Fred Schebesta, Mentor

In marketing my furniture business, should I do anything significantly different online compared to offline?

StartupSmart /

Things to keep similar:

Branding

 

The challenge with any site that is trying to sell something online is to build trust with the customer.

 

Trust directly effects your conversion rate. If your brand has some resonance in the market then I would try to keep a similar brand online although freshen it up a little.

 

As much as a website is a tool for selling stuff it is also an expression of your business.

 

Offline customers will probably go to your site to find the street address or phone number but new customers that you market to won’t know your offline business and it’s important to tell that story of your brand and where you have come from.

 

I think pictures and real life stories of the business on the about us page are just as crucial as having a good price for your products.

 

Customer service

 

People who buy online want things immediately. The most crucial thing here to making a customer feel awesome about buying on your site is to communicate to them the status of their order.

 

They have bought your product now where the hell is it? Answer customer questions quickly and make a phone number clear on your site would be my two main tips to good customer service online.

 

Do your research first and figure out how you will position yourself online in the search engines and what are your competitors offering.

 

You need to know where you sit in the market as all competitors are just a click away.

 

Things you might want to adjust:

 

Returns policies

 

It’s harder to touch and feel a piece of furniture online so to reduce the risk of a new customer buying you might want to adjust your returns policy so that they feel more comfortable with taking a risk.

 

A great example of this is asos.com in the UK that allows free returns and free shipping of the returns.

That is quite a big promise to a customer and why sales are booming!

 

Be prepared for a different type of customer

 

An offline person might be interested in browsing around a store as they don’t know what they want.

 

An online customer may have already done that research and is going to your site because it has the best price or you have the special model that they wanted.

 

There are many different reasons why someone would go to your site as opposed to going into your store, the art here to making it successful is to understand what are those reasons and then market them heavily online.

 

 

Finally, here’s a comparison of offline and online businesses like BigW and H&R Block in the US:

 

Big W – You will be amazed at how advanced Big W are online and the huge volume of sales that they do.

 

I think this is a great example of the juxtaposition of online vs offline. In your mind do you have a picture of a stuffy, bit dirty, cheap and scabby BigW store?

 

Well, compare that to their online store and it’s a totally different experience.

 

BigW has the buying power and can compete really well online.

 

 

H&R Block – When you think of H&R Block you might think of a clunky backroom office that punches out tax returns.

 

If you compare that to their online presence you will notice that they are very focused on offering an “In the cloud” service and are very focused around filing your own taxes online.

 

That is the big niche that they want to own and they have changed their business to account for that.

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