For the past eighteen months or so, Forestrall Timber and Fencing Merchants have been the servicing partner for online timber sales site TimberClick. In that time, the range of products sold online has risen from simply decking, fencing and sleepers through to now encompassing a wider range of products, similar to that found at the yard in Bean, nr Dartford. The growing product range has been established to match the growing demands from the online consumers and as we push forward into 2014 Forestrall will be looking to add an e-commerce section onto our own website, covering the FULL range of products.
As we move towards doing that, we have to first consider what makes a good e-commerce site? We already know that an online store can have huge advantages, both for us and our customers, but what do we need to do to make sure our online business becomes as successful as our physical business?
We believe that the key will be simplicity – visitors need to know how to find what they want, where to find it and find the relevant information on the product and then it must be an easy buying process. Understandable product listings and categories will assist the consumer that knows what they are looking for, but clearly marked special offers and latest deals will hopefully encourage the casual browser, who perhaps hasn’t visited the site with a clear intention.
Visitors generally decide very quickly whether they like a website or not, so we know we have to grab their interest in a matter of seconds on their arrival to the site. Nothing holds attention better than good deals! Some people are attracted by free shipping, some by the clearance sector and special offers but almost everybody is interested in some kind of promotion or another. Therefore discounts and special deals are usually the first things that website visitors look for. As we plan ahead, it makes sense for us to position eye-catching banners with discount offers on the upper part of the home page of our new online store.
Free delivery in our local area is already a prominent offer for us, whether customers purchase online via the current TimberClick site or if they buy over the phone or in person at our yard and this will be something we continue with. Deliveries further afield will still have the option of free delivery but to save ourselves from unwarranted shipping expenditures, as with many online stores, we will adjust the minimum order price to include free shipping. Customers that fall below the required order value will have easy access to view the related shipping cost for their postcode region.
It’s estimated that almost 20% of online purchases are made after browsing through social media sites. People are inclined to “listen” to public opinion and social media websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, are currently the key sources to get the information you need on just about everything. Forestrall Timber are already active on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and they provide effective channels to keep customers abreast of the latest news, or special deals.
We’d love to hear your views. Do you already purchase timber or other building materials online? Do you think it’s the way forward? Or are you an online retailer? What works for you and what have you trialled that you have now changed?