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humanizing digital sales

Humanizing Digital Sales: Why Successful Offline Retailers Still Exist

This episode is all about how to transfer offline selling strategies to eCommerce stores by humanizing digital sales. It’s a lesson on why people continue to buy from traditional stores.

Mentioned In This Episode:

  • Why successful offline retailers still exist in 2018
  • Real world examples of how less is more
  • How to position yourself (and your team) as industry experts

Links From This Episode:

Related Episodes:

How To Humanize Digital Sales SHOW NOTES

What’s up everybody? Anton Kraly here from eCommerceLifestyle.com and welcome to another episode of the eCommerce Lifestyle podcast. So, as the title that you probably saw already says, what we’re gonna be talking about today is how to humanize digital selling. So, basically how to make the online shopping experience on your website more like a traditional retail store, but not just any traditional retail store, one that actually knows how to turn visitors into customers, and people that walk through the door, how to make it like the ones that do it the best.

Now, we’ll get into a few different specific examples and actually some real world stats that you can use just to kind of solidify this message and show you that, yes, this stuff is real, it’s not just theory or anything like that, it actually is important and it’s well worth your time to invest into what I’m about to talk to you about, and not even money. This stuff doesn’t cost money, it just takes time and hey, what else you gonna spend your time on. Right? Might as well be on something that gives you more money in return.

Bringing the Offline Shopping Experience Online

humanizing digital sales

But before we get into those specifics, I wanted to just share a quick story that really made this stand out to me and this has been something that we’ve been doing in our businesses, in our eCommerce businesses ever since I launched my first one back in 2007, it was because of something one of my friends told me way back in like year 2000 or 2001 and, by the way, I was just freaking out about that ’cause I realized it was 18 years ago, which is insane, but yeah, when I was like 16 years old, me and all of my buddies were getting jobs. I worked at McDonald’s, I had a job at Party City, like we did everything.

I had one friend who got a job at the mall, at Roosevelt Field in New York, on Long Island where I’m from, and he got a job at a store called FYE. So, FYE stands for For Your Entertainment and it’s like a small store, again they’re in malls all around the country, and they sell things like CDs, DVDs, I don’t know what else, like all like music and video type stuff. Not like big electronics, but literally like music and movies.

So, he got the job there and I remember, this is what’s crazy, I remember all the way back then, again probably year 2000 or 2001, I remember being like, “You know, that’s weird.” His name’s Anthony. I was like, “Anthony, that’s weird. Like, do you think this store is gonna last? Why would people want to go into this store, you know, and buy this stuff when”, even back then, “like you can order these things through magazines.” That was back when CD Now was huge. They would ship you like, I don’t know, 12 CDs for a penny or something or you could just like, you know, go on line, like there was eBay back then, like, “Do you think this store’s gonna last?”

And he told me that when he got that job, the way that they kind of hired him and indoctrinated their employees was by saying, “Listen, we know here at FYE that people have options when they’re gonna buy music, and the way that …”, this is what the managers told them, “The way that we’re gonna stand out and what differentiates us is that when people come to FYE, they don’t just come here because they automatically in their head know what they want, but they’re actually looking for a certain type of buying experience.

The way that they position themselves was that when someone came through the door, they would engage that person and they would start a conversation with them and they would see what type of artist they like, what type of music they’re into, what type of movies they have enjoyed in the past, and based on these conversations and this information that they got with every individual that walked through the door, they’d be able to help guide them and give them specific recommendations. So, “Oh, you listen to, whatever. You listen to DMX.” I think he was popular back in 2000. “Why don’t you check out this new Wu Tang Clan album.” Or, “You liked, whatever.”

I don’t even know what movies were popular back then, but you get it. Right? Like, the actual experience wasn’t a customer walks through the door of an FYE where the employee just stands there and says, “Oh, hi. Welcome to FYE.” You know, that’s, I’m sure, how the conversation started, but then it built into developing a relationship, into extracting information out of this prospective customer and helping them to pick things that they would like.

That’s their type of shopper. Right? And I remember, like when he told me that, I had never thought of it before, but even when I launched my first eCommerce site, I thought, “You know what? Why can’t you do both? Right? Why can’t we have websites that sell products that give people that same type of experience?” Because there’s other music stores. Right? And, by the way, I literally just checked before I started recording this and FYE still has dozens of stores all around the country. So, that model is still working, even though now, 18 years later, it’s easier than ever to go on iTunes, or whatever you use, Spotify, and get your stuff. These stores are still succeeding, and I’m sure it’s because, partially at least, because of this model and how they sell and how they interact with their customers.

Strategies for Humanizing Digital Sales in 2018

humanize digital selling

How do we bring that online and humazine digital sales? What are some ways that you could do this and how is it different than just having another record store where someone walks in and says, you know, and the sales person says, “Hi. How you doing?” And they say, “Oh, I’m doing great.” And then the conversation ends. How do we be like FYE in that sense of selling and communicating with people versus another record store where you just greet people and they go on their merry way?

Well, there’s a few things that we do in our businesses and as I illustrate them to you, I’m gonna also kind of share these stats with you that I got from a really good report that was just put out by a company called Smart Assistant. I’m gonna link to that report under this episode of the podcast. So, if you want to download the entire PDF, which you should, again, it’s really good and it’s gonna share a lot more details than what I’m gonna share in this podcast. Go to eCommerceLifestyle.com, no hyphens or dashes or anything.

When you get there, click on “Episodes” then look for the episode that says “How to Humanize Digital Selling” and I’ll like to the PDF or to the, you know, where you can get the PDF below this video. So, again, they put out this report and it’s called, let me pull it up right here, it’s called, go the top, “Humanizing Digital 2020 and Beyond”.

Same type of thing I’m talking about. How do you make digital selling more human? Okay? How do we make this shift where people could have real, you know, pleasant buying experiences online, just as they could in person? Again, not like every retail store provides, but like the ones that provide it correct do. Well, the way that they put together this report is by just surveying real world people.

I’m gonna share with you the U.S. numbers. The report also has the numbers from the U.K. and from Germany. They do vary a bit but they’re pretty consistent from country to country. So, the first question that people were surveyed on was in regards to trust and, you know, one thing that was pretty interesting is that for 72% of online shoppers, they said being able to trust the brand is the highest ranking concern.  

Build Trust

Number one is trust. Now, this is something that we have known to be true, this is why we do focus on building relationships with other people inside our space. This is why we do things like use site security badges. This is why we do things like have social review, social trust, social proof, all over the place. Not something that we really have to transition from the offline world, but you do know that there are certain stores that are more trustable and it’s because they have probably a better looking store or because someone’s recommended them. So, the way that we transition this to online is really just by offering amazing customer service and again by forming relationships with other companies so we can kind of play off their social trust as well.

Companies like all the credit card processors we use, companies like UPS and FedEx, companies like trade organizations for our industry, but the more relationships like that, the better for trust. But, yeah, 72% of people say that’s the highest, how did they word it? The highest ranking concern. Can they trust where they’re buying from?

Frictionless Experience

Now, number two, and this is definitely something that we can take from the offline world and do a better job with. Number two is having a frictionless experience. So, in this humanizing digital sales study:

  • 42% of consumers reported that they abandoned a cart because there were too many options.
  • And 54% of people stopped purchasing from a site because it was too difficult to find the right product!
  • 71% of people said they switched to a competitor because they made finding the right product easier.

Now, if this doesn’t relate to that FYE model 100%, I don’t know what else does. 71% of people had left and went top a competitor’s site because it was too hard for them to find the right product.

What do we do? We don’t just have a website where we have a few basic product categories and thousands of products just all over the place. No, we have to lay things out in a way that makes it extremely easy for our user to navigate and find what they’re looking for. Now, you could do this different ways. Again, it could be by having lots of different collections. It could be by having filterable collections.

Let’s just say for example, you’re selling sofas and someone goes to your website and they want to buy a sofa. Well, do you have one section that just has sofas and they click in and have to scroll through 500 products. Or, do you have a section that says, “Three Seater Sofas” and “Two Seater Sofas”. And then if they click into “Three Seater Sofas”, do you have it set up so that they can filter in the left navigation by brown, or red, or black, and then by leather or by fabric.

How many options are we giving them? Do we have it where they can also sort by price? Under $500, 500 to 700, 700 to 1000, 1000+. The more you can do stuff like this to make it easy for your buyer, the less friction they can have in their buying experience, the more of them are gonna buy from you because again, you’re making their life easier and they don’t want to have to spend an hour on your website trying to find their thing. And if your competitors can just make it easier, they’re going to buy from your competitors. So, really think about that. How easy are you making the buying experience on your customer?

One other detail from this set, is the consumers that are saying basically if there’s too many options, they abandon their cart. And this is a lesson I learned when I first got into high ticket eCommerce. Back in like 2009 is when I started to sell really expensive products, maybe 2008, and the lesson was, you don’t want to offer your customers all the options in the world, and the reason is, is because the more people have to decide between, the more things they have to choose from, the less they’re gonna make any decision at all, and the more they’re gonna just withdraw.

If someone has, you know, again, if they want to buy, we’ll take this sofa example again, and if you have a sofa and let’s say they start to sort through and they click, “I want a fabric sofa and I want a brown, fabric sofa”. Then you show them a brown fabric sofa and then you say, “Which shade of brown do you want?”, and you have 10 different fabric swatches and maybe they’re a little bit different, maybe like one’s kind of suede, one has like an X-pattern, one is, I don’t know, polka dot, and one’s a little bit darker, and then one is a little bit thicker, like what do you think the customer is gonna think?

You might think like, and this is normal for a business owner, you might think like the more options the better. “Let me just show them all this stuff.” But for your consumer, they’re gonna be overwhelmed, they’re not gonna want to make a mistake and order something that they didn’t really want and chances are they’re gonna leave. So, it’s better to offer less. There are many, many, many scenarios where less is more and this is one of them. Okay, so, keep that in mind as you’re building out your product page and you’re sales offerings.

Humanize the Digital Experience and Engage Customers

social media podcast

Now, let me go through and give you some more stats that I pulled directly from, again, this Smart Assistant report, that will be, again, linked below this podcast on eCommerceLifestyle.com, but the next number that really stood out to me is regarding assistance and support. So, again, think this FYE model. They’re there, the reasons those stores exist is to actually help people.

With this stat, they found that 86% of consumers believe that it’s important for brands to provide expert advice and recommendations about the products and services they offer. Okay, so 86% of consumers, that’s a lot. So, it does make sense on your website, again, something that we’ve been doing for a long time. But you should have notes about each product. Who’s it good for? Who’s it not good for?

One way that you can clearly do this is have your live chat. So, instead of just having it say like “Live Chat” pop up and like, “Hey, do you need help with anything?”, or “Do you have any questions for me?”, if you have, again a sofa website, have the live chat pop up and say, start a conversation with a sofa specialist, or start a conversation with one of our sofa experts. Something like that, whatever you’re selling. ‘Cause again, that’s where that expert advice starts to become a real thing.

You can not just have to be some generic live chat person, you can position yourself as experts and that’s just gonna make people trust you more, ask you more questions, and buy from you more. So, keep that important … Keep that in mind, I should say, because everybody, 86% of people, find that very important.

Now, another thing that stood out to me, and again, there’s a lot of great stats, so take your time with this and do download it, but yeah, 54% of people, more than half surveyed, so 54% of people said that using a digital sales assistant would make them very or extremely more confident when making a purchase decision. Okay? I’ll say that again, ’cause I know I talk fast, but 54% of people that completed the survey said that using a digital sales assistant would make them very or extremely more confident when making a purchase decision.

For everyone listening right now that doesn’t have live chat on their site, get live chat on your site. But you don’t have to do it, as like I just mentioned, some generic, “Hey, do you have any questions?”, position it as a digital sales assistant, that’s gonna get you better results.

People, again, as this survey goes on and on, like people were surveyed, “Do you prefer live chat over FAQs, over a help desk, and people want that person that they can engage with real time. Now, just engage your customers. I’m gonna go through and see if there’s any more stats I wanted to get through in this, in this podcast.

I think those are all the big highlights, but at the end of the day, what this comes down to, like those few little stats I gave and the tips with them, and what you’ll see as you go through this report on eCommerceLifestyle.com, the main things you have to keep in mind are try to make your online store as close to that offline buying experience as possible.

When someone goes to your website, are you making it extremely easy on them to find what they actually want? Are you not overwhelming them with too many options when they find what they want? ‘Cause you’re not gonna be doing this in real time with them, having a conversation, but allow them to take themselves through this buying process as simply as possible. You don’t want them to walk in and walk out. You don’t want them to land on your website and bounce. You want them to stick around and the way you’re gonna do that is by guiding them through the sales process by having basically site design and your UX in place.

And yeah, from there, you’re gonna want to have your live chat there so you can guide people through the purchase process, give them expert advice. One thing that we’ve done that’s worked really cool, that we haven’t done on every site and on every product page, but something you could definitely do on your top sellers, so let’s just say that, I don’t know, your name is Steve and you sell up stand up paddle boards, and on your “About Us” page you say, “Yeah, I’m Steve, I started StandUpPaddleBoards.com because I love these things, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I’ve been paddle boarding for 10 years.”

Now, what you could do in that scenario, which is great, by the way, to have your “About Us” page be personalized, but what you could do on your product pages, under your product descriptions and features and everything, you could say, like “A Note From Steve”, and then, “I recommend”, “Steve recommends”, or you write it as Steve in that case, like, “I recommend this board because, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah”, whatever those expert reasons are. So, the more you could do stuff like that, not only will you stand out more, but your customers will trust you more, they’ll buy from you more, and your store will just be much better off than it was.

Humanizing the Digital Customer Experience

digital selling

So, guys, that’s gonna do it. I know that was a lot in a short amount of time. Had a big iced coffee before this, so I’m talking extra fast today, but take your time with it, listen to it again if you have to, because I’m telling you guys this stuff will change your business. None of it is even hard to do. It’ll take some time but again, that’s why we’re in business, to do the things other people won’t so that we can get the results that other people cannot. So, hope you found value in this.

As always, if you did, please leave a comment at eCommerceLifestyle.com and if you’re not subscribed to this podcast yet, definitely go into your favorite podcast player, search for eCommerce Lifestyle, hit the subscribe button and please do leave a review if you’ve gotten value. I love seeing those comments and yeah, it means a lot. So, appreciate that everybody, and I’ll see you in the next episode of eCommerce Lifestyle. Thank you.

  • Ryan says:

    Anton, why does the new DSL theme not have filter by tags option like the old one did? I totally agree with you that this is really helpful especially when you have a technical niche.

    • Anton says:

      Hi Ryan,

      This was removed to ensure the theme loads as fast as possible (4x faster than v1 with page loads times of 700 ms), and so that it is compatible with as many apps as possible.

      Please note you can still use the collection filter app: https://apps.shopify.com/collection-filter 🙂

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