Providing good customer service can be key to a successful company’s selling strategy. Self-service solutions, like putting customers in touch with each other in online forums instead of directing them to a staffed customer service department, are becoming prevalent and popular. In this case, giving your customer what they want means helping them to quickly and efficiently find answers.
“The vast majority of survey respondents (75 percent) find self-service is a convenient way to address customer service issues. Additionally, 67 percent of consumers prefer self-service, over speaking to a company representative.” - Nuance Research
Choosing a solution that works for every customer is becoming more and more challenging, both because of the multitude of learning styles and because there are so many different ways to provide service. When looking over the menu of self-serve customer service options you can offer, remember that using the most popular might be more efficient and effective than trying to provide every available option.
Built-in help, like FAQs or help documentation in the product or on your company’s website, is the first place many customers go to find answers. This is the cornerstone of your help options; consider having a goal that most of your customers should be able to find the answers they need in the built-in help. Calling out the help link in your navigation can help make sure users go there first. Creating an FAQ or Top 10 list can float the most common questions and answers to the top. In your help button or menu, provide options such as forums, blogs, YouTube, online service support and a phone number. You could even provide a “rate this page” feature that, over time, would allow you to tailor your support to the needs of your customers.
Forums have become a popular way of providing help to customers. They allow your customer support staff to interact with customers and the public in a non-real-time format that can be easier to staff and maintain. In addition, you may be able to tap your dedicated customer base—which may have significant expertise with your product—to answer questions alongside your official representatives. Your company can run a support forum using a number of free or paid platforms such as vBulletin, phpBB, or getSatisfaction.
Blogging gives your company a voice. Blog entries are often written in a more informal manner than marketing copy or technical documentation, and many companies use a rotating cast of subject matter experts and writers to keep the content fresh and topical. Writing a post for the company blog can bring writers closer to understanding their customers. Managed correctly, a blog can be a win-win for both sides of the table. Like the options in forum software, there are a varieties of blog platforms to choose from (such as WordPress, Blogger, and Typepad) and in many cases the service is provided free of charge.
Finally, using social media platforms to provide support has become de rigueur. Gartner has predicted that by the end of 2012 more than 60% of the Fortune 500 will “actively engage” customers on Facebook, up dramatically from 20% in the fourth quarter of 2011. The statistics on adoption of YouTube and Twitter are similarly impressive—try on these 23 Startling Social Media Statistics provided by Parature.
Delivering good customer service can be both challenging and a risky business. Companies must be available to help their customers across all channels. Those who are most successful are those who do their best to remove obstacles and friction that waste their buyers’ time and try their patience.
Regardless of how you choose to provide customer service, doing it well and making it easy to use is a good start to leaving a positive and lasting impression on your customers. Doing it wrong, creating unnecessary complexity, may result in unforgiving customers. Well-run businesses provide world-class self-support because they focus on the endgame: attracting, engaging and retaining customers.
Image credit: Polycart, “Plastic Self Service Carts Nested” May 6, 2011 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
This post is part of a weekly series, reviewing new sites launched on Amazon Webstore.
Beantown Bedding has new, interesting products—in short, they’re disposable bedsheets—and they’ve done an impressive job of telling their brand story in a highly-customized site built on Amazon Webstore.
The joy of the new Beantown Bedding site is that it exudes the entrepreneurial spirit and enthusiasm of its founders. Their story? Two moms, about to send their oldest children to college, are inspired to create these new “laundry-free linens” that are friendly to the lazy college student lifestyle. A page of compelling “gross stats” (people can perspire up to a liter per night!) adds to the story-telling.
Site design-wise, there are a few points that stand out:
- They’ve made the site their own. It’s clear that they started with their own vision, and customized the Amazon Webstore templates until they had what they wanted. The result? A unique, great-looking site.
- It’s sophisticated. Beantown Bedding has managed to keep the focus on their products without making the site overly commercial—they didn’t sacrifice any aesthetics to promote the commerce. By building all the content on the Webstore platform, the transactional part of the site fits in seamlessly.
- There’s some SEO effort, too. While there aren’t a lot of pages on the site, having a separate “sustainability” page may bring in a set of search traffic they might not have had if they’d lumped everything together on the “about” page.
In Their Own Words
Joan Ripple, co-founder of Beantown Bedding, talked to us about choosing Amazon Webstore as their retail channel:
“We chose Amazon.com because we are a startup company and need to generate awareness and scale as quickly as possible. Given Amazon’s reputation, as well as the bundle of services available, it was an easy choice for us. We opted to use FBA, Webstore hosting with Checkout by Amazon, and selling on Amazon.
We expect Amazon Webstore to be instrumental in helping us gain national recognition in a short period of time as it is currently our only channel for retail distribution. Other online retailers have told us that Amazon helped them achieve rapid growth, and we hope to have a similar experience.”
You have likely spent months or years optimizing your website to drive search traffic to your website. As eCommerce professionals we have been conditioned by the online industry and by SEO companies that to sell products we must optimize around this highly coveted search traffic. Previous posts in this blog showed how to gain both search traffic and client conversion value from something as simple as quality product descriptions. With all of this optimization focus, can we apply these principles to our social presence as well, and yield new clients and revenues?
With a focused effort on key aspects of your social activities, you likely can! When we talk about optimizing for social we are referring to your social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+ (among others). In this post we hope to provide some key insights into how optimizing your social profile can impact your overall results.
Picture yourself shopping in your favorite shopping mall. Once you’re inside one of your favorite stores, take a look around—it’s been optimized for your visual and emotional cues. Savvy retailers have their items displayed in specific locations with imagery that can invoke emotional responses and engagement. Brick and mortar retailers have usually optimized their stores to make sure you don’t leave without buying something. Our optimization efforts online often mimic this approach with driving targeted traffic and leveraging imagery, descriptions and engagement options to move us to make purchases.
On the other hand, think of the purchases you have made because of conversations you’ve had with friends, business associates, or people that you consider an expert. This person may have been raving about a book that changed their life. Based on this testimonial you’re more likely to buy that book. It wasn’t something you planned on purchasing, but you did. Thanks to the power of persuasion and social influences, you were moved to make an unintended purchase. That purchase reached a new audience that would have never been discovered by traditional marketing tactics. This happens every day, so how do you make that happen for you? You need to socially optimize!
Optimizing starts with the implementation of a social strategy. This strategy will be created to drive the right and consistent set of activities for maximized social success. It provides a high-level map for organizational clarity on your overall objectives, expected impact, and resources needed to execute. Once you have this in place you can engage in tactics, measure results, and move to deliver on your objectives.
One of many tactics to support your objectives could be to open a Facebook store. This provides a perfect situation for social conversations about your products, and can even integrate other popular social platforms like Twitter and Pinterest. Look for ways to ignite quality conversations across all of your platforms.
The information you put out in the social universe has to be meaningful and engage your fans so that they will share and engage with you. The social marks and conversations are often included in your search rankings as part of recent updates by major search engines. This can help drive more web traffic to your products and services. Many clients are finding that referral traffic to their websites has been growing from their social sites. Additionally, it provides the opportunity for you to become an authority or expert figure for your brand which can bring more clients to your site.
What does all this mean for you as a merchant? Likely your website does a great job of selling products to your clients when they are in the shopping mall. However, a considerable volume of sales can be influenced during social opportunities such as a discussion with a friend, a business dinner, a cocktail party, on the golf course, and now on social platforms. Without social optimizing you will miss those unique opportunities that can be so meaningful for your business. It may be time for you to tee-off on social selling!
Image credit: Brendan Landis, “Asian Clothing Store” January 2, 2003 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Many of us have found that, in the world of eCommerce, having good product images is essential (In fact, we talked about images a bit in our recent blog post, Increasing eCommerce Conversion: Product Merchandizing). But knowing how to produce those excellent images—especially if you don’t have a professional photographer on staff—can be a bit of a challenge.
Here are a few tips and tricks that can help you create product images that you can be proud of and that your customers may find compelling:
- Make “clean and sharp” your image mantra. Take care to set up the right environment for shooting the photos: a solid white background, good lighting, no shadows or highlights on the product, and with the product itself taking up at least 80 percent of the image area. There are very good resources online that discuss in detail how to configure a photo shoot. For example, take a look at the “Four Steps of Product Photography” section on this page from Smashing Magazine.
- Resist the impulse to purchase high-end photographic equipment unless you have reasons—other than just your eCommerce site—for wanting pricey cameras and accessories. You can produce excellent photos with basic equipment, and you won’t have to worry about the learning curve you’d have to go through to use the complex equipment.
- Consider providing multiple alternate views of the product, taken from different angles or sides, and showing details of the product that might not be clearly visible in the main image.
- If your eCommerce site allows for it (as Amazon Webstore does), include “swatch” images for products like clothing or other items that come in different colors or finishes. The swatch image is a close-up that gives the customer a clear picture of the texture or color of the item.
- Make sure that the images you post include only the item or items that the customer will be receiving. For example, if you include accessories in the image, they ought to be accessories that come with the product rather than accessories that can be purchased separately.
- It may be tempting to jazz up the images by including borders, text, decorations, or animations. But a crisp, simple photograph is almost always a better option. Anything that distracts, or that obscures the product, may cause your customer to choose to search for the product on a competitor’s site. eCommerce is all about trust; customers need to feel certain that what they see in the product image will be exactly what they find in the package that arrives.
- Once you’ve found an ideal size and resolution for your product images, stick to it. Your site will look more professional if all of the images are the same size and resolution.
- Depending on the type of product you’re selling, it may be helpful to include a product image that shows the relative size of the product. For example, if you’re selling a purse, consider including an image of a hand holding the purse.
Image credit: geishaboy500, “Studio Work” March 2, 2007 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
The Amazon Webstore dev team is going on the road, and hosting a mixer in Des Moines, Iowa next Saturday—August 4, 2012! The event will be held at Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery, from 5:30 – 7:30 PM.
There will be appetizers and drinks, much discussion of technology, and hobnobbing with the team that has built the scalable eCommerce platform for Amazon Webstore! There will also be a drawing to win a free Kindle Free.
For details and to RSVP, see the event here: http://linkd.in/LMJH4C
Kevin Richards is the founder and CEO of AbsoluteWebstores.com, an Amazon Webstore Solution Provider that specializes in the design, development, and marketing of Amazon Webstore sites. Absolute Webstores is a part of Ventura Web Design, a custom eCommerce firm that has been helping small business clients since 1997.
A common question, when a business owner or eCommerce manager is building out their new Amazon Webstore, is whether they need to use all the available bells and whistles. The self-serving answer from a web design company is yes, you absolutely must use every feature possible—because that allows the designer to charge more for the extra effort.
Having been in the eCommerce business for 15+ years, let me assure you that from my perspective this is simply not true. In my experience, store owners should install the right set of features to accomplish two goals: increasing usability and driving more revenue.
First, a new feature should increase usability and ease of use for the particular demographic that visits your site. Designing your site as a one-size-fits-all, both in feature set and messaging, may be giving up your most compelling competitive advantage. If you’re a small retailer with a niche website, you can maximize your edge over other retailers by moving quickly to adopt new technologies and designs that make your site easier to shop than larger, less nimble stores. For example, if you sell home medical supplies and your primary demographic is men and women over 50 years old, you may not need to include the latest cutting edge technology. Rather, you may need to focus on making the experience simple, easy to read, and informative. If your target demographic likes your site better than those less-targeted sites, you’re much more likely to gain your customers’ long-term business.
Second, in my view the decision to include any feature on your site should be directly tied to its ability to generate additional revenue by providing a value-added service to your customer. Features like cross-selling and call-outs to bestsellers are likely things that you’ll want to consider including. If you add five new features that each increase sales by just 2%, you’ve taken small steps but increased your overall revenue by 10%. This concept can also apply to design techniques, merchandising, and other improvements to your site that can have a similar effect on your bottom line.
As an eCommerce storeowner, especially in a small business, you likely wear many hats. Try to remember to put on your customer hat—your most important one!— and think like your best customers as often as you can. Ask yourself how you can improve their shopping experience, and chances are good that they will reward you with their business. If you need help, the experts at Amazon Webstore can provide guidance, or provide a referral to a solution provider that can give you a kickstart in the right direction.
Image credit: Rubber Dragon, “Construction Worker” October 20, 2011 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The stunning look and feel of the new JBavarian site, built on Amazon Webstore, gives site visitors everything but the roar of the engine as they shop for BMW parts and accessories.
Company name: JBavarian
Type of products: Automotive Parts/BMW
Time to build and launch: Approximately 30 days
Solution providers: Site built by http://www.OCDesignsonline.com
It only takes a moment to see that JBavarian has captured the essence of what it means to drive a BMW. Here’s a few things we think they’re doing particularly well on their site:
- The template is tight and clean. It feels like there’s no wasted space, and that everything on this site is pixel-perfect to where it needs to be. It reflects an attention to detail that will help shoppers trust the brand.
- Photography shines. The site design is excellent, but the best thing it does is stay out of the way of the great photography.
- It’s extremely searchable. The company has put BMW model numbers right in the product titles, making it easy to use the search box to find the right products for your particular car. This is likely also helping people discover the products through search engines.
- Shipping info is prominent. A callout in the left sidebar, consistent across every page, reminds shoppers that shipping to anywhere in the U.S. is free.
- The homepage, while visually impactful, is also very functional. Notice how the layout of the site starts to show you product categories above the fold—getting buyable products in front of you as quickly as possible. They’ve even put some featured products at the bottom of the homepage, moving the transaction that much closer to site visitors.
In Their Own Words
Jamie Gilman, owner of JBavarian, spoke to us about choosing Amazon Webstore for his business:
“My experience in getting started on Amazon Webstore was one of simplicity. When I first joined I decided to start selling on Amazon first to learn the way of the land. When I began building the Amazon Webstore I simply did not want to spend valuable time on all the design work so I hired out (someone else may be doing the work, however it is imperative to stay involved to create your vision). After the store was created I made quick work of adding the text, for example the FAQ segment. All your Amazon products are there… just connect them to the proper category and publish. So simple.
Getting out into the online market place can be a daunting task. I write from experience. I chose Amazon Webstore store as a way to venture out into the very large internet market while still having the support of Amazon. I like the way Amazon does business and see the benefits in staying connected.”
Mobile commerce is the fastest growing sales channel in eCommerce. In 2011, 41% of mobile device consumers purchased products with their mobile devices. Analysts predict that trend will continue, with shopping via mobile reaching $119 billion in 2015—representing about 8% of total eCommerce sales. We’re going to see the landscape change drastically in just a few years and mobile will be threatening to take over more of the market as new mobile and tablet devices are released every year.
Only 5% of the largest e-retailers offer mCommerce sites or iPhone-optimized sites. 85% of merchants, however, say that mobile commerce is a key focus of their retail store strategy in 2012, up from 68% in 2011. If these numbers don’t include you, they might include your worthy competitors.
The trend and statistics suggest the need for not only a user-friendly “desktop” online store but the increasing need for a mobile store. This is likely how your customers are already shopping, and they are likely expecting a seamless mobile-optimized experience from your online store.
So what should your mobile site have as part of best practices? Here are top 3 must-haves in a good mobile commerce solution:
- The design and build of your mobile eCommerce store should be seamlessly optimized and compatible with the most popular mobile and tablet devices. That means giving consideration to not only the devices themselves, but also the operating systems, screen sizes, and everything else. More importantly, consideration should be given to the layout of your Webstore in both landscape and portrait modes as users tend to flip between the two for ease of use and navigation. Utilizing HTML 5 and responsive design is one way to accomplish this.
- Captivate and engage your audience via your mobile commerce strategy. Provide your consumers with ongoing coupons and promotions on your mobile webstore. In-store coupons, QR tags linking to discount offers, scheduled promotions, rewards and loyalty programs are all crucial to keeping them engaged and coming back for more!
- Comfort your audience by ensuring your mobile checkout process utilizes best in class encrypted and SSL-based checkout and payment gateway. Consumers want to be “plugged in” whenever they can, and there are free unsecured internet access points offered almost everywhere you go today. While a customer’s internet connection may not be fully secured, ensuring that your checkout pipeline is mobile optimized and secure can reduce cart abandonments, speed up the checkout process, and reduce a potential hacker from scraping any confidential information. For example, Checkout by Amazon Mobile offers sellers the same A to Z Guarantees and security as Amazon.com itself.
These are just a few features you may want to think about when creating a mobile Webstore strategy. With the advent of new coding languages and standards, coupled with increasingly innovative smartphone features, there is an infinite and untapped potential your Webstore has to offer your consumers. No matter how small or large of a retailer you are, your consumers either will be or are expecting a mobile experience from your Webstore. Going mobile may now be as important as going online!
This post is part of a weekly series, reviewing new sites launched on Amazon Webstore.The folks at OASE have put together an online store that’s easy on the eyes—but even better is the staggering amount of information they provide their customers.
Company name: OASE Living Water
Type of products: Premium pond and water garden products
Time to build and launch: 8 weeks
Solution providers: None; built all in-house
Let’s jump right to the star of this site—clicking on the “Pond Guide” link in the site’s navigation takes you to an interactive tool for discovering what equipment you’ll need, based on the size and purpose of your pond.
Other Highlights: Sidebar Info and Product Data Graphs
In space that might otherwise be empty, or dedicated to a side navigation panel, the OASE team has instead included some “Did You Know?” info in an HTML widget to guide customers to the right products. See that on their category pages.
If that wasn’t enough, they’ve then added data graphs in place of additional product images for products that need them. See this cool idea here on a product page.
In Their Own Words
Andrea Szabados, Managing Director of OASE North America, Inc., had this to say about choosing Amazon Webstore:
“When we decided to offer a platform for consumers to buy our products directly from us (we are the globally leading manufacturer of pond products), we started looking at a variety of solutions including building our own platform. In the end, Amazon Webstore was chosen for the following reasons:
1) Security: We used credit card processing systems in the past, but really felt like we wanted to insulate ourselves from data breaches etc. that would potentially expose customer payment data. The Amazon payment system functions as a firewall between us and the customer and allows us to focus our efforts on usability of the store, marketing and logistics rather than payment processing.
2) Reliability: We looked at options where we would have had to host a significant part of the web store infrastructure on our own or leased equipment. We felt that Amazon’s infrastructure would be far superior to anything we could build/host ourselves.
3) Ability to customize/maintain the site: the Amazon site building process is extremely powerful, due to the underlying structure. Once our dev team learned some of the principles, they were able to very quickly progress in building the site and incorporate spec changes during the dev process. The customizability also allowed us to have the Webstore match our brand identity and the Corporate Identity of our main site.”
Driving traffic to your ecommerce site is essential, and a few weeks ago we gave you several short and long term ideas and solutions to help maximize your visitors. In this post, however, we want to help you figure out how to optimize your conversion rates on Amazon Webstore.
Once potential customers are on your site, is your content providing the right customer experience? Are you investing on the right areas, optimizing the real business levers? Spending weeks on detailed and extensive product descriptions could be wasted time if the product does not have a clear and zoomable image, or a good and descriptive title.
Think about these tips as you look to improve customer experience, and you may improve your conversion rate:
They say a picture is worth 1,000 words… a good image could be worth a big conversion increase.
Buying is a sensory experience. Part of the thrill of the buying experience is the touching, smelling, watching, and imagining how you are going to use or wear the product. In eCommerce, that sensory experience is left almost entirely to the product image. Many customers, especially first-timers, will be reluctant to purchase any product that has no picture or one that does not present the product in a good light. Those who actually buy the product might find that what they imagined is not what they received.
Play it safe; investing time in sourcing good quality images may help improve your conversion ratio while improving customer experience and reducing customer dissatisfaction and returns.
Product titles in Amazon Webstore are shown in the search pages and in the product pages, where they are always above the fold (as images). A title is essential to convey the value proposition and main characteristics of the product to attract customer’s attention, but trying to get all the possible information in may make it unnecessarily long .
A descriptive, concise and structured title can complement the image and provide enough information to ensure that the customer will be able to make an informed purchase.
If the image and the title attracted the customer’s attention, but the customer has not made a buying decision yet, the description may help to turn that visitor into a customer. Simple, to-the-point and descriptive product descriptions often work better than fancy and colorful descriptions – reserve that effort for highly valuable or high-involvement items.
Product descriptions may help your SEO positioning as well as your conversion rates. Remember to be original and not copy the manufacturer’s description – if you want to extend your knowledge about product description, you can find some tips in our blog post on writing great product descriptions.
If you’re not the manufacturer of the product, you’ll probably want to focus your time and effort in the previous points. Technical specifications are easily found nowadays, and tech-savvy customers won’t stop buying because they need to search in the manufacturer’s website for more details. Consider using the title to give the necessary information for making an informed purchase, and complete the technical specifications in an automated and time efficient way (attaching a flyer, integrating a database…).
VIDEOS & MULTIMEDIA
Videos are another nice-to-have feature for your site, but they may not add more than an extra inch. If you are resource-constrained, the three first points may be the ones on which you should be focusing.
Ultimately, getting product pages right is one of the most important factors for converting a visitor to a customer. A good quality image, a descriptive title and a simple to-the-point description may help you to increase significantly your conversion rates without increasing the use of resources.