Product Knowledge is the Key to eCommerce Sales

The more you equip your sales team with product knowledge training and tools, the better your agents will be able to collaborate with their customers

Imagine for a moment that you are a customer looking to buy a product. Before you buy, you have a few questions and hop on a chat session with a sales agent.

Your simple questions completely stump the sales rep. After going in circles with the agent, you abandon your cart. You feel too frustrated to follow through on your purchase. The next morning, you feel better and find what you need on a competitor site.

Think this only happens seldom? Unfortunately, the scenario above is common.

In 2016, a Forrester report found that “53% of US online adults are likely to abandon their online purchase if they can’t find a quick answer to their question.”

Last year, Techjury confirmed those numbers and further noted that nearly half of eCommerce buyers prefer to live chat with a knowledgeable sales agent before making a purchase. When assistance is inadequate (or non-existent), consumers go elsewhere.

Product knowledge is your competitive advantage.

Launching an online store does not let the brand off the hook for poor product knowledge. In contrast, eCommerce brands that seek to improve product knowledge for representatives and customers alike outperform their peers.

Product Knowledge Factors that Make or Break the Sale

When it comes to product knowledge, it is not enough for sales teams and their customers to learn a set of static facts.

Product knowledge encompasses all the factors that help a customer relate a product to their perceived problem or need. To facilitate this connection between customer and product, eCommerce brands have rapidly increased their use of live chat.

While assisting customers over live chat is more efficient, the tool won’t hide a sales agent’s ignorance.

That said, the following three factors consistently demonstrate to customers a representative’s strong product knowledge applicable to the real problems the customers face:

  • Interdepartmental cooperation
  • Understanding product purpose
  • Streamlined digital tools

Now, let’s take a closer look at these issues one by one.

Interdepartmental Cooperation

When it comes to providing customer support in an online sale, speed is critical.

A common pain point for D2C vendors is that team members put their customers on hold to chase answers to a problem. After helping the customer, they keep the experience to themselves.

The irony of this scenario is that individuals from various departments are either actively searching for answers to the same questions or are lacking the information they need to troubleshoot an issue.

When team members from all departments can quickly share information, three things occur:

  • Sales agents produce quick answers to customer questions
  • Customer service agents can anticipate customer issues or questions after a purchase
  • The marketing team can assess real-time data on customer objections and product failures

And you’ve got a perfectly coordinated and more efficient team.

Understanding Product Purpose

In most cases, products address specific customer needs. A customer’s nuanced problems usually call for nuanced product features.

A sales rep must be able to actively listen to their customers, understand their needs, and match those needs with the right product.

After matching the customer with the right product, the sales agent should be able to explain why a particular product is the right choice. Even reps being able to answer accurately the most common questions — whether or not a product is in stock, size, and color options, etc. — can make a huge difference in the customer experience.

It shouldn’t matter whether a product is a physical good or a software platform. Every product serves a unique purpose for customers, and D2C brands must train their agents accordingly.

However brief the live chat exchange, sales reps must learn to collaborate with their customers.

Streamlined Digital Tools

A sales agent can learn the facts of product capabilities, enjoy interdepartmental cooperation, listen to their customers, and still fail to score the sale.

The reality is that most live chat agents are managing multiple customers at once. Technical failure or clunky chat technology can negate all exceptional initiatives to increase product knowledge within sales teams.

SiriusDecisions noted that sales agents are swamped with “non-selling activities.” These activities include:

  • Chasing down product facts/figures
  • Searching for the product online
  • “Cleaning up” branded content to make it presentable to the customer
  • Detangling the web of information for themselves and their clients

65% of sales agents surveyed told SiriusDecisions that they feel burned out for all the non-selling activities.

Thankfully, some simple tools can minimize waste.

For example, the latest live chat capabilities allow sales agents to do a simple product search on the company site without having to navigate outside the chat window. This two-click feature makes it easy for the rep to recall product ideas and remain present with the customer.

Intuitive sales agents know that without a clear and attractive product presentation, customers won’t bother to follow through on a product recommendation. If the agent’s tools don’t automatically provide this level of product presentation, then the agent must decide between possibly losing the sale or taking extra time to clean up the presentation themselves.

When sending the customer a product card in a chat window, it must be clean and appealing. Within the chat window, customers should have the option to add the product directly to their cart.

If chat agents lack these tools, they usually send links instead. After a long chat session, it can be difficult for the customer to make sense of the links. Modern-day chat features like a product card are clear and accessible.

These tools help sales teams remain in a collaborative headspace with their customer rather than having to “put their customers on hold” or “get back to them.” Also, live chat agents can navigate seamlessly among their 10–20 chat windows without getting bogged down.

More importantly, it saves time for the customer and increases online conversion rates.

Today’s average eCommerce conversion rate hovers around 2.5%. According to Techjury and Forrester, these numbers are higher when agents do their very best to “value the customer’s time.”

Closing Thoughts

Product knowledge, as it relates to the customer experience, is critical to retaining clients. In an Adobe Digital Index report, experts noted that less than 10% of an online store’s customers account for over 40% of sales.

When customers have a pleasant experience with your online store, they’ll be inclined to return.

The more you equip your sales team with product knowledge training and tools, the better your agents will be able to collaborate with their customers.

In turn, customers feel empowered after speaking with a sales agent and are far more likely to buy from you again and again. Further, today’s digital environment enables happy customers to share details about their recent purchases across social media channels. That kind of referral power cuts down your acquisition costs.

The conversation about product knowledge is bigger than converting web visitors to buyers. Team members with the right training and tools can convert one-time buyers into long-term loyal customers.

If you feel that your D2C sales team lacks any of these core product knowledge solutions, taking action now can mean an immediate boost in online store sales.

The best eCommerce brands invest all they can in diagnosing why sales are left on the table. Adopting the three corrective behaviors above — interdepartmental cooperation, understanding product purpose, and streamlined digital tools — have helped online stores put a better foot forward for their customers. CTRs increase, and customers are far less likely to abandon their carts.

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CEO and Co-founder of Markeaze.com

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Alex Cowell

Alex Cowell

CEO and Co-founder of Markeaze.com

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