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From my own (limited) experience in dealing with e-commerce retailers, it seems the old adage of “if I build it they will come” with them still seems to hold true – especially for the bricks and mortar indies. The internet is seen as a quick way to make a fast buck, and a way of bolstering offline sales. Wrong. Online sales trundle along gradually, maybe producing 10-20% of total sales, but in reality considering the size of the web, it really should be working alot harder for you.
The majority of traditional retailers rely on offline marketing, and brand awareness to get them through – and to a point this can work. However the true brilliance of owning and running an e-commerce store comes when they know how to and implement marketing online. So how do you even start that?
1) Use Google Shopping
Google is your friend. Repeat after me. “Google is my friend”. With most websites online. 80% plus of traffic comes direct from search engine traffic. A pretty big slice. Google / Froogle shopping is free to submit to, and will get your products listed for people in “buying” rather than “browsing” mindset. Or as marketers say extremely “targetted traffic”. Which is what you should be thinking about when hunting for traffic. Find out how to go about submitting here.
2) Create New Content – Get Blogging
If put this point down as blogging / content production, because many retailers don’t have the time or energy to work on this. They are already too busy keeping products up to date on the site, or checking stock levels in the warehouse etc etc etc. However if you are going to rise above your competition online, you are going to have to start producing new and fresh content to “feed the search engines” with.
I’ve mentioned before the good the bad and the ugly e-commerce blogs. Don’t make the same mistakes. Consider outsourcing the content production to someone else. Running out of content ideas? Get your head buyer to blog about their thoughts in fashion direction, and even to help with brainstorming on things that they like. Think how you can build a community around your site, and move towards a user generated content strategy.
Remember the ideal scenario is someone else working on producing content for your site, which leaves you to get on with marketing and the day to day running of your business.
3) Better offline marketing
Rebrand your offline store as an online name. Bold I know, but I’ll explain why in a bit. For example if your company name / store is called bluewidgets – consider changing it to bluewidgets.com – it is simple brand reinforcement, and ensures that physical stores are associated with an online presence – by defintion. If that is too drastic a change to make, make sure of the following.
That your website and / or rss feed is on the following
- Invoices. Company wide
- Delivery Notes
- Emails (make them consistent company wide)
- Every advert you do
- Every piece of promotional material you do
Keep hammering that home, and eventually it will stick, and become memorable in the consumers mind. Having an easily memorable domain name helps, and it is sometimes favourable to have a domain name which isn’t the same as your company name – especially if your company name is long winded and complicated.
4) Embrace Social Media Marketing
Again this is one area that retailers fail to grasp. I haven’t seen one Independant retailer I shop at offering a Twitter feed of new products. RSS yes, twitter followers not so much. Early adopters they aint. Be that early adopter, and win rewards because of it. We have a beginners guide to social media marketing if you are still stumped.
5) Get Submitting
Think local sites such as Yell.com, 4ni (for my Northern Ireland readers) , TouchBelfast, YourNi etc etc. Find niche sites that are local to you, and get in there and submit your site for free. VileSilencer have a great compilation spreadsheet of shopping related directories you can submit to – however take notice of what their PR value is at. Bulk directory submission for SEO is a bit of a yesterday tactic. Michael has a good post on submitting to Google maps local search .
6) Setup Affiliate Programs
If you haven’t got some sort of affiliate program going for your online shop, you aren’t leveraging the web to its full potential. Think of affliates, as mini sales people, all promoting your site around the web. An alternative to a affiliate program is offering discount to people who place a mini banner on your site. Anyone who comes through that banner, grabs the discount, but a small offer like that could get viral quickly, which means you end up with loadsa inbound links for next to nothing. And more traffic equals more sales.
7) Get Email Marketing
Email marketing rounds off the buying process. We’ve reviewed 10 of the best email marketing solutions out there, in this post if you are interested. Email marketing is powerful for the following reasons.
a) It gives an opportunity close a sale with email.
For when your site visitor desperately needed a cuppa, and abandoned your cart half way through. You are sending email’s to people who logged in an abandoned carts aren’t you?
Email can create a sale when the right offer lands in the right lap at the right time.
c) Viral Marketing
You would be amazed at how easily email marketing can help a site grow organically because of a forwarded message. Whether that be an offer that someone thinks someone else would be interested in, or whether it is a crafted viral xmas card from your site.
Overall, if they are going to really succeed online, retailers need to weave themselves more closely into the fabric of the web, and learn where the crowds are at. Continuing to keep up with online trends and utilising a partner who knows how to implement effective online marketing strategies is of extreme importance in keeping an edge.