In general businesses move to e-commerce for two main reasons. To widen the reach of their business so as to gain new customers,and to streamline their business processes so they can sell and collect money more quickly, securely, and efficiently.
There are however two very common misconceptions. The first is that the shopping experience does not matter so any shopping cart will do. The second is that by simply having an online store you will automatically gain new customers.
The questions of ecommerce design and ecommerce functionality are covered in our other articles. In this article we are assuming that your store is already designed, and has the functionality that appeals to your target market. Once you have your e-commerce store online, the next step is to market and advertise your business. This does not have to be a costly undertaking, and below we discuss three of the best ways.
1. Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to the effort of creating content for a website with the aim that your website is displayed to search engine users as the first result for the specific keywords you used for SEO – or at the very least above your competition. To do this, an intricate knowledge of how search engines conduct a search is needed. SEO will help increase the visibility of your website to people interested in your product. With the proper use of Search Engine Optimization, more potential customers, and not just ordinary visitors, are likely to find your website. The best part of using SEO is that once you are getting “organic” traffic, unlike advertising, you will not need to keep paying for it. However, SEO will not lead to immediate results but must be viewed as a long term investment. That is also why you would be better advised using a professional service provider rather than trying to do this yourself.
2. Internet Advertising
It may not appear so, but this actually goes hand-in-hand with SEO. The point of SEO is not merely to bring visitors to your site, but to bring the right visitors i.e. those who are likely to purchase your products and services. Because the results of SEO work can take weeks or even months to materialize you need to make sure the keywords you are using are the right ones. One simple and fast way of achieving this is to create online advertising campaigns targeted at the keywords you plan to use. The two best known companies for keyword advertising are obviously the search engines themselves. Google Adwords and Bing Ads can help you identify the best keywords, and because they have much to gain themselves, they are happy to provide you with help to get started.
The issue you will face here, as with all advertising, is the number of variables involved in creating the best campaign. The geographic location of visitors is obviously important but that is easily determined depending on your own location. The text in your advert, the image (if any), the time of day, and the month are all significant contributing factors. In addition there may be an event in the news that could skew your results. Which page visitors are directed to from your adverts (also called the landing page) and how it is designed can have a large impact on results. More on this in section 4 below. To get statistically significant results you need to place a large number of adverts and try to eliminate the contribution of these other factors from your calculation so you can identify the keywords you are after.
3. Social Media
Social Media Marketing is probably the most rewarding and most dangerous form of marketing from a business viewpoint. In essence you can use social platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to publish regular news and events about your products and services, or even better, about your values. This type of marketing is not something any business should approach lightly. The reward for a great social media marketing campaign is loyal followers who will act as brand ambassadors and spread the word about your product or service. The danger is that you can also receive a great deal of negative feedback. People are far more likely to be vociferous about a bad product or service than sing the praises of a good one.
4. Marketing Design And Creativity
There is a high correlation between the design of a website and how many visitors are converted to paying customers. This is called the conversion rate. Colors, images, placement of buttons and even single words can have a huge impact on the conversion rate. There are many studies and books on the psychology behind great design and how to tailor your message to your target market.
That is not all. A great shopping experience and customer service are key to your success. If it takes many steps to buy something from you then you will find a significant drop off in conversation rates. For service providers, sometimes making things harder could be a boon by helping eliminate inquiries from visitors who are not serious. If you do not promptly answer customer queries you are likely to not only lose that customer, but others via poor reviews of your website by irate customers.
5. Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing or content marketing is essentially the creation and promotion of articles targeted at the interests of your target market. This is generally achieved by using blogging software such as WordPress. For example a company selling shoes could market an article such as “things you did not know about shoes?”. Although not directly relevant to purchasing shoes or individual products this would garner visits from their target market. The reason this is so important and why we have a whole separate service just dedicated to this alone as part of our ecommerce solutions is related to how search-engines rank websites. Search engines “like” fresh regularly updated content of relevance. The assumption is that if you are regularly publishing good articles you must be an expert on the subject. Your rank on search engines is critically linked to your expertise on a subject. Beware of trying to scam search engines with copied content. You are more likely to get permanently banned or down-ranked instead.
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