Plus Republic


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Edmonton, AB
Canada  T6E 5L1

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Breaking Down Online Retail Success Factors

February 9, 2012

Entrepreneur magazine recently released a report on online shopping predictions for the 2011 holiday season. Included in the report was their list of the top 5 ways to win over online customers.

Succeeding in online retail can be tricky. Though the online market is growing significantly, there are still customers who prefer to drive a few minutes to a physical store, get the product immediately, and not have to worry about the risks of extra processing or shipping fees. You have to make a pretty strong case to convince these customers that buying online is going to be more worthwhile for them. There are a number of ways to accomplish this – discounts, incentives, added convenience, or hard-to-find products. Entrepreneur had some other suggestions for making online shopping more appealing to your customers. We fully agree with their tips, but thought there were a few other key items that were missed, so we’ve expanded the list by adding six more tips of our own. Here are the top 11 ways to win online customers:

  1. Retarget browsers and abandoners with personalized e-mails and targeted display ads to prompt return visits.
  2. Engage with customers via social media, especially Facebook and Twitter. This includes developing special offers and content for social media followers.
  3. Add personalized product recommendations to your website, which can contribute 10 percent or more of total sales. Plug-ins like iGoDigital and 4-Tell can help you add these features to your site.
  4. Support mobile shopping and browsing by making your website compatible with mobile browsers or by developing customized apps for customers.
  5. Review and invest in web analytics to ensure that customers are able to navigate your site quickly and easily, and to see where they are spending time. Use this info to test changes and improvements.
  6. Localize your website so that your customers can shop in their own currency and see shipping information for their area. For example, if a customer enters a site from Canada, the prices should be in Canadian dollars and local shipping rates and times should be featured; when international customers browse the site, they should see prices in their currency, and international shipping rates and times should be displayed (is there anything worse than seeing a “Free Shipping!” banner only to find out it doesn’t apply to you?). Is there an area you can’t ship to? If so, customers shopping from that region should get an immediate disclaimer letting them know that you currently are not able to serve them.
  7. Post user ratings and reviews, encouraging reviewers to state specifically what they did or did not like about the product. This will help future customers to feel more confident and informed about their purchases. This is particularly important with apparel and other merchandise where fit is as important as function.
  8. Keep login simple. If you drag your customers through a series of obstacles and interrogations just to log in, you can bet that they won’t want to find out what the actual purchasing process is like. Keep in mind that email addresses are easier to remember than user names. Login should be available on every page, and when a user logs in, don’t take them to a new page! Odds are they’re logging in because they saw something on that page that they wanted to buy, and if you’re sending them to a different page, you’re likely killing the sale.
  9. Be flexible with payment and shipping options. Offer both credit card and PayPal as payment options. Consider giving customers the option to save their credit card information to make shopping as simple as a couple clicks of the mouse. Allow your customers to save any shipping or billing addresses they’ve used in the past so they don’t have to enter the same information every time.
  10. Integrate social media to simplify the login process. Set up your site so that customers can log in using their Facebook account. This way customers only have to remember their Facebook login (which is easy for most people, as many use Facebook almost daily), as opposed to trying to guess at which user name, email address, or password they used for your site last Christmas.
  11. Don’t hide the path to your products. If you’re going to feature a product on your Facebook page, don’t just post a photo; include the link! Or if a customer from the United States clicks on a link to a product on your Canadian site, reroute them to that product on the American site, not to the American site’s homepage. Look at it this way: if you walk in to a physical store looking for a specific product, but the staff just stare at you while you hunt through every single aisle to find it, refusing to help you, would you go back to that store? Probably not. The same customer service etiquette applies to your online business.

Are you an online retailer or service provider? How do you motivate people to become customers? How do you continue to engage existing customers? If you have any questions or comments, give us a call at (780) 989 0606 or email us at We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Image Credit: flickr