10 Tips for Online Business Success W ith so many online businesses selling basically the same products, many at prices close to yours, it can be challenging to create a successful online business. After a number of years in the retail industry I have found that many of the business practices can be transferred from a brick and mortar business to the online world and, if done right, can help nearly any online business achieve success. Whether you are selling a product or a service, customers basically want the same thing from the company with which they conduct business. Customers want to feel important and they want to know they are appreciated. These tips can help you achieve that and improve the bottom line of your online business. Know what your customers want before they know they want it We are not clairvoyant, but by studying the habits of your customers you will see patterns that indicate what your customers are not only buying, but how they are buying it and why. Think seasonal patterns. Study your competition to see when they start pushing different type of merchandise. Don’t be afraid to be different When I first started out with an online business, I tended to follow the leaders. That is, I often patterned my business model after other businesses that offered the same types of service I was going to offer. What I failed to realize was that these companies had something I did not have…a reputation. Before customers willingly spend their money on what you are offering, they have to feel comfortable doing business with you. Credibility is an important part of building your online reputation and appearing just like all of the other online businesses is not going to convince customers that you are better. Look over your website and find a way to differentiate yourself from the hundreds, if not thousands of others that provide the same service. One of the basic tenets of the retail world is to walk the store like a customer The same is true with an online business. Take an objective look at your business and how the customer sees it when they first click on your site. Better yet, have a friend or relative look over your site. As the business owner I knew exactly what was being portrayed but it wasn’t until my daughter, a professional graphic artist pointed out that many of the offerings weren’t specific that I could see what was missing. Simple language can make a big difference in how you present yourself to your customers. While working in retail, most employees, myself included used “corporate speak” on a daily basis but our customers had no idea what we were talking about. I learned to explain things to customers in a language they could understand and it made a big difference in effectively communicating with them. Recommended:- Bloggers Communication Qualities You Should Adopt Make your site different Many websites have taken search engine optimization efforts too far. They have heard that search engines look for quality text-based information that is relevant to the search term entered and turned their website into batches of reading material. Frankly, if customers want to read, they’ll go to the library. Most people are attracted to a visual experience. Graphic presentations not only draw their attention, but it helps them remember you. Textual material is important and if you can’t use text embedded in your graphics, don’t go overboard with text. It may draw the search engines’ attention but search engines are never converted into customers, humans are. Make hot deals prominent on your site Businesses usually lose money on clearance items so they tend to hide them, wanting customers instead to buy things at the regular price. However, many traditional businesses use discounted items as loss leaders, meaning they are willing to sell something below cost, hoping customers will buy other items with a higher mark-up. Make your hot deals prominent on your site to grab their attention. Be recognizable to your customers When customers see or hear your name, it needs to be immediately recognizable. When you are first starting out in an online business, your marketing will also include some off line efforts. Your logo, internet address and/or your company’s tag line needs to consistently be present. Whether you sponsor a local sports team or take out ads in the local paper, when your logo is seen by potential customers, they instantly think of you. Let your internet presence be known Following name recognition is the work you need to do to make sure your name comes up high on search engine results pages. Before you launch your internet business, make sure the site if SEO ready. If you have already launched, don’t be afraid to make amends with the search engines. If the move requires a re-launch, keep your site’s colors and logo the same (remember consistency) and use the opportunity to send out a press release announcing the new site. Recommended: Building Social Media Presence Learn quickly from your mistakes If you make a mistake be quick to admit it. Mea Culpa can quickly turn a customer around and by admitting the mistake and offering to make it good, can turn a bad customer experience around, making a friend instead of a former customer. Keep focus on back-end operations Too many online businesses focus exclusively on the customer experience while they peruse a website. If they have trouble at the checkout, you will lose them. Remember the part about walking the store like a customer? If they have to stand in line too long, they probably won’t be back. If your online customers have to surf through too many pages and have trouble figuring out how to pay for their purchases, they probably won’t make even that first purchase. Exceed customers’ expectations Instead of asking a customer, “How can I help you?” Try asking “What can I do for you today? Sure, it’s a matter of semantics but the customer sees it as you trying to make an effort to help them. I remember calling an online business to complain about a faulty part on an item I purchased from them. The handle on the lid of a crock pot came off after the first use. The customer service representative promised to send a new lid. The very next day I received a whole new crock pot- sent Federal Express. From that experience I will be a loyal customer. Constantly seeing what your customers want, and treating each one like they are the most important person in the world, will turn them into life-long friends as well as customers. From my experience with that company, it correctly figure that even though they were losing the price of the crock pot, and the shipping cost, I would come back and buy more.