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Secrets Of E-Commerce Success: How To Build A Great Catalogue

How to create an excellent catalogue.

Brendon Williamson

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e-commerce

There are five things every business must know before building a website: What it’s for, what the budget is, who will create it, who will manage it and how customers are going to find it.

1. Why your catalogue is so important

When we shop in bricks-and-mortar stores, we all understand the importance of making things attractive to look at, and easy to find. If everything is lying in a heap, only those who are truly desperate for a bargain will bother searching through it. We’re far more likely to buy when things are clearly displayed, labelled and priced.

It’s exactly the same with an online store: As the seller, it’s your job to make sure your customers can find what they’re looking for, quickly and easily.

If they want to browse before buying, you want to make that a pleasant experience, not a series of frustrations. To get that right, you need to pay serious attention to the quality of your catalogue.

There are two elements to a good catalogue: How it’s displayed on the site, and what its actual content is. The first is your web developer’s job; the second is up to you.

Related: Make Money On The Internet

2. There’s no substitute for hard work

Unfortunately, in most cases your regular product catalogue is nothing more than a good start when it comes to a web catalogue. When there’s a physical shop, people can satisfy their curiosity by picking things up and asking questions. Online, you have to anticipate their questions by giving as much relevant information as possible.

You’ll need a spreadsheet for this, and for each item you’re selling it should list things like: Product name, product code, short and long descriptions, technical specifications (eg dimensions, weight, size, colour, voltage, materials, required accessories like batteries and whether they’re included or not – anything that’s relevant) and images. If you’re reselling items you’ve ordered from someone else, their own catalogue is a good place to start – but you can almost certainly improve on it.

This is hard, hard work, but there’s no way around it. If you leave it to your developer, it will take a lot longer and cost a lot more. Besides, you’re the one who understands your products. But do check with your web developer early on that the information is in a format they can use, and ask for their suggestions about how to improve it.

3. Make it user friendly

If you’ve shopped online yourself, you’ve probably experienced the frustration of seeing shops list their products under names like ‘SPX7001 Mark II Widget (black)’. Don’t do this to your customers. You may need a product code for your own admin purposes – but for displaying your wares, every product needs a clear name and description that will help customers find what they are looking for.

Don’t use names that don’t convey information: ‘Ariadne’ might mean lots to you, but it means nothing to your customer. If you must use a name you love, ‘Ariadne 3-strand Venetian glass bead necklace’  is more useful.

Test your names and descriptions out on friends and family members to see if they make sense. If there’s something that confuses people, find a way to answer the questions. For example, given the choice between a 20cm necklace and a 30cm necklace, most people would struggle to know the difference – show pictures of a model wearing each style and the problem is solved.

4. Yes, a picture does say a thousand words

Pictures sell – and better pictures sell more. If you have a big enough budget, consider hiring a professional photographer to take pictures of your goods – if not, do some research so that you can do a good enough DIY job. For example: Take your pictures against a white background, make sure they are well lit by a white (not yellow) globe with no harsh shadows, make sure they’re in focus, use more than one angle and include a close up.

Ask your developer what size and format the pictures should be delivered in, and stick to that. (You will probably find they’re too big to email and you will need to use a service like DropBox or hand over a flash drive.)

5. Don’t forget other content

Your catalogue is an important piece of content for your site, but not the only one. Don’t leave it to your web developer to write your home page and other copy for you – design and writing are very different skills, and you can’t expect someone to be good at both.

There are at least two benefits to writing your own copy, or hiring a professional to do it.

  • Firstly, it will do the job you need it to do.
  • Secondly, you will probably find that writing down the story of your company and what you sell forces you to become clear about some things that were probably fuzzy about your own business. Use it as a learning opportunity.

If you can get these five things right, you are laying some of the most important foundations for a successful website.

Related: 5 Extremely Effective Content Marketing Formats

Brendon has been in the online payments industry for 11 years and specialised in online fraud management and product development. Before PayGate, Brendon spent time as a Risk Specialist for DataCash, a MasterCard owned company, consulted directly to ecommerce Merchants worldwide assisting them with the implementation of fraud management systems and processes as well as headed the global risk operations for Intercept Risk Services. Brendon has filled numerous speaking slots nationally and internationally. Brendon is also known for his online fraud training, specifically a workshop titled Unmasking the Fraudster. Part of Brendon’s portfolio at PayGate is ensuring that it offers solutions that assist small businesses when moving into the online realm and offering established online Merchants secure and reliable ways to receive payments. Tel: 0861 102 172/ Email: brendonw@paygate.co.za

Techniques

5 Signs Your Customers Have Questions You Aren’t Answering

You may be causing confusion somewhere in the customer journey. And confused customers don’t buy.

Sujan Patel

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customer-advice

When you come to my website, the first thing you see is me, a description of what I do and a button that encourages you to click on it. There are no surprises, no guessing where you should go next. I’ve laid it all out right in front of you.

Not all businesses make things this clear. Some have too much clutter on their homepage, overwhelming visitors with information. In fact, 75 percent of consumers polled in research by Stanford said that they judged a company’s credibility by its website design.

Such lack of clarity doesn’t apply just to websites. This could be a problem in your emails, your sales process, even your physical stores. And a  lack of clarity is troubling, because it confuses your customers, and confused customers don’t want to buy from you.

You need to make sure your business is focused on ensuring a positive experience. That means making sure no customer question is left unanswered.

Not sure if your business is suffering from a lack of clarity? If you recognise any of these five signs, there’s a good chance your customers are confused.

1. Your website stats seem off

We tend to assume that most people know what to do when they come to a website. But if your website is unorganised or cluttered, customers may not know where to go when they get there.

Maybe the customer wants to call you, but your contact information is buried. Or maybe he or she wants to purchase a product directly off your site, but the checkout process is too clunky.

If something on your website is off, your stats are going to show it. You’ll probably see a lot of visitors but not a lot of return visitors, and the amount of time they spend on your site may be low.

So, how do you fix it? Go through your website with a fine-toothed comb. Have someone unfamiliar with your site go through it and give you feedback. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and look at the site from their perspective. How can you make their experience on your site as smooth as possible?

Related: How To Win Trust And Wax Sales

2. The customer is indecisive

When customers are in the decision phase, you want to do everything you can to seal the deal and push them along with their decision. If they’re waffling or can’t seem to make that decision, there’s something wrong.

It could be that they don’t have all the information they need. If they’re confused about something, it’s your job to set their mind at ease. Make sure you’re open with your customers, and offer help with any questions or concerns they might have. FAQs, live chat options, videos and product resource pages can help tremendously here.

3. The customer doesn’t know how to use the product

customer-products

Is there one question that keeps coming up again and again from your customers? If you’re constantly getting the same question about your product or service, the answer needs to be clearer.

Customers shouldn’t have to call in to your support team for simple issues. You need to make it easy for customers to use your products and services. That means offering to help set things up for them and properly onboarding and training them in your product’s use. The more you can prepare your customers and anticipate their needs, the more satisfied they’ll be.

4. The customer is complaining

According to a survey by American Express, seven out of ten consumers in the United States have spent more money to do business with a company that offers great service. Excellent customer support is key to the success of your business, and without it, customers will be unhappy.

When customers are unsatisfied with the level of service they’re receiving, you’ll hear about it. If you’re getting a lot of complaints or seeing a lot of product returns, there’s probably something wrong.

To avoid getting an earful, you need to get to the root of the issue and find out the cause of your customers’ unhappiness. Is it your customer service team? Slow shipping times? Or something deeper? You may be causing confusion somewhere in the customer journey.

Related: How You Can Guarantee Customer Satisfaction

5. Sales are down

If you aren’t selling, something is wrong. It’s as simple as that. If sales are consistently on a decline, you need to go back and find out where the problem is.

Customers want to know what they’re getting into when they make a purchase. You need to make it clear what you offer, why customers should buy from you and how exactly they can go about buying.

The key here is clarity. Customers aren’t going to jump through hoops to purchase your product. You need to guide them through the sale by ensuring their questions are answered before they’ve even asked them.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Company Posts

On Top Of Their Game

Innovative and focused on always providing superior solutions to the energy sector, Karebo Group works with top-quality providers to ensure 100% service delivery to its clients.

TomTom Telematics

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karebo

As a provider of dynamic professional services and products to the energy sector, Karebo Group’s core focus is delivering high-quality services and products to its clients.

“Our team has a long-standing and proven track record within the energy market,” says Ravi Govender, owner of Karebo Group. “Our in-depth knowledge and experience enables us to offer innovative and superior solutions to our clients. As a team, we thrive on the intellectual challenges that energy markets present.”

Karebo Group’s value proposition is to always deliver within time and budget, 100% customer commitment according to contract; operations must deliver consistently; and the entire team must be committed and 100% professional in delivery.

Because Karebo Group provides a turnkey solution to its clients, managing its own fleet enables the team to provide the best and most efficient service possible. “We’ve learnt the benefits of controlling the entire value chain,” says Ravi.

“In the past we have outsourced our logistics, and it impacted both our costs and our service delivery. By managing our own fleet, we can reduce costs and have happier clients.”

Cost-effective solutions

Karebo’s customers face significant challenges related to energy costs, which means it’s essential for the business to offer its solutions as cost-effectively as possible. Controlling transport and logistics costs is one way to do this, but it’s just one factor that the business considers. “We have solutions for all of the cost challenges that our customers face,” says Ravi.

Related: Is It Time To Consider Renewable Energy To Power Your Business?

“The problem is that while these solutions have a great return on investment, the ability to raise or channel capital to them is a challenge. General market conditions are also contributing to the indecision on allocating limited capital to these projects.”

In response, Karebo has overcome many of these challenges by assisting its customers to raise their own capital for projects. “We have moved the conversation from a CAPEX conversation to an OPEX conversation,” he explains.

The TomTom Telematics Difference

In order to keep its own operating expenses as lean as possible, it’s essential for Karebo to work with suppliers who understand their business and its needs. “We’ve been working with TomTom Telematics for three years and in that time we’ve reaped the full benefits of using the system to its full potential.

“WEBFLEET’s features include loading orders, geofencing, tracking and reporting, all of which have assisted us in optimising routes and working efficiently to see more customers, thereby increasing productivity.

“The order dispatch features via navigation device enable our teams to keep to their schedules, while address-visit reports help our teams to be more efficient by eliminating unnecessary visits to the same locations. The onboard navigation system also assists in communicating with our teams via a messaging service — teams can message our head office via the system if they need immediate assistance with correcting addresses or if any vehicle maintenance required. In addition, head office has a full view of the location of all of its teams across Africa, at any given point in time.”

According to Ravi, TomTom Telematics has played a significant role in the overall business, not just in terms of monitoring vehicles, but on bottom line costs as well.

“We chose TomTom Telematics based on its services, which met our specific requirements. Thanks to WEBFLEET, our company has seen a reduction in fuel costs, increased productivity and vehicle maintenance costs have been reduced as we place all driver behaviour reports on our company chat to correct driver behaviour.”

The leading edge

Ravi Govender was part of the national steering committee that put together the M&V framework that the original Eskom DSM programme was measured against. He also led the UKZN M&V team from January 2002 to December 2003 before joining Karebo in 2004.

Related: How do I start a retail energy business with Eskom being the only provider in South Africa?

Since joining Karebo, Ravi has ensured that his passion in developing solutions that transform and promote DSM has helped to place Karebo at the forefront of energy efficiency in South Africa.

Under Ravi’s leadership, Karebo has been focused on increasing the penetration of DSM in the South African environment and beyond. As a result, Karebo has been involved in several notable projects in this arena, including developing the framework and methodology to develop and implement large-scale mass rollout programmes.

Karebo pioneered the mass rollout of CFLs for Eskom and through this foundation several other programmes that been implemented, from the mass rollout of solar water heaters and residential mass rollouts, to developing the first large-scale LED programmes that were funded by Eskom. At that point it was the first and largest LED rollout approved anywhere in the world.

Karebo was also involved in both of Eskom’s Residential Mass Rollout phases; was contracted by the World Bank to assist Malawi on an advisory basis for the first CFL programme rolled out in that country; and was recently appointed by the EU through the European Commission to implement Solar Power Lighting to Communities and Schools in Lesotho.

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Techniques

How To Win Trust And Wax Sales

Small changes to your ecommerce platform could transform your turnover.

Daniella Shapiro

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ecommerce

Any ecommerce business venture is risky. Your products are not going to walk off the site by themselves from day one.  You have done your market research. You have identified and targeted consumer needs. You believe in your product.

What you need now is for consumers to believe in it too. But that is not enough. Your consumers also need to believe in you and your brand. Your ecommerce platform is the vehicle which allows the consumer to experience an insight into the quintessence of you, your product, and your brand.

Take your ecommerce experience from ‘what?’ to ‘wow!’.

The voice

Your ecommerce platform is a place that gives you, your brand and your products a voice. Your voice needs to speak out and tell your story. How you came to this point with your product. How and why you know it is the best on offer. Who you are.

What your brand stands for. Drive engagement with your voice through blogging. Show your investment in remaining relevant and meeting consumer needs. Invite feedback to build diversity and growth. Your products need a voice too, but they cannot speak for themselves. Let customers know your products’ worth by offering clear, detailed, jargon-free descriptions.

Give your customers pictures. Lots of them. From every angle. Show what you and your products are made of. Bring your products right into the customer’s home. If your products have got it, flaunt it. Convey an effective message that unites you as creator, your creations, and the lifestyle your brand is offering.

Authenticity, honesty, and clarity of purpose will connect the consumer to your brand in a real and relevant way.

Related: The Future Is Now – Ecommerce Retail Trends For 2019

Tell all, on call

Respond to consumer enquiries with as little delay as possible. These are personal interactions with the consumer that build relationships. Excellent customer service boosts positive feedback. Aim to provide as much detailed information about your business as possible. Be transparent, and proud of it.

An FAQ section is professional and helps address recurring questions regarding your products, services and business practices. Use the opportunity to provide further info about your brand’s integrity and professionalism. Refer to certifications and licenses. FAQs indicate honest, reliability and well-established business procedures, which further builds consumer trust. 

The allure of secure

A steadfast returns policy cuts the risk for consumers when making a purchase. It is far easier to commit if you are assured you can return the product with a full money back guarantee. Make this policy evident from the outset. Include a link to your returns policy on your landing page. Address all returns related queries in your FAQs. Consumers will also trust your ecommerce platform if you guarantee safety and security of information.  

Less is more!

Shipping costs are a turnoff. Many consumers abandon their carts just at the finish line because of this final hurdle. So, offer free shipping and seal the deal. Discounts and sales items must be in your face. Feature deals and reductions on your landing page with hard-to-miss, easily understandable images of slashed prices. Build some buzz around sales items with a sense of urgency.

Small trial samples in exchange for email details or a quick survey are another sweet deal. Everybody loves a sample. And you score business leads to follow up. The info you gather can help you to personalise user experience, and fine tune focused target marketing.

Related: Tips On How to Build Your First Ecommerce Business

That big red button

We have all encountered an enticing call-to-action button. One that offers the promise of a new start, that opens doors, that kicks in the rush of actualisation. A CTA that makes the customer feel like that button has their name on it is what it’s all about. ‘Buy Now’, ‘Add to Cart’, ‘Get Started’. The brand and lifestyle you are selling needs its own effective CTAs. They are the final frontier between deliberation and diving in.

The quick or the dead

First things last: Your ecommerce site had better load, and fast. This is vital. Already, 5 years back, failure to load with sufficient speed meant 1.73 billion GBP in lost sales. Consumer impatience is a fact. There are loads of options out there. Don’t be left dead in the water.

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