You can offer your customers a wide variety of value-added services to improve their shopping experience. You will want to evaluate each potential value-added service and consider how attractive it will be for your customers.

Here are three ways to think about value-added services you can offer on your site:

Offer Free Services to Add Convenience

Many sites offer free services that make the shopping experience more convenient for their customers. Some of these services can be costly, such as free shipping. Others require investments in technology. Still others are low-cost and easy to do but can add significantly to the shopping experience. Examples of free services you can offer include:

  • Free shipping. Many sites now offer to ship products for free. They choose to provide this costly service to build repeat visits.
  • Gift registries and reminder services. Gift registries allow users to record their "wish lists" so that their friends and family know what to buy them for birthdays, weddings, etc.
  • Comparison-shopping tools. These tools help site visitors compare product features and prices. They require the addition of technology to your site.
  • Free gift wrapping. Some sites will wrap purchases in gift paper. This service costs very little but makes a big impression on the customer and/or gift recipient.
  • Complimentary shipping upgrade. Some sites qualify for bulk shipping discounts by upgrading customers to faster delivery options. This can be a great value-added, low-cost customer service if managed carefully.

Provide Information about Your Industry and Products

Providing information about how to use your products or services and offering testimonials and case studies about the experiences of others who have used them can make your site more compelling to customers than one that just lists product descriptions. Here are some examples:

  • Third-party product reviews. Posting links to product reviews can help make the sale and make your site a useful resource for anyone researching your product, service, or industry.
  • Expert services. You can supplement your site with columns and other offerings from product experts. These additions bring unique perspectives to your products and services that can't be obtained anywhere else.
  • Customer testimonials. First-person accounts about how customers use your products or services can give others new ideas about they can use them. They validate your product and earn your customers' trust.
  • Recipes and other forms of "how-to" instruction. For food, gift, seasonal, cooking, or some home-related sites, recipes provide a great way to integrate content with your products. Perhaps on your site, the equivalent would mean offering ideas about how to build something with the products you provide.
  • Labor-saving tips. Many sites use the "tips" format to provide content about how to best use a product or service. This type of content keeps the customer thinking about the product and makes your site more useful.
  • Related activities. Many products are used in specific environments, and you can add significant value to your site by keeping customers informed about those environments. For example, a site that sells bicycles can add value by posting news from the racing circuit; a business-to-business site can post information about upcoming conferences or seminars.

Suggest New Products and Product Combinations

You can easily turn bundling and upselling strategies into value-added services. Here are some ways to do it:

  • New product bundles. A product bundle combines two or more independent products together as one package. For example, selling rubber galoshes with an extra pair of woolen socks might appeal to parents. Selling the appropriate tent, sleeping bag, and cookstove together might appeal to first-time campers. These combinations can help simplify purchasing decisions.
  • Product progression. Some products can trigger a chain of purchasing. For example, the needlepoint pattern section of your site is a perfect opportunity to send your customer over to the yarn purchasing section of your site; the new shoes will need shoe polish; the baseball bat will need a new team T-shirt from a favorite team to complete the ensemble. Providing a path to legitimately related goods makes the shopping experience more convenient and quick -- two highly praised values on Web sites.

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