“When customers first encounter your eCommerce website, they do exactly the same thing they do when they walk into an unknown traditional storefront – look around, size up the place, and decide whether or not they trust the merchant enough to buy something from them. If you want them to buy something from your website, you need to do everything you can to make sure they find you trustworthy enough.” ~Susan Ward, author, Small Business: Canada
5 Ways To Make Your Storefront Mighty!
Did You Know That Your Storefront Set-Up Will Either Help or Hinder You in gaining the Buyer trust AND the increased exposure that lead to purchases? If you want every customer who sees your inventory to WANT to buy from YOU, read on!
Leading eCommerce marketing experts all agree that one of the most critical keys to generating sales, is inspiring Buyers’ confidence. eCommerce specialist ECWID states, “An e-commerce merchant is asking a lot of its potential customers: to part with their credit card details, to share their shipping address or the location of their home. These can be significant hurdles along your route to customer conversion. To make purchases confidently, a customer must be able to trust the vendor.”
Your Storefront represents your business, so what does say about it?
Do you have a professional looking banner image? Are your policies thoroughly explained and complete? Does your Storefront more resemble a last-minute garage sale? Accruing Buyer trust requires that Storefronts not only be seen, but that they inspire Buyer confidence in a Seller’s business. Social Media exposure draws traffic not only to individual Sellers, but also the entire site.
“…(One) incredibly effective way to relay your message on a global scale is to make your presence known on social media sites. With social media having taken the world by storm, the more social media channels you connect to, the bigger and better your online presence will be.”~E-Commerce Platforms
GoAntiques posts daily to social media channels on Instagram, FB and Pinterest, generating over 500,000 monthly views, and over 17,000 clicks to individual items posted to our Pinterest boards. We do this for our Sellers, free of charge, because we want our Sellers to be visible, and to attract buyers.
We regularly pin our Sellers’ items, with titles curated to draw attention, and make it clear the items are for sale. When a Pinterest viewer clicks on an item they find interesting, it goes directly to that inventory item in your storefront. However, a lack of a Storefront Banner, or completed storefront fields (descriptions, policies, etc) will not create a fabulous impression of a Seller’s Storefront, and can damage GoAntiques credibility as a trustworthy marketplace.
So, because we want every impression we create to be a positive one, GoAntiques’ policy is that we do not create social media links to, or highlight Sellers, until their Storefronts are complete, and their inventory terms are accurate.
“The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.” ~Jerry Gregoire, Senior VP, CIO Dell
STOREFRONTS THAT ARE INSPIRING & COMPLETE INCLUDE:
If you want a great and complete Storefront that will optimize the likelihood of Browsers becoming Buyers, here is a breakdown of required Storefront elements, with suggestions and best practices for inspiring Buyer confidence. As soon as your Storefronts are complete, send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will make a point of making sure you have some items pinned!
1. A UNIQUE STOREFRONT BANNER IMAGE also called a “Hero Image”):
Also called a “Hero Image,” this photo is the online equivalent of the brick & mortar exterior signage you’d display to show the public you were open for business. Think about what would interest visitors to stop, and “inquire within.” Think about what will make your business look solid, interesting, and well managed.
Your uploaded photo should be a horizontal image, particular to your Storefront, (not the GoAntiques placeholder, a minimum of 650px wide by 350px high, JPEG format. It can be a photo of your brick & mortar storefront, or text that functions like signage.
“Every great business is built on friendship.” ~JC Penney
2. A GREAT STOREFRONT DESCRIPTION:
PERSONALIZE YOUR BUSINESS
People want to know who you are and what sets you apart from others. A Storefront Description that includes your story, the history and passion behind your business, what you specialize in, and how long you’ve been in business, will make you more relatable to your customers, helping customers feel as if they know you. This will make them more comfortable in buying your items. A unique story can also be a valuable tool for distinguishing oneself from the crowd, as well as building a repeat clientele.
“Profit in business comes from repeat customers; customers that boast about your product and service, and that bring friends with them.” ~W. Edwards Deming, adviser, consultant, author, and teacher to some of the most influential businessmen, corporations, and scientific pioneers of business process re-engineering, directly responsible for inspiring and guiding the spectacular rise of Japanese industry after World War II.
3. A PHONE NUMBER & ADDRESS TO GIVE YOUR ECOMMERCE STOREFRONT A PHYSICAL PRESENCE
A simple yet effective way to build the confidence of your online customers is by adding a phone number to your website. A phone number means that you exist in reality, rather than just in the virtual world. You can add your physical address, that of your brick & mortar store, or of your warehouse.
If you have an independent website, you are welcome to include it here, as well your store hours. The need for a physical address is even more important when you are selling items of a high value. Sites that do not provide this information generally experience lower sales.
NOTE: You can create a personalized GoAntiques URL, by going into your Seller Dashboard to Tools>Seller Storefront >Storefront Options>Nickname. Add your store’s name as a single word, with each words’ first letter capitalized. Example: “Minto’s Amazing Antiques” would be added in the Nickname field as: MintosAmazingAntiques.
The URL for my Storefront would then become http://www.goantiques.com/members/MintosAmazingAntiques instead of http://www.goantiques.com/members/4747474 (my imaginary GoA membership number).
“Loyal customers, they don’t just come back, they don’t simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you.” ~Chip Bell, world-renowned authority on customer loyalty and service innovation, writing over 600 articles for many business journals, magazines, and blogs.
4. POSTED REVIEWS & REFERRALS
- 72% of consumers say positive reviews make them trust businesses more.
- 68% of consumers trust opinions posted online.
- Word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20% to 50% of all purchasing decisions.
- 84% of consumers reported always or sometimes taking action based on personal recommendations. 70% said they did the same with online consumer opinions.
Ask customers, especially if you have repeat clients, to give you a quick review, and post the best to your Storefront Description. These become virtual referrals. Reviews make a tremendous difference in winning over and keeping customers. Both praise and criticism are helpful.
Display the best comments, and privately use any negative comments to understand areas that need improvement. Do respond quickly and courteously whenever a customer gives you feedback.
“It’s your job to convince (shoppers) that your products offer the solutions that they seek. One of the easiest ways to build shoppers’ confidence in your product is anticipating their questions and answering them…”~ECWID
5. ALL POLICY FIELDS THOUGHTFULLY COMPLETED:
Policies Answer Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) BEFORE They Are Asked. So, start by asking yourself, “What are the questions customers ask the most, in general, and particular to what I sell?” Posting this information, ahead of time, not only encourages buyer confidence, but stated policies also cut down time answering common questions, and prevent misunderstandings before they take place.
Consider including what you require for lead time, information pertaining to custom orders, sizing, special sourcing, or other services you may offer, that are in addition to the following policies.
a. PAYMENT POLICY:
List the payment methods & the currencies you accept, whether your prices include shipping, taxes, overseas tariffs/customs, whether you offer discounts on multiple item purchases, accept lay-away payments, require payment to be made in US dollars, etc. Tell shoppers about any and all optional, or additional costs (for example the sizing of a ring, engraving, or anything else) that could be in addition to the stated prices.
If you accept offers, or offer discounts, be sure to mention that you must approve the offered price BEFORE the Buyer pays. PLEASE Make sure to check your Storefronts regularly, and do not leave customers offers & emails hanging. Put up a notice if you expect to be away more than a few days, just as would for a physical Storefront.
b. SHIPPING POLICY:
We HIGHLY encourage ALL our Sellers to use a shipping method which provides a tracking number, and to include/charge for insurance, covering the entire purchase price, plus all shipping costs. This is especially important for items with prices over $50-$100, and mandatory for international sales.
Be sure to state this, ahead of time, in your Shipping Policy. Limited insurance is already included when you use USPS Priority Mail. If your Buyer refuses insurance, make sure you have that clearly stated, in an email. This protects you, should an item be damaged, rifled, or be lost in shipping.
State, in general terms, average time required from when you receive payment to shipping out an ordered item. Be sure to email customers their tracking number when you mail their items. If you are an International Seller, take the time to use your Shipping Policy field to briefly explain overseas processes, packing & shipping, insurance methods & costs and timing, which will greatly reassure customers that you are dependable. NOTE: Buyers are increasingly willing to purchase from global Sellers, as long as they understand the process, and are confident in the Seller.
“In the world of Internet Customer Service, it’s important to remember your competitor is only one mouse click away.” ~Doug Warner, VP & Global Head of Tech Vision & Strategy at Hewlitt Packard
c. RETURN,REFUND, EXCHANGE POLICY:
Buyers are FAR less likely to trust or purchase from Sellers with whom they have no ability to resolve an issue. A recent UPS study found that more than 80% of shoppers refuse to shop where there is a “no return,” or difficult return policy. A CNBC study found that when free returns are offered, purchases can increase by up to a whopping 357% !
In many countries, including both Australia and the UK, customers actually have a legal right to returns, or refunds within 2 weeks of purchase. So, while we expect that policies will, of course, vary from Seller to Seller, and while we do not dictate WHAT our Seller’s Return Policies must include, GoAntiques REQUIRES that ALL Sellers MUST HAVE some stated recourse, in the unlikely event of an unhappy Buyer.
List whether you offer exchanges, or refunds, or returns, or all. List exclusions (ie: customized items) time constraints, restocking fees, or if you have procedures that must be followed, for example, in the the case of items damaged in shipping, items that go missing, or those that include international customs, special packaging, which might require that shippers be notified IN ADVANCE, or have other requirements such that insurance is not invalidated.
Whatever your individual Return Policy is, understand that research unquestionably indicates that nothing turns a customer off faster than struggling through a difficult return process, or being stuck with a product they don’t need, because your policy is non-existent or confusing.
Make your return terms clear from the start, go the extra mile whenever you can, and you’ll deal with less backlash later. No one enjoys the extra hassle a return involves, however, knowing that possibility of a return just exists is very often the deciding factor in whether a customer buys from a Seller, and whether he returns to that Seller time after time.
“Businesses spend large chunks of their marketing budget for promotions on Google and Facebook to encourage sales. But the truth is, the most strategic, well-placed ads are often less powerful and convincing than an alternative cheaper form of marketing: word-of-mouth recommendations.”~Sellbrite, multi-channel eCommerce specialist
Bill Gates said that, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” This is the reason I have been so active in the GoAntiques Support Center. If someone needs help, more often than not, these days, they reach me. There is no faster way to get the pulse of your business, to know how to prioritize improvements, than by fielding questions, resolving technical issues, hearing Buyer and Seller concerns and comments.
ECommerce retailer, Zappos.com, is my current inspiration, and sets the bar for customer service very high. They sell, mainly, shoes, and not necessarily at a discount (sorry, dear husband). Over the years, I have purchased many pairs of shoes from them, 2 of which were returned or exchanged, one for fit, and 1 for a faulty heel, just 3 months ago. Yesterday, I ordered from them AGAIN, because their customer service is so outstanding, that I trust and prefer them, even over businesses with large brick & mortar stores.
“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”~Mahatma Gandhi
Your businesses may not be the size of Zappos, but being aware of eCommerce “best practices,” effective ways to engage and inspire Buyers to purchase, and, what is needed to keep them coming back…well, these involve the same core smart business practices as in generations past, only adjusted to the internet. Do what you CAN, and keep alive that “old school” great business attitude, and the effort that “goes the extra mile” to make every customer, even a difficult one, thrilled with your customer service.
GoAntiques is drawing traffic to the site. Make your Storefront work hard and smart for you. Make them the best they can be. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. And, most sincerely, let us know if you have questions, need a few suggestions, or could use some extra encouragement.
All the very best,
If you’d like to read previous Newsletters, click here.
- More info on choosing a banner image: https://www.shopify.com/blog/16480796-how-to-create-beautiful-and-persuasive-hero-images-for-your-online-store
- How to Write a Good Return Policy for E-сommerce Stores