We all want the best possible deal. However, the best possible deal is not necessarily the lowest price we can find. That is the point I try to make to people when showing them how to find what they are looking for online.

The internet gives today’s consumers much more power than they had 20 years ago. Today, I can easily compare the selling price of TV in California with the same one selling in North Dakota. The problem this causes for sellers is that they have to put as much emphasis on added value as they do on price.

Low prices are simply not enough anymore. Sure, it will get you listed at the top of an ascending search for having the lowest price, but that is just the starting point. Are you expecting all your clients to buy on pricing alone? What if your price isn’t the lowest in the world? Remember, this is the World Wide Web we are dealing with here. Users can research retail information from around the globe.

You have to do more today than just deliver a low price. Don’t get me wrong, price is a great starting point…but do you want to build your business around first-time and one-time shoppers? Or, do you want to do business with shoppers that come back to the same place because they feel like they get more from their purchases than just a low price?

That brings us to added value.

Adding value to your services and products isn’t that hard, yet it seems to be often ignored online. Sellers focus solely on volume. This mentality works at first with the initial rush, but eventually starts to fade and leaves the sellers scrambling to figure out what to do when their service flaws and “gotchas” are posted and discussed all over the internet. More and more online sellers have had to re-invent themselves after their initial rush. How do they do this? Well, for starters, they basically get back in touch with their customers. If they had built this idea into their business plan this to start with, they would have had far less growing pains.

Make sure your sites showcase the “extras” they get from you rather than simply buying from the place with the lowest price. Show your customers information about the little things that make you stand out from the rest. Showcase your values and appeal to their sensitive side if need be. As an example, here in Michigan we are hearing more and more about buying local. It’s no secret that the recession has hit Michigan exceptionally hard. People that live and work here seem to be pushing the “Made in Michigan” phrase…and for people with roots here it really means something. If you are employing Michigan workers, and providing products or services based here, then showcase that. You might be surprised at the advantage that gives you over the national sites and sellers.

Probably the best way to add value and character is to get involved with your customers. There are plenty of areas on the internet where people can go to complain and discuss things about almost any vendor or product. The most successful vendors pay attention to these conversations and engage directly in this dialogue. They have members, teams, and even entire departments devoted to direct contact on the internet. They don’t suppress the negative conversations either. They simply show their work where ever possible on how they resolve those problems that arise. In essence they are bringing back that old fashioned customer service but in the internet age for everyone to see.

I feel that it is becoming more and more important for online sellers to interact directly with their customers whenever possible. Just because you’re an e-tailer doesn’t mean you don’t have to interact with actual human beings anymore. You can be assured that your customers are out there somewhere and they are talking about you. Every online seller should offer a public forum for their customers to post comments in. It can be a product specific review forum, like Newegg for example. Or, perhaps a third party satisfaction forum like the one used by Zappos and their ‘GetSatisfaction forum’.

Some other very useful places online where people are looking for information on your business include Google’s seller rating and review system and ResellerRatings.com. Engage your customers. Do some searches on your own and find out where the complainers are hanging out. Listen to what they are ranting and raving about. Don’t be afraid to put your official name out there and interact with them. You will show your buyers who are out there doing their homework that you care. Trust me, your potential customers doing their homework LOVE to see resolved complaints of other users.