On a recent business trip to Istanbul, I had the chance to visit the Grand Bazaar, a huge market located in the Old City that has been around since the 15th century. It has over 3500 shops, spans over 11 acres, and is considered to be one of the very first shopping malls in history.
A Crowded Marketplace…Like Yours
The Grand Bazaar is comprised of small shops run by independent entrepreneurs competing within their category (scarves, jewelry, rugs, etc.) for buyers’ attention (both tourists and natives alike). In fact, the layout of the Bazaar exists in such a way, that shops selling similar products are actually located in the same area. For instance, all of the shops selling spices are in one area of the Bazaar. One may ask how this could be a logical business move. Why would you want to be situated next to ALL your competition, vying for the attention of potential customers—right in front of the guy that owns the store next door?
Well, if you think of it in terms of how the Internet works, then it sounds all too familiar. The Internet is a crowded marketplace and often causes stress for potential buyers as he or she attempts to navigate its (too) many options. Sometimes, it’s difficult to tell products apart from each other especially in quality or authenticity, or simply why that product is something you should buy into—and especially—is this a good price?
Choice-Making—the Customer’s Dilemma
For instance, if someone offered you a “fine silk scarf”, how could you be sure that it is really silk without seeing it? (And as someone who purchased a silk scarf at the Bazaar—how do you know if it’s really silk?) How would you know if the seller is a trustworthy source? How can you be sure of the seller’s promise that this scarf really is silk and the one you need?
At the Grand Bazaar, the best shopkeepers know how to make their customers comfortable and offer a pleasant shopping experience within a chaotic atmosphere. The number one way they do this is through hospitality. Some will offer you coffee and crumpets, and simply let you peruse the shop at your leisure—no pushing or prodding to buy something. There is a feeling of safety in these kinds of shops—even a world away from the familiar feel of a King of Prussia Mall!
What This Means for Your Website
There are several things you can do to make your website as welcoming as a face-to-face experience with a customer, that can also help you stand out from the overabundance of options that consumers are faced with. Here’s three to start with:
- Warmth: For instance, “Consider introducing yourself—the person behind the business—to your customers, especially if it would add authenticity and credibility to your brand, for example, if you sell products that you make yourself,” says Ana Gotter, a writer for Shopify Blogs.
- Security: “Cybersecurity is a huge issue with hackers exposing even major chains like Target. So it only makes sense that consumers are wary about giving anyone their credit card information,” says Gotter. Another great way to foster a sense of security for your customer is to display a badge or message on your website that clearly shows the kind of cybersecurity you use.
- Navigation: Make it easy for people to find what they’re looking for—whether it’s pricing or return policies or contact information. Don’t make them feel like Indiana Jones on a journey of treacherous discovery!
When it comes to the Internet “marketplace”, it really is important to create a welcoming environment for your customer, especially for those that don’t already know you.
With such a crowded place full of options for the buyer, it often comes down to a series of small touches to set you apart from the competition.
Questions to consider:
- How can we foster a warm and welcoming environment on our website?
- Does my website reassure the customer (whether through an icon or some added text) that any information they enter on the site is secure?
- Are there any small touches of personalization I can add to my website that makes my visitors’ experience more personable and relatable? How can I help the buyer feel like they know me, the seller?