Shoppers are buying more online for various reasons, including:
- Better value. It is so much easier and faster to shop-around online and find deals and bargains than with physical shops. Think of the time saved when you don’t have to take the bus or car, look for parking spaces (which you typically have to pay for) etc.
- More choice – in terms of range products, prices and suppliers.
- Security. The legal protection given to online consumers is even greater than that enjoyed by customers in physical shops. Furthermore, payment processors and credit card companies have taken measures to give greater confidence to consumers to make payments online.
So, if you are a small or medium-sized business, how can you tap into this market? How can you get more customers visiting your online shop? If there are lots on online shops within easy access of the online customer, what’s going to make them pick your online shop (assuming they can even find you)? I hope the following will prove useful.
- Quality products or services. If you are trying to sell poor quality, don’t expect sustainable business growth. Sell good quality at a fair price and the online community will want to sing your praises when they post on facebook, Twitter etc. The more unusual or “hard to find” the products are, the more likely people will choose to buy them online.
- An online shopping platform which shows your products in a good light, and enables the customer to see multiple views/photos of the products and read the details. Try to imagine the questions which the customer may have about the product, and provide answers for them. There are various shopping cart platforms available to choose from including our own eCommerce hosted shopping cart system, which you can try out free for 30 days.
http://www.nca.ie/nca/shopping-online Shopping Online eCommerce Regulations
http://www.nca.ie/nca/shopping-from-home Distance Selling Rules.
So you have the basic ingredients in place and now want to get the customers to your shop.
- Search Engines: Think about about the words and phrases which your customers may type into Internet search engines when looking for your products. Remember, they probably won’t be typing in your business name. Make sure that you use some of these words in the <title> element of your webpages, and that these words are repeated on your web/shop pages and product description pages. This will be a strong hint to the search engines that your website/shop should be associated with these words & phrases.
- Branding: Be clear in your own mind what your brand is and what it stands for. Let this guide your website and shop design, appearance, pricing, the support and after-sales service you give to your customers, and any communications you send out. All points of contact between your business and the ourside world should reflect the values of your brand.
- What is your website address? Ensure that your business cards, letterheads, compliment slips, invoices, receipts (including till receipts if you have a physical shop) include your website/online shop address.
- Encourage your existing customers to come back for more. They may just need gentle reminding. Why not send them an e-mail if they haven’t bought in a while? If you can afford to send a discount coupon (e.g. 10% off) with a 2-week expiration, it may be enough to bring them to your online shop to take advantage of it. Remember, it is easier to get an existing customer to buy again than to find a new customer.
- Build up an e-mail list. A newsletter sent out several times a year to announce new products or special offers addressed to existing customers or those visitors to your website who subscribed. This audience is already interested in what you have to say, so use that. Be sure to include an unsubscribe link in the e-mail to enable them to take their name off the list should they so wish.
- Promote your online shop using the various social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, Linked-in, Google+ etc. These and other forms of networking help to raise your brand awareness.
- Advertise your business. If you have a marketing budget and know what magazines, or newspapers your target market reads, what radio stations they listen to or TV channels they watch, try running some advertisements. Start small, testing a couple of different ads on the smaller publications/broadcasters to see what works best, and then refine. Search engine and social media advertising can also be tested on a small scale to see if they work for you, before committing larger sums of money.
- I’ve saved the best till last. Get others to promote your products and services for you. How? Who? Why should they?
Recognise that the Internet is a game changer — it opens up a lot of new possibilities. Are you prepared to think of new possibilities? Your potential customers are already using the Internet. They are visiting websites, reading blogs, articles, discussion forums, postings etc. related to their areas of interest and hobbies. If they are interested in sailing, they are likely to be visiting sites containing articles about sailing, boats, marine equipment, reviews of sailing books and sailing accessories, news about sailing events, races and so on. Imagine now that you run a sailing school, and have places to fill, or you are selling a new type of lifejacket that would appeal to sailors. The websites where your potential customers visit may be very happy to have some extra income to pay for their website hosting etc. Ads for your training course or lifejacket would appeal to their readership, a good match, actually useful information for their readers to know about.You may not have a marketing budget, or it may not be large enough to pay for this website advertising, and the return is uncertain. But when these websites refer you visitors and they buy, these are sales that you wouldn’t have otherwise got. This is growth. The more you sell, the greater your profit margin because your fixed overheads are spread over more sales. You may also be able to get a better price from your suppliers if you purchase larger quantities now that your are selling more. Growth must be financed, but not necessarily up-front. It can done from your improved profit margin, as the sales come in. By paying a sales commission to these referring websites it gives them the potential to earn more revenue and incentivises them to promote your products and services.
The practicalities: How to set something like this up? How to know where referred visitors are coming from, when commission is to be paid, to whom and how much? Sounds like a lot of work. That’s where the Vendexo Affiliate Marketing Network comes in. It is a marketing network where website owners/content publishers with advertising slots can find advertisers/businesses with products & services to promote. It is also a hosted platform which performs the administration tasks associated with tracking where your referred visitors are coming from, calculating sales commissions, and paying them for you. It provides a control panel enabling you to see these referrals, in tabular and graph form, and the return which this marketing channel is bringing.How to find out more: Visit the Affiliate Marketing section of our website, and contact us with any questions you may have. If you want to try it out, click on the Signup button on that page
- Bake for a few weeks or months and then go back to step 1. It is a continuous process. Review what you have done and try to measure the results. You refine it as you go, trying something new, making improvements where required and putting more effort into what is working for you so as to amplify that effect.
I wish you well with your endeavours, and that this recipe produces rewarding results for your business.