In the “old” days (meaning about 7 years ago) whenever small businesses wanted to please their customers, the most important thing was to keep the storefront in top shape and to ensure that the store itself was tidy and well-staffed and stocked. But times have changed. Technology has fundamentally transformed how customers engage with their favorite brands, products, and services. The traditional brick and mortar shop is not the focus of business anymore. Sure, it helps to keep the premises nice and clean and stocked, but nowadays it’s all about the digital experience.
Digital systems based on mobile, cloud, and collaboration technologies, are the primary enablers today for customer engagement. And like never before, it’s critical that startups and small businesses develop a 360 degree view of the customer in order to understand, meet, and exceed their expectations. Making sure that visitors find what they’re looking for and giving them an unforgettable shopping experience will be the key to turning them into regular customers.
In the following, we describe 7 sure-fire techniques that small business owners can start adopting today to generate more customers and convert their online leads into sales.
1. Make your website mobile first
Customers are more likely than ever to engage with your business through mobile channels. August 2014 was the first time in history that more people used mobile devices to visit online stores than desktop computers. According to the latest stats, 50.3% of traffic comes from mobile devices and 49.7% from computers. Not only should you have a mobile friendly site, but it should be straightforward, intuitive and easy to navigate, and optimized for various form factors. This is accomplished through a “mobile first” strategy, which starts by putting the mobile experience front and center rather than as an adjunct on top of a traditional website.
2. Keep things fast & simple
Research shows a clear relationship between web load speed and customer conversions. The faster a page loads the more likely customers will be to visit and do business on your site. The inverse is also true. The slower a page the less likely customers will be willing to wait around and engage with your brand. Surprisingly few business owners really get the importance of website performance and the role it plays in customer retention.
Science also tells us that people prefer the path of least resistance to their end-goal. Think of it in terms of the “economy of action” and the balance of benefits vs. costs. Think clearly about how much effort it’ll take for your visitors to get to your website, get what they need, and get out?
3. Make your customers your number one priority
In order to generate sales you need to let your customers know and feel that they’re second to none. Let them know you actually care about them, that they’re not just another number. Treat them as they want to be treated. Providing your prospects with a superior user experience through your website, along with an overall outstanding customer service will let them know they are highly valued. This also helps to ensure that they’ll buy from you again and also refer other customers your way.
4. Understand your customer
There are a host of web analytics on the market today that can provide insights into your customers’ online behaviors. Using these tools in combination will provide you with a holistic, 360 degree view about where they’re visiting from, what devices they’re using, what are their social networking activities, and other key demographics such as age and income. Gathering all of this information will help you customize for your customer a second-to-none shopping experience.
5. Have an effective CTA
Your “call to action” needs to simple and straightforward. You don’t want a situation where your visitors are about to purchase your brand, but don’t really know what to do. A good strategy is to adopt some testing with a platform like Optimizely to see how customers react to different arrangement of CTA buttons, colors, and verbiage on your website. The bottom-line here is to ensure your CTA is clear-cut and saves customers from difficult decisions.
6. Give them an offer they can’t refuse
One site puts it this way: “You do this by creating such a powerful and compelling offer that people would be foolish to pass it up. An offer that makes it more advantageous to acquire your product or service than not to do so, one which eliminates all the hurdles they have to jump over to do business with you and makes it harder to say ‘no’ to you than to say ‘yes,’ can increase your results up to 300%.”
7. Adopt innovative marketing
Today’s digitally savvy businesses use PCs, smartphones, tablets, and gaming devices (and soon wearables like Apple Watch!) to engage with their customers through the latest social networking, blogging, and mobile channels. Keeping an innovative foot-hold today means taking every possible opportunity to relate to the ‘customer as king’.
If you happen to be in the San Francisco area the third week of April, why not check out the Innovative Marketing Class offered through the Silicon Valley Innovation Center? Here you’ll learn all about the latest trends and approaches to getting brand recognition and increasing sales in today’s fast-paced digital market.
There is no magic formula for building good customer relations and increasing sales. As a small business or startup new to the game, you’re bound to make mistakes. But don’t give up. The best approach requires a great deal of innovativeness and creativity, along with some good common-sense. The worst approach is one that you never try!