Last week we introduced the topic of inbound marketing, a new approach to integrating the lifestyle aspect of potential and existing customers with meaningful content that can lead to a longstanding commercial relationship. For ecommerce merchants, inbound marketing holds enormous promise.
But it’s not as simple as its reverse strategy of outbound marketing. Sending emails, buying pop-up ads, and initiating contact at your chosen pace is waning as an effective way to win customers. Learning to work your marketing into the increasing online engagement of buyers takes patience, insight, a bit of technical know-how, and a sincere desire to improve the lives and livelihoods of everyone.
For newer sellers who may feel out of their league, here are some tips on how to make inbound marketing work for you.
Confused as you may be by the litany of jingo surrounding Everything Internet, there’s a term you will want to embrace: Inbound Marketing.
The “inbound” modifier sets forth an important distinction between the conventional idea of marketing employed by businesses for decades. It refers to a trending 21st Century concept of capturing both the lifestyle factor and the online engagement of customers and potential customers. “Outbound marketing” involves pop-up ads, direct-sales emailing, and anything produced as a proactive attempt to sell your brand or product.
With the proliferation of information made possible by online commerce, and the evolving comfort level of humans warming up to an increasing amount of time spent online, marketing strategies in current times demand more creative adaptations. Inbound marketing seeks to make your brand part of a consumer’s life, avoiding the tendency to disrupt their focus with unsolicited communications.
Analysts call this “interruptive marketing,” citing dismal results as consumers already inundated with an overflow of stimuli are more inclined to seek out their own personalized content that will lead to buying decisions. The advent of mass interruptive advertising and marketing has led to a greater demand for technology that blocks such content, and that demand has been mostly fulfilled.
Currently about one-quarter of web crawling prospective clients employ ad-blocking software. This is a disaster for any business still clinging to proactive, interruptive advertising. Worse, the traditional display ad on digital media shows a click-through rate of less than 1 percent among those who do not block ads.
As if conducting business over the internet weren’t challenging enough, there is a new, critical factor to consider. On Sept. 23, customers of online retailers Thrive Cosmetics were informed through an email that the sales platform they use to process transactions had experienced a data breach about one week earlier. That platform is Shopify.
Started in 2004, Shopify originally targeted sales of snowboarding gear. Now it has grown into one of the most prominent sales platforms, hosting more than 325,000 online shops for both individual sellers and huge companies like Google and Tesla.
Being big has its ups and downs. You can count security issues as a down, especially when the etiquette of online security and fraud procedures are still essentially in development. When mega-retailers such as Target joined banking giant Capitol One, food delivery service DoorDash, and even credit reporting agency Equifax as victims to one of a series of massive data breaches exposing various ranges of customer information, each responded in a manner ranging from timely to unacceptably delayed. The public and media outlets took rightfully gratuitous swipes.
Shopify’s recent breach raises questions of whether there has been transparency at all. The company has not responded to media inquiries for further details on how many customers were affected and what level of data was exposed. Shopify ultimately confirmed the breach more than a week after it happened, explaining that two “rogue members” lifted customer data from at least 100, but less than 200, merchants.
Information released indicates that only names, addresses, and order details were accessed. But follow-up reporting and information from merchants shows the last four digits of credit cards were included in the breach.
With online buying now a way of life among millions of consumers, the temptation to jump in as a seller has never been stronger. Digital consumerism has joined virtually every aspect of living as a go-to venue thanks to the near-universal availability and usage of the internet.
It makes sense that those turning to cyberspace to find out about filling their needs will also be lured into filling them online. Ecommerce growth is an exponential reality in the third decade of the 21st Century, with increasing emphasis on services and goods no one would have imagined 20 years ago.
If you’re tossing around the idea of joining the expanding array of those who conduct commerce over the internet, but are afraid of being lost in a vast universe, there are some intriguing ideas to consider. Perhaps you struck out when first at bat, and are determined to build a sustainable online business. Here are some hot topics finding eager audiences there.
If anything should be clear to new and not-so-new ecommerce merchants, it’s that there are no shortcuts in virtual selling. The wide swath of seemingly limitless buyers offered up by cyberspace is an automatic win for vendors who don’t have a physical presence or an unlimited ad budget, but that means the market is open to millions of others in the same situation.
An emphasis on actualizing goods to attract buyers is growing, and technology is keeping pace. Shoppers increasingly rely on digital devices for purchasing at a time when internet bandwidth is a competitive factor among cellular companies.
But this raises an issue among small-time sellers who aren’t up to speed on taking advantage. Hi-resolution photos, enticing videos, and other elements used to peddle products require effort. The goal is conversion.
Conversion is the process of attracting interested buyers andturning their interest into sales. It’s not a new concept in commerce, but in ecommerce, it’s that much more challenging. If you’re already in business, you have a functioning web site. A good start. But not enough.
Beginners and mid-level merchants should focus on the following areas if they want to play with the big kids. Mastering these will pay off through increased sales, and will build your skill set to a point where you may expand with more creativity through simple imaging.
As we took a break to celebrate Labor Day on September 7th, Particles is taking the week off.
We'll be back on September 17th.
Lost packages. Late packages. Packages lingering in an unknown location within a postal facility. Welcome to ecommerce in 2020.
At a time when a global pandemic shutting down in-person commerce all over the country and even the world, one might think this is a golden opportunity for merchants conducting business online. And it is. With one exception.
Logistical wrangling related to a shakeup at the United States Postal Service have intervened to present a full-scale nightmare scenario for consumers, direct mail marketers, and especially ecommerce vendors of all sizes hoping to get essential and non-essential goods to customers in a better-than-timely manner. In the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, delays were anticipated and experienced, but those leveled out as the USPS stepped up.
With the installation of a new Postmaster General in June, the directive is clear: cut costs and increase efficiency, even at the expense of a desperate public. The seismic shift has left analysts, public officials, and especially online shoppers scratching their heads. A provision in the US Constitution sets forth a postal service to be established and monitored by Congress. Its purpose back in the day was to transmit important correspondence from Point A to Point B at a time when planes, trains, and automobiles were more than a century away from reality.
After jockeying for the top spot as a favored shipping service, the USPS competed with UPS, DHL, and FedEx to curry favor. Enter ecommerce giant Amazon, the most prolific internet seller, and the picture changes with a contractual agreement. USPS is the most heavily used service for Amazon and other sellers of all sizes. Even its competitors use USPS for rural deliveries. Now its very future is in question.
The dog days of summer feel incomplete without a fully functioning Las Vegas Market Summer Market, a glitzy soiree where vendors, buyers, and ecommerce merchants gather to prep for a holiday season and the following year. This marquee event is especially intriguing as an example of West Coast marketing and commerce, and this year’s promises to be equally stellar.
With one exception.
The global Covid-19 pandemic has led to some changes, and understandably so. Gathering thousands in a venue even as large as this takes cautionary planning.
But the organizers of Las Vegas Summer Market 2020 are determined to put on a great show for those who just can’t stay away. Scheduled to kick off on Aug. 30, the event will feature permanent showrooms, as has been tradition. Temporary tradeshow presentations are not on the calendar.
If you haven’t yet attended an annual Summer Market fiesta, you’ve missed out. It creates a meeting point for designers and exhibitors to showcase their best products to buyers on a world-class, state-of-the-art campus in downtown Las Vegas. Cross-category entries in home furnishings, gifts, décor, and more create a delightful, even mesmerizing, experience for ecommerce sellers hoping to shape their inventory choices.
Just over two decades ago an entrepreneur near Seattle embraced the idea of using business owners to help pad the success of another business. He called it “friendship marketing,” and wrote extensively on it as a way to generate leads and brand familiarity.
That was in the pre-eCommerce days. The field now is far wider; the competition much stiffer. But the ideology remains, and it’s now known as “affiliate marketing.” Though not quite as personal, it’s a way to piggyback off of successful businesses to both generate and divert sales. For the most part, it involves allowing other businesses targeting the same audience to receive commissions from their willingness to refer out to you. Sounds simple.
It’s a bit more complex, but the possibilities are plentiful. The obvious big-time affiliates range from Shopify to Amazon Associates; from Ebay Partner Network to Coinbase; and from ClickFunnels Affiliates to Wayfair Affiliate Program. Each offers a varied payout structure and a different set of unique benefits. On the low end, commissions may amount to 5 percent of each sale. That said, individual arrangements may spice up the deal with kickbacks as high as 50 percent. Your mileage will vary.
For newer or smaller online sellers, it’s a way to get established as you are building what hopefully will be a thriving business, and earn revenues in the process.
It may sound counterintuitive to send business away, but consider this: if someone is already signed on to you as a seller, they will buy a product from you unless you don’t carry it. This is where affiliate marketing referrals kick in, earning you a slice of the pie.
Not that you needed more bad news to round out the myriad chaos surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, but it could throw a curve into your business. And in a very, very bad way.
For a multitude of possible reasons, mail delivery through the United States Post Office has hit a major snag. Formerly a reliable service with on-time deliveries, the mother of all shipping magnates is bogged down with complications from various factors including sheer volume, employee shortages, and political wrangling.
An internal memo leaked to the press reveals that carriers are instructed to avoid overtime and unnecessary delays by leaving some mail at distribution centers if it may cause them to spend more time on their shift. A baffling development for the hundreds-year-old icon of delivery, this new policy follows a series of high-profile changes and concerns.
We’ll leave the messy controversy over this administration’s newly appointed Postmaster General alone for now, saying only that allegations of attempted election suppression are not helping. But the upshot is that mail delivery is increasingly faulty and late, with packages delivered to wrong addresses, delivered late, or not delivered at all. Bad for ecommerce.
The US Post Office experienced a massive $4.5 billion loss in revenues after its second quarter of this year. The reasons for that are complex and varied. The government-contracted agency is forced to find cost-cutting measures. For obvious reasons, this is an unimaginable ecommerce nightmare. Doing your part as a vendor to market, lure, sell, and package merchandise is hard enough. Now knowing that your good faith attempts to get it sent to buyers may be in vain is more than you should have to accept.
Pres. Trump has suggested the USPS triple or quadruple shipping prices. While some don’t take that seriously, it implies an intent to adjust pricing, at very least. That will impact your bottom line.