The Top 10 Fallacies of Selling Online
inJanuary 10, 2008 - 6:32pm
Selling online guarantees the road to riches, right? Not necessarily. It’s not as easy as many people assume, although as the Internet matures sellers and prospective sellers are clearly gaining a better understanding of what is required, and what results to expect. It certainly helps that buyers are becoming more savvy as well. For those who may be new to selling online or who are considering whether it’s something they really want to, or should do, here we’ve listed what we consider to be the top 10 fallacies of selling online:
1. I can offer only a few items: Unless you’re offering something like the top 3 current hottest electronics of the season, this is untrue and even with these items you’ll need to market your site so people will find it. Most shoppers want selection, online or offline. If they’re shopping for a type of shoe, they want to see lots of varied options once they find your site. If you’re offering one beige shoe style and it’s not what they’re looking for, they’ll quickly move on.
2. My inventory can stay the same: Shoppers want to see new inventory every time they enter a store or site. This is even true for sites offering staples like online drugstores. Sure, they’ll buy what they came for, but “while I’m here, is there anything new since my last visit?” You want to take advantage of that by planning to add fresh inventory on an ongoing basis. Yes this costs money but it costs money to operate a business.
3. Once I build my store/site I’m done: Maintaining a successful site requires, well – maintenance. You need to update your site on a regular basis not just with inventory but with a fresh look for the holidays, an update on your latest arrivals, enticing descriptions of new services you’re offering, to name a few. And it’s important to note that it’s not just individual visitors to your shop who want to see a freshly updated site. The search engines who are crucial to helping visitors find your product or service, decide where to place your site in their search results based partly on how recently your site has been updated. Keep it fresh!
4. I can “hide” behind the site and sell without customers getting to know me or my business: It’s easy to remain anonymous on the Internet. But this isn’t how you’ll entice first time visitors who don’t know you. If they see a site with little to no contact information and/or no background on you, your site or the products you’re offering, many visitors will skip it. You don’t have to reveal your deepest secrets in this regard. But you do need to be real to them, and credible. Be sure to list some form of contact information other than just an email address. A post office box is sufficient. We recommend that you list background information on your company and describe your business philosophy and list your service pledge. If it’s well presented and compellingly-written, visitors will read it.
5. Once my site is up, the world will find it: Of course the search engines are important, but you’ll need to do additional marketing on top of that. That includes keeping customer lists and contacting your customers periodically (without overdoing it) with updates on new arrivals, or by doing a regular newsletter. It includes carrying business cards and giving them out. It includes participating in blogs where people can learn about your business and product. It includes buying keyword advertising or placing print or banner ads, and offering excellent customer service, to name just a few of the many tools you’ll want to employ.
6. I can successfully require that “All Sales Are Final”: Fewer and fewer buyers are open to an “All Sales Final” policy. The selection of items offered online that come with a guarantee and/or return policy is now so significant that they don’t need to frequent sites that offer no recourse whatsoever if the item (that they cannot yet see or touch in person), turns out to be not as expected. A clear return policy that includes reasonable guidelines is highly recommended.
7. I can ship items on a shoestring budget to cut costs: Professional-quality shipping is the cost of doing business in today’s marketplace. You don’t have to spend top dollar and you can do it yourself, but cutting costs in this area lead to unhappy customers, the cost and hassle of dealing with the item that did not arrive safely, and does not promote a positive image of your business.
8. My success will come from offering my items at the lowest prices: While this may entice some “tire-kicker” customers, a price that seems too low in comparison to similar items in the marketplace is an automatic red flag to many buyers that the offer is too good to be true, and not worth the risk.
9. One photo will suffice to adequately display the item to viewers: As we stated earlier, online visitors cannot see, feel or touch the item, so the more photos the better. One front view is not likely to be enough to win over buyers and close the sale.
10. I can include a minimal item description because the one item photo will suffice: This goes along with the item picture. A lack of information will severely inhibit interest in the item. If customers have to contact you for more information then you’re requiring extra legwork on their part, which of course takes your time as well. Displaying the item well from the start is a cost-effective strategy.
Bonus Fallacy: I am likely to see instant results: It may surprise some readers to learn that on Ruby Lane we have actually had sellers give up and close after two weeks of opening their shop. Just as with any business, selling items online requires a willingness to start from the beginning and build, and to work on the business on a regular basis. You have to be committed to doing that to achieve success.
Part 2 of this article will include 10 more fallacies, so stay tuned.
The Editors of Notes from The Lane