Selling online isn’t a fad or a trend. It’s the present and it’s the future. If your business doesn’t have the option to at least allow customers to start the buying process online, you will be left behind. But knowing exactly how to sell online goes beyond just setting up a Shopify store and running a few Facebook ads. While it may be tempting to take a few shortcuts in the hope of getting a check-out, we need to step back from what we’re selling and think about how we’re selling.
How to Sell Online - Start With the Customer
If you don’t have a clear picture in your mind about who your ideal customer is, you need to fix that. Now. It’s the core component to successful e-commerce. And this applies to businesses selling physical products, digital downloads or holidays. Know who your customer is.
Once you know who your customer is, identify where they are in the buying journey.
Are they researching?
Are they switching back and forward between your website and a competitor’s?
Are they sitting in front of their laptop, or with their phone in their hand, their credit card poised, ready to enter those digits?
Each of the above represents a stage in the journey to buy. And your website should be easing them further and further along the road. The content of your website, the overall quality of it, determines whether you get the sale - or the booking - instead of your competitor. There’s more information on this in the guide I mentioned above.
How to Sell Online - Think Lifestyle, not Product
Before I get into this in more detail, there’s absolutely no denying the power of social networks when it comes to driving new sales. The ability to quickly, easily and affordably target very niche demographics on Facebook and Instagram is powerful. And it’s never been seen before in the world of commerce.
Of course, both social networks behave differently. And so do their users. Understanding how both work will help you decide how to market your business.
Facebook is gossip. Irrelevant news. Fake news. Memes. It’s the biggest social network in terms of active users. And it’s the biggest in terms of the data it has stored about its users.
Of the two, Facebook is probably the hardest to get your business noticed on. From Facebook’s timeline algorithm filtering out your Page’s posts to the sheer volume of irrelevant content, the constant disappointment of your Page’s reach can make it a challenge to use it as a marketing tool.
If Facebook is fake news and memes,
Instagram is happiness and lifestyle
Instagram, by contrast, is the happy social network. It’s mostly positive. It’s about lifestyle.
That’s why it’s the social network where the “influencers” life, love them or hate them. It’s the social network of the perpetual show offs. The people who travel better than you do. Who have better bodies and teeth than you do. Who have better lifestyles than you do.
So here’s the trick.
You use Facebook’s obscenely intrusive data on its users. And you use that data to target, very specifically, people who are interested in a particular lifestyle on Instagram.
Use Facebook’s ad manager. Yes, it’s a pain the butt to set up, but take the time to go through all the steps to connect your Facebook Page and your Instagram account (if you haven’t already switched to a Business Account on Instagram, stop and watch the video below).
Run promos for your business, whether you sell products or you’re in the travel/tourism sector, on Instagram.
But you must focus on the lifestyle of your target market. Show them a lifestyle into which what you’re selling fits perfectly.
People aren’t buying what you sell. People are buying who they’ll become when they have it.
And this applies to sunglasses, shoes, coats, meals, holidays, you name it.
If a potential customer can see themselves in your content, they’ll be more likely to buy. If they can see your product in the content of their ideal lifestyle, they’ll be more likely to buy. And this applies to anything you’re selling, whether it’s a room in your hotel or a case for their phone.
All of the images above have the goal of selling products. But equally, all of the content above is about a lifestyle. From the traveller, adventurer to coffee shop lover.
Should this principle of “lifestyle before product” apply just to Instagram?
Of course not. Every part of your online presence should ooze lifestyle. Potential customers should immediately recognise the life they want to - or are already living - whenever they see any of your online content. Every element of your online presence should indicate rapport and empathy with what your potential customers need and the lifestyle your products support.
How to Better Understand Your Target Market
Let’s say your business sells equipment to oil and gas workers. But you yourself have never worked in that industry. How can you better understand the customers you want to sell to? How can you get a handle on their lifestyle?
There’s no denying this can be tricky. But it’s not hard to fix. Here’s how.
Find where your target market hangs out online
Listen to what they have to say.
Use Facebook and LinkedIn. Both social networks will have groups specifically for that industry. Join those groups. And read. Read the posts, read the comments. Get a handle on what life and work is like in that industry.
The same strategy works if you sell fitness equipment to runners, but you’re not a runner. Or camera equipment to videographers, but you don’t shoot video. Find where these people hang out on social networks, and get a feel for their life, their “pain points”. Then shape all of your online content to dovetail with them. Your blog posts, YouTube videos, Facebook and Instagram posts should all demonstrate that you understand their lifestyle and that your products fit perfectly into it.
By the way, never ever spam these groups with your content. It’s a sure fire way to make sure you get booted out.
So, what matters more to your potential customers online? Your products or the lifestyle they have or want to have?
It will always be the latter. It’s your job to show your rapport with that lifestyle and present your products in a way that matches it.