• The Essential Christmas Web-store Makeover

     

    Ten great tips to turn online holiday shoppers into eagerbuyers - and satisfied customers.

    When meeting potential clients, you wouldn't dream ofshowing up late in a mismatched outfit, hair disheveled, with food on your tie and no business card, would you? Andif they asked for testimonials or explanations about yourcompany policies you'd hardly say, "Sorry, I don't give outthat information."

    So why do it on your website?

    Just like in person, Internet shoppers look for clues(consciously or not) that suggest you are credible andprofessional - and they make that judgment call inside of aminute or two. That means you have a small window of timeto impress would-be buyers and gain their trust. Unlike inperson, however (where you can apologize for tardiness orcharm customers with funny tales about how that mustardlanded on your lapel) you have zero opportunity to redeemyourself online. One click and they're gone for good.

    But fear not. As Web-goers gear up for their Christmasshopping sprees, there are things you can do quickly andeasily to inspire confidence. Here are some surefire waysto turn browsers into buyers and buyers into regularcustomers:

    1. Put on your best Web-suit. You don't need to hireArmani to redesign your site, but make sure it's clean, organized and error-free. Check for typos, broken links, inconsistencies in graphics, repetition, clutteredappearance and the like (think of it as good groominghabits). Such lack of attention to detail sends a message, however untrue, that you will be equally careless in yourbusiness dealings.

    2. Put your best logo forward. Provide familiar visualclues on your site, such as well-known brand names andlogos. Also, list any other trusted brands, includingsuppliers, business partners and customers - and alwaysdisplay their logos to make a stronger impression. Whenshoppers see recognizable names, it increases theirconfidence level in your store. They'll be more inclinedto buy your goods knowing FedEx was shipping theirChristmas gifts instead of Joe X.

    3. Proudly wear your credentials. If you have attained astandard of excellence or have met minimum certificationrequirements, such as for service or security, letcustomers know about it. Credible trust marks* displayed onyour home page will instill confidence in shoppers sothey'll stay on your site and discover all you have tooffer. (*TrustGauge. com has a nifty utility for measuringthe trustworthiness of your website. Simply type in yourURL and get instant results. By filling out their form, you can improve your score - and build credibility withcustomers. Subscribing to certain trust marks is also aneasy way to increase your TrustGauge score.)

    4. Pass out your virtual business card. Make sure yourcontact information is visible and indicate all the waysthat you may be reached - including your physical businessaddress. Besides being convenient for the customer, ithelps assuage fears that you will take their money and runinto cyberspace, never to be found again.

    5. Don't be a Grinch. Offer freebies (such as trialsoftware, free advice, money-back guarantees, etc?). Thisallows customers to experience doing business with youbefore they actually buy anything. Similarly, if yourwebsite is easy to navigate (again, see tip #1), it tellscustomers they can expect their buying experience to bejust as pleasant.

    6. Insure - and assure - customers. The single mosteffective thing you can do to build customer confidence inthe short-term and transform reluctant shoppers intospenders is to provide a third-party insurance policy. Payment services such as PayPal provide Buyer Protectionprograms that assure your customers they are protected fromloss or damage caused by shopping on your site.

    7. Deal with privacy matters. Shoppers now know thatinappropriate use of their personal information can bedevastating. Address privacy issues explicitly whenever youare asking for any information. Tell customers why you arecollecting the information, how you will use it and how youprotect it. Use clear, concise statements. Legal wordingand fine print make people think you're trying to hidesomething.

    For those customers expecting compliance with specificprivacy laws and regulations, explain why you are incompliance and back it up with relevant third - partyassurance. A well-recognized privacy seal, such as fromTRUSTe. org, assures them you are taking care to protectand respect their privacy.

    9. Hold the customer's hand. Once the customer is readyto buy, walk them through each step of the onlinepurchasing process. Assure them at each prompt that youare sensitive to their concerns and deal with each concernor issue as it comes up. Provide a clear link to yourmission statement, customer service policies and otheraspects of your business that may need explaining. Evenbetter, follow tip #10. The objective is to eliminatethose moments of hesitation - especially in the finalstages of the sale.

    10. Offer a personal touch. One way to instantly endearyour customers is by having a real person assist them priorto and during their purchase. Use today's Internettechnologies that provide a variety of communicationchannels ranging from IP telephone to instant chat. Forhigher value transactions, provide a 24- hour toll-freetelephone number - with prompt, friendly service. It'soften the last touch that sways hesitant holiday shoppersto buy.

    At the end of the day, it's all about building trust. Following these tips will definitely improve your onlinecredibility and create more satisfied shoppers at yoursite. It will also prepare you for the next critical stepin the trust process of winning clients over the long-term, which will yield even higher returns for many seasons tocome.

    Let me know about your experiences implementing each ofthese recommendations. I'm confident you'll see adifference.

    Happy e-tailing this holiday season!

    Sidebar:

    A Christmas bonus

    Five easy ways to please your online holiday shoppers

    1. Add a touch of holiday spirit to your site. Don't beexcessive. Just add a few colorful graphics to let shoppersknow you have Christmas gifts to offer.

    2. Categorize products to make shopping for gifts easier: Use catchy phrases like "For Her", "For Him", "Gifts under$50" and "Holiday Specials."

    3. Alleviate clients' worries by communicating well withthem - online, by phone and/or e-mail - and assuring themtheir gifts will arrive on time.

    4. Be clear about shipping fees and return policies. Thelast thing you want is to surprise clients with unexpectedfees and conditions regarding your return policy.

    5. Flash a Smile. Tell a joke. Last but not least, havefun with your customers whenever you get a chance, especially at Christmas. Clients may not see you smilingbut they can certainly feel it. And they'll remember youfor it too.

    Alex Todd is president and founder of Trust Enabling Strategies, a management consulting firm that helps organizations to excel by codifying trust as a critical success factor. Comparative Trust Enablement Assessments help online businesses to improve their competitive advantage and increase sales by identifying processes that boost customers' confidence throughout the onlinetransaction lifecycle. For more information visitTrustEnablement. com/Web-store_Assessment. html

    CONTACT INFORMATION:
    Trust Enablement Incorporated
    Alex Todd
    Tel. 416-487-1497
    Fax. 866-271-5372

     



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