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In the age of cyber shopping, it should be no surprise that consumers worldwide are utilising the extensive variety of advanced purchasing applications. These applications are available via mobile devices, smartphones and the web to make fast, cost efficient and informed choices when purchasing products and services online. But just how widespread is this online purchasing revolution? And what does it mean for your e-commerce business?
Whilst buying trends vary greatly according to the demographic of the target market and the nature of the product on offer, on average it’s estimated that about eight-in-ten consumers are currently online customers with 79% having made an online buy of any sort and 51% have purchased something utilising a smartphone or similar mobile device. In addition, social media is still playing a major role in influencing purchasing decisions with around 15% of consumers having bought a product or service following a promotion on a web-based social networking destination. These statistics show a marked increase in the trend of using the internet as a first port of call for products and services compared to those utilising online platforms at the start of the millennium.
Given that online buying trends have increased so rapidly, and are still on the increase, it makes sense for your business to utilise the vibrant and extensive buying platforms the internet has to offer. One of the huge advantages is that e-commerce is extremely cost effective, meaning you can run a successful, multi-strand e-commerce business with ease alongside your current physical sales model. Take advantage of all the tools at your disposal – such as free or low cost web hosting, selling pages on social media sites and dedicated mobile applications.
Buying trends also suggest that online consumers are becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to carrying out their research before purchasing a particular product or service. The internet offers a rich repository of information readily available to any would be consumer – in the form of online reviews, price comparison sites and the sharing of good or bad customer service reviews on social media sites. But how can you as a seller respond to this information overload? Online retailers who keep track of their offering’s visibility online can really turn this trend for information sharing to their advantage, engaging directly with their customers, increasing their customer service reputation and pricing their product competitively.
Three top tips for good practice when engaging with customers online are:
It’s a given that any savvy consumer will either use a price comparison site or tool or visit several different providers to source the most competitive deal. If your price point is way off the mark customers will look no further, so it’s vital do your own research. Check similar providers and ensure that your pricing is broadly in line with what others are offering.
If customers have taken the time to write up a review of your product or service online it goes without saying that you should respond positively to their input. If the review is positive, thank them for their time and say you’ll be glad to welcome further custom soon. If the review is negative, address their criticism constructively and offer to help put things right. This enables you to offer the human interaction that can be missing from online transactions. Don’t forget it is not just one consumer – millions of people have instant access to a review posted online and your response could make a huge difference as to whether current customers become repeat customers and new customers decide to engage.
It should be obvious, but it really is incredible how many times retailers respond to customer reviews with a virtual verbal tirade. Just because the interaction is virtual there is no excuse to slate your customers or disregard their views. Amusing as it is for the casual web browser to read a virtual cat fight between buyer and seller there really is nothing worse for your business. If you wouldn’t say it to your customer’s face, don’t say it online – the repercussions are even more significant given that most reviews are public and therefore the audience for your argument with a customer is much greater than in the physical world.
Which leads us to our final point – despite the huge popularity of online purchasing, don’t forget that a physical sales environment still has a significant amount to offer. Generally speaking, 64% of consumers demonstrate that despite the status quo, they’re still inclined towards purchasing from physical stores as opposed to purchasing on the web. For some, particularly those in certain sales demographics, there can be no substitute for physical browsing and the human touch that a traditional, physical selling platform offers. If you are able to offer a physical selling space alongside your virtual offerings this combination is ideal – customers may well look up information about your business online before coming to visit your store, or chat to a salesperson instore before going away and purchasing online. With the two working in tandem to harmonise your sales strategy and inform consumers about your product or service, you really can have the best of both worlds.