Secure eBusiness Solutions

Friday, 8 April 2011

Online Retail Marketing and Sales

The best most secure and clearly laid out store with the most appealing product offerings and prices stands virtually no chance if it cannot be found by customers. This is why the effective marketing of your online store is one of the major factors for success. How best to promote your store with a relatively limited marketing budget and how you’ll be able to integrate it seamlessly into the World Wide Web – so that prospective customers can find your site quickly and then go shopping at your store. 

The general question is: How do I acquire new customers and generate long-term customer loyalty to my store?
  • How do customers find my store and web site?
  • How can I offer my products to customers?
  • How can I increase customer loyalty?
  • How can I make my store known to my target groups? 
  • How can I increase the “conversion rate”? 
Do you know your prospective customer?

At the beginning of your activities comes the target group analysis. If you are not familiar with your target group there is a big danger that your message in the marketing activities you plan is not communicated to “your” target group or your range of products isn’t appropriate for the target group. 

An expensive market analysis is not always needed to find out more about new prospective customers. Collect some ideas about your potential target groups together with your team. Which groups of people could be interested in the products we want to sell online? What problems and demands do these people have with respect to the products you sell? What is the age distribution? If you already have a retail store business and would like to establish the store as an extra sales channel, talk to your regular customers. What needs and demands do these people have and what do they expect from buying on the internet? 

Note: There are often free studies on specific target groups or age groups available on the internet. You should be able to find something with a simple search. 

Create a target group profile from the information collected and adapt your store, product range and, in particular, marketing activities accordingly. This is how you will be able to avoid the high costs associated with not reaching your target group, make the best use of your budget and precisely target your message to the intended audience – one of the basic requirements of successful marketing!

Often underestimated: the domain and store name

Are you familiar with this? You found a good store on the internet and forgot to bookmark it? A week later you want to visit the store and can’t remember its name – this is terrible for store merchants. This name of your store is somewhat like a company sign on the internet and should always be short, catchy, succinct and thus easy to remember. None of your customers is ever going to remember! 

In addition, a good, memorable domain name is aimed at the target groups you want to sell to. If you want to address an older target group, you should choose a serious, easily understood name, whereas a term from a foreign language or one that is flashier may be the right one for younger people in a specific target group. 

Note: If you sell in Australia the choose a name you want with the ending “” if you are selling in multi-geographies the ".com" might be more appropriate. You can have multiple domain names pointing to a website if you do it correctly.

In principle, you can choose any domain name you wish – as long as you do not infringe upon the rights of others with the name of your store (see the section on Law). Making use of brand research services is a good idea for avoiding this. This is the only way to preclude the legal consequences that can result in your having to change your domain name – with a deadly impact on your marketing.

The fastest and most direct path to your customer: search engine marketing

Most prospective customers find out about web sites and stores by using search engines. Almost three quarters of all transactions in online commerce originate from search engine queries. So, the first thing you’ll have to do in marketing your online store is to ensure that all popular search engines are able to find and index your site. Only then will you have a chance of new customers finding your store after entering relevant search terms. 

You’re selling fishing supplies and tackle? Will users be able to find your fishing store when entering search terms such as “dip net”, “net float” or “pilk rod” into a search engine? Search engine marketing is the most effective way to market your store on the internet, because this brings prospective customers interested in products directly into contact with product suppliers.
The advantages of search engine marketing are obvious: You can reach your target group quickly and generate high-quality contacts with people interested in buying directly. 

With the query the person using a search engine indicates a clear interest in or need for a specific product and has decided on your products when he visits your shop. Better leads than this are hard to come by. With continual search engine marketing you will not only increase your store revenues, but will also increase your name recognition. In addition, unlike classic forms of advertising, successful search engine marketing can be implemented quickly, easily and at very low cost. Another major advantage is that you always have full control and transparency over the costs and an overview of the effectiveness of your marketing campaign.

Basically, a difference is made between free search engine optimisation services and paid advertising using AdWords in search engines.

In search engine optimisation; optimising the source text and design of your store guarantees that your store or web site is found higher in “real” search results, called the “natural listing”. There are only a few things you have to do to your store for the search bots of the search engines to be able to index your site correctly – the prerequisite for a high ranking for your site within the first three pages of search results.  It’s important to continually improve your store and regularly check your ranking, because search engine indexing methods and algorithms are being continuously modified and reworked to prevent misuse. 

Most search engine operators offer extensive information on all aspects of paid advertising and often practical tips as well as extremely powerful campaign and analysis tools, so you can set up your campaign by yourself and analyse it transparently from the start. So get started as soon as possible with search engine marketing and experience it for yourself. Refine your campaign, vary the keywords and the amounts bid for individual keywords, optimise ad copy text and the entry page. Always monitor the effects of these measures on the success of the campaign. 

Note: You should always keep an eye on click rates, cost-per-click and conversion rates. 

You will very quickly notice which keywords are the most effective and which ad formats and text copy have the greatest impact and generate the most orders in your store. You can also, of course, use the services of a professional who is specialised in implementing and optimising search engine campaigns.

Apart from search engine marketing and AdWords at search engines, there are still other forms of search engine marketing: Yellow Pages or regional and interregional mercantile directories in which prospective customers with a definite interest in buying are looking for products, as well as auction platforms and product search engines. 

Never forget Social Media - Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube

Social media is an important pillar of any successful marketing strategy online or offline. You can now communicate quickly to your customers and prospective customers using a simple post. There are numerous tools that connect social media sites together so that a single post in one will be instantly sent to many different social media streams.

Good principals of online stores today will have a page on Facebook and use Twitter. A standard part in most modern ecommerce solutions are gadget that allow you to show your social media connections. 

You should be using "like" and "share" buttons on important pages and specially your product pages.

Use social media to communicate new products, coming products, deals of the day or just news and information.

Note: Be careful not to over do the messages and posts and make them meaningful or you could have a negative result

We covered the social media issues extensively in a previous post - you can find it here.

Getprice, eBay, – Multi-Channel

Why not present your products in exactly those places where customers with an interest in buying are looking for just such product and price information?

Try to choose a store where it’s child’s play to transfer all or part of your products to Getprice and and to thus present them to a wider public looking for exactly what you have to offer. When a prospective customer finds your product at a search engine a deep link takes him directly to the product in your store where he can order it. 

Many customers regularly find refuge at the eBay auction site. Almost half of all online customers first compare the price there before buying. Choose a solution that will use a standard interface to integrate your store into the eBay marketplace. By doing so, you present your products at eBay with no extra effort and orders are forwarded directly to your store. All other order management tasks are then easily handled in your back office where it is also possible to handle large numbers of orders in an extremely efficient manner.

Cross-Selling and Up-Selling

The fitting carrying case to match that fishing rod you’re buying? The right line for your fishing reel? While buying online offers your customers sensible accessory products – you will be surprised how easy it is to increase turnover. 

Or have your customers determine which products complement each other: with recommendations following the “Customers who bought this product also bought…” scheme your store should support both cross-selling variants. In manual cross-selling you determine in the back office of your store which accessory products to offer. In automatic cross-selling the system takes over continuous analysis of customer buying behaviour for this task.

Newsletter, coupons and e-mail marketing

Stay in regular contact and constant communication with your customers. Personalised newsletters offer a variety of options for informing your customers about new products, special offers or news about your store and giving new incentives to buy. With integrated coupons you give your customers a solid strong reason to stop by your online store again. With a newsletter feature in your online store custom-designed newsletters based on your store data can be personalised and sent, e.g. to customer groups you have flexibly defined.

In addition to addressing your regular customers, you can also reach new customer groups that have not yet purchased anything in your store via targeted “permission-based e-mail marketing”. The prerequisite for this is that the addressee has given his express consent to receiving information from you. 

You can significantly increase the willingness of interested parties to buy if you regularly provide them with information about special offers, bargains, clearance sales or new products. If you do it right, the loyalty of prospective customers towards your store will be stronger. 

Finally, the customer will perceive your e-mail newsletter as useful and valuable information which he or she is happy to get. You should therefore always offer in your store the option for interested parties to sign up for your newsletter, irrespective if they buy anything or not. One more tip: Incentives significantly increase the willingness to sign up. So, why not also offer a new customer discount or a coupon? Ideally, newsletter registration can also be combined with search engine marketing campaigns. 

Note: If a customer does not want to buy, always offer the option of registering for your store newsletter.

The most important thing in eCommerce – long-term customer relations

Long-term customer loyalty to your store is one of your main goals. In addition to user-friendliness, a clear design, up to date and useful content, top prices and excellent service before, during and after sales can primarily be achieved by treating your customers as individually as possible and giving specific customer groups the feeling of being special. Here are some tips for you to accomplish this:

  • Personally address registered customers in your store by name.  
  • Grant access to non-public information, e.g. to the newsletter archive, manuals, operating instructions or to old orders.  
  • Allow registered customers to manage and modify their customer account, log in and address information by themselves.
  • Combine specific customers into customer groups and offer them special prices or discounts 
  • Offer your customers shopping lists that they can manage and maintain on their own and can be simply turned into a basket when necessary.

Discounts and Special Offers

Online buyers are also only people and pay attention to the price when shopping especially on the internet! Special offers and discounts are standard marketing activities that you should continuously employ. Choose an on-line store where you can boost your turnover by placing alternating special offers with extra images on the home page of your store any thus draw greater attention. 

You can also provide additional incentive to buy with a large assortment of discounts. Loyalty discounts for premium customers? Volume discounts for resellers? 3% discount for new customers paying in advance? 2% discount for delivery by Australia Post? With a well designed on-line store solution there are virtually no limits placed on you and with a user-friendly back office you will never lose track of things when managing customer groups, price lists and more complex discount systems. 

Acquire new customers: Banner advertising and subject gateways

You can entice new customers to your store with targeted banner advertising on the web pages and portals your customers get information from. However, the costs for this are higher than for ads at search engines, for example, and the message more frequently does not reach the intended target group. 

With a correspondingly larger budget, banner advertising can certainly make sense as a complementing activity in the marketing mix. But the prerequisite for this is that you place banners at portals and sites that are as close as possible to your target groups. In our example of a fishing supply store internet-based forums occupied with the topic of fishing would be prime places for targeted banner advertising placement. 

Subject gateways can indeed have several thousand members brought together by a common interest in a specific topic or hobby. The perfect audience if you have the right range of products in your store. In some circumstances you may also be able to reach your target group in the news groups – for free. 

Note: You should, however, be aware that commercial posts are not desired or are even forbidden in most news groups. Articles contributed by experts may of course include a URL!

Cross promotion and public relations

Cross promotion – simple, yet effective: The name of your store should appear on all materials and in all communication channels – this includes e-mails, business cards, letterheads, invoices and press releases.

A word about press releases: You can achieve extra attention for your store at low cost with regular and targeted public relations work. The regular sending of press information via internet services should therefore definitely show up in your marketing plan.

The chances that journalists will report on your store will increase dramatically if you have an exceptional target group and/or you stand above the crowd with your product range or service.

Don’t forget: constant control over your activities

In addition to a target group analysis and the selection of the “right” marketing activities, continuous reporting and a permanent review of success is a part of every sound marketing scheme – after all, you’ll want to know if your marketing activities are accomplishing the desired aims. 

You can use web analytics like Google Analytics or Wagtail Analytics to analyse whether your special offers are being accepted, how many visitors made purchases in the month of May or the areas of your product presentation that can still be improved. Your on-line store should come with a standard interface for web analytics, allowing real-time analysis of visitor behaviour and store performance.

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