to test your site and especially your videos, read this.

How to Sell Online Summary

Unique Customer Service FeaturesImplement features like "send us a picture" for easy product identification, video libraries for guidance, and accessible contact options to enhance the buying experience.
Online Sales Staff Reviewing OrdersOnline staff should review orders to suggest additional necessary items or tools, preventing incomplete purchases and providing upselling opportunities.
Stand Out From Your CompetitionOffer exceptional, personalized customer assistance to ensure confidence in purchases, fostering customer loyalty and differentiating from competitors.
Stop Hiding From Your CustomersMake customer support easily accessible, including visible and active live chat options, to facilitate real-time assistance and gather customer contact information.
Never Leave a Customer Question UnansweredEnsure all customer inquiries are addressed promptly to reduce shopping cart abandonment and build trust.
Improve Follow-Up for Repeat SalesUtilize marketing automation tools for targeted content distribution and customer reminders, ensuring customers return for future purchases.
Target Content with List SegmentationUse detailed mailing list segmentation to send highly relevant content to subscribers, increasing engagement and potential sales.
Workflow AutomationImplement automation for efficient customer interaction tracking and personalized communication, benefiting segmentation and lead scoring.
Mobile-Friendly ApproachEnsure your ecommerce site is optimized for mobile users, leveraging the increasing trend of mobile shopping.
Free Mobile Usability TestingConduct thorough usability testing with real users across different devices to identify and rectify navigational and operational issues, enhancing overall user experience.
Anticipate Usability SurprisesBe prepared for unexpected navigational choices by users and differing mobile compatibility levels, necessitating continual testing and adjustments.

Does Your Business Sell As Effectively Online?

Early implementers of new technology reap the most profits. Over time, more businesses will get on board and competition gets tougher. If you don’t act early, your sales will suffer. Make sure your business is leading – not failing.

Sell Online Note Photo via Shutterstock

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Gail Gardner Gail Gardner is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and a member of the team for 7 years as well as the former Community Manager at BizSugar. She also founded GrowMap, co-founded the Blogger Mastermind Skype group and mentors small businesses, writers and marketing managers.