Tips to Better Online Store Results
TIP 1: Narrow Your Target Market
The single best thing you can do to increase your online store results is to actually reduce your customer base! I know that seems counter-intuitive, but it’s true, and it works. Say your online store sells brooms. Well, there’s not a lot to separate you from your competition, so you end up competing on price, customer service, fast shipping or other methods that frankly, don’t stand out.
Now imagine if instead you focus strictly on selling brooms to people with limited storage options. Now, take that concept even deeper — what if you target people who have VERY limited storage options — people who live on boats, in RVs or even airplanes. Suddenly your niche is very specific, yet there are hundreds of thousands of people around the world who live in such confined spaces, yet still need to sweep them up. It’s a niche you can now actively market to.
A side benefit of having such a narrow niche is it becomes easier to become an expert to your customers, and you reduce the need to carry inventory that doesn’t apply to your market.
TIP 2: Expand Your Product Line
Once you have narrowed your target market, it’s time to look at how you can expand your product line to server your niche. Following the example of TIP 1, let’ say you’ve begun getting a foothold and brand recognition with people who live on boats and in RVs.
Now that you’re an expert on the products your market needs, there are probably companion items that fit your niche — dustpans, multi-purpose cleaners that don’t have an odor (smells are worse in a small environment) and come in small bottles, small-but-tough trash bag liners, small-space-living storage solutions. You get the idea.
TIP 3: Ask Your Customers
Your customers are your best source of future business. They’ll refer others to you and they’ll order additional products. But it’s a little known fact that your customers can also be your BEST SOURCE of new product ideas. After all, if you’ve narrowed down your niche enough, chances are your customers are all facing similar challenges and have similar needs. Needs YOU CAN MEET if you simply ask what they are.
Use online surveys, follow-up phone calls and other methods to find out what other products they use, or what products they’d like to have. Even if the product is available from your competition, remember, you’ve already established yourself as an expert in your niche market, and people will buy from you, even paying a few dollars more, if you truly understand their needs and have a variety of products they desire.
TIP 4: Know Your Competition
The smaller the niche, the fewer competitors you’ll face. This is the time to embrace your competition, not be scared of it. Call up your competition, introduce yourself and begin building a relationship. Just because you sell to the same audience doesn’t mean you can’t know whom else plays in that market — you can bet your customers know!
So instead of avoiding the competition, take the time to get to know them. Even with small niche markets, there are enough customers for everyone. I can tell you that I even get business from my competition — if they don’t have an item a customer wants in stock, they often send the customer to me!
TIP 5: Know Your Limits
When your niche is narrow it’s even more important to under promise and over deliver. That includes knowing when to say “no”. For example, don’t promise same-day shipping unless you’re positive your processes can nail it every time. Make sure you clearly communicate what the limits are, too. If you don’t clearly state your shipping policy, for example, your customers may assume you ship the same day, or that overnight shipping is an option.
This extends to every aspect of your site and online store. From customer payment options to returns and refunds. It’s much better to address potential issues up front, and have already thought through how you plan to deal with them. Since you already know what you’ll do, you might as well let your customers know up front, too.
TIP 6: Build a Site Map
This helps people quickly find their way around if they get lost. Yes, it helps search engines, too, but remember, your web site should be customer-friendly first and foremost. Search engines don’t buy a thing!
If you’re not sure how to do this, check with your web person or search Google. Google also has a great set of web developer tools.
TIP 7: MAKE IT FUN
Your web site doesn’t have to be stiff and stilted in the wording. Have fun with product descriptions, policies and the other information. It adds personality and helps convert the buying decision from a “needs” purchase to a “want”. This can also separate you from the competition and drive repeat visits to your site.