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July 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 7
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Retailing Tips: Selling Online

Treat a Sales-Based Website Like a Second Store


“If people don’t enjoy coming into your website or store, they don’t buy.” Fred Rosenberg, On the Park
With additional reporting by Julie L. Jones

Selling online isn’t as simple as creating a website on your home PC and waiting for sales to roll in. It’s more like adding another store, experts and toy-store owners told TDmonthly Magazine.

Internet sales within the gift industry alone increased by 30 percent in 2006, according to Internet Strategist C S Wurzberger of Premiere Web Services in Portland, Maine, so if you’re ready to take hold of virtual sales opportunities, here are eight tips to maximize your chance of success:

  1. Go Pro. “Your online store reflects your business, so it should be done professionally,” advised Hans Masing, owner of Brain Station in Ann Arbor, Mich.

    "We are seeing many redesigns from companies that had a web designer who’s not completely trained,” Wurzberger said.

    Terri Bracken of Earth Explorers Toys in Zionsville, Ind., is one storeowner who’s giving her website a second chance. She created her own site three years ago, she said, but is now working with a consultant on improvements.

  2. Set Goals. “Know what you want your website to do and how you want people to interact with your site,” suggested Mindy Schlegel, account manager for Lightsky, a web development and design firm in Goshen, Ind. Setting clear goals allows a web designer to establish a site that meets your expectations and your customers’ needs.

  3. Select Product Carefully. You probably can’t sell every item in your store online, so Wurzberger advises store owners to “look at shipping and competition and pricing” to determine what to include. When doing so, remember that the Internet puts your store on a worldwide scale.

  4. Treat Your Site Like a “Second Store.” “There’s a misconception that you just put up a website and sales come in and it’s easy,” Masing told TDmonthly. “But you must be prepared. You need to have the ability to manage shipping and integrate and manage inventory, maintain data and sales channels, and maintain customer service.”

  5. Make It Appealing. Fred Rosenburg, owner of On the Park in Kingwood, Texas, noted that appeal is just as important online as is in the real world: “If people don’t enjoy coming into your website or store, they don’t buy,” he said.

  6. Be Ready to Serve. Customer service is vital, according to Kate Tanner, owner of Kidstop Toy & Book Store in Scottsdale, Ariz. “We get orders through e-mail and send out manually,” she said. “Eighty percent of our Internet customers get a phone call.”

  7. Offer Specials. One reason Julie Cronk doesn’t buy more online for her 2-year-old twin daughters is that she can get better deals elsewhere. The schoolteacher from Flushing, Mich., said coupons and in-store specials make deals at toy stores harder to turn down, even if she does have to drive to get them. “I like the convenience of buying online,” she said. “But I like a good deal. I’d probably buy more online if I could get better prices.”

  8. Be Shopper-Friendly. In addition to having simple, quick-loading pages and standard button names, “let your customers know what the shipping costs are before they're at the end of the checkout process,” Wurzberger advised. And post product photos that are “optimized for the web,” she added. It may be helpful to utilize high-quality thumbnail images that, when clicked, open up a larger picture.

    Whether your store already has an online component or you’re considering adding one, remember that a website — for whatever purpose — reflects your business. Find a professional designer that fits your needs, keep your customers in mind, and sell, sell, sell!



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Terri Hughes-LazzellWriter's Bio: Terri Hughes-Lazzell is a freelance journalist based in Ossian, Ind. After spending nearly a decade as a daily newspaper reporter, she has worked as a freelance journalist for more than ten years, writing about a variety of topics. Her work appears in newspapers, magazines and specialty publications nationwide. Read more articles by this author

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