We work with a lot of ecommerce brands. In fact, I would say a majority of the business we’ve had as clients over the past year and a half have been small to mid-size companies or stores trying to bring their business model online, or at least improve their online sales channels.
The problem a lot of business owners have is that the digital aspect of your brand is a full time job in itself (that’s what people pay us for!). It’s not something you can half heartedly fake your way through and expect results. In today’s world of social media and connectivity you have to stay consistently engaged on several levels or you will cede ground to your competition.
The lack of a focused digital strategy, or any strategy at all, has killed a lot of brick and mortar stores. But it didn’t have to be that way. Online channels can be used to create real business – here are 10 ways to drive retail sales from the internet.
- Coordinate Online & Offline: First and foremost you need to sync your real world presence with your online presence as closely as possible. A good example being inventory – if the inventory on your website is not accurately synced with the physical items you sell in your store you’re going to have a lot of refunds to distribute and a lot of angry customers who don’t receive the products they wanted writing nasty things about you on Yelp. Before you spend money on advertising or invest thousands into a great looking new website, make sure functionality comes first. Not taking the time to align your on and offline business can create some major headaches down the road.
- Incentivize Customers to Shop In-Store: If you serve a local market and people who come in typically leave with a lot of accessories you want them to come into your store more often. Offer coupons for in-store purchases on your website, give users options to order online and pick-up hassle free at your store, etc.
- Create a Clear “Online to Offline” Path: If your goal is to drive local customers into your store make that goal clear! Create a user path on your website to capture local customers and drive them to a promotional page or video that highlights the benefits of coming into your store in person.
- If You Spend on Print, Rethink That Budget: I’ll be the first to admit that print has a ton of intrinsic value even today but that doesn’t mean it’s wise to spend a lot on it. Digital advertising channels are much easier to gauge effectiveness on and also much easier to target relevant users through. For example, if you run an ecommerce business that sells hunting knives in Butte Montana, a person who searches “Buy hunting knife Butte Montana” is most likely looking to buy a hunting knife and you want to make sure he knows you’re right there for him. Compare that with a more passive print ad that same user may or may not see if they still bother to read a newspaper or open the YellowPages and look under “Hunting Supply.”
- Measure and Optimize: While tying in-store traffic to digital channels can be difficult there are ways to measure and optimize. For example, if you can see in analytics that a lot of mobile users are viewing a certain product and that product is selling out, there’s a pretty obvious correlation there. Many other more subtle patterns exist and you’ll notice them once you start regularly looking at your user data and how customers flow through your site. This data will empower you to make more educated decisions about how to better engage and meet the needs of your customers and ultimately earn a larger share of their business.
- Make Sure You Are Mobile Optimized: I personally think less of a site that is not mobile optimized for the modern world. So does Google, you will be knocked down in organic results if your site is not mobile optimized. The reason is simple: User Experience. The majority of online users these days are using mobile devices and Google is built to provide a great experience for their users. This is just one of the reasons they are one of the wealthiest corporations in the world. Shouldn’t you follow their lead here and provide YOUR users with the same level of respect?
- Target Locally: This is a no brainer – but you’d be surprised how many people neglect it when running ad campaigns. Most digital advertising technology can target down to the zip code so you can be sure if you’re spending money on display banners or search advertising that it’s showing in an area that’s most likely to produce an in-store visit or at least a local customer.
- Unify Your Digital Brands: It’s the simple stuff people always gloss over. Make sure your Facebook, Google+ and Instagram profiles all have similarly branded logos and headers, make sure your website and your socials have similar headers. Repost Instagram images on your Twitter account, and most importantly post promotions from your website across all your socials. I see small businesses failing at social media all the time by doing things like posting a graphic and saying “Hey we have a great sale on our website check us out!” but why not include a link with that? Unifying your digital brands is as simple as cross pollinating and making sure that your branding and messaging across all is consistent. Having this level of consistency in place will also help with your organic search results.
- Use Loyalty Data: If you’ve been in business for a long time chances are good you know something about your customers. As a business owner you might know that “Joe Johnson likes to buy spark plugs for his Ford every August” or maybe you have a database full of customer emails and what they’ve recently purchased. You should use this data to show value to your customers and keep them interested in your brand. One of the best examples of this I can think of is concert tickets. I go to a lot of concerts and I get a ton of email reminding me which bands are playing where each week. They also know what types of concerts I’ve been to so they send me emails about similar bands. But more importantly, ticket providers know I like music and are using that data to get their products in front of me.
- Stay Classy: Finally – stay classy. Don’t go repeatedly spamming your customers with new deals every 15 minutes or posting politically divisive messages on your social media channels. If you keep a conversation going about the value your store / brand provides and who can benefit from that value – the right people will eventually find you.
(sourced from Business News Daily)