When someone walks through your door, it is quite likely that a sales person is available and able to assist them with any questions. At that moment in time, specially in a leather oriented business, many aspects of the human sensory spectrum are in full swing. They can smell the unique scent of genuine leather, they can see and touch the smooth buttery leather and most importantly they can hear and understand what you have to say about your leather product offerings. Put all these things together and there is a very good chance you are going to make a sale! … Now try to accomplish this on the Internet.
It goes without saying that the Internet can enhance the bottom lines of many, if not all, leather oriented businesses, however, did you know that there are obstacles associated with selling online that can literally sink your leather business if you are not prepared?
For the purpose of this article, let us define the term “online commerce” as “the electronic selling of leather and leather products through an online shopping cart environment”.
There are certain issues that a business should take into account before even contemplating opening up an online shop.
First let me start off by asking you a simple question. When was the last time you fired up your computer and said “I am going onto the internet to do some shopping?” I am willing to bet, that’s not too many times, if any. Most people hop on the internet to do research, or if anything, to do a little window shopping! That’s right … to look around and see what’s available. Very few people hop on the internet looking to buy something, but this does not mean you can’t sell to them! All this means is that you need to treat them a little differently to ensure they buy from you.
Here are some strategies to help you get started.
1. Develop your online catalogue with the first time shopper in mind all the time.
I can’t begin to count how many leather industry sites out there that are falling short in this department. Your company website has to take on the roll of your top sales person. It needs to provide as much information as possible to your potential customers. What we are talking about here is not only information on how to reach you, but detailed product specific information, product uses, methods for payment, shipping options, refunds etc.
You need to position your leather company as a mentor or teacher and educate your potential customers about your product offerings and their applicable uses. When writing your website content, pretend that every potential visitor will know very little about your offerings. Ensure that your content is as informative as possible. You will win over more leather consumers this way, trust me. Use this strategy whether you are selling a jacket, a pair of boots, a can of adhesive or a sheepskin. Once you convert that casual visitor into a customer, and you deliver on your orders, you’ll have gained a lifetime customer.
Now, if you’re thinking about selling say upholstery hides (or other finished hides) online, let me give you a piece of advice. Do so only with customers that have bought from you before or who have received one of your sample swatches. Why? Remember online customers are going by what is on your website; they don’t actually get to touch your upholstery leather or hide. As we all know, every hide is different and each carries its unique imperfections. So forget about trying to display the true representation of the colors or textures of hides on their monitors. With the many different monitors and graphic cards available it is an impossible task. A simple comment like – “If ordering our XYZ upholstery hide for the first time, please request a sample cutting or swatch to confirm specifications before ordering.” If you make this offer; ensure you get the samples out! Potential first-time customers will appreciate the heads up and second-timers will be unfazed as they have bought the product from you before. The alternative is an unhappy customer, restocking fees, shipping fees and the loss of a potential lifetime customer.
In the next three articles, Frank will address three additional strategies that will not only help you keep your customers, but increase them as well. Learn how a $300 order can generate in excess of $120,000 of business.