Buying products online has become such a norm, that many brick and mortar businesses are closing and focusing all their efforts on their online presence.
Online stores continue to report such high profits, so countless people are running to the internet to set up a store in the hopes of getting some of this revenue.
Before placing all your efforts on a quick e-store, you should consider these important points:
1.) HAVE A PLAN
Every business that wants to succeed has a well strategized plan.The days of just showing up and hoping for success will get you run over by those who are focused and following a strategy. The more time you take on your plan, the more you will see your steps to take and creative ideas for any potential challenges you will face.
If you have employees or associates, share your plan with them and let everyone know what pat they play in this plan. You should also share your plan with any outside company who will assist you with growing your business.
2.) What products will you carry?
Are these products you are familiar with or are you choosing a random, or seemingly popular, group of products? Why are you selecting these products?
3.) Know your industry.
The more you know about your industry the more chances you have of a consistent success. This knowledge not only includes your products, but also includes your target market, your seasonal trends, your challenges, legal limitations and requirements and competition.
4.) Have a realistic marketing budget.
With the millions of store sites on the internet, your targeted and strategic marketing plan is essential. Just throwing your hat in the ring will not get you found. Relying only of free exposure or having a budget that is too small will not get you big results. As consumers continue to shop by price comparing, you need to plan how you will set yourself apart from the crowd, regardless of price.
With the consistent change in the internet, more marketing opportunities are becoming available every day. Some of these may be viable for your business. Keeping current of your choices is essential. To gain the best benefit from your internet marketing you must know which ones are best suited for your business, your clients and prospects and your desired return.
Testing your marketing can not only get you the feedback you need from your target audience, it can save you thousands of dollars in marketing strategies that won’t work for your business. There are several different marketing channels and strategies available, but only some of these are best fits for your business.
Be wary of companies that promise you first page listing on Google. To quote Google: “No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google. Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a “special relationship” with Google, or advertise a “priority submit” to Google. There is no priority submit for Google. In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly is through our Add URL page or by submitting a Sitemap”
Sumner Davenport & Assoc. use focus groups for our test marketing. This gains valuable feedback from customers that assist in creating marketing messages that motivate action and purchases.
If you are working with an agency for your marketing, share your business plan with them, especially any portions you have researched for your marketing.
5.) Focus on your customer
It’s NOT what you want them to buy – it’s what they see as solving a problem for them or filling a need. Understand your customers and talk to them in your marketing as a communication, rather than an ad, and gain their attention and repeat business.
Talk about the advantages of your products and doing business with YOU. Special deals should be seen at the top of your landing page.
6.) Be more than just a website
It is so simple to throw up a e-store, that many people fail to customize their online presence to fit their target market. A website alone is not enough, unless you ave thousands of dollars to spend on advertising and marketing to bring in customers. As you understand your target marketing, you need to be everywhere they are. Plan your marketing to have your store listed and marketed where your customers spend their time.
When you build your website, make sure you create a memorable logo, something your customers will remember as you. Make your website user friendly. Provide information through blog posts and landing pages that answer the questions for the buyer “What will this do for me?”, “How will this solve my problem, “Why should I buy from them, “Can they be trusted?” The more you communicate with your customer (as opposed as selling), the more they will feel motivated to buy from you, write positive reviews and send referrals.
With over 70% of purchases being made from cell phones and tablets- make sure your website is mobilized.
7.) Be current
Make sure your web code and content is updated regularly. Old content is boring, not only to potential customers, but to search engines as well.
Use your blog to tell stories, reference new testimonials and introduce new products. (Always focus your content on answering your customer’s needs.)
Pay attention to what parts of your content is performing well for you and what content is getting low results. Edit, edit and edit. Use effective tools to analyze your competitions content to see what is working and see how you can improve yours. Communicate, educate and entertain – don’t sell, unless you are striving to be known as a “seller of products” only.
8.) Plan time to be social
The more you are involved in the conversations (note: conversations, not posts) with your friends and followers, the more they will communicate with you and share your information. If your posts are about products, then they must also have something in that post that speaks to the emotional and logical reasons why someone should buy from you. Without those intellectual and emotional triggers, their next step is to price compare. If you are the cheapest, then that can work for you. If not, you lose a customer.
If you have a physical location, then your socializing needs to also be offline. Face to face encounters are second only to word of mouth. Take time to meet and greet your target customers and let them see and feel why you are the best person for them to give their business.
9.) Don’t rely solely on SEO
One thing is certain – that is change. Search engine algorithms have changed over the years and sometimes several times in the same year. Make sure you are up to date with what makes your website search engine friendly. SEO has also changed over the years so it is extremely important to stay of top of your understanding and implementation of SEO in order to be noticed and stand out in search results.
10.) Establish an organized customer information system
The more you know about your actual customer, the more you can continue to sell more and new products to them.
Using a CRM (Customer relationship management) to gather and maintain data on your customer interactions will help you to understand your customer trends and follow-up with customers more specifically. If you purchase from large e-retailers, you would have noticed their “others have bought this also” suggestions and you would also be receiving emails that remind you of your purchase and offer suggestions for additional items. When you have done a good job taking care of your customer in the past, and your products solved their need as they were promised and expected, they are usually willing to give you more business. Because the relationship is in place, far less effort to motivate them to buy is required.
At the end of the year, you should be able to commute your sales and revenue reports, as well as customers and product popularity and profits. This information not only tells you how well y ou did overall, but scrutiny will tell you where you can do better or more for greater success.
11.) Stay in touch with your customers
Silence is not golden when you want to grow your business. With newsletters, appropriate social postings and blogs you need to stay in touch with y our customers and welcome their feedback. Personalize newsletters to customers when introducing a product that fits their needs (see #10); compose blog posts that speak to seasons and trends (See #1) and communicate regularly so they know you are still around.
Unless you want to be known as the cheapest, or” wait for the discount” store, don’t rely only upon sales and specials as your customer motivation.
12.) Build relationships with potential partnerships
What businesses and individuals can give your business a boost with a referral? Do you know who these people are? If not, then research to find out. A strategic partnership with someone else can give your store a boost in gaining customers from someone else’s efforts as well as your own.
If you offer a weight loss product, do you know the gyms and trainers in your area that you could develop a relationship with? If you sell office supplies, than a strategic partnership with a office furniture company might be useful. If you sell cosmetics, collaboration with image consultant and clothing retailers could be a fit. Another co-beneficial relationship would be a dry cleaner with a restaurant chain. How many times have you dropped food in your lap during dinner? The restaurant offers a close-by referral and the dry cleaners offers coupons for the restaurant. An in-home elderly care-giving service partners with a home delivery of prepared meals. This is similar to the basis of networking groups, however in these relationships; they are custom to you and your shared customers. A win-win. Think outside the box.
13.) Be available
When there is a question or a problem, customers want to speak to someone, and the sooner and easier – the better. Using a dedicated customer service line or online chat feature are the most preferred by customers. If you use email to communicate, then respond quickly and with answers not sales pitches.
14.) Remember the media – but do it right
The last thing the media wants to hear is self-centered, self-promotion PR. They want stories that will be of interest to their audience. Develop relationships with the media that targets your industry and keep them informed of important news. Use press release services and press releases appropriately. If contacted by the media for a comment or part of a story – respond immediately. Don’t wait until their deadline, or worse, fail to respond. Promptness denotes professionalism and gratitude, and prompts future interest in you.
15.) REMEMBER YOUR CALL TO ACTION
Make it easy to buy from your site. Your content should include a link to buy within the benefits and reasons to buy. Indicate what payment forms you accept clearly on every page. Make your checkout a smooth process.
16.) Ask for Testimonials
Customer feedback not only helps you to understand how your customers perceive you and your products, these testimonials can help other visitors decide to buy from you. Don’t be afraid of negative feedback. This type of feedback can be beneficial in helping you see where you can grow or adjust for better results. Plus, any site that has only high feedback can be considered disingenuous. There is no such thing as 100% satisfaction with everyone.
17.) Don’t miss out on free exposure
Millions of correspondence and packages are sent and delivered by individuals and businesses every day. Separate yours from the crowd.
Updated December 2015. Expect regular updates as certain areas will change with changes in the internet, search environment and industry. Please check back.
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