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How to sell smarter – staying ahead of consumer expectations on the web and in-store (part two of two)

Eventually, you will need a website, if you don’t already have one – and it requires ongoing care, attention and maintenance. A Neilsen survey last year showed 45% of New Zealanders now shop online and more than 1.4 million bought online between April 2009 and April 2010. You can’t afford to not have a presence.

When prospective customers click on to your website – perhaps because you have piqued their interest on Twitter or a Facebook friend recommended you – they will decide within two seconds whether they are going to stay. And that decision will be based purely on how your website looks.

Design is everything and the days of the DIY website are over – your website must deliver the experience that customers expect.

Your customers are the only judges of whether it does that, and the technical term for finding out their verdict is “usability testing”. Large organisations engage usability consultants to carry out in-depth testing, but even the smallest retailer can undertake some basic testing that won’t cost a cent.

Ask customers or prospective customers to browse your site as if they are making a purchase. Watch what they do, take notice of what they have difficulty with. No matter how good you think your website is, if your customers can’t find your “buy now” button or your 0800 number, or if they find your shopping cart confusing, you have to change things.

Think mobile.

The increasing popularity of smart phones and tablets means most retailers also need to think about how they are going to use mobile channels to build their brands.

Applications such as Foursquare, which allows users to “log in” when they are at your premises and provides you with ways of rewarding their loyalty, are possibilities. But there are more – if a prospective customer is in a competitor’s store and wants to check the price of an item via their smart phone before buying, can they check your prices? Can they buy online via their mobile?

Interestingly, in a seminar on the increasing use of mobile devices, Caroline Dewe of Alphero Ltd explained that some customers were now effectively “always on,”  using their smart phones as a tool to search, research and buy whenever they wanted, wherever they were.

In that world, she said, retailers really have to invest time and money working out precisely how mobile technology will work for them. It’s not a matter of just investing in an iPhone app or repeating your website on mobile devices – it’s a matter of really researching what journey your customers are making.

Consider the many channels available (and coordinate them).

Again, you are a brand, not a store. Each channel, whether it is your store, your website or your social media presence, is just that – a channel for your brand. It’s just another way of steering your customers towards you and away from your competitors.

All those channels have to work together – so there are no road blocks in the journey and customers continue to have control over which path to take.  All the good impressions created by how your website looks and how easy it is to navigate will be undone if an online customer’s order can’t be filled because the website didn’t recognise that item was out of stock. Likewise if a customer researches online then comes to one of your stores only to find it’s just run out.

Advances in online technology are giving all customers more information and control – and that includes you, in your role as your suppliers’ customer. As our colleague Steve Foster explained in his workshop on mobile CRM, your suppliers are using mobile customer relationship management tools to ensure a better, more efficient, more responsive and ultimately more profitable (for both parties) relationship with you.

So when sales reps or account managers visit, bringing their iPads or tablets, they will be able to show you directly their sales trend research results to help you fine tune your order to meet your customers’ expectations. And that information they provide will be up-to-the-minute, not based on research from a month ago that may since have changed.

They’ll also be able to instantly place your orders, speeding up delivery. 

They’ll be able to let you know, there and then – instantly accessing a research database  – how sales of a stocked item will improve if you move it to a new position. And they will be able to instantly check whether they can accommodate your planned promotion, or whether, perhaps, something else might work better.

Online technology has changed the retail world forever, and retailers must in many ways adopt a different mindset from retailers of a generation ago. But, in one important aspect, the mindset is the same – it’s all about the customers, what they want, how they behave and how you can meet their needs.

If you start from that basis, keeping up online becomes a much easier task.

Retail Show 2011

Posted by: Daniel Munns, Retail Specialist | 25 May 2011

Tags: CRM, Social Media, Engaged Web, Twitter, Retail trends, 2011 predictions, Intergen website, Facebook

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