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Virtual Reality: Successful Online Selling

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With many studios around the globe facing tightened operational regulations and additional live instruction closures, the reality is imminent that virtual programming, if it isn’t already, may become a part of your studio fiber. Whether that means casually incorporating recorded content into marketing strategies to reach new clients, or transitioning to full-time, live-stream learning, these key concepts can help structure success and innovation in the new virtual market through people, programs, and platforms.

People: Develop a Virtual Specific Audience

A recent survey on Forbes.com revealed that 82% of consumers will continue to favor shopping online post-pandemic, so it’s increasingly important to attract the right buyer for your new digital programs. Clients who buy classes online share unique traits, behaviors, and purchasing themes; these are called Online Buying Behaviors or OBB. The modern digital shopper comes in many different forms but they have shared preferences for high-touch digital communication, slick tech interfaces, and eye-catching marketing assets.

Armed with this knowledge, build your new avatars with age, location, interest, spending power, and stage of life in mind. Let’s break that down further. In most markets, an ideal studio buyer has a target age demographic of 25-44 years old. When architecting your audience, keep in mind the stage of life for this age of buyer. When it comes to location, go beyond the client’s physical home address and consider instead where they “live” online. What platforms do they use to engage on social media? Where do they shop online? What other virtual products do they consume? What are their peak hours online? Diving into the patterns and habits of your new virtual audience can be rewarding in the long run as you see conversion increase. That being said, as the popularity of online shopping continues to grow in momentum, new segments of buyers and themes will emerge. 

After combing through the data on virtual buyers’ traits, there are five core virtual shopping types to address as you build your new virtual audience.

#1 - Commited Buyer:

These virtual buyers know exactly what they want and they are ready to make a purchase. They often use voice search features to find products and services, and are loyal to the purchasing sites they frequently use. Relationships and emotional connections can help draw this virtual buyer in but to fully attract this buyer, you need to be where they already are. If your clients enjoy shopping on Etsy, open an Etsy shop of your own to sell branded studio products or holiday gift packages.

#2 - Researching Buyer:

These virtual buyers have a goal in mind but not a specific product. Meaning, they can see the vision of their dancer on the stage but are not sure of the steps and classes that get them there. Search engines are their best friends and you’ll find them reading product reviews until they have decision fatigue. Helping them find their way through the funnel while providing factual information is very important. To convert these researchers, offer downloadable resources such as Studio Discovery™ documents to help answer frequently asked questions or provide a free trial class to help move this buyer through the pipeline.

#3 - Bargain Buyer:

These virtual buyers are in search of the next great deal. These are the folks that refuse to check out with their virtual shopping cart until they have checked every retail savings site possible for a promo code or special offer. Bargain hunters cannot refuse a great deal or a bonus offer and are easily upsold. Convert bargain hunters into long term clients by creating an irresistible offer such as a free costume at the end of a micro-commitment. Payment flexibility will also be important for keeping these clients beyond a promotion.

#4 - Wandering Buyer:

These virtual buyers are the virtual window shoppers. In the virtual space, many of these shoppers are perusing for entertainment’s sake. Sellers will need to lean heavily into the visual presentation to capture the buying attention of these relaxed buyers. Draw the wanderer to the sale by using a colorful logo and bright-eyed dancer. Once you have them hooked with the graphic, get them to take a small action like signing up for your newsletter or entering to win a gift. A series of short but meaningful steps will move them closer to becoming clients.

#5 - Impulsive Buyer:

These virtual buyers are often found cruising the late-night web waves looking for a service or product that captures their interest. They are socially-conscious and brand aware. Impulsive buyers are enjoyment-seekers so amplify the fun and engagement in the sales process. For these buyers, you will need to use passion and energy as a key to conversion. Impulsive buyers will convert most easily so long as there are no friction points in the sales process such as a complicated order form. Clean up your new client onboarding funnel to remove any possible barriers.

PRO TIP: Refresh your audience yearly. Reflect on which traits and types are converting and how to find more people who fit your ideal avatar. Create beta-test audiences and split-test as often as possible.

Programs: Decide and Dive In

Not all in-person programs will convert equally into new virtual platforms so it’s vital to select the right classes for virtual success. Classes that perform the best online, from a sales perspective, are high energy and low commitment. Look for programs that are short-term or promotional in nature. Dance is in great positioning to be a profitable niche online market because classes are convenient, flexible, self-driven, and can provide individualized attention to the dancer. Keep these sales features and benefits at the forefront of your virtual marketing.

As you prepare to sell online, start by condensing your offerings. In the traditional studio model, there are multiple days and times for each class but in the virtual platform, consolidate to just one or two popular times for each program and re-evaluate after you see what sells. Also, consider recording live classes to build an evergreen content library. Recorded classes are increasingly popular with online buyers who favor asynchronous content. Busy parents around the world are singing the praises of virtual content that they can turn on and off whenever they see fit and watch as many times as they want.

Inspiration for great virtual programs can be found everywhere you look online. Businesses are capitalizing on current, home-bound situations, and are offering virtual classes, camps, group learning, and even live individualized instruction for almost everything.

Once you’ve narrowed in on the virtual programs that you’ll offer, begin by selling in your local market. But don’t stop there! Expand your radius to capture new clients in communities just beyond your normal borders. With virtual programs, the sky’s the limit. Take your virtual offerings to the next level by placing them on outschool.com or similar platforms that are community marketplaces of online classes for kids, families, and organizations. Designed for kids ages 3-18, this could get your programs in front of new clients from all around the world.

Platforms: Mastering the Tech

Maybe you got into virtual selling because you love technology and innovation or maybe you feel like you’ve been forced into virtual selling by a series of unfortunate events. Either way, virtual selling via technology is here to stay, and spending time (and money) on optimizing your online shopping interface will be well spent. Use this new digital space to reframe your services, pivot your business model, and make bold new virtual moves.

By now, most studio owners have already begun to incorporate new technology on their websites and social media to support this new virtual selling journey. Many studio owners have embraced video communication such as Zoom for staff meetings and live-streaming classes. Others have adopted new e-commerce tools such as Shopify to help power their quick conversions because having a trusted payment gateway is crucial to online shoppers. Gone are the days of calling to purchase over the phone or stopping by the studio for a tour and chat.  No matter what tools you choose, the bottom line is, now is the time to evolve the virtual shopping experience that you are offering. Online buyers don’t just enjoy a streamlined approach to purchasing, they expect it.

Today, you can improve your digital visibility by honing in on trending keywords. This strategy can help you to climb the ranks of search engines and get noticed faster. There are many great keyword tools but one of the easiest and most efficient is the Google Keyword Planner. This clever tool can help you understand which keywords are performing best for you and even estimate conversion rates using those keywords. This can be a crucial part of your technology plan as you lean into your website functionality, social media, and search engine optimization.

We can’t talk about virtual selling and technology without talking about eWallet, which is a mobile wallet. A mobile wallet allows users to store multiple credit cards and bank account numbers securely, and essentially eliminates the need to dig for a credit card—which speeds up the conversion cycle. According to hubspot.com, mobile wallet payments only accounted for $75 billion in 2016, but they are projected to exceed $500 billion by the end of 2020. The eWallet payment is favored among young online shoppers for its ease and increased security features. Preparing your business for virtual selling with eWallet payments is generally quick and painless; GooglePay and ApplePay are among the easiest to set up. Contact your current payment processor for details on how they can support you in adding this feature.

Final Word

As you transition from reading this article to activating your learning, remember that you cannot do all things alone. Empower someone on your team to help you carry the weight of keeping up with this rapidly changing virtual sales space. Look for someone on your team who is highly adaptable, naturally gifted at strategic thinking, and actively uses virtual tools in their everyday life. If you’re out on the sea of virtualness alone, or with a tiny team, start by tackling one initiative at time. Work through the audience building first, then move along to launching one online offering at a time. Then, pause, review, reflect, and revise before beginning your next task. As you work to implement all of these actions, prioritize what tools, tactics, or strategies will be most effective in your current market conditions.

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