By Dolly Wilson
No business can afford to ignore its web presence, especially its eCommerce portal. Online is increasingly the way business is done: nearly $1 of every $10 is now spent online, roughly 4.6% of $1.05 trillion in sales just in the 3rd quarter of 2011 alone. And the explosion of the mobile market just adds to this party buzz – purchases made on mobile devices are predicted to reach as much as $4.9 billion this year, and to grow to as much as $163 billion by 2015.
And the ground is rapidly shifting, given the number of new social media outlets appearing along with the seismic shift towards mobile browsing and buying. Over 63% of retailers are currently considering a redesign so that their site will look better to smart phone and tablet browsers, and according to Internet Retailer, over 80% said they were going to devote more resources to mobile in 2011, a number that has climbed in 2012 as mobile purchases rise.
But controlling your eCommerce business is increasingly challenging for a number of reasons. A number of pitfalls await both experienced retailers and wholesalers, not just those new to landscape. Anyone who has spent any time dealing with eCommerce will recognize a number of the pain points listed below. Unwary sellers may stumble in finding customers – or having customers find them – to actually making the sale, fulfilling the order in a timely manner or ending up with a happy – and repeat – customer. But this series contains a number of concrete ways to deal with many of these issues and boost your eCommerce ventures. Top Pain points of eCommerce:
- Recognition and Driving Traffic
- Conversions – Turning Browsing into Sales
- Fulfillment & Logistics
- Customer Satisfaction/Loyalty
- Finding a total solution
If these pain points sound familiar to you, stay tuned for Bridgeline Digital’s five-part series on 17 Ways to Deal with the Top Pain Points of eCommerce.
Many of these have manageable solutions that are not out of reach of marketers, especially if you’re willing to look into new technologies to help you deal with the shifting eCommerce landscape. Read on for the first installment with some concrete steps to improve your site traffic through better SEO and email marketing.
Recognition – Traffic Traffic Traffic
The number one eCommerce challenge for most companies, especially if they do not already have a large brick and mortar presence, is recognition. Potential customers have to find you before they can buy. Driving more traffic to your site involves a host of strategies, including key initiatives such as optimizing your search engine results and energizing your email marketing.
Take Charge of Search Engine Optimization – SEO is more than just a buzz word – it can provide serious rewards – but only if it’s done right. Mindless chasing after the latest SEO trend or deploying “black hat” tactics can backfire as search engines are increasingly punishing companies for poor SEO practices. Better search engine results are not akin to pulling a rabbit out of a hat.
Better SEO is not like pulling a rabbit out of a hat
Tactics designed to outsmart search engines are increasingly being made irrelevant. After the phenomenon of “keyword stuffing” began to affect search results, Google simply changed its search algorithm to downgrade the importance of keywords. That’s why nothing beats “white hat” SEO tactics and good, solid, trustworthy content with friendly, memorable URLs. Content is the new Black, after all; something that everyone should have in their closet.
Mediocre content leads to half-hearted engagement – or, worse, no engagement at all – which can ruin any chance of conversion. However, eCommerce sites, with their constantly shifting product catalog formats, bring their own SEO challenges beyond those of traditional websites. For example, it’s harder to generate the inbound links to content that raise your credibility for search engines.
One simple way to increase your visibility is to ensure your eCommerce site is using Friendly URLs, which means customers can more easily find what they need with real language searches. Large numbers of online catalogs are still not SEO-friendly — listing random numbers rather than product names or descriptions. As one business process consultant notes, “Who the heck searches Google using product numbers?”
And don’t forget the images. You can gain real traction by ensuring that you have proper descriptions and metadata for your product images, increasing their worth in organic search results. Consistently applying good tactics will pay off. Bridgeline’s Digital Strategy Group has found that for our customers good SEO can easily raise organic traffic to a site year-over-year by as much as 60 percent.
SEO is not magic, but it can have magical results on your profit margin.
Another way to increase traffic to your site is to draw back existing customers. This is increasingly being done electronically with email and social media rather than through direct mail marketing.
Create Effective Email marketing – Increasingly, the key to successful email marketing is personalization – using the data gathered on your website to target emails to individual consumers rather than blanketing them with ‘one size fits all’ communications. Too many untargeted emails veer perilously close to being spam, or at the very least are lost in a blizzard of other commercial mail. You know the type – the multiple emails a day that simply sound desperate rather than appealing, and are easily deleted without even being opened.
Email marketing can bring in $39.40 for every dollar spent on it, making it highly cost-effective and essential for eCommerce success, but only if you are truly aiming at your customers.
One clothing etailer found that cutting back on the number of emails it sent, but personalizing and targeting them based on past purchases, gave shoppers a real incentive to open the emails; their click-through rates rose dramatically and conversion rates went up by a third. Other companies who target based on customers’ website behaviors found bounce rates falling over 25 percent with similar rises in conversions.
Ensure your emails have a compelling headline to get them opened and then give shoppers a clear call-to-action to keep your email from languishing in inboxes.
And don’t forget how many of your customers will read that email on their smartphone – where they also increasingly want access to coupons. Make sure they can read the text, rather than a blank image placeholder and a garble of HTML. Always include a plain text email as an alternative to your main message.
Static uniform content isn’t enough anymore. Getting traffic to your website requires clear, easily findable content for both those doing a quick internet search or your loyal customers who’ve signed up to receive email from you. Make sure you reward them for this loyalty, not abuse them. Your bottom line – and your customers – will thank you.
So what happens once you’ve got potential customers on your site? The next post in the series will concentrate on conversion and turning those browsers into actual buyers. Stay tuned. You can also visit the Bridgeline Digital website to download a whitepaper version of this blog series.