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Why Launch A Member-Only E-commerce Store?

This is why you should launch a member-only e-commerce store in South Africa.

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With so many ecommerce platforms available, starting your own online store can be quite simple. Making your first sale is very exciting. It also marks the start of great things to come.

There are a number of models you can choose from to launch your ecommerce store. All of them will require you to find your customers, convert their interest into a sale and then retain their information to market to them in the future again.

However the difference between making a sale to a one-time customer is very different to selling to a client who has bought into your brand and supports you year in and year out.

Out of all the models available to sell your goods and services online, one of the top trends in 2017 is the members-only or subscriptions based model.

How does it work?

While some stores invite customers to browse without any sign up to a newsletter, others require an email address or a subscription fee for a set period of time. The member only model requires a monthly membership fee to gain access to discounted goods or services.

The monthly membership fee is automatically renewed making it an excellent way for retailers to predict future income. However, the terms and conditions of the renewable fee must be clearly communicated to avoid any confusion.

Related: 5 Ecommerce Myths That Are Sabotaging People’s Businesses

E.g. recently launched South African sporting gear and apparel brand, Commander HQ’s charges a monthly membership fee of R50 for which members have access to all the products in their store (latest ranges as well as end of ranges) at discounted prices of between 40% and 70%.

When a member signs up they’re debited immediately and then, unless they opt out of the deal, are automatically billed monthly.

What are the benefits of this model?

online-shopping

For retailers it offers far more predictability in terms of income and future revenues. It helps to smooth out demand so you manage your operations more effectively.

Knowing how many members you have means you can adjust stock levels and you also don’t risk having a pile of unsold inventory.

The benefits of tracking customer engagements translates into better customer communication and an overall improved customer experience, two key elements for a successful member-based model.

Says Carey Mol, owner of Commander HQ: “This is such a great way for us and our customer’s to benefit. We charge R50 per month which equates to two cups of coffee and results in, for example, R1326 discount off our Columbia Bugaboo Interchange Jacket valued at R3550. The cost of the membership is covered by the discount received 

How do shoppers benefit?

  • Customers have direct access to top quality international designer brands they might never have considered buying otherwise.
  • Customers receive massive discounts and deals that never expire
  • Customers can spread the costs rather than making a single big ticket purchase. This is a huge benefit because as the cost of living soars, consumers have less disposable income to spend on luxury items.
  • When times are tough, shoppers can cancel their membership immediately.

Related: 5 Basics To Success When Starting An Ecommerce Business

Key factors for success

Transparency. You must be upfront about the cost, delivery, returns, refunds and payments. Because shoppers are more trusting of making an online transaction, you need to give them an easy opt out option, especially when they are debited monthly for a membership fee.

A number of big ecommerce stores in the USA like JustFab, Blue Apron, Adore Me, and Kate Hudson’s athletic wear shop, Fabletics have, in the last two years, faced big lawsuits because of not openly disclosing how members can stop their automatic payment renewal.

According to World Wide Worx, CEO Arthur Goldstuck, transparency is not only essential for your business to succeed in building trust and customer loyalty. It’s also the quality of service you offer, the cost of your products or services and the ranges available as well as the overall customer experience that as a whole will differentiate you from your competitor.

 

Carey Mol spent most of her career alongside numerous reputable corporates in the mobile, digital and tech industry. She continued honing her skills within her current role as MD for Cellular Media Distribution (CMD), a digital agency based in South Africa. One of the key products that has been in development for the past year at CMD is Commander HQ, the membership-based online lifestyle and sporting apparel store that gives members incredible savings, on top international branded sports gear and apparel. Commander HQ, which still has other elements in development, is ahead of the curve in this country, though South Africans are becoming more adventurous, confident and open minded when purchasing online retail products and services.

Techniques

How You Can Guarantee Customer Satisfaction

Customer service is no longer a differentiator. Every business makes the same promises, and everyone says that they put their customers first. But do you? Here are three ways to up your customer-centric game.

Basil O’Hagan

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“We implemented a money-back guarantee at the Brazen Head at the Leaping Frog Centre, Fourways, offering a money-back guarantee on all our meals. Staff were reluctant at first, but the guarantee forced us to maintain standards at our front and back of house. In the end, we only had to honour the guarantee once in eight months.”

It’s a stock standard differentiator that every company uses: Customer service. And yet so many businesses are anything but customer-centric. Whether you’re in a B2C or B2B environment, here are three areas you could improve today.

1. Guarantee Your Service

If you don’t believe in your service, you can’t expect anyone else to. So, guarantee your service. This should not just be an empty phrase — back up your guarantee with a money-back promise.

Advertise that promise in your business, on your website and in your communications. That tells your customers, “We have such confidence in our service, and we’re so determined to be great that we put our money where our mouth is.”

Related: 5 Techniques To Leave Customers Grinning And Vowing To Return

The benefits of a money-back guarantee:

  • It encourages first-time customers to try your services.
  • It forces your team to keep standards high and focus on results, as slip-ups will hurt your business immediately.
  • It fosters pride in your business. “Our service is 100% guaranteed to be great!”
  • It is a selling point. “At Venus Video Games, satisfaction is guaranteed, or your money back!”
  • It sets you apart from your competitors. Would you rather try a new store that offers a money-back guarantee, or one that doesn’t?

We implemented this at the Brazen Head at the Leaping Frog Centre, Fourways, offering a money-back guarantee on all our meals. Staff were reluctant at first, but the guarantee forced us to maintain standards at our front and back of house. In the end, we only had to honour the guarantee once in eight months.

2. Complaints: Relate and Recover

Often, what a customer wants most from a company is to be treated like a person. They want real, authentic, human interaction.

Mostly, this human kindness will come while you cater perfectly to their every need, deliver the goods and services efficiently and then send them on their way with a massive smile on their face.

But every now and then things will go wrong. The customer won’t get exactly what they were looking for, the service won’t be 100%, or there will be some kind of misunderstanding.

This is unfortunate and of course nobody wants it to happen, but occasionally it does. If handled properly, these hiccups can be an opportunity to improve customer relations, build real human interaction and turn an unhappy customer into a happy one.

When a customer calls into your bank branch to complain that an unauthorised debit order was taken off her account, treat the person like you would like to be treated. Here is a good procedure to follow that fixes the problem while building a real human interaction.

  1. Understand the problem. Listen carefully and make sure you know exactly what the client’s complaint is.
  2. It doesn’t matter if they actually signed an authorisation and it’s technically their fault. This isn’t about who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s about building a relationship of good customer service.
  3. Take immediate action to fix the problem. In this case, reverse the debit order.
  4. Ensure it doesn’t happen again. That means working out who authorised the debit, and why and adjusting your systems.

If you go through this process as efficiently and as pleasantly as you can, you might find the customer comes out the other side in a pretty good mood. Their complaint has been acknowledged, they’ve got an apology and it’s been sorted out.

Service Tip: Don’t take customer complaints personally. They are part of your job, and your role is to handle them professionally. When a passenger of your airline says, “You’ve lost my bag!” they don’t mean it was you personally who lost it. But in this case, you represent your airline, so you should take responsibility, apologise and sort it out.

Related: Demanding Customers Are The Ones Who Motivate Innovation

3. Use Your Own Services

There’s no better way to check what your company’s service is like than by being your own customer. Of course, if people recognise you as one of their colleagues, they’ll be on their best behaviour, so use one of your digital channels, phone up or use a branch where they don’t know you.

Now pretend you’re a customer looking to make a purchase, but without too much knowledge of your systems. You’re a person off the street, as it were. What is your service experience like?

Here are some ways you can use your own services:

  • Try to get hold of your company. How easy is it to find your details? Is your website clear and logical, is your phone number prominently displayed? How is the phone answered?
  • Try to make a purchase. Is it easy? Is your query handled efficiently and quickly?
    • Most importantly, what’s the service like? Are the staff friendly, positive and dynamic? Do they go the extra mile to deliver exceptional service? Do they build relationships, do they provide help beyond just making the sale?
  • Phone to complain. Use the customer-care line, or website. You’ve been advertising this channel for years — what actually happens when someone uses it? Are complaints handled efficiently and in a positive spirit?
  • Leave a message. You can do this by voicemail, text or email. Does anyone get back to you?
  • Be inconvenient. Call over the weekend, after-hours, during lunch, or even during a busy period. Are the staff just as keen to help you? Can you even get hold of anyone?

Try to get hold of yourself. When last did you listen to your own voice message? What does the signature say at the bottom of your email? What does your switchboard operator say when answering the phone?

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Techniques

How To Manufacture Sales Urgency (Without Sounding Like A Scam Artist)

If you’re struggling to drive urgency in your business, here are three ways to do it.

Sujan Patel

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We’ve all seen those infomercials – the ones that urge us to call in to buy a blender or a mop or some other kind of gadget. If we call in the next 20 minutes, we’ll receive two for the price of one. Somehow, against my better judgment, I find myself thinking about calling in to cash in on the deal. But why?

It’s because those infomercials are all about urgency. You can use the same tactic to drive sales to your business, too.

Establishing urgency gives your customers a reason to act quickly. Their instinct is to take their time and think about the decision. But by throwing urgency into the mix, you’re eliminating the customer’s ability to think too hard or wait too long to buy.

But creating that sense of urgency isn’t always easy. Research from Hubspot finds that establishing urgency is the top challenge today’s salespeople face. If you’re struggling to drive urgency in your business, here are three ways to do it.

1. Establish scarcity

The more there is of an item, the less motivated we are to go out and get it. But if that item is scarce (or perceived as scarce), its value increases.

Related: Sales Strategy Example

Think of the iPhone. How many people do you know who run out to get the newest iPhone on the day of its release? They stand in line for hours, wanting to be one of the first to have the new product, and knowing that eventually the store is going to run out of iPhones – at least until they get another shipment. But that won’t be for months.

That new model iPhone is perceived as scarce. There aren’t many of them, and time is running out to get one, so your purchase decision needs to be made quickly. The same idea can be applied to your products or services. Perhaps you only offer a limited number of products or you only open registration for your event for a limited time. With the window of opportunity much smaller, your prospects will be more likely to buy.

2. Focus on your customers’ needs

Establishing urgency doesn’t always have to be about scarcity, though. You can create a sense of urgency by understanding, from the customer’s point of view, why they need the product now. This goes back to understanding your customers’ needs, which you need to know to sell anything to them. You need to get to the bottom of what makes your customers tick and what their pain points are. Then you can focus on how your products or services offer a solution.

The customer is always asking “What’s in it for me?” When they hear how your product or service aligns with their needs, they are persuaded to act. To the customer, their problems are urgent, and if you offer a way to solve them, they’ll be more likely to trust you and buy from you.

Related: Empower Your Team To Make More Sales

3. Show the consequences

As humans, we tend to avoid negative consequences no matter what. This “loss aversion” means we’ll do whatever it takes to avoid dangerous situations, losing the things we love or any other negative consequence. In fact, the desire not to lose is often greater than the desire to gain.

In sales, focusing on the consequences of not buying can have a great effect on a prospect’s decision to buy. You may choose to show how much money the prospect could lose if they don’t invest in your product or service, or how flawed their current processes are and how inefficient their business is. Whatever it is, focusing on the negative instead of the positive will have a psychological influence on your prospects, which will lead them to a purchase decision faster.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Techniques

How To Respond Effectively When Buyers Resort To These 5 Obnoxious Negotiating Tactics

Get over the shock, figure out what’s really going on and respond calmly.

Mike Schultz

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You’ve been working with a buyer for months. You’ve had multiple meetings, developed a great relationship, answered their objections and now, you’re hoping it will be smooth sailing as you look to close the sale. Then, you enter the sales negotiation stage.

Unfortunately, not all buyers come to negotiations in partner mode, wanting to work collaboratively with you. Instead, some buyers take a more positional approach. They either want to get the price reduced or get more from you for less. Some buyers will go to great lengths to get everything in their favour, and their tactics are more cringe worthy than others.

Here are five obnoxious buyer tactics and how you can respond.

1. Temper tantrum

You’ve been negotiating for a while and are stuck working through problems. You make an offer, and the buyer says, “Ok, this is crazy. That’s insulting. I’ve had enough of this!” They get up and slam the door.

Sometimes a temper tantrum is an orchestrated reaction to price or a specific term in the proposal in order to evoke a response from you.

If this happens to you, don’t get rattled. Remain professional, and don’t take the bait. Suggest taking a short break. You can help the buyer save face by acknowledging how important the negotiated issue is for everyone involved.

Then, use a white board and illustrate the key points, and get back to the objectives and possibilities. If their objection was just a price concession request, say no. When you do so, you set a boundary. Meanwhile, keep working on solutions and move on as if the temper tantrum didn’t happen.

Related: Small Business Savvy: Why You Need Negotiation Skills

2. Theatre of the absurd

Imagine you say, “For this solution set over a 12-month period, that will be $320,000.” The buyer’s response is, “I don’t think so. It should be $40,000 max.”

With this tactic, the buyer asks for a lot, knowing it’s absurd, hoping to then appear reasonable by lowering demands that are still, actually, unreasonable. In this situation, you need to reverse direction. Respond immediately, and call their bluff. They had a big reaction, you have one back. Say something like, “Let me ask you, if you were me, how would you react to that?” or “What do you suppose my VP will say if I even entertained this discussion?”. Reverse direction by giving them an example of why what they’re asking for is silly.

3. Selective memory

With this tactic, the buyer conveniently forgets what they agreed to. This is why you should keep and share notes after negotiation discussions. Make sure your documentation is good, and you can avoid the issue altogether.

If this occurs multiple times, call them out on it. Say something like, “We seem to keep backing away from things we’ve already agreed to. What can we do moving forward to ensure this doesn’t happen again?” Then bring the conversation back to objectives and possibilities.

4. Good cop, bad cop

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With this tactic, the buyer introduces a “bad cop” later in discussions to pressure price, change the agreement, reopen closed issues and so on. Your best response to this tactic is to bring your own bad cop to even the playing field.

Don’t blink or look intimidated. Most importantly, don’t cave. Stick to objectives, possibilities, requirements and alternatives, and focus on outcomes. Often times, buyers try to wear you down with time and pressure. Don’t cave. Make sure you stay present, and don’t rush.

Related: Why Thinking Abstractly Helps You Negotiate

5. One last thing

You’ve spent the last four months negotiating a major deal and are ready to sign the agreement. It’s close to your reservation price, but still manages to squeeze in above your BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement).

The buyer sends you an email that reads, “Attached is the signed contract. There’s just one last thing we wrote into the contract and initialed – we need to put no money down, and not send the deposit as you noted. We’ll start paying in 120 days.”

“One last thing” is a tricky tactic. It catches the seller at their most vulnerable point and uses eagerness to get the deal done to wring out final concessions.

To address this tactic, you need to ask yourself whether the “one last thing” jeopardises the agreement. What problems does it introduce, if any? Are you willing to play what roughly equates to a game of chicken with a buyer? Ask questions and suggest a trade offer unless the ask is truly insignificant.

Sometimes, it’s not a game. Your buyer may be forced by company policy to say this, and may be stuck if you don’t agree.

In any case, you need to analyse the reasons, consequences and implications, then re-engage the discussion with the buyer. Remind them that the process to get final agreement includes flexibility on both sides.

As a seller, you’re going to face various types of buyer tactics. Some are more common than others and some are more challenging than others. Sellers who prepare for these types of scenarios are less likely to cave during negotiations. Buyers have been conditioned to respond in specifics ways. Your job is to uncover what’s really going on and respond appropriately.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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