Dino Forte, founder and managing director at outsourced customer contact centre, Ventrica shares his top tips for businesses to increase their online revenues.
With Christmas around the corner, e-tailers will be facing one of their busiest periods, but how can organisations really maximize sales opportunities during peak trading times across the year?
1) Minimise abandoned sales
On average, on-line cart abandonment stands at a whopping 75%. Naturally there are many ways in which you can ensure the path to the checkout is as effortless and quick as possible through the design, navigation, speed and general ease-of-use of your site, but introducing a freephone helpline or webchat can be an excellent way of providing advice or reassurance along the way to ensure the customer journey is as smooth as possible and they reach their final destination.
2) Open 24/7
The advantage of an on-line store is that it is always open whatever the time of day, so why do the majority of businesses leave it unmanned outside of the hours of 9 to 5? This strategy makes even less sense during seasonal peaks such as Black Friday when it’s even more imperative to capture all potential sales within a short window. By providing on-line customer support around the clock, you can alleviate the burden on your service and delivery teams, by spreading the load, plus of course you can respond to enquiries in real-time, so if someone has a question about a product at 8pm, they don’t have to wait until the following day for an answer. Many firms are reluctant to extend their hours because it may be unpopular with staff or they do not want to keep the office open into the night. However, using an external specialist provider can be a cost-effective alternative to bridging the gap.
3) Offer customers a choice of channels
Keeping open channels of customer communication is vital, but so too is choice. According to Gartner by 2020, 70% of customer service will take place via web chat or social media channels. Assess what mediums your customers prefer and allocate your service team appropriately. Supporting all forms of interaction from phone through to Facebook will ensure that all preferences are covered and customer satisfaction is maximised.
4) Be ‘sociable’
If your customers use social media then this represents a fertile source of potential sales leads, as well as helping to fulfil orders or support issues. Both listening and speaking on Twitter for instance can enable you to identify consumers looking for your type of product or indeed allows you to post special offers or new product information to existing or new customers.
5) Improve response rates
Today’s consumers may have higher disposable incomes but busy lifestyles mean that they are often extremely time-poor and expect to be able to make instant purchases within seconds. Unlike in a traditional high street store environment where there are usually staff on hand to help with any queries, on-line businesses are often guilty of having little or no customer interaction, with many hiding behind the ubiquitous enquiry form. According to the latest figures average email response rates for example are typically a staggering 24-48 hours, but how many consumers are willing to wait that long? Introducing faster standard turn-around times for all types of enquiries will have an immediate impact on sales conversions and will stop customers becoming frustrated and shopping elsewhere.
6) Ramp up for busy times
Whether you are waiting in line for a coffee or buying a ticket at the station, no one likes to queue, but whatever the business, this commonly happens where demand outstrips supply. So when e-tailers experience peaks and troughs, whether it’s for Valentine’s Day or the New Year sales it is crucial to be prepared and have sufficient staff to manage the additional orders. Whilst some blips in demand may be completely unpredictable, whether you are expecting them or not, it is simple and cost-effective to build in contingency, so you can scale your labour resources up or down without notice. Outsourcing to a third party gives you instant access to experienced staff and is an alternative to the expense of hiring employees that you might not require all the time.
7) Differentiate with service
One of the reasons customers go elsewhere is down to ‘comparison shopping’ when they find the same product but at a better price from another store. If you want to find a way of beating the competition that isn’t purely reliant on price then ‘service’ can be a great way to stand out. Why is this so powerful? Because as recent research has shown especially amongst the younger millennial generation, as many as 83% of consumers decide not to complete an intended purchase due to poor customer service. The correlation between building strong customer relationships and sales is backed up by research from Gallup and The Disney Institute that suggests that organisations that focus on emotional connections outperform their competitors by 26% in gross margin and 85% in sales growth.
8) Invest in post-sales care
Your existing customers are your future customers, so allocating additional resources to after-sales including fulfilment, logistics and returns can pay huge dividends in the shape of long-term loyalty and repeat buying. A ‘ship and forget’ mentality should be replaced with a robust delivery and returns infrastructure, backed up by a professional, friendly, knowledgeable and responsive customer service team.
9) Expand into new territories
If you have a successful e-operation in the UK, then why not consider targeting overseas markets too. Don’t be put off by language barriers or geographical borders because with a virtual store there is no need to hire in-country staff, as you could rely on a centralised team in the UK where you can draw on a ready-made pool of native language speakers from German through to Portuguese. Take one of our customers, specialist shoe manufacturer vivobarefoot who has seen a 90% increase in sales by employing multi-lingual sales staff to respond to enquiries across Europe.
10) Nurture repeat business
The 80/20 rule suggests that the lion’s share of sales will come from one in five of your clients, but what if you could magnify this effect? Make all of your customers feel valued before and after they make a purchase and you will increase their propensity to buy. Take the time to know your customers and then communicate with them regularly with personalised offers, promotions or advice that they will appreciate. Building an on-going relationship will not only endear you to customers but will also turn them into lifetime advocates for your brand.