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The Future of Commerce is Online - Are You?

If you’re not offering your customers the possibility of buying your goods or services online, you’re letting them down and leaving money on the table. Even long-established retailers are realizing that getting their store online is essential for success. Don’t get left behind.

The world has gone digital, and globally so. Your customers are just as busy as you are and are better connected than ever before. It’s a time of unprecedented marketing opportunities, where customers can be targeted through every connected device they own. Never before have they had so much choice in what they buy, how they buy it, and who from. Competition and expectation are high; inconvenience and tolerance are low. It’s not a trend. It’s not a temporary blip in the history of commerce. It’s the future.

Selling online is crucial to business success. And an e-store is a necessity. So what? Build it and they will come?

Be Smart – Go Digital

Did people rush in off the street the moment you opened your doors? Do they keep coming back because there are no alternatives? Does your customer base grow simply because people keep moving to your area?

No! People come, buy, and return to your business because of all the other work you’re doing: the branding, the customer service, the shopping experience, the quality:price guarantee, your expertise, the window displays, the advertising, the referrals, the events…

Yes, it was a lot of hard work, but it paid off. And yes, opening an e-store requires the same amount of sweat and blood, but you already know what you’re doing. So, it’s just about transferring this knowhow to the digital arena—where you do what you’re already doing… but for hundreds of thousands more customers than could ever fit through your doors… and it’s all automated!

So, where to start? Well, a successful business starts with customers. And before they were customers, they were mere foot traffic. And to get them inside, you first had to let them know of your existence. So let’s start there.

Put Yourself on the Scene – Get Social

When the whole world is your oyster, it seems inevitable that people will naturally come across your website. But it’s actually all too easy to get lost in the myriad other websites—all with similar offerings. So, you first need to let people know that you’re online and mean business.

Cheap and easy, engaging potential customers by creating rich and visually exciting content across social platforms is still one of the most effective ways of getting your brand out there and getting people interested.

Remember, however, it’s not your website—it’s a social space. So, share videos of how you create your masterpieces, posts on fun product facts, or photos of the new office dog. (Nothing gets attention quite like a cute puppy!) This kind of content helps fill the digital void between you and your potential customer and encourages interaction and engagement—your first step to getting people in the door and learning more about them.

Social platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, offer sophisticated tools like post boosting and targeted advertising based on demographics specific to your business—so your content is pushed to the people who are most likely to be interested in what you’re offering, and there’s a greater chance they’ll visit your online store.

So now that your website is receiving visitors you’ve sent over from your social platforms, how do you convert them from visitor to customer?

Go the Extra Mile – for Them and You

Treat the encounter (and all ensuing ones) like a date—dress to impress, flatter, serenade, ask all sorts of questions, listen to the answers, and offer to pay for the wine. In short—give them a hell of a time.

So how does this translate to your e-store?

Make sure you’ve chosen an e-commerce solution that’s up for the job, and then make the most of its super-sophisticated tools. Personalize the page to the customer’s location (e.g., free delivery to Helena, Montana), make smart product recommendations based on other users’ preferences (e.g., customers who bought this scarf bought these gloves to match), offer first-time customer or volume discounts (e.g., only $9 each when you buy three), and ensure the whole customer journey is smooth from start to finish (e.g., multilingual content, fast loading pages, easy-to-navigate architecture, useful product filters, images and video in product descriptions, customer reviews and ratings, easy options for payment via multiple gateways in multiple currencies, and automated thank you confirmations.)

And while you’re at it, get them to sign up to your automated monthly newsletter detailing all new products and special deals, offer them voucher codes in return for recommendations on Facebook or for filling out an online questionnaire, reward their loyalty with free shipping or discounts, automatically remind them about abandoned baskets, and encourage them to use wish lists and share them with friends (aka potential new customers).

And while you’re doing all this, you may as well collect information like which products are selling best to which customer personas, which pages and design combinations are performing best, which discounts are most effective, where the most customers come from, which search terms are most used to find you, and which customer experiences are most successful in eliciting loyalty.

Exceed Expectations - Plan for Success

There’s a reason so many businesses are now offering an online experience to their customers. In fact, there are many reasons. Not only does your customer want it, need it, and expect it, but you benefit greatly from the information they bring with them and the wealth of opportunities opened up in delivering exceptional customer experience.

With more and more people going online first when looking for goods and services (even doing research and comparisons while in the physical store) and forward-thinking brands merging the actual shopping experience more with the digital one, offering an e-equivalent of your bricks and mortar existence is essential for success. If you’re not willing to be where your customer needs you, how they need you, and when they need you, you’re not going to be part of their consideration.

But remember that it isn’t enough to simply build a website, integrate an online store, and wait. You need to be engaging those potential customers, pulling them in with your creative and catchy content, delighting them with an unforgettable and tailored experience, assisting them with purchase decisions, and making parting with their money the least painful thing they’ve done all day.

And when you get the hang of it, you’ll not just have customers that love your brand and what you offer, but you’ll have dramatically increased sales, glowing referrals, and customers for life.

What about you e-commerce strategies? How developed are they? Let us know in the comments section below.

You can find out how you can leverage Kentico’s powerful E-commerce features in your projects too here.

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