Notes from our thrilling journey down the silk route

You need to be able to convert the event of online shopping into an entire experience for your buyers. The experience of buying should be smooth and comfortable even before they receive the purchased items. Remember when Seth Godin talked about ordering the x-ray glasses as a kid?

It wasn’t the glasses that were fun, but the 4 week anticipation and day-dreaming that came before it. That anticipation alone was worth the dollars those kids spent on the glasses.

Quite in the same way, every time someone places an order on your site, that person goes through a similar period of anticipation and excitement – regardless of whether they are buying for themselves or gifts. The anticipation remains. Now, if you break their excitement by making the process of ordering painful, then you’ll in effect be breaking their experience. A broken experience is always remembered and will come back to bite you. We want to talk about the importance of creating seamless experiences for your online shops.

The experience starts from the moment an interested buyer enters your website, to the moment he/she receives the purchased items in mail. The better the experience, the more they will like you. The more they like you, the more they will buy from you. The more they buy from you, the more they will refer you to their trusted friends. The more references you get, the more products you’ll sell. Although it is theoretically a simplistic model, a lot of good bloggers don’t pay it enough heed.

Think about it from the buyer’s perspective. If ordering a new necklace is an event in your life, then your experience will begin as soon as you enter the website to place the order, to how the shipment packaging looks like when it gets to you. Does it arrive on time? Is it exactly like it claimed to be? Does it come with a thoughtful note? The smoother the flow, from the start to the end, the more memorable the experience will be.

So the idea is to turn this into an experience that everyone would want to remember and feel special about. Now, alternatively, if I visit a great website or blog frequented by a lot of people… but to buy something I have to click on a Silkfair/Etsy/Artfire widget that leads to another site altogether – you’ve lost me as a customer. Because my experience is broken the moment I’m redirected somewhere else. The moment I get to the other site, I forget what I was looking for and often get distracted by other options and stores.

Your store should be right there when someone is looking around for products that you offer. Because that’s when they have their credit card in front of their keyboards and are mentally prepared to make a purchase. How would you feel if you go to Barnes & Noble and when you’re ready to buy a book, the person behind the counter says “oh, for that you’ll have to go to another store 5 blocks away”? Not so peachy, I’ll bet.

Every time you sell something – it’s like a small event that takes place — each event needs to reinforce your brand and identity. It’s sad to see how people keep on offering broken experiences without giving thought to their brand story. Today, let’s talk about ways of building brand stories for your store. Whether you are selling products or services… the essence is always the same – does the brand make people WANT to associate themselves with you?

You need to have a story that ties everything together. People remember stories. When they are buying or selling items, they’re selling stories. The story should be genuine, but it needs to be articulated properly for people to remember it.

Your key differentiation:
Before anything else – understand your market. Who is your ideal customer? What are their needs, thoughts and requirements? How is your product filling those needs? Once you know what sets you apart from all other offerings in the market, you’ll automatically highlight those aspects of your brand on your site.

Your story:
When you know what sets you apart, it’s simple to build a story around it. For example, your story could be: “we were buying jewelry for our daughter’s wedding and couldn’t find good economical and elegant designs. Either we came across fancy expensive designer wear, or ill-finished handmade ones. At first we kept looking around… but then we decided to take things in our own hands and custom design them. They turned out so great and everyone at the wedding complimented her. Fast forward 5 years, and we now have a small jewelry design business and are catering to unique custom orders in an affordable way.”

When you are ready to share your story with your community, just tell them the exact story and let them absorb it. Never push anyone to buy from you, let them get lured themselves. Not only will people remember your story, they will talk about it with their friends when they wear your jewelry items.

Reinforce your brand:
Make it easy for people to share your story with their friends. A great way to do this is to have it on a small printed card that you can send with all shipments (with your logo on one side and the story on the other). Refer to your story on your blog to keep it fresh in their memories – e.g. “you know how we all started out… with the wedding a few weeks away and no good jewelry options…”.

Don’t break the experience:
Don’t ignore your customer’s messages, queries and emails. Don’t add unnecessary steps just for them to get the information they are looking for. Don’t delay the shopping cart processing. Don’t add extra annoyances at checkout. Don’t under-deliver the value that they expect from a product. Don’t send prospects off to third party sites, unless you have absolutely no choice.

Keeping these factors into consideration, we have built ways in which anyone can setup an online shop in minutes – without requiring any programming background. The shop looks exactly like your site, thus making the experience of your site visitors smooth and comfortable. This is an exciting time for us, because the feedback we’re getting so far is incredibly positive. Everyone is excited about owning their own stores, where they can display their own brand. Their visitors don’t even know how the store is running in the background. All they know is that when they want to buy something, they can do it immediately without a hiccup. If you’re interested in opening a shop on your site, get in touch with us today.

Meanwhile, here is an example of a creative user who has put together her own shop at her own site for her own audiences. B Johnson Jewelry. Enjoy!

customshop-sample2

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