Having an online storefront is a great way for your association to offer content for sale and increase your non-dues revenue. In fact, you may currently have an e-commerce site that allows members to buy your continuing education materials. Customers appreciate the kind of flexibility that allows them to purchase what they want, when they want. And that’s exactly what an online store provides: 24/7 access for members to buy your content. Whether they prefer printed materials or eBooks, an online site can provide access to the format that works best for them. Too often, however, this flexibility comes at the cost of ease of use.
As important as flexibility is, it is vital to not create a website that is overly complicated. As you continue to include options to please everyone, you may accidentally create a site that pleases no one! Here are three ways to see if your online store offers a good balance of convenience, flexibility and efficiency.
Convenience: A single shopping cart regardless of product
A big step towards providing convenience in your online store is to create a smooth purchasing experience. It’s not enough to make the materials available. To maximize your store’s browsing potential—and the non-dues revenue that comes with it—you must make sure that the steps involved in buying from your online site are as simple as possible. This affects everything from how the store is organized to clicking the “buy” button.
Shoppers expect to be able to purchase any combination of items in your store in a single transaction. Make sure your online store offers the simplicity of a single shopping cart experience regardless of the format of the purchase. This may seem like an obvious feature to include, but not every system allows mixing digital and physical goods into the same purchase. This results in the customer having to make multiple purchases to buy materials from your online store.
Flexibility: Browsing based on customer preference
As your online store continues to add titles, site organization becomes critical. First and foremost, your store should be able to be organized in a clear, logical way that makes sense to your customers. Some visitors may prefer to browse your offerings based on their desire for a specific format (printed book or eBook, for example). Other visitors may not have a format preference, rather they are primarily interested in which topics are available. Be sure that your site can accommodate either of these preferences.
Efficiency: Maximize your internal resources
It’s not just your customers that benefit from having a storefront. The “always on” aspect of your online store means your materials are ready to add to your bottom line at any time of day. But that’s not the only benefit. If your store is set up correctly, it can actually make your selling experience more efficient, as well.
Customer convenience is important, but don’t forget about yourself! Look for an e-commerce system that takes the burden off your association’s staff as much as possible. Considerations such as how much staff time is devoted to inventory management or time spent coordinating with multiple vendors are legitimate costs. These impact your association just as much as the initial cost to develop the online site.
At the end of the day, an online store is another extension of your association. Creating a positive experience for your member (also known as your “customer”) is an important step in creating a positive impression of your association. Start by providing a flexible browsing experience that lets a customer browse your materials in the way that makes the most sense to them. Follow this up with a convenient shopping experience that makes purchasing easy.
Just make sure that in the process of creating a great customer experience, you don’t lose sight of your staff’s experience supporting the system.