I just got done shopping online for a software service to create a virtual workspace/Intranet for my team. I had a particular vendor in mind, but got frustrated because the company’s website had surprisingly little information.
I ended up going to Google and from there to several blogs. At one blog I discovered a long detailed review of a competing software. The review described how it worked and what it did best, and based on that review I decided to sign up for the competitor’s software service.
Result: lost sale for that original vendor. Why? Not enough information online.
Turns out – I’m part of the growing trend of info shoppers. I am one of those people who “just can't buy anything unless they first look it up online and get the lowdown,” according to Kinney Zalesne, co-author of the book “Microtrends.”
She writes in a piece at the Wall Street Journal Online:
“An astonishing 70% of Americans now say they consult product reviews or consumer ratings before they make their buying decisions. Sixty-two percent say they spend at least 30 minutes online every week to help them decide what and whether to buy. Among Americans under 45, that number shoots up to 73%. Seventy-three percent -- that's more than four times the percentage in that age group who go to church every week. For some, smart shopping is more than a hobby. It's a religion.”
Some large vendors figured out the power of information and reviews a long time ago. Amazon.com, of course, is a leader in this, with its book reviews and the ability to search inside a book.
Technology vendors also have caught on. Go to the websites of major gadget and computer manufacturers and in addition to detailed product specs and rotating 360-degree product images, you are likely to find links to customer reviews, professional reviews and, occasionally, blogger reviews. HP is particularly good at this. Dell, Logitech, Canon and other tech vendors also do a good job.
But as Zalesne’s article points out, this desire for lots of information before buying is moving well past books and technology products. People now are looking for information before they buy consumer products, such as shampoo. Yet, few consumer product companies are providing information to shoppers.
The question I ask, however, is how many smaller businesses are leveraging this info shopper trend? How many small and midsize businesses are providing sufficient information about the products and services they sell, to these information-hungry shoppers?
If ever there were a justification for investing in a standout website filled with information – the trend toward info shoppers is it.
In any given week I visit dozens of small business websites. How often I see missed opportunities! Here are 10 missed opportunities I see on far too many small business websites – missed opportunities to educate and inform shoppers and turn them into buyers:
- No customer review capability available on your site. Like other info shoppers, I want to read customer reviews. I want to see the details they include about their experience that will help me decide if your product is right for me. Some popular customer review software you can add to a website include: JS-Kit, Power Reviews Express and Rating System.
- Product catalogs with tiny images or poor quality images. My motto: if I can’t see it, I don’t buy it.
- Websites that do not link out to external reviews. If a magazine or blogger reviews your product, you ought to point people to it. OK, I can understand not linking if the review is negative. But I see glowing positive reviews not referenced anywhere on a site. And if you only have one product, or a couple, it’s not that hard to assign the task to an employee to add links once a week /month to external reviews, from your site.
- Lack of FAQs. Frequently Asked Questions or FAQs are often used for after-sale customer service. But informative FAQs can be very helpful to shoppers, too. They’re especially useful when purchasing software or Web-based software services, where the shopper may be looking for particular functionality. FAQs can tell you important information such as technical requirements or ability to interface with other products you use.
- Little or no information about the value your product brings. It’s not enough to just include a single picture, a product description and some basic specs. Think benefits, not just features. Include information about the benefits the customer gets from your product. Not just that you sell bread in your bakery. Why is your bread tastier or healthier than other bread? Tell me about what’s in your bread or not in your bread (e.g., no preservatives), why it’s healthier (e.g., low in allergens) or whatever is your competitive difference. And tell me what that means for me as the consumer, backed up by information, not just marketing slogans.
- Lack of videos about how to use your product, or what you can do for customers. One of the best business uses for videos is to demonstrate a product or explain its benefits.
- Little or no information about the company on the About section. Who wants to buy from or trust a site that merely has a generic paragraph about a faceless, nearly nameless company? Sometimes it’s nigh on impossible to find contact information (phone number, address, location) on small business websites. Google’s CEO said last year that the Internet is a cesspool of inaccurate information, and brands are how you sort out the cesspool. Use the About section in your website to reinforce your brand as one buyers can trust.
- Nothing about the management team. This is particularly important if you are in a B2B professional services business such as consulting, accounting, or law. Clients want to know the people they will be dealing with.
- Offering a B2B solution that solves a complex business issue, but not having whitepapers or case studies with information about the business problem and illustrating how your product or service solves it. With complex, or even semi-complex business issues, your biggest sales challenge may be demonstrating the ROI from using your solution.
- Having whitepapers or case studies, but making them near impossible to find by website visitors. What’s the point in creating materials if you hide them? ‘Nuff said.
- Belonging to the Better Business Bureau, but not having the BBB certification seal on your site. Same goes for any “trust” logos such as McAfee Secure. Most consumers will view BBB membership and trust certifications as a positive. Sign up for them and display them.
These 10 points are just some of the low-hanging fruit for improving the information you provide on your website. I’m sure you can think of other information you could add, to satisfy the growing number of info shoppers and turn them into buyers.