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.
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.
Almost four months into a global pandemic that has thrown much of the world off its proverbial axis, virtually every facet of our lives is still chaotic, in question, and fraying nerves as we look to an uncertain future. The glass-half-full perspective on how Covid-19 has shifted our focus and tested our grit shows that we are, indeed, resilient. But denying the seismic impact on economies – both micro and macro – comes close to reflecting the horrific loss of life and health seen around the world, is impossible. Our survival depends on a strong economic status.
In the United States and elsewhere, a true trickle-down model has met our dire expectations: millions of small businesses have closed permanently, thousands of larger retailers are struggling to keep up with inventory demands, and individual consumers are faced with having to make purchases on a limited income, or with sufficient funds and a lack of venues operating in the midst of a viral epidemic.
No matter where your business is on the survival scale, there are ways to navigate through an unforeseen crisis that is benevolent to online sellers. Overall, analysts estimate that online sales have increased by 50 percent compared to this point in 2019. You’re already poised to take advantage of a gaggle of virtual shoppers, but the same obstacles facing brick-and-mortar retailers and large ecommerce sellers have probably upended your operations, as well. Here are some ways to adapt.
Seasoned ecommerce merchants likely have studied up on the various legal aspects and regulations related to the collection of consumer information, financial and otherwise. There are laws in place, both in the United States Code and in individual state statutes, with rather harsh consequences for violators.
Others of you who are small-time sellers might have given a thought to this issue, but not taken the time or effort to determine whether you are in compliance. That’s a big mistake.
Data protection is shaping up to be one of the most pressing factors of online activity in the 21st Century. Even with the advanced efforts from private entities developing new technologies as quickly as they can, it all goes awry when cracks form and bad actors create new and different reasons for these same virtual guardians to patch a new hole.
Online merchants face complicated, unusual challenges due to the lack of visibility and control over external services administering their websites, including the type and volume of data that is being collected. Even if you believe you have an agreement with a third-party, that doesn’t mean it isn’t farming out some of its duties to a fourth party with no such contractual relationship.
Ask any executive or analyst in a given sector of commerce, and you’ll hear the same answer with respect to fraud. It’s one of the most nefarious and damaging elements poised to put a dent in both revenues, trust, and even security.
With ecommerce merchants, fraud has found a ripe target given its virtual presence requiring online payments and strictly virtual interactions with customers. Fraudulent activity—both attempted and failed, and successful—has skyrocket in the last few years, hitting large ecommerce retailers the hardest, with a $10 million annual revenue loss. Mid-size merchants averaged 249 fraud attempts per month in 2018, and are on track to far exceed that as the platform grows and bad actors proliferate.
What can you do? No matter how grand or minimal your business is, you can track both payment and channel fraud. Fraud detection solutions are available for both no-cost and minimal-cost investments. Entities that specialize in online commerce fraud can assess your unique risks and advise you on how to minimize them.
Sustainability matters to people–particularly to Millennials. A Neilsen poll of over 30,000 people found that 66% of consumers– and 73% of Millennials– are willing to pay more to support companies who commit to sustainable, environmentally-friendly business practices. With Millennials set to overtake Boomers as the largest living generation in 2019, it’s crucial for businesses to pay attention to this growing trend.
In this day and age, it’s more important than ever for online stores to reduce their carbon footprint - not only to use as a selling point, but because it’s the right thing to do for our planet. And let’s face it. From gas-guzzling delivery trucks to layers of wasteful packaging, ecommerce isn’t exactly the most environmentally-friendly business model out there.
Going green may seem like a daunting task, especially if you’ve been in business for a while. The good news is that the more this trend catches on, the more opportunities there are for online stores to minimize their environmental impact. And this comes with the added bonus of gaining customers’ trust.
So, what are some easy steps your ecommerce business can take to become greener?
Note to ecommerce vendors: It’s never been a more exciting time to sell things.
As new and riveting internet-based platforms emerge to make the process easier, faster, and more fruitful, there’s one that’s been around a long time and is still arguably the backbone of any business.
Email. Email marketing morphs a tool invented for personal conversations into a dynamic, effective platform for pitching products and services to would-be customers who may or may not know of you. Email happens to be the most widely used of all modern communications channels. Estimates say 99 percent of all consumers check theirs on a daily basis.
And perhaps it’s a better choice than other advertising-related vehicles for the simple reason that people read their emails with a different expectation than they have when they browse social media, or even watch television. Advertising that interrupts play time is probably less palatable than direct messaging sent to an account people read knowing they are there to receive messaging.
If you’ve prioritized your marketing and outreach through social media channels, there’s nothing wrong with that. Just consider the new benefits of an old standby that won’t steer you wrong.
Start With a Plan
Forming an email marketing strategy is pretty simple and straightforward, but there are must-do’s and must-not-do’s to keep in mind.
Start with the most obvious, and develop a targeted customer list. Generating leads is easier with the development of tools like Monster Leads, which integrates marketing functions by collecting, sorting, and storing sales leads. A service like this allows you to revisit the email marketing function without having to restructure and search for new targets.
Before you stress over being “that guy” sending a ton of unwanted mail, relax. Even if one-quarter of your messages are opened, that’s a significant reach. Another way to test the waters for oversaturation is to select a sub-group of customers you feel good about, and set them up for more frequent sends, while limiting the rest of the list to occasional messaging.
Once you have a target audience, think creatively by envisioning what you might respond to favorably. Develop eye-catching graphics that are easy to read and understand. Refine your wording to be brief, engaging, and (most importantly) urgent enough to prompt consideration.
Back in the days when search engines were a sparkly new Internet feature, much was made of “vanity searches,” or typing in your name to see how important you really were. Remember the thrill of discovering information in the public domain, which back then was largely positive?
That was then; this is now. For businesses, or anyone with branding needs, searching for information on yourself is a necessity —not only to validate your good reputation, but to patch things up if it’s not so hot.
Google, the granddaddy of All Things Internet, offers its own tracking function through “Google Alerts,” a feature many use on a daily basis. It’s free, and it’s simple. It can detect mentions of you and your brand merely by entering your business name. And while it’s a decent tool, it may not be sufficient. If you’re serious about monitoring your reputation, brand awareness, or anything related to your operation, consider these alternatives that come highly recommended:
A message to ecommerce merchants: your diligent efforts to run a thriving business and gain satisfied customers may pay off in a way you’d never imagined, by just putting one strategy to use.
By now, collecting and publishing customer reviews is a household concept. Studies show that consumers making a first-time purchase decision often divert their eyes automatically to the review score, even if they do it subconsciously. This might not be a fair measure of a product or service, but get used to it. It’s here to stay.
But there’s something you haven’t considered, and it is a big deal. Customer reviews posted on your site will improve your SEO (search engine optimization) rankings. Algorithms in Google alone show how advantageous that can be.
When customers offer detailed reviews of a product, they may include a specific word string of the function or features of their purchase. Example: “I was searching for a good wireless mouse that would pair with my keyboard for smooth operation” just happens to be a keyword string that registers. The phrase “good wireless mouse” reflects a common search phrase that potential buyers enter into a search engine. Boom. You’re there.
Want some motivation to give this a try? Here are stats collected by Brightlocal.com: