We all remember a time when having cursory internet skills made us slightly more attractive to employers, and opened up some opportunities for those of us with businesses to expand a bit.
That was then; this is now. It’s hard to imagine a strategy that would allow your online business to flourish without a dedicated, consistent presence in social media. While Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and the other major sites used to be a fun, experimental way to attract interest in an ecommerce platform, they now may be considered essential marketing tools.
And why not? The U.S. Bureau of Census estimates that the proportion of commercial product sales conducted online rose from .06 percent in 2001 to 8.5 percent in 2016. That’s a staggering number considering sales that by nature primarily occur locally—food and groceries, retail malls, area-specific specialty items, bakery goods, etc.
If that growth rate holds, online transactions will dominate the picture in the next few decades. Ecommerce players like Amazon are determined to increase their gargantuan market share and to carve out new markets, so it’s likely to happen.
Socializing in Social Media
Americans have developed an affinity for the leisurely experience of searching for products online, comparing prices, and making a selection without starting up a car. If you’re a savvy ecommerce merchant, you will embrace this with vigor and build a business model that takes that into account.
What does that mean for you? A lot of factors are at play, including the type of product you sell, your target consumer audience, and your comfort with digital marketing. We’re not talking about the bread-and-butter “pay-per-click” advertising campaigns that involve you feeding the coffers of a third-party mediator to place advertisements on websites. We’re focused here on strategic, hands-on efforts to personalize your brand. The good news? It’s mostly free. The bad news? There may be none, unless you dread the idea of spending time researching markets and making yourself comfy with the social media world.
Here is a motto to remember: think like a consumer; act like a marketer. Learn the basics of various social media sites and notice the types of interactions that occur. Notice how other merchants work their (non)ads into content. Teach yourself how to identify a potential client base.
By now you’ve been told repeatedly to create your own branded content through blogs and other social media platforms. If you’re on board, good. If not, get there. Somebody out there loves your product, and they will love it more if you work them in to a community you care about, perceiving their needs and wants and forming a personal relationship.
Email soliciting was once called “spam” for all the right reasons. Now it’s tailored, mostly to existing customers. They won’t mind if you send them a friendly greeting once in a while, especially if it’s well written and alluring. Invite them to revisit your page, and make access to your blog visible and obvious. Use enticing words to capture attention. And make sure what you write is top-quality and relevant.
SOS for Dummies
If you’re not entirely blog-savvy, here are some apps and platforms that can move you in that direction. Feedly offers a free trial and tons of examples of productive, successful commercial blogging. Pre-written, customizable content is available at Bloglovin. Both of these give expert advice and instructions for putting together compelling blog feeds that exploit the most palpable resource you have — your own followers.
Above all, resist the temptation to speed through the process. This is not a one-size-fits-all; nor is it true that your business name yields sufficient loyalty to grow your business. Aside from quality merchandise, ease of ordering and payment, and excellent follow-through, your ability to create good messaging strategies that generate sales through the perception of a lasting business with no plans to go away, and a personalized relationship with customers who’ve already experienced a start-to-finish order, may be the single-most reliable predictor and impetus for future growth.