Selling Successfully (Your One-Stop Resource for Setting Up, Managing and Marketing)

Shopping Your Own Shop

As a Ruby Lane shop owner, you probably enjoy shopping. Maybe you do it online through other Ruby Lane shops, through Ebay or through brick and mortar shops, at auctions, flea markets, garage sales and the like. Maybe you buy, or maybe sometimes you just want to see what others like you are selling; how they're presenting it; how they're pricing items, etc.

But how often do you actually shop in your own shop? Sound like a silly question? It isn't! In fact, it is important to shop your own shop on a regular basis. Of course, you don't need to buy anything, but you can think as if you're going to. Or, you can actually make a purchase as a test, to examine every step of the buying process through your shop. Shopping your own shop can help to make it the best it can be.

We're all busy these days. We know many of you have to chain yourselves to your computer on the weekend to get a few new things listed. Maybe you've worked a full week at your day job, and you're dog-tired. But you do it because it needs to be done. And whew - once those items are in, you're done with them. Or are you?

Learning To Think Like A Customer:
We all know what our own shop looks like. But have you really stopped to look at your shop from the viewpoint of a prospective customer that's just landed in your shop for the very first time? Doing so with an objective eye can help you spot little errors and prompt you to make improvements you never thought to make.

Shop Your Shop Right After Adding Items:
If you still have the energy after adding items, it's always a good idea to shop your shop right away. This will allow you to do an initial check to make sure everything got added OK. This may sound obvious, but if you're tired or in a hurry, it's easy to want to skip this step.

Shop Your Shop When You Haven't Added Items:
It's also a good idea to stop by your shop at random times when you haven't just added items. This will give you a fresh perspective which is more like that of a customer's. When you're shopping your shop, you can use the following checklist to go through and see what might need improvement:

What To Look For:
-Initial Presentation: When you first land in your shop, are you greeted by crisp, dynamic and colorful photos that entice you to look further? This initial reaction is crucial. At this moment the prospective customer is sizing up your shop, deciding whether or not to stay, or to move on. If they see something that they don't like - they're gone.

One turn off can be a home page that is cluttered. While it's informative to convey who you are or background information about the artist you represent, flashing logos and visuals can sometimes be too much. Be sure to visit your home page with a critical eye to what enhances - and what overwhelms.

-Your Shop Intro: Be sure your home page introductory copy starts at the beginning. Many visitors are seeing your shop for the very first time. They don't know who you are, or what you're selling or why. They don't know if you've been in business for over 20 years, or what awards you might have won. They don't know what makes your shop different from the rest. You've got to tell them your story in a personal, and compelling way that is also clear, concise and to-the-point. Are you doing this?

-Your Shop Contact Information: While privacy is understandable, not listing enough contact information can make potential buyers shy away. Would you buy from someone who had no address or phone number listed? We highly recommend listing at least one or the other. A P.O. box is perfectly acceptable.

-Your Item Descriptions: Sure, you know what the item looks like. But the customer does not, even if they've seen one just like the one you have. Are your shop descriptions exciting, and written with a flair that pulls the reader in? And do your descriptions adequately complement the photos to give enough detail about the item for someone to make an educated buying decision? If not, you're probably missing out on potential sales.

-Typos: Shopping your shop can allow you to catch typos you may have missed. While Ruby Lane offers the spellcheck tool, it can't catch errors such as missing or duplicated words or grammatical errors. Visit your shop and carefully read and correct errors before customers see them.

-Your Photos: Remember that the photo is the only visual method that allows your customer to see the item that you're selling. Dark or blurry photos don't give enough information for most customers, and can be a significant turn-off to buyers. If you're selling great pieces but the photos are lacking, that leaves a poor impression. Look closely at the photos and ask yourself: Would this entice me to purchase this item? You'll also want to ask yourself if you're showing enough varied photos to give prospective customers adequate visual information about the item. Ruby Lane allows you to include up to 9 photos of a single item. You'll want to show the back of an item, the top, the bottom, any flaws and any important markings.

-Your Return Policy: Ruby Lane and each of its independent shops want customers to be satisfied with their purchases. To ensure their satisfaction and for the protection of both the buyer and shop owner, we have a Return Policy that each Ruby Lane shop owner honors.

As an individual shop owner you may have additional terms that apply. If so, take a moment and review your additional terms. Keep in mind shop owners can only make their return policies more lenient, not more strict.

-Your Shipping Policy: Like your Return Policy, an unclear shipping policy can scare customers away. Many customers are new to online shopping. It is your job to be their guide and to instill enough confidence for them to make a purchase. Be sure to read your policy carefully from the customer's perspective. You'll want to clearly describe the shipping process, as well as what they may expect in the case that something is lost or damaged.

-Making An Actual Purchase: Actually buying something from your shop allows you to check your email responses to customers, to make sure they're clear, and have the right tone. Being on the receiving end is the only real way to do this. This is especially recommended as soon as you open.

Shop Other Shops, Then Return To Yours:
You can also learn a lot from shopping other shops, either on Ruby Lane or anywhere on the Web. Look carefully to see what you like about other shops, and what you don't like. Then ask yourself how they compare to your shop. Are they doing things that you would like to emulate? Are you seeing things that you don't like that you realize you're doing too?

One important point to remember about your Ruby Lane shop is that EVERYTHING in it can be changed. Everything. So if you're seeing photos that aren't that great - change them! Just because they're there now doesn't mean you can't replace them with better photos as your skills improve. That's the beauty of the Web.

Assuming you're adding items fairly regularly, we recommend shopping your shop at least once a month. In fact, doing so too often can make you feel as if you've seen everything, and you may begin to miss errors. Shopping once a month will allow you to view your shop from a fresh perspective, and to make it the best it can be.