Think of Your Business as ‘E-Commerce’ — No Matter What You Sell

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A number of statistics from a number of studies all say the same thing — and it’s something we’ve known intuitively for a long time: buyers want to be in control of the sales process. They want to move at their own pace. They want to have access to all the information they need. And they want to talk to a salesperson only when they choose to.

According to a recent study from Gartner, 33% of all buyers would prefer an entirely “sales-free” sales experience. For millennials, it’s even higher: 44%.

Other studies put the number higher still. 

It may seem counterintuitive to try and minimize your sales team’s presence in your sales process, but what you’re really doing is optimizing for your buyer.

Today, forward-thinking companies are determining which steps of their sales process can actually happen on their website — without any salesperson involved. For some, it’s 100% of the customer experience. For others, it’s a smaller segment. 

But every business can benefit from handing some part of its sales team’s responsibilities to its website. 

Expanding our definition of ‘e-commerce’

Traditionally, e-commerce meant durable goods sold over the internet. You know, books, shoes, paper towels. That sort of thing.

But for a long time, e-commerce had been growing wider and wider, and the Covid pandemic blew that old definition out of the water. Resourceful businesses found ways to sell their wares through their websites, no matter what they sold.

Let your customers make part of their purchase online

Today, if you can’t fully buy a thing online, you can at least move farther down the sales funnel before you reach out to a salesperson. 

We’re seeing this especially in home improvement. While you can’t buy a new kitchen without talking to an estimator, you can use an AR-powered design tool to customize the kitchen of your dreams before contacting the company. 

For example, check this out: Michigan-based Retrofoam’s offers a price calculator, which you can try out here

This business specializes in spray foam installation to bring down energy costs, and they offer a tool to help you estimate the cost of your project. Rather than speaking with a contractor to get a quote, you can answer simple questions about the building you’re insulating. 

When you get to the end, you get a quote that’s suited to your unique needs. 

Or, see this example from Virginia-based River Pools: Their pricing tool helps you find the right swimming pool for your budget and your backyard.

In just a few steps and clicks, you can become a more informed pool buyer and also plan ahead for hidden costs for additional options and add-ons that come with a project this big.

After uploading pictures of your yard, you select the materials that’ll go into your pool and any add-ons, such as an automatic vacuum or waterfall.

Each step of the process provides extra details to make the experience feel more personal and well-thought-out.

The tool then presents some factors you may need to plan for, such as whether or not you’ll need additional landscaping or a retaining wall. 

At the end of the process, you get a quote based on your answers — with no tricks or strings attached. 

(Click here to see more examples of great self-service website tools!)

Make it easy to buy

According to research from Sprout Social, 65% of social media users have made purchases through social platforms. And it makes sense. Platforms like Instagram and TikTok have removed every conceivable barrier to purchase. Tap an icon and your pre-loaded payment information goes right through. You don’t even have to leave the platform. 

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This is the buying experience your customers are used to. So, when they come to your website and see a bunch of hoops to jump through, it’s jarring and off-putting. 

So, it’s up to you to brainstorm: How can we make our customers feel like they’re in control of the buying process

  • Can you use AI-powered chatbots to offer a customized experience?
  • Can you build a pricing calculator so your visitors can better understand the cost of working together?
  • Can you design an interactive quiz or questionnaire that helps your guests understand their problems better?

Think creatively about what parts of your sales process could happen online before the prospect has to reach out. 

And, as crazy as it might sound, is there a way your buyer could do everything online and not have to talk to a salesperson unless they choose to?

…but also make it easy to return

But there’s a flip side to making it easy to buy: You also have to make it easy to get refunded. Think about it. People are so comfortable buying things like shoes online because it’s so easy to return pairs that don’t fit to Amazon or Zappos. 

With this business model, these companies quell any buyer’s remorse that could hold people back from purchasing. 

I know no one can return a pool or spray foam insulation after they’ve bought it, but the sentiment is still important. 

CarmMax and Carvana, which made it easier than ever to buy a used car, offer a return window that’s no questions asked — along with a generous warranty. 

So, how many Carvana buyers actually return a car within their seven day window? It’s “in the mid- to high-single digits, and about half of those are swaps,” says Christina Keiser, Carvana’s vice president of strategy.

Just because you offer a return doesn’t mean your customers are going to use it. But its very existence will calm them.

Again, it’s up to you to think creatively about how you can make your buyers confident in how you’re going to treat them once they make a purchase. Is there a free trial you can offer? An exchange?

HubSpot’s Commerce Hub makes it easy to sell

At IMPACT, we’ve been excited about HubSpot’s new Commerce Hub, which offers end to end tools to help sell, invoice, and collect payments. 

The fact that HubSpot rolled out this new tool underscores this very trend. In 2024, all businesses are e-commerce businesses, and when we start to think this way, we can see amazing possibilities for what our website can become. 

If you’d like to talk to an IMPACT strategist about custom tools for your site, you can reach out to us here

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