Go get your customers, rather than wait for them to come to you.
Once a time-consuming process limited to high-end purchases, comparison shopping has become second nature for the vast majority of consumers and businesses. According to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 83% of U.S. consumers go online to research electronics, computers, books, music and movies before buying those items in brick-and-mortar stores. And on the B2B side, SiriusDecisions reports that 70% of the buying process in a complex sale is already complete before prospects are willing to engage with a live salesperson. Shoppers are Googling products, querying their social networks, reading reviews. How can sellers compete? Engage buyers early in the game. Here are four strategies you should be pursuing today:
Get listed. If you sell consumer goods or business products online, you should be listing them on the major comparison-shopping engines (CSEs), such as Google Shopping, NexTag and PriceGrabber. These services allow shoppers to search for a specific product and see prices from various retailers--usually including shipping and handling--in the results. Google and Microsoft's Bing search engine offer listings for free, while on most other CSEs, retailers pay when a user clicks through to their site, a system known as charge per click (CPC). CSEs work best if your pricing is aggressively competitive, but as these services also allow users to rate their experience, superior service can be a plus as well.
Add value. If you can't compete on price, you can still win over comparison shoppers if you make your value proposition clear: money-back guarantees, free returns and high-end service are all ways that online sellers and brick-and-mortar stores can successfully compete. And don't forget the value of information. By communicating your expertise via social media and blogs, you can build a reputation that will set you apart from a list of anonymous vendors.
Listen carefully. One great way to reach comparison shoppers before they've made a purchase decision is to keep your ear to the ground on social media and the web. Services such as TweetDeck, HootSuite, Topsy, Social Mention and MarketMeSuite all let you set up automatic searches that notify you in real time when your company or product (or a competitor's) is mentioned on social media, so you can jump into the conversation and offer your assistance. Similarly, you can set up a Google saved search to alert you to such mentions around the web. A word of caution, however: You should always identify yourself and offer only honest, fair-minded information, and back off if asked to do so.
Fight mobile with mobile. A recent report from Google said eight out of 10 smart-phone owners use their devices in stores to help with shopping. Another surprising statistic is that frequent mobile shoppers spend 25% more in-store than occasional users. You can reach these savvy buyers with location-based mobile ad campaigns and win them over by improving the in-store experience with expert service, easy-to-locate merchandise and price-matching policies.
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