So just how do you get the word out about your new e-commerce website? You can just assume that because your brick-and-mortar business is successful, your virtual store will automatically be as well. You can't just throw up any old website with e-commerce capabilities and expect that surfers will stumble upon it— not if you want to be successful, anyway.
Marketing in this day and age is paradoxically easier than and harder than ever before.
The sheer reach and organic potential of the internet are vast. Social media platforms allow you to collect actionable data about, reach out to and engage your base in a more comprehensive manner than was previously impossible.
But getting above that ever-louder, somewhat deafening, white noise is a problem.
It has been estimated that in 2014, the web passed the billion site mark — that's right, one million times one thousand websites, or approximately one website for every 7 people on the face of the planet, are now active. There's a lot of chatter and a lot of bandwidth. Without a clear vision and a smart marketing plan, your online venture is a drop of spit in a gigantic electronic ocean.
So what do you need to do? Here are some tips:
Design is important. Functionality is more so.
It's important, when you launch your e-commerce site, to make sure that you field an inviting space.
It shouldn't be too busy. It shouldn't feature pop-ups, flashing ads, hokey sounds, or awful redirect loops. Good websites are sleek, concise in content, feature eye-capturing-but-not-overwhelming visuals and make good use of negative space.
Sleeker, fat-trimmed sites are just aesthetically pleasing— they help to retain traffic by loading quickly. It has been estimated that every 2 seconds of download time causes 8% of users to drop off. Shoppers have short attention spans. They get bored, click stop and exit out. If your site loads quicker than the competition and looks nice, you're going to earn a "Buy Now" click more often.
Inbound marketing vs. traditional outbound marketing.
If you think about the habits of most internet consumers, the answer to the inbound vs. outbound debate is pretty clear-cut. How does anybody find a good or service anymore? Print ads? No. Yellow Pages? Certainly not. Web banners? Come now, we're all savvy to adware.
The answer, of course, is search engines.
People don't click web banners— they Google the companies, goods and services they hear about from family and friends, through social media and, less often, from outbound channels. Smart marketing in the digital age is based on search engine optimization (SEO).
Keywords in a very real sense bring keystrokes. Their strategic placement— augmented by your company's social media presence— act as modern equivalents of the neon sign. They bring your company to the forefront of the search rankings.
If you are not actively engaging in SEO and social media promotion, you're going to be completely lost.
Actions speak louder than words.
Yes, you need to foster and nurture that initial buzz. But you need continuously deliver. To that end, you need to make sure you are prepared on the fulfillment side.
Successful e-commerce isn't a matter of simply selling a good, receiving payment and shipping.
E-commerce customers demand speed. They want excellent, easy-to-reach, professional customer service. They want bells and whistles like pre-wrapped gifts, proper kitting and next-day delivery— especially around the upcoming holidays. And if you're not prepared to deliver those services on your own, at competitive rates, all the smart marketing and good design in the world won't help your business.
You need to develop these capabilities or seek out an experienced e-commerce fulfillment partner.
Many pack-and-ship companies and third-party logistics firms specialize in providing scalable solutions for e-commerce retailers. In fact, many can store and manage inventory and provide multi-channel sales support for even the smallest e-commerce concerns.
If you have no plan for fulfillment and service after the sale, you should develop one— preferably before you even launch your marketing campaign.
There's nothing worse than purchasing from an e-commerce retailer that initially looks professional and knowledgeable, but then watching that sale devolve into shipping quagmires, customer service issues and poor reviews.