Knowing the terms and tools of digital marketing is really only the first step. A thorough understanding of how these concepts can apply to an online retail business is the second.
As internet speeds increase and broadband becomes more readily available, digital technologies are changing the way many industries work. One of the largest trends in this direction is evidenced in the evolution of marketing, media and retail.
Essentially, this means that an online retail store can’t be conceived of without a thorough understanding of how digital marketing works, as well as what media are utilised to deliver these result.
With a proper understanding of these concepts, a retailer can innovate and create something unique, which will attract and engage customers to their webstore, ultimately generating conversions and therefore revenue.
In this instalment of Power Up, we discuss the specific importance of on-site content, social media and affiliate marketing in greater detail. If you are more interested in finding out about all common digital marketing alternatives at a glance, please read the previous instalment.
Marketing Starts at Home (Page)
To a certain degree, the old cliché, ‘Build it and they will come,’ no longer applies online. You can’t just put up a functional webstore and expect the sales to start ticking over.
However, that doesn’t mean a solid marketing foundation doesn’t start with your e-commerce site and the best online retailers always implement any marketing changes from the home page up.
This often means crafting the content of an online store to comply with the best SEO practices, before considering SEM and PPC options.
“Marketing is important for a business, but the costs to advertise are restrictive,” says Mark Freidin, Head of GuerillaTactics.com.au. “Time spent on learning to understand SEO and PPC tactics is a good start, while beginning to grow a customer database organically through various tactics, e.g.: loss leader offers, competitions, blogs and forums, Facebook etc. Many e-commerce businesses have grown this way!”
“It’s important to remember that SEO and SEM are not a single key to riches, but another tool in your marketing toolbox,” explains Freidin. “Search helps, yet word-of-mouth, viral, press and media coverage all contribute to the overall growth of a business. The end game is to build a relevant database, as this has the greatest leverage.”
“Relevant written content is extremely important for SEO,” says Freidin. “Pictures are also a no brainer: no pictures, no sales. One of my biggest bugbears is the ‘zoom’ function on images. Very few sites offer a full blow-up of a decent quality image that fills up the whole screen. Offer thumbnails, but also ensure there is a large, clear-quality image that can be zoomed into.”
Also consider if you can afford to have video content, perhaps by starting a YouTube channel that you plug in to various pages on your site. These initiatives have some SEO value, but even more customer-facing value.
“Remember that online is never a replacement for tactile interaction with a product,” says Freidin, “so the more better quality images you provide and the more written information you include, it will help the customer make an informed choice of what they might be buying.”
In short, ensure the website is organically aligned with your marketing goals before then reaching out to an audience via email newsletters, social media or by paying for an SEM campaign.
Retail is Going Social
Social media has added another dimension to marketing and customer support in recent years, however some companies continue to struggle to use this channel to their optimum ability. The answer is, as always, to strike the right balance while ensuring your customer is always at the forefront of any strategy.
Zane McIntyre, Director at Commission Factory, believes that social media is becoming more of a priority within the marketing allocation of some retailers.
“Traditionally online retailers have spent a large portion of their budget on email marketing and SEO,” says McIntyre. “While these two methods are just as relevant as ever, we can clearly see a rise in off-site social media investment. The latter investment shows that most online retailers understand that they need to be where their customers are and engage them in mediums such as Facebook and Twitter.”
To give an idea of the importance retailers give to social media, McIntyre provides some statistics:
“Almost 80 percent of online retailers also plan to increase the budget they have allocated to social media, while only 60-63 percent plan on increasing their investment in the more established disciplines of email marketing and SEO.”
Ultimately, engaging people via social media should be seen as a community-building initiative. Therefore, all the basic rules of community participation and inclusiveness apply as they do in the offline world. Be generous, be transparent, maintain politeness at all times and above all: never EVER publish anything you aren’t prepared to stand behind, because once it’s out there, there’s no taking it back.
Just remember, if the worst does happen on social media: stay calm, apologise sincerely and whatever you do, don’t argue with customers. Some things will never change in retail, and one of them is the old saying, ‘the customer is always right’.
Affiliate Yourself with the Right People
For a simple definition of affiliate marketing at a glance, please refer to the previous instalment of Power Up on Digital Marketing.
As an alternative to other new marketing channels, affiliate marketing represents a lucrative option
Affiliate marketing encompasses all of the digital marketing strategies, whether it be SEO, email marketing, PPC, social media, video and price comparison.
Nearly all online retailers can benefit from affiliate marketing, it’s just a matter of understanding that you will get out of it what you are willing to put into it. The key to growing your affiliate program is realising that affiliates are an extension to your sales team and new customer acquisition tools.
In order for them to grow your business you must first have a site that people like and products that people want.
“The most successful programs we see are those with a large range of product to sell, the larger the range the wider the net affiliates can cast out to potential buyers,” says McIntyre.
New businesses are able to get the greatest benefit from affiliate marketing, as it’s not a shotgun effect like some advertising, it’s purely paid on performance. This means that you only pay commissions to affiliates when they generate sales, if they generate nothing – you pay nothing, the risks are therefore minimal.
Brand integrity and affiliate compliance is at the core of most affiliate networks, so ensuring affiliates promote you the best way they can is always a priority and monitored closely.
“The best way we encourage the highest level or promotion is to develop a relationship with your affiliates, offer them a bonus when they do a good job and talk to them on occasions to see if there’s anything they need,” McIntyre explains. “Affiliates are an extension to your team, so ensuring they have all the tools necessary is of utmost importance.”
Seeking more information on how to get an online retail venture off to a flying start? See our complete A-Z guide, Power Up: The Online Retail Entrepreneur’s Guide.