How to develop an effective online service strategy

With so many businesses and sources of information on the Internet, most online customers quickly become used to making rapid judgements about a website.

Websites create an impression in the minds of potential customers in a similar way to the visual merchandising in a store.

A common trap is to over-burden the website with images and visual effects. Experienced online customers prefer clarity and function on a business website. Large images can be slow to load and become a source of frustration. If your site is not arranged expertly to grab their attention, potential customers could be gone before your web page finishes loading.

A successful e-commerce implementation can be a massive contributor to a business’s top-line sales growth, profits, and help a company broaden the base of clients from which it derives income.

However, without proper planning and an understanding of the drivers of the success of an e-commerce implementation, the project can be an unmitigated disaster draining money and management focus from the core business.

It is possible to invest heavily in website development without considering methods of customer attraction and as a result experience less than desired traffic and awareness. To be most effective, customer attraction needs to be a key factor during the development of all online strategic considerations. After all the business cannot be profitable or sustainable without customers and specifically, the right customers.

A sales and service strategy describes how a business seeks to attract, transact with, and retain customers. Online sales and service must address the following issues that differentiate it from bricks and mortar operations:

  • The online customer’s impressions and expectations may be solely derived from your website and services, and as customers increasingly embrace online shopping, expectations are increasing
  • Sales staff will not meet online customers, so achieving sufficient online information and services means anticipating online customer needs
  • Competitors may also have an Internet presence which can be quickly and easily accessed so a business website needs to be attention-grabbing, practical and assist the online customer to gain value and make purchases
  • Online customers drive their own online shopping experience – sales assistance and services need to be designed into a business’s web presence

An online sales and service strategy can include:

  • Using email to make contact with customers i.e., to promote sales, new products, or send product catalogues
  • Providing facilities for customers to place orders using online order forms on a website or email
  • Providing website-based services that help customers select products
  • Providing mechanisms for customer enquiries and feedback, such as answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs)

An online strategy needs to take into account the increased access that customers have to business information. The market and market share will differ from that of the traditional market. The business also needs to consider changes in relationships with suppliers as a result of online sales and consider how these relationships can be further developed to help service the online customer more effectively.

Businesses need to develop an online strategy that is effective in acquiring and retaining online customers and delivers increasing customer satisfaction while returning revenue benefits to the company. In order to select an appropriate online strategy, the impact on sales must be considered.

The ARA Retail Institute runs multiple workshops on a variety of topics from management to organisation and merchandise planning. Click on the link below to find the perfect course for you and your employees. 

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About the ARA Retail Institute: ARA Retail Institute is Australia’s leading retail training provider for both accredited and non-accredited learning programs. For more information, please visit: www.retailinstitute.org.au

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