by Bob Osgoodby
Sure, the e-tools available for an online merchant are great.
You have up to the minute product selection on your web pages, and autoresponders that can follow up requests. You have your own online mall, immediate payment methods to prevent that "cooling off" period, secure sites for financial transactions, and all sorts of e-tools at your disposal. But what is wrong? You're not being overwhelmed with sales, and barely making expenses.
Stop for a moment. Why are potential customers not placing an order. Assuming you have a decent product and prices, why are they not buying.
Possibly they have questions that are not being answered, and would like to talk with a live human being. The brick and mortar store has the edge over the e-store, when faced with a customer that needs personal contact to feel comfortable.
If someone has reached this point, usually all they need is a little assurance before placing their order. And here is the funny part - they may not even want to talk with someone, but may just want to be sure there is someone to contact if there is a problem.
If you don't list proper contact information for your virtual business, you may be losing customers. Your name and e-mail address will go a long way. Even better, give them a physical address and a telephone number they can call. You may wish to have an "800" number, but you will get a lot of "tire kickers". Even if you don't give a free number, just the fact that there is a number listed goes a long way in allaying their fears.
Let your potential customers know that if they have questions, they can email you their phone number, and you will call them. Many times they won't, as all they really wanted to know is that they are dealing with a real person. They say a picture is worth a thousand words - consider putting your picture on your web site. This gives instant identification to your name and goes a long way in building customer confidence.
E-commerce is here to stay, but the mortality rate of "wannabes" will be high. Those that remember the "Personal Touch" will be among the survivors.
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The Personal Touch
Offering proper contact information is key to securing online customers.