September 24th, 2014
By Graham Jones
Whatever business you run, the Internet is central to your success. Even if you don’t use the Internet very much to engage with customers or sell things, your competitors might. And even if your sector is not Internet savvy as a whole, the Internet provides the opportunity for new competition that could transform your market.
It is worthwhile remembering that the dominant online retailer, Amazon, was not invented by the retail industry. The world’s leading online fashion website, ASOS, was not invented by the fashion industry. And the world’s leading B2B supplies company, AliBaba, was not even invented by someone in business – it was started by an English language teacher!
The point is that the Internet means that competition can come from surprising places. Just because your business is not that affected by the web today, doesn’t mean it won’t be tomorrow.
As a result, all businesses need to consider the impact the web is having on their ability to perform. Those selling directly online report one big problem – price competition. The Internet has helped push prices down in many areas, not just consumer facing goods, but also in business services. There are even price comparison sites for commercial law firm services, for instance.
Shopping carts are abandoned with glee online as people hop from site to site to find the best deal. People no longer have to travel to find your competitor they can do it in a click and forget about you within seconds.
The web is the most competitive environment you have ever been working in. Much of that competition is down to the behaviour of your customers online.
Psychological studies show that people make decisions much more quickly online, they also compare more options online than they do in the real world and their attention span online is much lower than it is in the real world. This means that you have to get across what you will do for your customers quickly – really quickly. Neurological studies show you have between half a second and five seconds. After that you can lose your visitor to a competitor.
When people do flit from site to site, what are they looking for? What do they want in those first few seconds? Because if you provide that you can stop them clicking away. And if they do click away, what will bring them back?
There are two things you need to convey – instantly – if you want to succeed online:
1. The page the customer lands on provides exactly what they want in the way they want it personalised to their needs delivered their way
2. Your website needs to ooze “customer service”
Your potential customers have no shortage of choice online. If they can’t see what they want instantly on your web page they don’t bother looking on your site, they look on Google to find an alternative. If you don’t show them “this is exactly what you were after” then they disappear.
And when they do disappear, they can compare prices and delivery as well as all the other options and features of what you sell. Frankly, most people in a sector sell much the same thing. That’s now obvious to customers online, when in the past it was difficult to make side-by-side comparisons.
It means that the only thing left to compete with these days is the level of service you provide. So in those first few seconds when people look at your web page they need to see not only that you provide exactly what they want, but also that your service is superior to the competition.
So how can you achieve that within just five seconds?
1. Make sure that you direct customers to specific landing pages so they do not have to search for things or hunt around your website. They should only ever need to go to that one page to discover all they need to know to make their initial decision. Service is about reducing the amount of work the customer has to do.
2. Have a bold and clearly visible telephone number on the top right of the page, where eye tracking studies show that most people look for it. Offer to phone people instantly if they click on the number, using a “click to phone” service.
3. Use an unobtrusive pop-up for “live chat” or for telephone contact; studies show these are valued by web users and dramatically increase conversion rates.
4. Have a Customer Service page clearly displayed in the main menu options, with that page explaining what you provide, how you provide it and giving customers clear links to relevant information, such as FAQs.
5. Embed scrolling selected Tweets (using Twitter’s “favourites” system) from happy customers; third-party recommendations of your service levels are more impressive instantly than what you say about yourself.
Ultimately, though, it is what you do in your business day-to-day that will demonstrate levels of service that engage your customers’ brains with the production of “happy hormones”. You can make that more likely by using these tips to provide instant recognition of good levels of service, setting you apart from the competition.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist and the author of “Click.ology”, published by Nicholas Brealey Publishing, which includes the five-step “CLICK System” for online business success. For more information see http://click.ology.biz and http://www.grahamjones.co.uk