While the Internet gives small business owners access to a global customer base, the convenience of selling online comes with its share of risks. Whether your greatest concern deals with data breaches or negative online reviews, protecting your online sales environment is crucial.
Melinda F. Emerson is the founder and president of the Quintessence Group, a Philadelphia-based marketing consulting firm with some big name clients, including American Express, Facebook, Staples and IKEA, among others. When it comes to setting up your online marketplace, she has some great advice. “You do not want to aggravate paying customers,” says Emerson. “This means creating a sales environment that protects the customer, as well as your business’s reputation.” You might even consider forming an LLC.
To break down her expertise, here are five online sales tips that will create a better experience for both you and your customers. Note that if you intend to sell digital downloads, you’ll want to look into a web host that specializes in websites that sell downloadable files, such as MadBeeTech Web Hosting. You can learn more about this web host, as well as the importance of getting website visitors, in the ‘Why Your Website Needs Traffic’ article.
Meticulously manage your merchant account
Data protection is critical in conducting online business, so Emerson recommends making use of security measures built into payment systems such as PayPal, and also matching your URLs. “Every website address change requires a new merchant account application. You cannot just switch it from one website to the next, because that will enable the credit card processor to hold your funds,” she adds.
Clearly define customer service policies
Make sure payment terms and refund and credit policies are prominently displayed on your website. Also ensure that employees know to put the customer first. “I like to empower people to fix things up to $100,” explains Emerson. “If somebody calls and says they never got a book from us, or they never got a package that they ordered, I don’t really dispute it with them—we just send it to them,” she adds. “It is not worth it for me, or really any small business owner, to have a customer out there saying, ‘We paid you money and we didn’t get our stuff.'”
Take steps to close the deal
Keep brand promises
Emerson emphasizes the importance of keeping customers happy by doing exactly what you say you’re going to do, and delivering products within the timeframe promised on your website. “This solid business principle minimizes the risk of a negative online review, which could potentially lead to a negative Better Business Bureau report,” she explains. Read more in this inc.com article.
Hail the ‘help mantra’
Avoid being seen as a self-serving online business by adopting Emerson’s ‘help mantra.’ “[When using social media] everything you share should be helpful,” she says. “Share the content of others at a 4-to-1 ratio to your own. Be sweet and retweet’ other people’s stuff.”
Selling online is a great way to expand your customer base. By taking steps to protect your online sales environment, you’ll keep your customers coming back and your business flourishing.