Selling online is one of those things that looks easy from the outside, but can be extremely challenging when you start getting into it. There's definitely an art to selling online and each product may require a slightly different approach, but hopefully we can give you some useful tips to get you more sales, or maybe even your first!
One thing to keep in mind off the bat is that selling online is different than selling in person in that you need to actively make your products and store known. If you have a storefront or sell at a market, you're paying rent in an area that will get foot traffic so people will see your products and shop without you needing to do much more work, online things are completely different in that respect. It may be rare for someone to stumble upon your products (a marketplace like Hello Pretty will help) especially if you're new and don't have great SEO yet. In addition, people can't see, feel, or touch your products like they can in person and they won't necessarily get a "vibe" about you, your shop or your products through a screen. With the tips below, those things can be overcome and with any luck you'll be getting a solid income through your online sales.
1. Product Titles
Your product title plays an important role when potential customers search for something. By having a very long product title (eg. "Hand stitched, natural leather bag with gold clasp and durable straps") searching for a very basic search like ‘bag’ won't show up high in the page ranking, as there is only one-word similarity to the search and to your product.
So if you name your product something like – Hand Stitched leather bag – this could help with the search page ranking. It's important to ask what the customer will be searching when looking for your product.
2. Product Description
If someone likes the product, this is where they'll focus next. The best product descriptions include descriptions for the dimensions and material and then have something extra explaining how it's made and why someone might want the product.
If you are offering a product that can be customised (names, colours, size) the customer should leave the customisation specifics in the comments section on step 3 of checkout. Often customers pay for the order and then forget to include their customisation. Leave the customer a note in the products description reminding them to add their customisation in the comments section on step 3 during the checkout process.
3. Product Photos
Because customers can't see the product in person, touch it, pick it up, etc. the only thing they have to go in is the photo. If the photography isn't excellent most customers will move on. In a sense you're selling a photograph more than a product and if you can afford to have your products professionally shot it would be a good investment. However, this isn't realistic for most people and small business owners but most smartphones today can take quite good photographs.
We have put together some photography tips that will help you to photograph your products like a pro. https://hellopretty.co.za/help/photography-tips-guidelines
We're also currently selling small, portable, light tents that maybe be useful for taking your own products with a cell phone. You can check those out here: https://hellopretty.co.za/services/snap-snap-kit-mini-lightbox-home-product-photo-with-led-lighting-and-cellphone-tripod
We understand that shipping can be a scary thing to set up and that’s why we have written an awesome shiping help doc for you, and if you are really stuck then we are here to help. But first, that awesome help doc I was talking about: https://hellopretty.co.za/help/shipping
5. Store Policies
Comprehensive store policies are an easy way of gaining a potential customer’s trust. The following list of store policies are important to mention:
- Refund and return policies – allowing people to return products (even if they're not defective)is a good way to get someone to commit to the purchase.
We gladly accept returns just contact us within 7 days of delivery. Ship items back to us within 14 days of delivery – buyers are responsible for return shipping costs. If the item is not returned in its original condition, the buyer is responsible for any loss in value.
- Delivery and Parcel Tracking – Here it is important to stipulate the exact methods of delivery you offer as well as the reassurance that the customer will be sent a tracking number to track the parcel themselves.
Our standard shipping option is door to door courier within South Africa, which has a delivery time of 2 to 3 working days to main centres. Outlying areas can expect longer delivery times. Once your parcel has been shipped, you will be notified with a tracking number.
Our store does offer self collection by appointment, please note our studio is located in the quiet Northern Suburbs of Cape Town.
Please contact us directly for international shipping enquiries.
- Manufacture time – Sometimes customers need a product within a certain time and by providing them with a manufacturing time, as well as an estimate delivery time, they are able to determine for themselves if the product will get to them on time. You can configure your products with a lead time or set a standard lead time on your global shipping settings. If your lead time is longer than a few days it's important to maintain good communication to let the customer know where you are in the manufacture process.
Last but definitely not least: Marketing. While the South African online shopping scene has picked up quite a bit in the past few years, is still very quiet and though there are a lot of "browsers" there are still many people who won't spend money online. There are many reasons including trust, lack of access to credit cards, and simply an unfamiliarity with the whole process. Even though Hello Pretty gets a lot of traffic only a small percentage of people ever make a purchase.
Many shoppers who come to the site to find gifts for people or themselves, but the designers on the site who do overwhelmingly well are the ones who have built their own brand and following on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and even Twitter.
We put a lot into marketing and promoting the site and our designers, but at the end of the day we're not able monitor and promote everyone at all times. As we're a marketplace and not a traditional online store, the bulk of the marketing must come from the individual designers themselves, but this applies no matter what your business is. As with a brick and mortar business, the shops that make the most sales are the ones that actively promote themselves and their products. Designers can’t sit back and rely on customers to come rushing in – rather, they need to go out and fetch them and tell them why they want to buy their product. People won’t know to buy from you if they don’t know where to find you, or if you even exist.
Social media has become a very important platform for business to promote and advertise their products.
We've found Facebook currently has the best ROI (return on investment) for most designers. If you have a marketing budget growing your facebook likes would be a good first step. Once you've got between 500 and 1000 liks try dropping R100 into a boosted facebook post and see what kind of results that gets you.
To give you an idea of costs, when we run campaigns on our page we typically spend between R0.50 to R1.50 to get a new page like, and between R0.50 and R1 to get an engagement (click, comment, or share). You may also want to run a like campaign in addition to boosting posts to try and get a bigger audience. Then you can use that to create new audiences to target specific products.
It is important to let people know where they can buy your products. By adding a simple link of your Hello Pretty store to your Facebook posts, you can increase traffic.
Otherwise you could also consider adding the Pretty Portable store embed so that people can browse your shop from on Facebook – have a look here https://hellopretty.co.za/help/add-your-shop-to-facebook-your-website.
Instagram, as a platform for promoting products, has become a popular social media platform. Add your Hello Pretty shop link in your Instagram, bio so that people know where they can buy your products from. Still not sure about Instagram? Read a few of these blog posts and decide for yourself 🙂 https://later.com/blog/
We are also currently offering some marketing tools to allow Hello Pretty designers to leverage our fan base to help promote their own product or store. Check out our services page for more information on what's currently being offered: https://hellopretty.co.za/services