Are real-time quotes the next big thing in small business?

In bigger business, real-time quotes have been with us for years. Who hasn’t for example, got a price on sports tickets, insurance or travel online before parting with your hard-earned?

But now all kinds of smaller businesses are seeing the light on providing an estimate on their services in real time.

Only a few weeks ago I was approached to assemble a website for a small hydronic heating firm. They had seen a larger competitor offer a real-time estimate on installing hydronic heating and wanted to know if we could provide a similar solution on a limited budget.

Unlike many estimates, this was no straightforward task.

All of the number of rooms, their size, the number of ‘valves’, the number of remote controls, accessories and minimum ordering all had to be taken into account before calculating a price.

However, we identified an e-commerce solution that could provide the requirements ‘out of the box’ without the necessity for any expensive development (programming) at all, saving this client a pretty packet.

And this was a client that had never had a website previously.

Affordable pricing functionality

All of a sudden, due to the plummeting cost of ‘standard’ website functionality, this small client was providing their customers with a website that would rival their considerably deeper pocketed competitor.

But the notion of providing firm prices on your website has always been a contentious one.

Many smaller businesses have baulked at this now standard capability, fearing their competitors would see their price and immediately undercut them.

Whilst that fear isn’t necessarily unfounded, it’s one that cuts their nose off to spite their face.

Free up your pricing

Because while the notion of current pricing does indeed let competitors know your pricing, it also lets customers know it, allowing them to take the next step with you, whether that be rejection or proceeding with the sales enquiry.

Even in this scenario, rejection is not such a bad thing.

Better to let a customer decide if they’re in the market for your product themselves rather than waste your valuable time coming to the same conclusion.

How much time have you wasted with tyre-kickers over the years when you could have spent this time on something far more productive?

But what the price disclosure naysayers are forgetting is the sophistication of todays online shopper.

The control shift

These days, consumers and business buyers are an impatient lot. They want to be able to conduct their purchase research, selection and payment in one fell, seamless swoop.

No waiting till the morning, or leaving messages or playing phone tag. They’ve got one hundred other things they’d prefer to be doing with their time so they want to get this little task done and dusted as soon as possible.

As a result, the more you allow your prospects to do just that, the greater the likelihood of getting their business.

“But surely they’ll call, or come in, or send an email”, I hear some cry.

Perhaps in the early days of the internet when websites were little more than ‘brochureware’ that may well have been the case.

Back then, customers may well have jotted down your details so they could call or email you the next day.

A self-help society

It’s not so these days. Today customers like to be empowered to help themselves to pretty much anything they like. They want to be in control of the transaction, as this blog discussed last week.

Part of the reason for this is bad experiences with pushy sales folk – something most want to avoid like the Zika virus.

So as you think about your digital strategy for the new financial year, perhaps it’s worth giving serious thought to using your website to close the sale as much as possible.

And that may well mean providing real-time estimates.

If you remain to be convinced, one option is to trial it for a given period and carefully measure the results.  If it doesn’t prove to be successful right now, you can always switch it off and try it again later.

In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Teamwhich was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.  

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