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8 simple tweaks to make your OK product shine online
How do you make a mediocre product take off online? Columnist John Lincoln offers some tips and tricks to increase demand and make a ho-hum product stand out.
Maybe you’ve been there. Your product is out there, and it’s okay. It’s not great, and it’s not the best one available — although it’s also not the worst — but you still have to sell it!
So, how can you meet your goal of selling this mediocre product? How can you present it in the best possible light and distinguish it from other options?
Thank goodness for the internet; you can make even products that are lukewarm seem red-hot if you market them well. The better it looks and feels when viewed online, the better your sales will be. And if you do a good enough job with this, you can sell even more than you aim to, and possibly raise the price as demand increases.
First, understanding perceived quality
Experts agree that perceived quality is far more important to consumer decisions than absolute (objective) quality. “Perceived quality” is what your customers think about your product and how they feel it compares to others.
In other words, you don’t need the best product to make sales — you just need enough consumers to feel your product is the best.
Quality is a subjective term. Every consumer perceives quality in his or her own way. However, there are general traits that consumers use to decide how much quality your product offers.
Conformity with specifications matters to consumers: Does this product do what you say it will? Durability is also important.
Features are essential to perceived quality, so you must highlight each and every feature of your product, even those that seem obvious to you. Finally, performance is a key element in perceived quality.
Your job, especially with products that are just okay, is to convince your shoppers about the perceived quality of your product. These are my best tips for boosting the perceived quality of your okay product online:
1. Please, please use professional product photos
It’s a well-known fact: Products that look great get purchased more. If you were an actor trying to land a plum role as a millionaire character in a blockbuster movie, you wouldn’t send the director a selfie you snapped with your phone. You’d send a professionally done head shot — a photo that displays you at your very best. The same is true for products you sell online.
Quality isn’t what sells your product — perceived quality does. This means that your ultimate goal is for your customers to feel that your product has value.
Feelings are what shapes customer opinion. Your potential buyers look at your product and imagine how they will look to others using it, and how the product will look, feel, taste and otherwise provide a sensory experience.
Professional images are the most important element here because the human brain perceives and responds to images in a profound way. A picture doesn’t really say a thousand words, but according to research, every picture does “say” about 80 words’ worth of information to a viewer in a matter of seconds.
So how do you create the best, most communicative and professional photos for your products?
Use custom images. If you want your product to get noticed, make sure to take the time and spend the money on professional photography.
Invest in your images: Hire a professional photographer to get a nice bank of high-resolution, beautiful photos of the product. Your custom photos will be unique, and this makes your product seem unique, too.
Professional photos will increase your click-through rate and allow you to demand a higher price point. If you have an expensive item, you simple cannot sell it online with cheap photos.
Use large, high-resolution images. Large images perform better, increasing sales by nine percent. Large images allow the viewer to see and assess the product more easily — especially on a mobile device. Your images should ideally be big enough to allow for a zoom feature.
Show multiple views of each product. How many times have you seen something online that appeals to you but been frustratingly unable to see the view you need in order to make up your mind? Buyers have different reasons for choosing different products, so maximize your chances with multiple views.
Give context for the product. Don’t tell me how easy your product is to use; instead, show someone using it effortlessly. If you want me to use your kitchen appliance, show me what it makes.
When you do this, you’re prompting the imagination of your shopper; you’re helping them to create a mental image of themselves in the photo.
Show the end result of using the product. Selling shampoo? Show me how beautiful my hair will look by giving me an image of someone with amazing hair after using the product.
Will wearing your suit make buyers more attractive to others? Show your suit on a model who isn’t just standing there — show the suit on a man with a beautiful woman on his arm. This is common practice in TV commercials. When it comes to product photos online, it’s also effective.
2. Invest in a great graphic designer
Almost half of the human brain is used in visual processing, so visuals are critical to success. The human brain perceives, analyzes and understands your brand and logo in about 400 milliseconds.
What’s more, the average human attention span is shrinking; in 2000 it was 12 seconds, but by 2013 it was only eight seconds — shorter than the attention span of a goldfish. This means your message needs to be understood almost instantly, and even on a very small screen.
A professional graphic designer can create compelling visuals that have instant impact and are effective at even very small sizes. They can also make sure that your videos, infographics and images are the best they can be.
To ensure that your brand is relevant, recognizable and speaks volumes about your product, use professional graphic design services. This is especially important when your product is only so-so and doesn’t “sell itself.”
I have to admit when I first got into online marketing I would always cut corners here. I would design things myself or use the cheapest designer.
But in today’s online space, you cannot skimp on this. It is simply too competitive. A high-quality design can significantly increase conversion rates.
It is all about the online shopping experience. Think about shopping at Nordstrom, as opposed to the local swap meet. The same concepts of shopping experience attracting certain customer types apply online.
3. Create plenty of high-quality content
Whether you love or hate writing, it is unlikely that as a business owner you have the time or ability to create the highest-quality copy every day. In fact, unlike the technological side of your business — which doesn’t need to be created from scratch — your content and product copy must be absolutely unique and extremely valuable to rank well in searches.
Awesome product pages need to be first on your list. Maximize your conversions by focusing on the purchasing page for your customers. You need more content on these pages for SEO purposes anyway, but these pages are also your chance to describe your product in a compelling way.
Use powerful, specific descriptive language, and highlight each and every benefit.
Remember, creating more content is the complement to large, stunning images. The words and images work together to achieve that feeling of value for people interested in your product.
And you don’t have to limit yourself to product description on your product pages, either. Load your pages with all kinds of content: bullet lists of features and benefits; charts and diagrams; endorsements and reviews; FAQs, product specifications and customer Q&As; “how-to” sections and tutorials; infographics; information about the product’s design, materials and creator; videos; user-generated content; and social sharing widgets. They all can give you the quantity and quality of content you need on these pages.
As a side note, if you write unique content for your product pages, they will rank better for SEO. In most cases, many websites are using the same descriptions for their products.
One of the strategies I do with clients is write all new copy for their product pages; it always results in big traffic and ranking jumps.
4. Do not underestimate the power of words
For the sake of both quantity and quality, use an experienced copywriter.
A professional copywriter knows how to tell your story to maximize sales of your product and how to communicate quality. To sell a mediocre product, you need a very clickworthy headline to draw attention.
You need content that establishes you as an authority (and, by extension, your product as authoritative). You need copy that shows off the benefits of buying your product and conveys its uniqueness. And you need copy that is free of annoying errors and verbal static.
You also have a much better shot with quantity of content using an experienced copywriter. Longer product descriptions, a more detailed discussion of elements, benefits and additional features make your product appear better than the others, and a professional writer can make these truly stand out in a crowd.
To sell a product that is just “okay,” your copy needs to be many times better than that of the competition. You’ll also need to draw more great prospects to sell it, so use an experienced copywriter.
What is your user’s pain point? What problem are you really solving with the product? A professional copywriter can help you nail these points.
5. Hire advanced, experienced pros to run your ads
Targeting your ads means making your ads serve your primary goals, and advertising to the people who will best respond to your product. For this reason, you need an ad team that knows how to target and maximize your results.
Your customers benefit from targeted ads because they get to learn about new products that are right up their alley. Especially if your product isn’t for everyone, find out who it is for, and target that demographic.
There may be many cases in which “the best” product isn’t the best choice. Find out who needs your less stellar product and target them.
You benefit, too, because targeted ads maximize your ROI (return on investment) and make the most of your advertising budget.
Your ad team should be able to target potential users in a variety of ways. They must know how to target ads contextually, creating ads to dovetail with web content.
They should be able to target based on behavioral patterns like shopping and buying trends. They should also be able to target based on demographics and geographic location. Make sure your ad team is up to the targeting challenge.
Make sure you have an experienced online advertising team; they could be costing you thousands a month in sales.
6. Cite research and experts. Put pain point front and center
Citing expert opinions that relate to your product is a great way to boost the perceived quality of your products. You don’t need a top expert to say your product is great (although social proof doesn’t hurt); you only need support that justifies its use.
So if you sell shoes, provide the right information for your kind of shoe. Show customers advice about why the right shoe matters to athletic performance, how wearing shoes that are bad for your feet is detrimental to your health, or how the right footwear can improve the first impression you give to others. (See how easy it is to back up arguments in favor of your product?)
The same principle is guiding companies that highlight things like “lower cholesterol,” “gluten-free” or “naturally high in fiber” on the packaging of their products — even if these are obvious benefits that aren’t unique. But that is the exact pain point of the demographic. That is what they want to see and solve for.
For example, of course carrots are naturally gluten-free, but highlighting that kind of product benefit on the package can increase your likelihood of a sale. Don’t miss the chance to market even a less exciting product as if it’s an amazing new choice.
7. Be clear about what is different, no matter how small
Research by the Harvard Business Review shows that clearly defined, understandable differentiation is the common thread between more than 80 percent of consistently high-performing businesses. Follow the lead of these big brands: Find and emphasize what makes your product different.
Remember, the difference between your product and others can be factual, or it can be more of a perceived difference or aesthetic difference. And even if your product’s features aren’t technically unique, you can emphasize them in new ways for shoppers.
8. Get interactive whenever possible
Interactive marketing comprises almost 35 percent of the $200 billion spent every year on advertising. It isn’t transmitting information to potential customers for passive consumption; it is engaging with them using a unique, creative experience chosen by the consumer.
Interactive marketing strategies are usually online and involve an exchange that is two-way or multi-directional. Some interactive marketing strategies and tools include: surveys or assessments; calculators or tools which offer results and answer questions; contests, challenges, events and giveaways; interactive funnels that send users on the path they choose; interactive infographics that let users choose which information they want; and purposeful online quizzes.
There are many advantages inherent to interactive marketing. This kind of marketing provides you with more customer information that can improve your ROI stats. It offers you details about customer preferences and demand.
Interactive tools provide a more memorable and unique customer experience. Finally, it keeps your approach current; consumers today expect more active options for consumption, not just passive, one-way information.
It’s not always easy to sell an okay product online; if it were, we’d all be millionaires. But if you work at your marketing strategy, you’ll find that you can sell even mediocre products effectively online. By making your okay product stand out online, you’ll achieve the conversion results you’re hoping for.
The main key is to invest in quality, quality, quality. From your photos to color scheme to shopping experience to your website to your copy to your ads, it all needs to be 100 percent professional. Take the time to ensure you put your best foot forward. It will result in more sales.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.