SINGAPORE, TUESDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2018 – With the abundance of services and tools available today, starting an online business has never been easier. From c2c platforms (such as the newly launched Facebook Marketplace) to blogshops to purpose-built webstores, entrepreneurs will find no lack of channels on which to list their products.


However, just because anyone can have a webstore set up and ready to go in minutes doesn’t mean success will come easy. Many of the benefits offered by the digital marketplace (convenience, simplicity, speed) can present potential lapses or failures in your business. If you’re not careful, you could find yourself forced to focus on fighting fires rather than growing your business.


To give your venture more than a fighting chance, make sure to avoid these 4 mistakes.


Inappropriate Gatekeeping

Following a particularly creative ad, you arrive at a new webstore. Eager to start browsing, you click on a category you’re interested in. Only to be confronted with an intrusive pop-up demanding your email address.


Unless there’s a particularly tempting instant discount, chances are high that you’ll close the webpage and never come back again. Otherwise, you may give your email, only to unsubscribe once you’ve made use of the promo code.


Think about it this way. If a shopper comes into your brick-and-mortar store, would you demand their contact details before allowing them to proceed? Why, then, would you do the same thing online?


Shoppers who browse your webstore already have the intention to buy. A good webstore  encourages them to act on that intention by helping them to find the product they seek. If, however, shoppers find they have to jump through hoops before they are allowed to buy, they’ll simply go elsewhere. (This is why Redmart doesn’t ask new users register for an account, until they’re ready to check out with a basketful of items.)


This seems like such a basic thing. Yet many businesses are guilty of committing this error in some form or another, turning away prospective customers every time.


Yes, every business must have a customer base, and you may be hungry to grow yours. But, consider waiting till your prospects actually buy something, before inviting them to commit to a relationship.


Try sending them a thank-you note with their purchase, and offer a special promo code they can use next time – in exchange for subscribing to your newsletter. At this point, you can double down on your promo to entice them to fill out their customer profile – which will provide valuable demographic information to inform your programmatic campaign.


Just be sure not to make your form too lengthy or complicated to complete. Asking for too much information is another instance of inappropriate gatekeeping, and a surefire way to kill your budding relationship with your new customer.


Not Capitalising on Social Proof

In its simplest form, social proof can be described as user reviews and ratings.


So ubiquitous is this social engineering tool that you likely are thinking of including some sort of ratings system for your products (or you probably did already). And, you may even have gone a step further, using past reviews to short-list bestsellers so customers can find new favourites.


Do you know what else you can do with social proof? Let it shape your marketing.


You see, when your customers tell you they like something, they aren’t doing so just for fun. They are inviting you into a dialogue, a conversation which you should take seriously.


Take the data your customers have given you and distill them down into common threads. Then, include these threads as part of your content marketing pillars.


Here’s an example. Say you’re in the business of selling tickets to attractions overseas, and you notice that harbour cruises in Hong Kong are popular among visitors. You can capitalise on this data point by creating a blog article or video that showcases the Top 10 Things to Do at Victoria Harbour.


Chances are, not only will customers continue to book harbour cruise tickets (since they are so popular), they are likely to also book some of the other attractions that were highlighted in your promo video.


Neglecting the Last Mile

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: You’re only as good as your last mile. There’s no point promising the moon when you can’t deliver, and nowhere is this more true than in the digital marketplace.


The same reason why online shopping has taken off in such a big way – convenience – can also prove to be the downfall of your brand.


Buying from your webstore is only satisfactory if your customer receives their order in a manner that matches their expectations. Anything that falls short, even if only a little, creates a tic of disappointment and frustration that can grow powerful enough to cause your customer to go elsewhere.


The reason is partly psychological. When you pay money, you are used to getting something in return. The nature of the digital marketplace means that you’re already one step removed from the entire buying process; all you’re dealing in are representations – i.e., images of the product you want, digits in your digital wallet or on your credit card statement, a brand logo on the screen of your mobile.


It takes an incredible amount of trust and belief to interact with a brand in this way. And when the promised delivery is not fulfilled (for one reason or another), the cognitive tension that results can be very painful. This could be why a seemingly small thing like a failed delivery can often lose you customers.


The solution? Make sure you partner a solid logistics team that will go all the way, and subscribe to a flexible warehousing solution that scales to your needs.


Misunderstanding Reciprocity

For the last tip in this article, we’re going to discuss a powerful yet often overlooked psychological tool – the power of reciprocity.


Reciprocity is simply the principle that when you receive something, you feel compelled to give something back.


Many businesses interpret this to mean that if they put out a good offer, discount or promo, their customers will reciprocate by giving them their hard-earned money.


But that’s not really how reciprocity works.


To put reciprocity into action in the digital marketplace, strive to offer value to your customers. This could take the form of free samples automatically added to the shopping basket, for example.


Another way to engender reciprocity is to give free content to your customers. (This is also great for brand building, by the way.) The only rule is your content must be relevant, useful and truly free – i.e., don’t attempt to trap your customers by hiding the good stuff behind a subscription or a sale.


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