Cut Corners to Boost Profits

Giving shoppers more than they want could cost you.

by Dennis L. Prince
- Jul 03, 2014

Minding an online business can be as much work as tending to a brick-and-mortar establishment. Some sellers think it's even more work. To that end, we're all looking for ways to increase our efficiency, get more done in less time and give customers what they want—no less and, perhaps, no more.

Sure, it's imperative you give customers the information and attention they need when they browse your items. Many sellers, however, insist on going the extra yard to truly entertain and engage their customers, but does the extra effort pay off?

With so much access to goods and services these days, shoppers have learned to screen out the fluff and focus on the purchase

Here are some things to consider about how you cater to your customers and how to tell if you're giving them all they need without serving up more than they really want. Anything they don't really want or need is wasted, and that's definitely not a good use of your time.

What corners will you cut?

The first step in cutting corners is defining the corners to cut. Most of us are eager to put on a show for our customers, giving them a compelling experience when they shop our items. The problem is that so much of what we polish up and present can go unnoticed.

With so much access to goods and services these days, be it in stores, at home or on the go, shoppers have learned to screen out the fluff and focus on the purchase.

They're most sensitive to price, convenience and availability. This should be your focus, too. Forget about all the window dressing and concentrate on placement, critical information, and ease of use. Everything else you might have done in the past (remember back when we discovered how to add images and decorations to our listings?) is no longer relevant so don't spend the effort on it.

High-pressure buyers?

Consumers used to enjoy being "courted" by sellers. In the days of the "crafters' malls" and "collectors' troves," sellers worked hard to load up their tables, booths or what have you with so many goods that buyers would be certain to stop and look.

That was in the days when buyers were looking for hidden gems buried in an unaware seller's cache of items. Nowadays, buyers are in a hurry. They have less patience for rummaging, whether your items are stuffed in a physical box or filling the page for a virtual store. Buyers want to cut to the chase to quickly find out if the seller has what they want.

Buyers want to cut to the chase to quickly find out if the seller has what they want

If the seller doesn't provide that beeline to information for a fast sale, the buyer will lose interest and move on. If it seems too time consuming for a buyer to determine if there are items he or she wants, they'll usually not bother. Sellers need to anticipate this and provide a clean and clear view of what they have for sale.

Do less but do it better

So as you approach cutting corners in your sales strategy, realize that what you're actually doing is making it easier for buyers to shop. Tighten your approach and save time, effort, and cost with the following tips.

Create short but effective item descriptions. There was a time when we wanted to draw buyers in with compelling copy that made them feel cozy, comfortable and confident in what they might buy. Now they need just the key facts, so focus on brand, make, style and condition. If you want to provide more details (and that is a good idea), offer a link to a more exhaustive overview. This lets buyers decide if they want to read more or if they have enough information already to make a buying decision.

Provide fewer but better photos. That seems counter-intuitive, but too many photos can be a problem. Shoppers are often looking for one or two good photos. If you offer a virtual album, you'll slow them down and they'll quickly scan past them. Take one or two crisp and well-lighted photos, then save yourself the time of taking picture after picture. They probably won't be seen.

Develop a template style to your listings. As creative as we've all been in the past, today it's all about efficiency and consistency in the shopping experience. Presenting your items in a consistent fashion is very much a part of branding your products or business. You develop a look and style that buyers come to recognize and appreciate. At the same time, you're saving yourself work by reusing a style that allows you to quickly plug-and-play with just the lean descriptions and photos needing to be changed from item to item.

Presenting your items in a consistent fashion is very much a part of branding your products or business

Develop templates for your communications. If you want to get creative, do so when you create messaging to send when a sale has been completed, when answering common customer inquiries and when you initiate follow-up with your customers. This can seem like a "boilerplate" approach, but when these communications are crafted well, they can be just as enticing and can again establish a branded style.

In the end, it's not corners you're cutting so much as it is efficiency you're establishing—for yourself and for your customers. Business needs to run at a quicker pace these days and sellers need to meet buyers on their turf more than ever.

With so much information and products available these days, you need to get shoppers' attention and get their business quickly. Tighten up your approach, cut the fluff and give your customers what they really want: a lean and clean shopping experience.

About the Author

Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay…and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues.

Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.

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