Selling online is a great subject to write about as it is constantly changing and evolving. Each month new start-up businesses bring in new ideas. There are lots of opportunities to improve your online business for B2B or B2C.
If you have any questions about eCommerce try our FAQs and Ideas Center or just send us a comment or email.
If you watch a few movies you might remember Field Of Dreams a 1989 fantasy movie classic starring Kevin Costner. In the movie Ray (aka Kevin Costner) has a voice whisper in his head and so builds a baseball diamond (field). The line from the movie which is often misquoted has been used in everything from soap commercials to selling cars. It has been used often to justify creating something when there is no logical reason or plan to do so.
James Earl Jones is the voice that keeps Ray on track against all odds and helps guide him to a successful result. In the movie, of cause, there is a happy ending.
In 2018 there are many digital examples of the "Field of Dreams" these are Online Shops and eCommerce Website, and also some Bricks and Mortar businesses moving online. The business owners have a vision of taking advantage of the opportunities online and a growing a thriving business but often no plan. Unfortunately the majority of start-ups do not have a happy ending.
There are many services that allow you to start an online business with no planning and minimal cost. That is the core of the problem. Starting an online store (ecommerce website) is just one piece to the successful business puzzle. Once you have products for sale online you have to find customers and that can be the hard and expensive part.
To be successful, and realise the Digital Dream, a business, any business, needs to have products, a market and customers in order to make sales. You can find out more in this previous blog post about the Foundation of a Successful Business. It is fundamental to the longer term success of the business. Cash Flow and revenue are the blood and blood pressure that keeps the business alive. Yet we often hear about these digital businesses that get started and then fail very quickly because they make no sales or revenue. There are new business start-ups that have no plan for marketing or for finding customers and will not last out the first year.
Just having a pretty website that looks great but doesn't sell anything is not going to develop in to a long term business, and successful Digital Field of Dreams with a happy ending
Many businesses owners believe that if you build and launch a website it will be instantly flooded by visitors. Unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth. Search engines drive traffic and customers to your website and Google is the elephant in the room of search engines. Google controls over 80% of the search engine traffic. At the same time Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) firms have become the SPAM masters. I am sure that you have all received the emails:
Pay us a $1,000 a month and be number one on Google....
Some business owners believe that some magical short cut exists that will make the new online store an instant success and revenue generator. But there is no magic and throwing away $1,000's in dodgy SEO practices will not make you one sale.
Good SEO practices are important to the success of your online store. That means that you need to build good quality content and conform to the recommendation of Google and other search engines in order to rank well and have your website and products found online. Google provides lots of great information and advice about SEO Best Practice with their SEO Starter Guide and doing some homework is worthwhile.
For any business to be successful, apart from viable products and good customer service, you need to market. Marketing in the digital age has changed in the way it is delivered but you still need to do it. So an online store without a marketing plan basically has little hope of succeeding.
The Sales Funnel is just as important online as it is in any traditional, or bricks and mortar business, in fact maybe more important. Online the sales funnel starts with traffic to your website but not just any type of traffic. It needs to be made up primarily of people who are interested in what you do.
It is the core job of good marketing to get a pool of people or companies interested in your products and services into the funnel. The sales job, in the digital world the website, is to convert the pool into prospects and then into customers by taking them on a journey. That journey ends up in a sale and a long term satisfied customer. Marketing helps map that journey and provide the content to guide your potential customers.
A new website will not succeed without marketing. There are many tools available to help you market and there is a connection between the website content and marketing.
Remember the golden rule - CONTENT IS KING.
When you launch a new website the work is not over it is just beginning. So you need a plan to manage the marketing process and to track updates and changes. An important aspect of understanding what you need to do is capturing the 'big data' the analytics about what people are doing on your website. Without that information you cannot have an effective marketing plan. If you are an eCorner customer we provide you with a great tool called Wagtail Analytics and Reporting but you might use Google Analytics or one of the many reporting tools available.
On average according to Gartner businesses spend over 10% of their revenue on marketing, and including 2.5% - 5% on digital marketing. While some primarily digital businesses might spend a much higher percentage on digital marketing channels.
There are specific targets that you need to identify and then determine the best way to hit them.
But remember that the one true fact that you can rely on is change. Nothing really stays still in the digital world so you need to be on a constant review and improvement path. There are new tools that can be effectively used that become available so testing new marketing tactics can lead to quick results. For example organisations like Online Marketing Gurus can assist you in building and implementing a plan.
Digital spend has often been centered on Search Engine Marketing (SEM) with the main player being Google Adwords. If the campaign is built well then it can be an effective way to drive qualified opportunities into the sales funnel. SEM is not cheap and you cannot run a successful Adwords campaign on a dollar a day. Other search engines offer similar services such as Bing Ads.
The Social Media channels such as Facebook and Twitter now also offer paid advertisement that can deliver good results often at a lower cost. But social media pages can be effective marketing. The channel itself maybe free but there is effort involved in running successful social media channels.
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns using one of the shopping portals can also help drive qualified opportunities to your business.
Google Merchant Centre allows you to deliver a product feed directly from your website that will deliver product ad tiles during search.
The benefit of these portals is that they have a higher than average digital marketing spend and often a higher search engine ranking so they can get exposure that you might not be able to get.
If you are a small business looking for local customers then take advantage of Google Local a free service. Local search is becoming increasingly more important for small business.
This is a “Purchase First” media selection Strategy. Online Marketing Gurus believe in a reverse funnel approach to digital advertising. Get sales “in the door” or “through your shopping cart” via Shopping, then Search Ads, before prospecting for out of market customers through display and video ads.
This is a typical media roadmap for the companies we work with, prioritised by shoppers’ likelihood of purchase and our suggested order of campaign execution. Focusing at the conversion end of the advertising funnel provides benefits over and above the obvious improved return on ad spend (ROAS).
This is especially true for retailers, those needing inbound sales enquiries and bookings. Each conversion provides us the opportunity to gather useful buyer insights such as their age, gender and location. This information can be used to build smarter prospecting display campaigns as we progress through the range of digital media.
Reaching people at every possible interaction as they search and browse the web is Google’s official recommendation. Having a well executed brand ad in front of prospective customers at the right place and time is effective when you have all the creative assets in place to support each product, category and ad format.
This is great advice for large international brands with deep pockets but it's not a realistic starting point for most Australian brands.
If you build it they won't come unless you do something to reach out to your customers
80% of the failed online businesses failed as a direct result of not doing any marketing. If you want your new digital business to succeed then develop a marketing plan, think a little outside of the square and expect change. If you want to generate a million dollars in sales a year then expect to spend $50,000 - $100,000 a year on marketing.
When you first sit down and decide to start your new online business remember that you need to develop a budget and a plan. Just building an online store and applying the "Field of Dreams" approach will leave you frustrated with the results and with no rewards to show for the effort.
Online Marketing Gurus is a leading Google Partner and an AdWords technology company, they sell AdWords and Shopping Software and offer managed AdWords and Google Shopping services.