I order a lot of products online, as a lot of people do these days. Once I make the decision to buy a product, there are a precious few factors that determine which online store will get my business:
- Credibility/user experience
- First page of Google
Price is important because when shopping online, you can find the price of an item on multiple sites within seconds. It’s not like when your customer is at your offline store looking at a product . . . they don’t know how much the same item costs at Walmart and Target. Even if they search on their smart phone for price info in your store, you still have the advantage of a ‘bird in the hand’.
But online, there is no advantage regarding location. If the products in your store are not competitive on price, you are likely going to lose customers on that basis alone.
When pricing is comparable at several sites, which is often the case, I start to examine each store from a user experience perspective . . . in other words, I make a decision regarding the best customer experience. I will choose to purchase from a site that has a nicer, more current Web design because that site appears more credible, friendly and ‘real’. In the virtual world, it is important to be as ‘real’ as possible, as there is no one who comes to greet and guide you at the door (and believe me, instant chat pop-ups are no replacement for the greetings you receive offline).
The user experience online includes navigation, ease-of-use, site performance and security ( indicated by SSL certificates). Ease of use is primary, as if a site experience is cumbersome or not well thought-out, it amounts to a rude customer experience. If you have shopped online, I am sure that you have become frustrated when you couldn’t figure out how to get something out of your cart, or if there were too many steps involved in the checkout process.
You can double the annoyance factor if the site performance is slow, or bogs down. There is nothing more frustrating than making a decision to buy, having my credit card ready to go and not being able to check-out due to a server problem. It’s like going into a store, waiting at the cash register and being told that they can’t take your money.
Another factor that benefits store owners and helps the customer experience is the feed of additional items that are relevant to the items I am purchasing. I do realize this is a practice designed to get me to spend more – but I appreciate it when a site makes intelligent recommendations that can enhance my purchase.
For example, I just bought a video software program, and the store showed me a how-to book for that piece of software. I considered that a friendly recommendation, and I bought the book. The best time to engage a customer is when they are ready to buy, something offline stores know well. It is beneficial to use this same psychology in your online store.
The third factor that is critical to your online success is being on the first page of Google. I rarely go beyond the first page of Google when shopping for an item, and the further you are from the first page, the less traffic and sales you will get (this is also a credibility factor). Granted – it can be difficult to get on the first page of Google, but you have a lot of options these days:
- Have your site optimized for local search terms, so you are found in local area searches for the products/services you offer
- Make sure you have a fantastic Google Places listing
- Make sure your store is submitted to shopping comparison engines, which often appear on the first page of Google for various products.
- Bid on various keywords in Google AdWords, so you can appear in the paid listings. It’s not organic and it’s not free, but it is a viable option for getting on the first page and driving traffic.
If you want to increase your existing sales or start selling in 2012, I encourage you to create a strategy that incorporates the factors that influence purchasing online: the right price, a good user experience and getting found on Google will ensure your online success!