It wasn’t that long ago that you could only buy products by waiting in line at a store or go through tedious telephone ordering to get the latest and greatest gadget or widget.
eBay and Amazon changed all of that. Now, nearly any person or business can buy or sell products or services online. In this article, we’ll examine what we can learn from observing our favorite stores in action to make the online experience better.
20 Checkout Lanes
Let’s face it. Who likes to wait in line?
Many stores like your local grocery store usually have large banks of cash registers and several self-service kiosks to alleviate the waiting game and distract you with juicy tabloid headlines. There are (usually) friendly cashiers to provide awesome customer service and talk to about the weather or the baseball game.
With eCommerce, we rarely interact with real people, and instead perform most of our transactions with a virtual shopping cart and checkout.
Choosing an online shopping cart is crucial. While this article won’t go into great detail about this, as there are so many options to choose from, there are a few things to keep in mind:
You and your client have the choice of hosting the shopping cart software on webhost, or using a shopping cart service provider. Both of which have pros and cons.
With a self-hosted shopping cart, you do have more control over the software and often how the cart looks and even operates, There is an added benefit with most self-hosted shopping carts of not having pesky fees to pay a third party for the privilege..
However, if something happens to your webhost: i.e.: a sudden rush of customers overloads the server or Godzilla attacks your hosting company, you’ll end up up with a bunch of angry customers with pitchforks standing outside your door, and e-mailing you hate mail.
While the customer is not always right, people have become so used to things working smoothly and quickly, you or your client may loose valuable sales as your customers go elsewhere.With a hosted cart, you have the piece of mind of a company supporting you and your customers while they shop online.
But, this does come with a couple drawbacks. Usually you are stuck with the company’s interface which may or may not offer design and interface tweaks, which could stand in the way of giving your clients what they want in terms of branding and user experience, as well as various fees and expenses which vary depending on the options you select and the provider itself. If up-time and external support is important to you and your customers, this path is a great possibility..
If you aren’t familiar with what’s out there, or want to change how your customers purchase your goods and services, this article from Mashable outlines 35 different shopping cart solutions. Just make sure you do have someone available via e-mail or telephone for your customers if Godzilla fights Rodan and the power goes out in a larger radius.
With shifts in the global economy and ongoing changes in the very way in which we live and work, individuals and businesses which in past decades could thrive merely by providing a quality product or service are facing a new reality – An ultra-competitive race to the bottom.
While it is possible to cut costs in whatever way possible, and do this for awhile if the business has the chutzpah to do so, there will always be someone who can produce something more cheaply and faster than you. This is a huge problem for small businesses and individuals for whom each sale and customer count, especially when they can’t make the difference up in sales volume.
In world where Wal-mart dominates retail, the folks at Target had a simple, yet brilliant idea to drum up sales in the midst of the great pricing war. Stand out by making design more affordable to more people.
This is something which the company has done almost since inception by providing higher quality goods at low margins and cutting costs in areas which don’t affect the experiences of the customer. A few years ago this was kicked up a notch.
Target hired designers like architect Michael Graves and fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli to create exclusive products for the company, echoing trends in the marketplace. This attracted an audience who in the past would shop elsewhere, while at the same time maintaining a relationship with existing customers by making the trendy items more affordable.
The lesson to be learned here is: how can you provide value which the other guys are not providing without resorting to slashing prices and having Midnight Blog Sales?
While ways of accomplishing this vary from situation to situation, this may be as simple as creating a new way of presenting information in a site with a cool animation in the header, or going as far as creating new ways of navigating the site altogether. Waving your hands in front of the webcam anyone?
For the designer who also thinks like Target, you can create affordable design of your own by offering templates at discounted rates or show customers how to take advantage of your expertise through tutorial/marketing videos on Youtube..
Not only does this show your customers you know what you are talking about, it also helps your customers say “Hey, I want that thing!” when the time comes to work with you. Most importantly, this hopefully is convincing them why good design is so important.
If it worked for Target, it can work for you and your clients.
Rebadge And Save
Outsourcing is nothing new and has gone on for decades. Many stores have a house brand and popular clothing and electronics brands are often made at the same plant as their competitors.
Both Samsung and Sony hold equal stake in a manufacturer which crafts the LCD panels in their TVs.
While it is certainly a good idea to do a lot of work in-house and do something new each, it can be pretty expensive and time-consuming. You may be working on an eCommerce site for a client, but they want ad copy as well, but it’s taking you 30 hours to fix something that should take 20 because things just aren’t working.
There are plenty of talented people always looking for an opportunity to provide value, sometimes at costs much lower than you would have thought.
Why not hire a freelance copywriter on eLance or post an ad on Craigslist, or if you’re pressed for time and can’t find a stock photo you like, there are many talented photographers.
Who knows, you may make other connections which help your business. If worse comes to worse, you could always use a royalty-free template and call it a day, but everyone has access to those.
But templates aren’t all that bad; there is a market for helping clients customize templates, and the savvy designer could create a masterpiece from the default TwentyTen theme which comes bundled with WordPress.
Your Turn To Talk
While there are many more lessons to be learned from your favorite stores, this article is closing early. Make sure you share your thoughts by leaving a comment below. :)