Turn Click Throughs Into Sales With Streaming Media

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I read a troubling statistic recently. It said the closing ratio for online selling was only 1.75 percent, according to the First Annual Survey on E-Commerce Service, June 1999, by Net Effect Systems, North Hollywood, CA. When you combine that with the knowledge that 67 percent of shopping carts are abandoned, you have a bleak picture of e-tailing. How can you improve on these statistics and increase your sales?


The folks who run Future Now, www.futurenowinc.com, a consulting firm that specializes in helping Web retailers sell, say that marketing, while essential to the success of a Web site, is not enough. Marketing only brings customers to the point where they might buy. Then, you have to sell.


I won't rehash everything you know about building a viable and customer-oriented Web site. I will tell you how to use streaming media to enhance your visitor's Web site experience and help him make that crucial buying decision. Remember, people make purchasing decisions based on emotion even after they have done rational research.


Let's explore some possibilities:


• Testimonials. People really do listen to other people's opinions and relate to their experiences. Instead of printing customer testimonials, why not ask people to send them to you via audiotape or on a video? If people are hesitant about creating their testimonials, go see some of your local customers in person armed with your own recording equipment. After making them feel comfortable, ask them to tell you why they like your product and how it helped them. They will be flattered that you asked, and their satisfactory experiences with your product will be a powerful incentive for others.


• Frequently asked questions. Almost everyone has an FAQ page on their Web site. Does anybody read them? Take a look at some of the questions that you receive from potential customers. I'm willing to bet that more than half are answered on your FAQ page. Have your FAQ page done with audio. Ask a friend or employee to act as the customer by asking the questions. Have the other person answer the questions, and refer your visitor to the pertinent page on the site that goes into the answer in depth.


Hearing these questions and answers, instead of just reading them, gives your customer a sense of empowerment and adds to the trust that you are trying to create.


• Show as well as tell. Instead of just talking about the features and benefits, show someone actually using the products. Selling cooking knives? Have someone slicing a tomato or chopping an onion. Selling giftware? Show someone arranging flowers in that beautiful cut glass vase. Selling an electric drill? Show someone using that drill to perform a task. Selling a cookbook? Have someone preparing a recipe. Selling home decorating equipment? Show someone painting a wall or putting up wallpaper using that equipment. Use your imagination.


Ask yourself, "Why are those late-night infomercials so entertaining and successful?"


• Instructions. So many printed instruction sheets and manuals are difficult to read and often have confusing pictures. Use video to simplify the assembly process and address common user errors. Have a real customer help you if possible. Talk about some of the mistakes people have made during assembly and how to avoid them. This is also your chance to discuss any issues that are critical to product performance and safety. Keep building customer trust in you, your company and your product.


• Guarantees. Make your product warranty and your company's promise of satisfaction personal. Use video to deliver this powerful message. Share your name and e-mail address with customers. Give them your company's "personal satisfaction hotline" number. Tell them how to reach you via snail mail. Make people confident that they are doing business with a company that cares about its product and how it performs.


Streaming media is a natural way to motivate purchasing. It can be integrated into your Web site to help people get over that "hump" when they have not been able to see or touch a product. Use it to calm customers' nerves, to build their trust in your company, and to keep their excitement about your product alive.


A born salesman knows how to listen, observe and focus in on a potential customer's desires. In the absence of that, businesses on the Web must use the technological tools available to replicate that human experience. Streaming media is one of those tools. By using it creatively, with the customer's needs and wants as your primary focus, you will see those click throughs turn into sales.


• Ronni Rhodes is owner of WBC Imaging, Oro Valley, AZ. Reach her at Ronni@wbcimaging.com.
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