Friday, May 18, 2012

People love to shop, so why are your online sales low?

By: Lamia Pardo Figueroa

“People are buying online, we need to sell online”, said a marketer to the IT department. After a few months, a website was implemented with a space for searching products, pictures, a menu of the categories and a tiny cart at the top right corner that keeps track of the purchase amount.  Does it sound familiar?

Sooner or later you’ll see the consequences. 

Yes, everyone buys online. In fact, 80% of Internet users have bought at least one product or service online. However, online sales just account for 4.6% of overall retail purchases. People are buying, but not shopping online. Buying is more functional and rational, while shopping is a pleasurable activity through which consumers are more likely to discover new products they like and spend more money. 

And this is not because people don’t have time in general. They actually don’t have time to go to a brick-and-mortar store so often, but they definitely have time in front of their laptops or mobile devices. This phenomenon is happening because marketers get excited about technology and forget about the experience. Most portals are designed to fulfill buying needs, but do not entice a pleasurable and irrational shopping journey. They require the consumer to already know what he/she wants in order to search it, have bad pictures inside rigid squares with white backgrounds and always remind he/she by how much the purchase amount keeps increasing with every additional product. That little cart at the top right corner has made me close many websites with incomplete orders.

But people still love to shop. 

The opportunity is there. Isn’t Pinterest a digital version of window-shopping? What if we could click on any product we like and get it delivered? What if we could go in a virtual tour through a supermarket and just click on whatever we want? There is a huge unexplored digital world of experiences.

So Make them shop! 

1. Work as a team with the IT department to develop the platform and switch the focus to the customers. Think of technology just as a key tool for implementation.
2. Study your current stores. What does people like about your store? Why are they really going there? How does your store look like? Think of every aspect and detail of their current shopping journey.
3. Focus on visual stimuli. Users cannot touch or smell the products, so make sure to transfer all the sensations through images and virtual interactions.
4. Improve the experience. Create new ways in which people could enjoy shopping online. For example, a supermarket could have a list of recipes with appealing pictures. By clicking on one of them, a list of required ingredients could be added to the cart.
5. Be careful with prices. Show the total purchase amount at the end so people do not rationalize about it before. Also, make sure you just charge for the items (no extra annoying fees).
6.  Ship fast. As fast as possible. It will pay off. 

If people are coming less to your store, take the store to the people. 

Lamia is a graduate student at Northwestern University's Medill School. She studies a MS Integrated Marketing Communications with concentrations in Brand Planning and Direct&Interactive Marketing. Follow her on LinkedIn (Lamia Pardo-Figueroa), Twitter (@LamiaPF) and/or Pinterest. 

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