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How to get first-time customers to come back for more and, bring their friends with them

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You wouldn’t tolerate a rude salesperson in your store, would you? On that note, you shouldn’t let your website get away with it either.

Your online business is only as strong as your most disgruntled customer.

Customer service is vital to each and every business, and one of the biggest mistakes I see online business owners make is treating their customers like they haven’t just walked into a physical store.

The norms of physical shopping also apply online

Think of your online store like this – when people are browsing online and consider clicking on a link to your site, it is like they are looking at the front window display of your store. When they are scrolling through product images on your site, it’s like they are pulling an item off the shelf to check its quality.

And if they come to a point in their shopping experience where they need to ask a question, they don’t want to be met with a rude sales assistant about to go on their lunch break.

Customers who buy online are looking for a smooth shopping experience at their fingertips, and as an online business you need to make sure they get it. Every aspect of your business needs to be built for your customer, from the products you supply to the layout of your site.

Make it as social as possible

One of the best ways to grow your business is to give customers a reason to tell others about your site. The internet is a community where users talk to each other, so if they have a good shopping experience they will encourage others to shop with you.

Let them talk back

A great way to get people talking about your business is to give customers a way to provide feedback. Make it easy for them to contact you by phone or email, or set up a Facebook page so people can connect with your business and each other directly.

When I first started finder.com.au, now one of the largest comparison sites in Australia, I made it a point to ensure that it was easy for customers to find us and talk to us. This has not changed even now that we have grown as a business.

They can still call our office and speak directly with one of our finance experts, or talk to them via live chat or in the forum on our website. To me, there is no such thing as bad feedback because every comment helps us improve the site and the business.

Streamline your online store

The layout and design of your site is also key. If you are walking down the street and see a shop with blacked out front windows, products hidden in cupboards and a sales assistant with a bag on their head, you are probably going to hurry across to the opposite side of the street and never return.

Be upfront and honest

People are more wary of the Internet because shady business practices are harder to detect online since it’s easier for websites to hide things. You therefore need to make sure your site is as transparent as possible so that customers are confident in shopping with you.

Make your contact details easy to find and create an ‘About Us’ section to put a face on your brand. Customers want to know they are dealing with an actual company with genuine people and not a site that is trying to scam them and run off with their money.

Capture their hearts, not just their data

Developing a rapport with your customers goes a long way in establishing a good reputation, and a way to do this is to include a login facility on your site.

Having an account encourages people to buy from you again, and you can also use their details to develop a marketing database. Customers with an account will feel a part of the business, and this helps your reputability.

All in all, by consistently giving users a positive experience right from the moment they click on your site, you can make sure that every customer will come back.

Fred Schebesta, along with his long time friend Frank, founded finder.com.au, now one of the biggest online comparison networks in Australia.

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