web marketing

Web Differences We Don’t Notice

There is a difference between doing business offline, and doing business online. And it takes some time to learn what some of the subtle differences are. One of the biggest is, that you are presenting blindfolded, to a mute audience.

Good tracking, and good analysis can only partially make up for the fact that you cannot see how your customer reacts, nor can you hear what they are thinking. You can only measure that they stayed, bought, or left.

When you meet a potential client, and tell them what you do, they give you feedback – their expression, their questions, or their disinterest. You can adjust, and make up for a bad first impression, and they may change their mind and listen. You can clarify a confusing point, and move on to build a relationship with them.

In a store situation, if a customer has questions, you can answer them. They can pick up an item, handle it, and see the size for themselves. If they want something that you HAVE, but which is still boxed up in the back room, you can run get it and present it then and there.

With used items, they can examine it for themselves, judge the degree of wear, look for identifying marks that would tell them whether it is of extraordinary value or not.

Online, all of those things change.

  • If your explanations are confusing, most people WON’T ask. They leave. You don’t know why.
  • If your descriptions are ambiguous, people usually won’t ask for more detail – they’ll go to a store that has it already.
  • If your photos are unclear, they won’t be able to see for themselves.
  • Since they cannot handle something to examine it up close, they’ll rely on good descriptions and photos of used items. Otherwise, they’ll be afraid to buy.
  • Even if you post a message that you may have other items, most people won’t inquire. If you do not post a notice, they won’t ask at all.

Most of the time, there is no second chance. You don’t get the same cues and ability to adjust that you get in real life. You get one chance, the first time, and if you muff it, they leave. Some of the rules to compensate are:

  1. Get to the point. Make your meaning clear using common keywords, but also using keywords that someone might use who is not familiar with your industry terms.
  2. Organize things logically, so they can find it easily. Use web standards for locations, page names, and site structures.
  3. Put contact info right out front. Make it easy for them to ask questions or contact you. This is even more important for service businesses that do not use a shopping cart.
  4. Make descriptions clear, complete, and detailed. More information is better in this instance. Of course, since some people will be put off by huge descriptions, it is wise to have a short description which is linked to a more detailed description.
  5. Provide clear photos. If an item is used and has damage, photograph the damage. They are relying on you to be their eyes and hands – so be meticulous.
  6. Never exaggerate the value of something. Be 100% accurate in how you describe things. Otherwise you’ll appear dishonest. Offline, it is common to exaggerate, because the customer can feel it and judge for themselves. Online, the marketplace rules change, and they have to trust you to do that for them, so accuracy is very important.
  7. Anticipate common questions, fears, or concerns, and address them up front. Provide an FAQ, an informational area, or details to answer those questions ahead of time.
  8. If you have additional stock, either get it up fast, or post a notice on every page that additional items may be available.
  9. Think about it from the customer’s standpoint. What do they want? Is it easy for them to find it? Can they know for certain that you have it?
  10. Present for the lowest common denominator. Your information needs to be for the least familiar of customers. If you provide information for more informed customers, then it needs to be in a “more details” type presentation – simplified here, more details here, in a way that is easy for the more informed customers to find.

While new and more interactive options are available all the time, for the most part, web marketing is still passive marketing. You present, they do with it what they choose. Your success depends entirely upon what you present, and how.

Make it easy for them to buy from you. That doesn’t mean manipulation, it means anticipating their needs, and meeting them in an efficient way. And THAT is the mark of good customer service, and consideration.

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