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Selling products and supplies online

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When it comes to selling manufacturing, mining and industrial products online, there are many benefits, if done correctly. With more online shoppers than ever before, online is key and it’s time for businesses to take advantage of what eCommerce can offer. Online is convenient and time-efficient for both suppliers and consumers. Buyers can research and compare products and services from home or work, which is particularly important for highly complex purchases in the manufacturing, mining and industrial sectors. To operate a successful online store, it's crucial that your online business is secure from risks such as hacking or viruses. Because you will be undertaking financial transactions, it's important that you are aware of your business obligations. This is especially important for businesses within the manufacturing, mining and industrial sectors as many products or supplies may have precise safety standards and specifications. Consumers must be made aware of any legal or government legislations that may need to be dealt with before supplies can be shipped. However, no matter what is being sold, eCommerce best practice means that e-retailers or e-suppliers should always ensure their online business contains clear information on processes such as ordering and payment, refunds, warranties, and privacy and security. The following tips will help suppliers and buyers become aware of best practices in online retail so they can make the most of this growing business strategy. Shopping cart and security One of the most important aspects of an online shop is to ensure it is simple and easy for customers to select and purchase their chosen items. Whether it is a shopping cart which stores selected items while the customer is still browsing or a system where the customer can place and send an order easily (i.e. email), a system needs to be in place which make purchasing decisions easy, simple and hassle free. People turn to the internet because of the convenience it offers - if an organisation makes purchasing a product or service too hard, the customer is bound to give up and go somewhere else that offers a simpler way to purchase. Additionally, it is always a good idea to ensure that all purchases are conducted in a secure internet location. Your customers are handing over very personal and valuable information regarding credit and bank details. A secure site is one that is protected with a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption - you can tell a site is secure if the URL starts with ‘HTTPS’ rather than the usual ‘HTTP’ and as a retailer it is best practice to provide a secure site or risk losing prospective customers. A website is assessed by its user-friendliness, professionalism and presence of contact details. Strengthening these three areas will give the consumer an idea of the authenticity and trustworthiness of the business. Be clear and provide information We live in the world of the educated buyer. The internet provides an unwavering and vast amount of information for all of its users. Don’t assume certain pieces of information to be ‘common sense’ or easily found elsewhere. If a customer can’t find the information they are looking for on your site they are unlikely to buy and will most probably look to your competitors. As the retailer it is your responsibility to ensure your customers are well informed about the products they are buying. This includes regulatory standards, compliance and quality accreditations. Although the internet may take away the tangible advantage of selling products; high resolution, good quality images will work just as well - especially if they are accompanied by detailed descriptions, specifications and safety regulations. Ensure you clearly provide information regarding stock and purchasing options. If there is a limited supply, or if the particular product is sold out, ensure that it’s clearly stated. If the product is being shipped over vast distances - whether it be interstate or international - provide the customer with details about the estimated time of arrival, costs regarding shipping and what they will need to do in the case of a refund. Most importantly, contact information should be simple and easy to find. The customer shouldn’t need to click more than one or two times to a contacts page. A phone number, fax number and email should be provided along with an address and contact name. If you opt for a ‘Contact Us’ form be sure you are checking enquires on a regular basis. Problems regarding purchase and payment issues need to be dealt with straight away to avoid complications and maintain a high level of customer service. Your online presence Online product reviews have a strong influence on the actions of people who shop online. Monitor what people are saying whether it be on social media sites like Twitter or on industry blogs and review websites. You should have an ongoing presence on any social platform used by potential and existing customers and you should be using media monitoring tools such as Google alerts to keep an eye on what is being said about your business. Listen and attempt to resolve customer service issues and if necessary, correct any false information about your products or services. Additionally, take advantage of online business directories, such as Ferret.com.au, that allow businesses to not only be found easily by customers but also upload and post information about their business - this includes links to websites, social media pages and blogs. Online shopping is a well-established practice in Australia and around the world. Selling online exposes businesses to more customers and generates many more sales leads. Online retail offers convenience, time-efficiency and product comparison that traditional retail cannot match.

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