Six crucial steps to the perfect eCommerce strategy (part 2)

In the first part of this post, I outlined the first three steps that you need to examine when creating an effective eCommerce strategy: your business, your products and services, and your website.

I ended by saying that it’s crucial to make sure that your website is fit for the job you intend it for, and that it caters for your desired audiences. One common error I come across is when eCommerce firms spend small fortunes driving traffic to their websites, ignoring the fact that only a tiny proportion of such untargeted traffic will spend money on their sites.

The next three factors I’m going to look at are online visibility, marketing opportunities and your competitors. Let’s resume with step four.

4. Your Online Visibility

It’s all very well having a wonderful product and a fantastic website, but do users know you exist? Sounds a little harsh I know, but so many eCommerce businesses don’t have the visibility they need. Often this isn’t because competitors are pushing them out, but because they haven’t taken the necessary steps to get their brand known online.

It can be done though — with a little digital intelligence, a dash of media spend and a big helping of creativity.

First of all, it’s crucial to get good search rankings on Google. To achieve this, you must ensure that your website is search engine optimised — for a top list of SEO tips, visit this post by Daniel Butler.

A quicker, but more expensive route to visibility is via Google’s Pay-Per-Click (PPC) programme. PPC allows you to appear alongside your chosen competitors, target your audience very effectively and refine your campaign as it continues. Effective PPC is an art form, but I would certainly recommend reading Ashley Fletcher’s thoughts on Google’s Website Optimiser.

There are other digital channels worth considering, but these are the two main ways of increasing your website’s visibility, driving traffic to it and achieving and optimum cost per sale.

5. Your Marketing Opportunities

The web has one advantage that’s not open to offline businesses – a real-time environment. People can access the web 24 hours per day, and there’s nothing to stop you adding new products to your site at midnight. The changes will be instantaneous and visible to your audiences.

Online marketing can also be very cheap when you consider what you get for your money. Here are a few areas of marketing that you should consider when launching an eCommerce business

Display Advertising – online display advertising allows you to promote your business with digital billboards (or banners as they’re more commonly known). This activity can be very successful, but it comes at a cost and is not the most viable option for most start-ups. There are alternatives that work in the same way – Google Contextual Advertising is the next best thing.

Email Marketing – Email marketing allows you to get your message(s) across to a substantial number of people, who can then read your content in their own time. This has amazing benefits but getting hold of a fresh and relevant mailing list can be difficult. If you create a sign-up service on your website, you can slowly start to create a mailing list — but this will require patience. You can buy mailing lists, but be prepared to pay handsomely. For more ideas, visit 6 top tips  to build a quality list for email marketing.

Social Media – Social media have created new ways of operating in the digital world. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have created an environment in which everyone has the opportunity to get their thoughts, multimedia and networking skills across to a mass audience. Businesses have jumped on board and it’s a channel that doesn’t appear to be fading in any way. Concentrate on the three major platforms, but take a very close look at Twitter in particular — it has become a huge and vibrant playground for advertisers and consumer audiences. To learn more about Twitter’s commercial opportunities, take a look at When Twitter becomes good business .

Affiliate MarketingAffiliate marketing has really taken off, becoming a highly profitable channel for eCommerce. Though it is not an appropriate channel for all online businesses, it certainly is one worth exploring. Launching an effective affiliate marketing campaign can be tricky so make sure you carry out sufficient research. Try our Top 10 tops for a successful affiliate marketing campaign.

6. Your Competitors

Competition is rife within the online world and, for every product or service you offer, the chances are that there are a further ten eCommerce businesses offering the same. You need to make sure your offer is much more appealing.

To do this, you need to keep an eye on your competitors and research the ways in which they engage with their audiences and customers.

However, defining your competition can be tricky as you have to take a number of factors into account. Start by examining which other companies appear alongside you in the search engine results. Create tables that separate SEO and PPC competitors. Find out who appears above and below you in the results.

Don’t worry too much about competing with the eCommerce giants, either. However, do investigate what they do and learn from them where possible. If you implement a regular monitoring programme for competitor product/service and activity, you will be better-prepared for any developments they introduce such as promotional offers, a new website or even fresh markets they may enter. All of these factors will be relevant to your overall success.

I’ve reached the end of my six steps to an effective eCommerce strategy. I hope you agree that eCommerce is about more than coming up with an idea, putting together a website and launching it. You need an underlying strategy to make sure your business is a success — and with the online world moving at such a pace, you could do a lot worse than speaking to a digital direct marketing agency and benefiting from their guidance and consultancy. If you think we can help you, please do contact us today.