Selling Services Online: Pitfalls and Promises


We can’t imagine our life without online shopping and it seems that everything we need can be bought online.

E-commerce is widely used for selling different services.

Unfortunately, far to often, merchants don’t take into account that selling services online is not the same as selling physical products and requires special approaches to their promotion. Let’s take a closer look at the peculiarities of e-commerce marketing services.

Selling Services Online: How To

People frequently perceive services as a normal state of things and don’t even think about it when they buy. The service sector is really huge and it has a strong influence on our lives.


Source: Statista

Services can serve as added values to physical products such as delivery, after-sales and guarantee services, assembly operations, 24/7 customer support, etc. That is what customers usually expect from online stores.

The situation with such industries as education, medicine, tourism, hotel service, banking, insurance, transport, and others, is a bit different. Such companies also have their websites which operate like online stores.

A user can go to the site and make an order. But what do people buy exactly?

The main difference from the physical product is that the service is intangible, so physically people buy nothing.  This feature is very important and it defines the other service aspects.

Service Quality Can Be Estimated Only When Service Is Completed

In other words, when you sell a service, you are selling a promise of the final result. To understand this better, put yourself in the customer's shoes. Everything is easier with physical products.  It can be touched, tested before buying, which becomes impossible when it comes to service.

A client will be able to evaluate the training program quality only at the end of the process. The medical service quality may be evaluated only after completing treatment. Thus, the decision-making process for buying services is more complex compared to that for purchasing physical products.

How it can be put into practice

Give all possible high service quality evidence. Provide certificates confirming compliance with the essential requirements; customer reviews; service process videos and photos. Your website’s design and functionality should support the high-quality service image.

Service Quality Is Inseparable from the Producer

Service requires the producer and the consumer meeting each other.

A hairdresser won’t be able to make a hairstyle till the customer comes to their beauty shop. A dentist will not be able to treat teeth till the customer comes to them. A flight service can’t be provided till the passenger comes to the airport.

It should be noted that information technologies make a lot of changes in the service sector and give many opportunities for its development. E-learning allows service providers the ability to provide services remotely. E-banking allows clients to use bank services whenever they want without physically visiting the bank. E-service is quite common for us and greatly affects the quality of life.



Source: Statista

E-service concepts identify the use of information and communication technologies in providing services. But it is really hard to give an exact e-service definition because all the products and services are very closely associated with each other. The main point is that there are services that can be provided online, but not in all industries.

How it can be put into practice

The service company has to be easily accessible with comfortable business hours. It is important to use all possible ways to provide e-services.

Service Quality Depends on the Producer

Clients prefer to have the best specialists providing services. It is obvious that treatment quality depends on the doctor. Design quality depends on designer’s skills and experience. Moreover, it is necessary to understand that many services require special equipment and conditions for delivery.

The clearest example is medicine service. Choosing a medical company, clients pay significant attention to technical facilities.

How it can be put into practice

It is essential to publish detailed information about the professionals who provide services on the company’s website. Certificates, work experience, real customer reviews about a particular specialist - clients might be interested in such details.

The company description is also very important and can include work experience, technical conditions, plans for development, etc. It is also effective in allowing service testing before purchase. A free first lesson, trial period, a free consultation or examination, all such services may help a customer to make the right choice.

It Is Difficult to Get a Refund for a Poor Quality Service

Practically, it is impossible because any service is the process and it is not easy to prove that something was wrong.

How it can be put into practice

Clearly, describe the refund policy and the guarantees that are offered by the company.

It Is Difficult to Standardize Service Quality

It sounds very easy, but in fact, it is the most problematic feature for providing services. The service can’t be always provided with the same quality because many factors influence the process.

The same training program does not guarantee that all customers will be satisfied with the result. Different people may have different opinions concerning the hotel services quality, even if they stayed in the same room. It is also important to take into account such aspect as client's expectations.

If they are too high initially, it is impossible to provide the best quality service and the final result will be perceived negatively.

Read more tips here.

How it can be put into practice

Consider carefully the description of the service you provide on the website and give only a real picture. Don’t promise too much. A well-written message can help to sell a service, but finally, the company may get a dissatisfied customer only because of high expectations. It is useful to ask clients what they expect before the service is provided, to be able to correct them.

In fact, in any type of business, it is possible to find unique service features that determine consumers’ behavior. The main service characteristics provide a better understanding to start the analysis, see what can be improved and find the opportunities to increase sales.