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 Dynamic Creative 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. Dynamic Creative 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.
Dynamic Creative is leading Google Partner and an AdWords technology company, they sell AdWords and Shopping Software and offer managed AdWords and Google Shopping services.
Starting and running a business can be great fun and deliver rewards. Having been in business now over 40 years we've see some recurring patterns that can be indicative of a business in trouble. Many new starters in business will be recommended to read some book or blog site and can get bombarded with the great business platitudes that sound great and mean nothing.
There are many foundation issues to a successful business but I would like to cover just three I think most important, Products, Markets and Customers.
Often we see in forums or hear people ask "why don't visitors buy from my online store?".
Of course there are many potential answers to this question. It could be issues like design and user experience, maybe the prices are too high, maybe it is shipping cost.
Understanding why people do not buy can be hard. The starting point is to use a good web analytic system to track what your visitors are doing and then use the results to improve your business and conversions. This can often show that visitors will start a basket but then abandon it before checkout. By looking at the step of the drop out you can often find a cause.
Feedback from your customers is also a great tool to understand what they like and don't like on your site. While it can be difficult to engage with customers in the online retail space, tools like surveys can be used very effectively to identify problem areas and let your customers feel like they are involved and being heard.
Starting an online store or business, or extending your bricks and mortar business online can be a real challenge for many people and is much more complex than most new business owners understand. There are lots of forums where the general feedback will tell you how easy it is to build you website and sell online. How often do you see: “Your products will sell because you have a great looking website! Customers will just turn up and buy from you! You can do it all for free!”
Well sorry to tell you, but it is all basically rubbish!
Right now there is a lot of speculation that retail in Australia will be impacted negatively by international eCommerce players like Amazon. The general view seems to be that retail is under threat and there is nothing that we can do!
We aren't convinced that this is true! Retail has undergone several evolutions in the last 50 years and if anything the market has always got bigger and better each time. The retailers who embraced the changes and accessed the new opportunities flourished, while those that resisted missed out (or went bust).
You can get an online store up and running in 12 days!
There are some definite and important steps to get an online store or business started but it takes a little time. If you are a website or eCommerce novice then don't expect to work it out in the first five minutes. To be successful and build a good online presence needs time and some planning. An online business is still a business. You need to manage your business and when selling online that means managing your online store, products and content. You have to connect to other systems and channels to promote your products, organise shipping and to take payments for your products. It is not that difficult but for a new starter it can be a challenge. eCorner's role is to help with the challenging technical issues and provide you with an online shop that sells your products and sevices successfully.
Start a free trial online store and you will learn what it takes to sell online and how to use a hosted ecommerce solution. But the best news is that it gives you 30 days to setup your online free of charge. When you are ready to launch just let us know and we convert your trial store ot a real online store for your business.
Before you start thinking about software and hosting, there are some basic requirements that need to be met. If you do a little planning and think about the business structure it can save you heaps of time later.
Read more about this topic - Establish the basics.
It is important to get the right online store system for your business and that is eCorner's speciality. We recommend starting a free trial and getting a feel for the system. The good part it's free and what you do in the trial can be kept and converted to a live store so it is like getting the first 30 days free. Plan a couple of days to start and ask for our free training.
Read more - Select an online store system.
Your eCommerce package comes with a range of themes that you can use ‘out-of-the-box’. You can fully customise your theme or you can use one of our complete custom themes to help you get started. You can find lots or great information about our themes and deign on our website. Don't be afraid to start with something simple with eCorner's online store updating design is really easy. eCorner can also help you with your first design as part of the free training.
Read more - Design Themes and Layout.
Content really is king - good content means a more successful business. Most people will find your online store using a search engine like Google and search engines love content. So it is important to create great content. by content we mean category pages, blogs and importantly products. If you want to be successful then comprehensive product content and great photos are essential.
Read more - Prepare the site content.
Two of the most important business decisions that you will make will be how to calculate shipping costs and how to accept payments. Both are key to a successful and profitable online business. A good eCommerce system will have a range of payment and delivery options available to you straight out of the box. You simply select the options that best suit your business!
Read more - Delivery and Payments.
Most people search on Google or Bing to find the products and services that they want. Good search engine rankings are a result of good content. But make sure that you look at the quality of the important search engines meta tags and that you have included your main keywords. Don’t pay hundreds of dollars per month for so-called ‘SEO experts’. During the trial use the extensive search engine optimisation toolkit!
Read more - Search Engine Optimisation Built-in.
Read more - Legal Content and Trust.
A good eCommerce solution will offer a range of marketing and multi-channel sales tools ‘out-of-the-box’. We include; Newsletters, Cross-sell and upsell, Ratings and reviews, Social media, Promotional items, eBay and Facebook shop; and lots more. Spend some time getting to know how the various internal and external marketing features work. By external we mean services like Google Adwords, Adroll, Google Shopping, Getprice and the many other portals and markets. The website has to work well on any device so that your market effort will work for you.
Once you have the online store setup the work does not stop. It is a constant process of reviewing results and making improvements. The window in to your audience (online buyers) in the website analytics that can be used totrack activity. Improve your results by understanding customer behaviour and focus your attention where needed. Real-time reporting (Wagtail Analytics) and Google analytics helps you understand what your customer is doing on your store.
Read more - Understand what is happening on your website.
This is a question that we get asked regularly. Many people are striving for extra income or may have some extra time on their hands to give it a go. We also see people starting multiple businesses and expanding the products and services that they offer.
New customers may call in and ask "what do you suggest that I sell online?" This can be a difficult conversation as starting a business without a product probably means that there is no business plan and the likely outcome will not be good.
Digital Marketing can best be described as using online channels, social media and mobile devices to get your promotions and message to the internet based audience. Every business needs to market products, services and offers in order to get the message to the consumers and other businesses that will engage with them. Marketing has taken many forms and been around for a long time.
Lots of people see the world of marketing as exposed by ACM hit television series, Mad Men. A classic quote from that show was;
"Make it simple, but significant.",
attributed to Don Draper aka Donald Francis
Marketing has expended its boundaries into the digital world and a whole new set of opportunities and pitfalls has resulted. The ability to understand and to utilise the vast array of digital properties and venues has become incredibly competitive and also expensive. So it is important to get the most out of the digital marketing budget. Just throwing money at a single channel without having a planned promotion may mean the costs are far greater than the returns.
Engaging your digital audience is essential if you want your digital promotions to succeed. Make it simple but significant!
Engagement using games has long been understood as a great learning tool. There have been 10,000's of pages written on the subject and I am sure that you remember learning games at school.
As early as kindergarten children are introduced to new subjects through games. It is a combination of engagement, opportunity, challenge, competition and reward that makes games work. There is a good article on this at Common Sense Media by Kathleen Costanza.
In recent years we have been hearing a lot about Gamification.
In Wikipedia it is described as:
The use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems and increase users' self contributions.
Gamification can be applied to all types of areas where we want to get better user engagement. You can find a great case study about how Deloitte made learning a game in the Harvard Business Review.
In a recent report that was published in Europe it was found how promotions engage today’s consumers and how they can be used to best effect in marketing campaigns. It draws on the views of 2,000 consumers in the UK on what they look for in online retailer promotions, and compares what they say they respond to versus what they actually respond to.
Consumers expect and appreciate online promotions – interesting data points:
From a customer perspective, one of the benefits of shopping online is that you can research to your heart’s desire, whenever you want to and wherever you happen to be. Whatever you are looking for, the internet offers a broad array of choice and an easy way to find the best deal out there.
What this means for retailers is that customers are increasingly accustomed to expecting to find some kind of offer when shopping. This is to the point where many will typically only make a purchase when an offer or promotion is involved. Research found this is the case for as many as 50% of consumers. In fact, this number rises to 60% for anyone under the age of 45, with those aged 25 to 34 being the most likely age group to look for an offer.
So how can we engage more effectively with consumers using our digital marketing?
The answer might be "Gamification" or Smart Promotions from Rapid Campaign.
eCorner has partnered with Rapid Campaign to bring Smart Promotions to eCorner's customers. Rapid Campaign began in 2010 and are leaders in the use of gamification in digtal marketing. They focus on creating engaging digital marketing campaigns quickly and easily.
By enabling game theory and using it in your marketing you can get a greater engagement with consumers visiting your offers. This can be accomplished through competitions that challenge and reward the consumer and lead them to use the promotion that you offer. The promotion might be a unique coupon code or a special incentive as a prize. This approach has been referred to as Smart Promotions.
What we know is that games mean better engagement and faster adoption of offers and ideas.
There was a recent blog published on LemonStand that explored how Smart Promotions helped to improve conversion rates.
Do Promotions Really Increase Your eCommerce Conversion Rates? - by Rob Brooks (March 4th 2015).
His summary was simple.
Don’t think of promotions as a quick gimmick to garner attention around a specific product; they are so much more than that. Think of promotions as enticing and encouraging your customers all the way...
Smart Promotions are digital marketing offers that use a game to engage the audience. The game might vary depending on the type of promption for example a Digital Scratch Card promotion where the person receiving the promotion might win a prize or offer. But there are many others like Wheel of Fortune, Image Voting and Prize Draws to name a few.
Smart promotions are enabled on all types of devices and can be sent via email in a Newsletter or can be added to Facebook or as a mobile app. If you are running a website or an online store then you can embed Smart Promotions in to a page in the website.
Embeding Smart Promotions is done simply using an iFrame. This is a small snippet of code that is put into the HTML code in the page where you want the Smart Promotion to appear. You use the HTML edit mode in ePages to add the iFrame.
You can also add your Smart Promotions to your ePages Newsletter simply by embedding the iFrame in your newsletter code using HTML edit mode.
eCorner will be hosting a Webinar at GoTo Webinar on Tuesday 28th April at 4:00 PM (AEST).
Laura Laamanen, CMO of RapidCampaign, is an expert in the use of gamification and smart promotions. She will show how gamification and smart promotions drive sales by reducing drop-offs in your purchase funnel and convert your visitors to customers. She will discuss some of the finding from the UK survey of over 2,000 consumers.
RapidCampaign have quickly become the market leaders in the development and use of smart promotions for digital marketing.
In a multi-channel world with a huge online retail marketplace, consumers are totally spoiled for choice.
Your best chance of reaching them is by:
Using smart promotions and gamification in your marketing campaigns will result in better consumer engagement and higher conversion rates.
Are you ready to play - get started with our special offer valid until End of Financial Year 2015
Get a free coaching call to build highly impact promotions (value $399.00)
The special offer includes a one-to-one coaching call on smart promotion types, winning settings and best practices along with implementation support.
B2B - Business to Business eCommerce was once the realm of large enterprises. However today any business large or small can jump into B2B trading online. Businesses in sectors as diverse as automotive, information technology and fashion are selling to other businesses. Unlike B2C there is far less competition, you get to know and develop a customer relationship and margins are generally better. B2B is moving from being a purely cost driven engagement to a market and media driven.
According to Forrester and Gartner research, in the USA B2B represents around US$1 trillion annually, as reported in PR News Wire in Oct 2014, around 4 times the size of the B2C market.
In Australia B2B is growing at almost double the rate of B2C.