Internet retailers are claiming victory in the battle for business in the run-up to Christmas. However, all is not as it seems.

Anyone who has an online shop needs to take extra special care of their customers. One false move and your rise in income this year could be a short-lived experience. Research by the web hosting company 1&1 shows that eight out of ten people who shop online check out the Internet retailer BEFORE buying anything.

Unlike their High Street counterparts, online retailers are subject to scrutiny in social networking sites, review sites and cost comparison services. Only when web users are happy with the company or its products do they go ahead and buy anything. Indeed, the 1&1 survey shows that 90% of people actually look for reviews before they buy anything online.

If you are selling online it means you need an altogether different approach to a bricks and mortar retailer. You need to have fantastic customer service, of course, but you also need to make sure that it’s easy for people to review your products and services. You need social networking facilities built into your retail site to allow this, for instance.

You also need to have a presence in all the places where your customers are likely to discuss you – MySpace, Facebook, Ecademy, LinkedIn and so on. If you are not monitoring the discussions about your online shop (and those discussions are happening) you cannot hope to overcome any objections and increase your sales next year.

It’s time for online retailers to abandon the notion of having an Internet Shop; instead they need to centralise what they do around a community of people who buy their products. That way, they will enable future customers to find what they are looking for FIRST – honest reviews and assessments of the company’s products and services.

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