Last week I discussed the brick-and-mortar practices of upselling and cross-selling — marketing disciplines made possible by the planogram — and their application to Web marketing. To translate the benefits of up- and cross-selling to an e-tailing site, I suggested we revisit the planogram and apply its principles to the Net as a “Webogram.” This week I want to help you with some Webogram planning.
Your first step will be to categorize your customers’ needs. Some visitors to your site might be after cleaning products; others may be shopping for health foods; and still others might be wanting a fast-food fix. Each category of need — and you may come up with heaps of them — will represent a particular visitor search pattern, and your analysis of these patterns will open up interesting opportunities for optimizing both your consumer’s search path and your up- and cross-selling potential.
To discover the facts about your visitors’ search patterns, you need to ask “real” customers about their offline shopping. Take that vacuum-cleaner-bag buyer we made an example of last week. This person’s got cleaning products and gadgets in his sights. Interview him about and observe his shopping behavior. Follow him in a brick-and-mortar supermarket and learn what he does there; note the things that inspire him and observe where possible cross- and upselling opportunities lie. I’m telling you, you’ll be surprised at what you discover.
The shopper who enters the store simply to pick up vacuum cleaner bags will leave having spent more money on food than on his intended purchase. The challenge is to find a way of translating this three-dimensional experience, in which customers are assailed by visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile, and taste suggestions, to the Web site environment where, having clicked onto the vacuum cleaner page, the likelihood of people ever finding their way to unrelated products is negligible.
So, back to the Webogram, the planning device we’re using to import cross- and upselling potential to the online store. A successful Webogram could open up a goldmine for you. Let’s consider the highest hurdle. In the offline store, shoppers can browse in a physical environment. The retailer has all of the shopper’s five senses to work on: seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, and smelling. That scope just doesn’t exist online. Your role, therefore, is to find other ways of inspiring your customers while they’re shopping. The trick to achieving this online is to be systematic. You have to systematically and constantly inspire your customers.
How would such a strategy look in practice? There’d be a minimum of three ingredients in your toolbox (assuming that, at this stage, you’re not prepared to establish a detailed CRM system with personalized membership features):
- Navigation. The navigation panel is the key. It’s the tool that allows visitors to jump from section to section on your site in no particular order. If it’s too simple, you’re likely to lose potential cross-selling opportunities. If it’s too complex, you are likely to lose business by confusing your customers. The design of your navigation tools should be inspired by your customers’ preferences, which you’ll know all about, having done your research and observing customers in the offline store environment. Your online advantage is that your navigation panel could offer detailed options that vary according to where your customer is at the time — as long as your panel structure and design are consistent at your customer’s every turn.
- Linking strategy. You should hyperlink every sentence so that any potential cross- or upselling opportunities are activated and the customer thus inspired to investigate. Having deviated via a particular hyperlink to another virtual aisle in your store — that is, to another page — your customers will encounter new and interesting products that are meaningful to their needs. Your linking strategy should work like a virtual salesperson, offering ideas, extending the customer’s knowledge of products, and taking hints from the customer as to what else she might need but just hasn’t thought of yet. But do remember: The number of links you offer should be informed by your customers’ preferences. Again, observe customers’ behavior in the brick-and-mortar store and reflect their apparent tolerance for persuasion, deviation, and exploration in the number of links your site offers. Too many will lead to confusion and frustration; too few may lead to boredom and a quick exit from your site.
- Promotion program. Special promotions are another means of cross- and upselling. You might feature a ketchup promotion with sausages, for example. Or milk where breakfast cereals are to be found. In short, think about uniting complementary products. Again, analyze in-store behavior to clarify ideas on complementary promotions. Just because you think one product bears a logical relationship to another, doesn’t mean a customer will, and the coincident appearance of an arbitrarily chosen product may not inspire a shopper to purchase the promoted item along with the one he intended to buy. Short message: Don’t guess at your customers’ preferences and tendencies. Know them by research and analysis.
I know these thoughts haven’t made you an instant Webogram expert. But, hopefully, they’ve sparked some ideas for you and perhaps caused you to rethink your existing cross- and upselling strategy. If you’re among the 50 percent of online e-tailers who are already thinking this way, I’m sorry for wasting your time. However, the rest of you — get going!
Remember, cross- and upselling won’t happen by itself. These are achieved as the result of careful planning, which every online site manager should be engaged in. There’s a lot of work to do before you can conclude your conversion rate has fulfilled its potential. Offline retailers have been planogramming their way to increased conversion rates for years. So, what are you waiting for? Plan that Webogram.
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