Three Keys to Online Selling Success
By Steve Nye, eBay Certified Consultant
Hello eBay Powerful Sellers!
Every so often we have a special treat for you with the Auctionography. I know that sometimes you get tired of hearing from me, so today I asked our friends at Infopia to share some helpful hints for your online selling success. We recently partnered with Infopia to bring their Marketplace Manager, a complete online selling solution, the power of HammerTap research.
Today´s Auctionography, Three Keys to Selling Success, is brought to you by Ralf VonSosen, VP of Marketing at Infopia. In this issue, Ralf discusses how to utilize all eMarketplaces, not just eBay, how to gain ownership of customers, and how to increase profits through branding.
This Week´s Auctionography: Three Keys to Online Selling Success
by Ralf VonSosen, VP Marketing, Infopia
Over the years, we have established partnerships with many online merchants—such as iSold It, the #1 seller on eBay—to help take their online selling business to the next level. I´m sure that each of us, whether a business like iSold It or as an individual, who sell online want to take our sales to the next level. Unfortunately, because the online marketplace is always changing, there are no exact steps to successfully grow an online business. But there are three themes which consistently recur for all merchants:
- How to utilize all eMarketplaces and Online Selling Channels
- How to drive the Acquisition & Ownership of Customers
- How to optimize profits through Intelligent and Branded Merchandising & Sales
Let´s take a closer look at each of these.
How to utilize all eMarketplaces and Online Selling Channels
How do you take advantage of the Internet´s broad reach? It starts with a simple question that has an elusive answer: "Who is my target customer?" Understanding the persona (age, income, sources of information, where they shop, how they spend their time online, etc.) of your target customer will lead you to the right selling and marketing channels. Just throwing your products out there for anyone to find is not nearly as successful as targeting your products to a specific consumer.
How do your target customers shop online?
The first step is to determine which comparison shopping site, if any, is used most frequently by your target market and where they are likely to research products prior to purchase. Once you find where your potential customers are looking for products, get in that location.
It´s also important to understand how they find information about products. Do they simply look for a product in the search engines? Today, search engines have become the supreme source of product information. Where do you stand in the search engines? The ones at the top are going to be bringing in the most profit. It´s time to start thinking about getting your name up there.
Where do they buy?
So, do you know where your customers or potential customers are shopping online? Some customers will look exclusively on eBay; others will look exclusively on individual websites; and most will use a combination of eBay, websites, and other online marketplaces. Each of these online selling channels provides different tools and advantages for you as a seller. You can look at these online markets and decide how these fit into your business strategy. eBay may be the place for you to drive volume sales, or it may be a place for you to acquire customers that you will then steer towards your own website for future purchases. Other marketplaces, such as Overstock, may be the ideal outlet for another part of your inventory or a subset of your target audience that you cannot reach via eBay, Amazon, or your website. Your inventory may also consist of unique high-value property that is best sold via a niche marketplace such as Bid4Assets or uBid. Whichever market is best for your products depends upon which ones will help you reach your target consumer.
So What´s the Point to This?
Just in case you need a re-cap: Understanding your customer and the various online sales channels available can help you more effectively match your selling strategy to how and where your target customers shop online.
How to drive the Acquisition & Ownership of Customers
Once you know how and where your potential customers are shopping online, how do you turn them into a customer? Let´s take a look at some quick facts:
- Fact: The number of online transactions is growing much faster than the number of online buyers.
- Fact: There are a limited number of online buyers.
- Fact: It is much more expensive to acquire a new customer than to sell to an existing customer.
Adding up these three facts leads us to a critical part of your online selling strategy: transforming transactions into relationships. You want more than just a one-time-buy, you want a loyal customer.
This begins with the shopping experience. Buyers begin to form an impression about your brand while they research your products, peruse your catalogs, and finally make a purchase. Your next point of truth is the fulfillment and execution of the order when they either get what they expect when they expect it, or they do not.
If you do all of this well, then do not be forgettable and let your hard work slip away because there is an extra step. Make sure the customer remembers your brand, returns for future purchases, and is a reference for you. You can accomplish this by providing a delightful experience and utilizing consistent and distinct branding techniques on your listings, website, and delivery communications. You must answer the question from a customer point of view, "Why buy from that seller?"
Also, because relationships are a two-way street, it´s not enough that the customer remembers you, but more importantly, YOU need to remember the customer. Ensure that you collect their information and establish a communication path to them. This will allow you to better serve the customer by proactively communicating to them in the future and promoting products that they will want to know about. It will also help you to treat them not as a new customer, but a valued, loyal returning customer on their next visit. This can be done through a customer newsletter, preferred customer coupons or discounts and other customer retention strategies.
So What´s the Point?
Again, a re-cap: Own your customer through smart branding and proactive communication. Turn a one-time-buy into a long-term, loyal customer.
How to optimize profits through Intelligent and Branded Merchandising & Sales
So, you know your audience and how to attract them, and now you also know how to keep them as loyal, returning customers. But, in the end, it all comes down to the profit margin, right? Well, this is where it becomes critical that you have the visibility to understand how to best sell your inventory and the ability to create and promote appropriate offers.
This is important in several dimensions. First, you need visibility into your pipeline to understand such things as: which products are selling at what margins and in what sales channels, how many shoppers are turned into buyers, how many online shopping carts are being abandoned and other vital statistics about your sales execution. Second, you need visibility into your marketplaces. This is where Infopia´s introduction of Power Web—HammerTap´s latest research solution—provides you with the details about what is selling, and for how much and how often, to guide your merchandising. Third, you need visibility into your profitability. The online selling activity must be tied to inventory and selling cost data to provide profitability information. What´s the point of selling a hot selling product online if you can´t make anything by doing it?
Branded and intelligent merchandising requires that you utilize the information above and design the appropriate offers that optimize price-points and target markets to maximize profits. Create listings that use the four P´s (price, promotion, place, product) to create a unique offer that will help you maximize profits. The promotion of your offer should incorporate branding to help customers identify and find additional value in your offer. What promotions can you offer and still make a profit. Remember, you want to attract customers, but you also want to be profitable.
So What´s the Point?
Final re-cap: Maintain visibility into your business performance (how much are you selling and how much are you making) for key information to drive decisions (where do you go from here) and use your online selling tools (market research) to act on those decisions.
Your business is unique, and so are the needs of your business. Some e-tailers may find one area more critical than another at a particular time, but all find much value in each of the areas above.
For more information, please see our recent white paper "The Evolution of Multi-Channel Online Selling: New Challenges and Best Practices" on www.infopia.com, or you can email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope you enjoyed Ralf´s comments! I sure did. Don´t forget to check out Infopia for more education and services.