Colorful Village Storefront Shops Print from Anna See
The way we shop has changed – for good. How often do you walk into a bricks and mortar store, find a specific item you’ve been looking for, and buy it there and then?
If you’re anything like me, this scenario happens a lot less often than it used to. In 2013, I can walk into a high street shop and pick up a product that tickles my fancy. I can then take my smart phone out of my pocket, open up a browser and do a quick internet search. Within seconds I’ll be reading reviews from other shoppers and comparing prices from different retailers. Perhaps I’ll a post a photo of whatever I’m mulling-over on Facebook, and ask my friends for advice. All of this while I’m still in the shop!
Unless I’m in a desperate hurry for an emergency purchase or gift, I’m unlikely to get in line and hand over my card there and then. I’m far more likely to go back home, look at a few more options online, think about it for a while….. If and when I finally decide to take the plunge, am I going to get into my car and drive back into town? No! I’m going to buy online – from the shop that has the best price, the best reviews, and who can deliver it quickly and conveniently to my home.
Now if you’re thinking this scenario doesn’t apply to customers buying from independent retailers and craft sellers….you could be right. Customers buying from handmade sellers are more likely to be looking for something special and unique than searching for a deal.
But don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security. The pace of change in technology is changing the way we shop, for good. This, together with the fact that we’re still dealing with a challenging economy – mean that it’s important for retailers of all shapes and sizes to take note.
If you’re a small business with big ambitions, here are four things you should be thinking about:
When thinking about how and where to promote your work, think about the lives your customers lead. Do they spend all their time in coffee shops, reading books and magazines? Or do they spend 24 hours a day online, browsing websites and checking their social media accounts? Chances are, they do a bit of both. Digital and “real” life are now so intertwined, your customers are likely browsing the Etsy app on their iPhone while sitting in a coffee shop, or reading reviews on Amazon for the latest craft books while lying in bed.
To make the most of the opportunities the digital economy provides, you need to adopt a multi-channel approach. A website is no longer a nice-to-have: it’s an essential tool for doing business online and off. Even if you’re selling to galleries and offline shops rather than direct to customers online, a professional online presence is a must.
If you don’t yet have a website and are planning to get one soon, choose a responsive design so that if can be used on different devices like smart phones and tablets. Don’t forget to include the URL on your business cards too!
Take a long-term approach
In this age of constant distractions and huge choice of options online, customers won’t make an immediate decision about whether or not to buy from you. So stop thinking in terms of the instant sale. Some customers will want to research and look around. Others will want to get to know you first. So give them plenty of ways to do this by building an authentic online presence, sharing your story, and being consistent in your approach.
Crucially – make sure you’re encouraging them to sign-up to your email list when they visit your website or blog. It’s your best chance of getting in touch and encouraging them to come back if they don’t buy from you first time around.
Pull, don’t push
It’s no longer acceptable (if it ever was) to be pushy and use the hard sell. How many brands have you un-followed because of a barrage of promotional Facebook updates or tweets?
The next generation of consumers are savvy, sophisticated shoppers, and firmly in control. So attract, engage…..then let them know about the wonderful products and services you have to sell. Learn to listen to your customers and understand their needs. Become the brand they look forward to hearing from because you put a smile upon their face!
In 2013, there really is nowhere to hide! Ratings, reviews and feedback play an important part in building trust and authority for your brand. So embrace openness and use these tools to your advantage. Ask customers for testimonials. Make a habit of requesting feedback after an order has shipped. Let customers leave ratings and reviews.
Once you’ve done this – add a praise section to your website. Add snippets to your product descriptions and about page, even your business card. Then look out for an increase in sales!
Have you noticed any ways that technology is impacting your business and the way your customers shop? What are you doing about it? I’d love to know – leave a comment below.
Claire Hughes — Make, Do & Sell
Claire Hughes is an online marketing consultant with over ten year’s experience running campaigns for some of Europe’s biggest brands. Proud to call herself an internet geek and home-working mum, she now focuses exclusively on working with creative entrepreneurs. You’ll find Claire sharing free tips and advice on the Make, Do & Sell blog, as well as co-leading the Handmade Horizons marketing e-course. That’s when she’s not changing nappies or feeding her Pinterest addiction, of course…..
There’s nothing Claire loves more than helping talented ladies overcome their marketing challenges and achieve their wildest dreams. Why not connect with her on Twitter and tell her all about yours?