Increasing Product Sales

Joe D

Are you selling to consumers or do you work in B2B sales?  There are certain objectives that you can easily overcome that will help to increase sales.  Virtual sales for digital content, services or member-access type websites are fundamentally different from a product-based business.  Just considering concerns that include shipping, customer satisfaction with the items, sales tax, product returns, international customers, appropriate payments and other issues that only affect product sales, digital sales vs. hard good sales really are two different animals.

How can you ensure that your customer focus today will increase your product sales and improve your overall customer satisfaction?  Let’s discuss the ways that you can use these methods and ideas to increase and improve your product sales business.

#1 - Free Shipping

You have all purchased a product online.  So the question may be, have you ever left a shopping cart simply because the item plus the taxes and shipping costs just made the purchase undesirable?  We've all been there and usually we remember which sites had expensive shipping costs and avoid them like the plague.  Adding free shipping or following the Amazon.com model of free shipping for qualified items that total $25 or more as an incentive to buy more products is a great way to offer a visible service and discount to your customers.  You know we all like getting something for free and shipping is one of those intangible things that we can't see, but certainly required if we're to receive our products.  Free shipping should always be the slowest delivery method.  Make sure to offer shipping options via FedEx or UPS that will get the product there in 3-day, 2-day and next day increments for those who want it fast and are willing to pay.

#2 - Quality Products

If you are simply fulfilling items that other companies produce on your behalf, you don't have much quality control at your primary point of business, but you can control the items you sell or purchase for sale.  Test the products, search out and read online reviews and certain you are selling the best quality available for your customers.  Sure, some people want cheap items that aren't built to last and don't expect them to last, but that's what dollar stores and Wal-Mart are for - that's not your business.  If you want to build a solid reputation within your target demographic as a quality company that sells quality products, you've got to do better and sell items that you know will satisfy your customers and make them happy with their purchases and coming back.

#3 - Customer Satisfaction

Naturally our next focus will be customer satisfaction.  If you are offering products that aren't up to your customers' standards - that break, fall apart or just simply don't work, you need to do something about it.  Some customers will demand a refund, but others will just quietly grumble about it, make a mental note about it and never make another purchase from you again.  They might even go online and post a few dissatisfaction comments or negative reviews.  There are some simple items you can add to your website that will help keep you informed about overall satisfaction as well as issues with specific products and give your customers a way to let you know about it before you burn that bridge forever.  Adding the option to review or rate a product on your own site is a quick and easy script that can be installed in minutes.  If you are sincerely worried that customers won't be reasonable in their complaints, you can ensure that all reviews must be approved first.  However, if you are that concerned, why aren't the alarms going off inside your head already about the products you are offering and concerned about?  Don’t always be fearful of a negative post; how you respond to a negative post can have a very positive effect on the perception of your customer service.

#4 - Customer Service

Every business, whether operating B2C or B2B, and whether selling products or virtual items and services, should have a solid responsive customer service department.  Your customer service agents should always be available, including holidays, weekends and even in the middle of the night.  You want to ensure that your customers have a phone number - preferably a toll-free line - that they can call any hour of the day or night to call and ask questions, make complaints or ask for assistance.  Some customers don't like to use the phone, so make sure you offer online options, such as e-mail forms for contact, live chat services and anything else you can think to add that will give them a way to easily contact your staff.

#5 - Return Policy

You should have a simple and easy to follow return policy for all your product sales, and this as well as customer service access should be highly visible throughout your site.  Studies show that a clear and lenient return policy will help customers feel more confident in a seller even before they order.  In fact, nearly half of all shoppers surveyed in some recent eMarketer.com research stated they would make more purchases and recommend those sellers more often with an easy to understand return policy.  Straightforward return policies don't just build customer loyalty; as stated above, they help to make new visitors more confident in making their initial purchase from your website.

The eMarketer.com survey also questioned respondents on what three issues were most important to them with regard to customer satisfaction.  Easy checkout was the first concern, followed by a business that offers a wide variety of product choices.  The third most significant concern was shipping.  Out of the five important issues we’ve discussed here, shipping was listed as #1 because it is a top consumer concern.  Examine your shipping department to ensure that products are handled and shipped quickly and that customers have a choice when it comes to shipping costs and delivery time.  Think about the things that are important to you when ordering products online – free or discounted shipping, easy returns and exchanges, online tracking is a big one for me, and availability of pictured products is a big one – people hate back orders – and live customer service is a big one too.

Providing convenient preferred payment options is also essential to your success.  Review your gateway, your dominant traffic regions and locales, and tailor your methods of payments for instant customer recognition.  Not everyone uses VISA and MasterCard, or may prefer not to – don’t limit your possible sales – multiple payment methods can greatly improve your conversions and sales.  Contact me with any questions about payments – consider me a resource for the straight scoop whether you've worked with me or not.

Consider all these issues as you examine your current business model.  ‘Be the Customer’ and take a tour through your products and ask yourself if they are easy to find, if the site is easy to navigate, if the search results are relevant and if items are easy to put into the shopping cart.  Find out how much it would cost to purchase and ship an item to a specific address and ask yourself if you would be willing to pay that much for the item in question.  Sometimes it's the most simple things that mean the most.  Today's shoppers have lots of demands and expectations, but sometimes sticking to the basics and getting them right is what will separate your business from the competition.

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