This guest article comes to us from our friends at Volusion
Setting your store up for success in 2019 will take a great deal of careful decision making, which should always be based on reliable information. These days, the internet provides all the information you need to know about what your customers want and need, what your competition is capable of, and the common obstacles online merchants face every day.
Use websites like Ahrefs, Search Engine Land, and Spyfu to read about the newest trends and uncover insights about your competition (as well as your own website) that you wouldn’t be able to find otherwise. Whether you’re just launching a new store or you’ve been around the block a few times, it’s a good idea to stay up to date on your competitors and all the newest trends in online marketing.
Let’s talk a little bit about marketing…
The term ‘marketing’ is sometimes used in place of what is actually just advertising. I’m clearly guilty of this, as well. However, when I think of marketing, I harken back to my college days (Hook’em Horns!) to the many professors who drilled into our heads The Four P’s of Marketing: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. So, while we’re here, let’s take a look at these four pillars of marketing.
Even if you feel comfortable with your product selections, we live in a fast pace world where trends come and go at 4G speeds (some trends try to claim 5G speeds, but we know better). It comes down to a simple question: Are people currently interested in what you’re selling? Stay on top of product upgrades and don’t feel obligated to stick with a product set or category just because you’ve spent a lot of time working with it. Be aggressive with your product selections and don’t be afraid to get rid of products or be first to offer new products. I would never suggest that you ‘move fast and break things,’ that would be silly…but you may want to move fast and break a few things!
There is very little loyalty when it comes to online shoppers. If they can buy something a little bit cheaper elsewhere, they most likely will. Frequently check your competition’s pricing and try to remain as competitive as you can. You’ll want to check individual competitors as well as Amazon, eBay, and other large online retailers which can be difficult to undersell. It’s understandable that your margins may already be razor thin, so you’ll need to do your best to work out prices that you can afford while making sure to provide the very best experience for each and every customer.
Volusion takes care of this one for you with simple drag-and-drop functionality to create custom designs with images and text to give your store a clean, welcoming look. When adding elements, only use high-resolution images and make sure all text and product images have the same format, style, and quality across the entire site. If your website has not been updated to a responsive template (mobile-friendly), you must now upgrade to stay in the good graces of Google. Considering more and more people are using their smartphones for online shopping, Google is now giving preference to websites that are on responsive, mobile-friendly platforms.
Not to worry – Volusion has plenty of free and affordable website templates you can use to give your website a new, mobile-friendly look and feel that fulfills this new requirement by Google and other search engines.
Promoting your business can be an all-consuming endeavor, and you have to be realistic about what lies ahead. One common problem merchants have here is that this is where they hit the brakes when they should be hitting the gas! You may be able to take advantage of built-in SEO features to fully optimize your website for search engines on your own (Volusion has these available, as well as SEO Specialists (including yours truly) who can help with all aspects of promoting your business). To compete, you’ll need to be firing on all cylinders.
Hard Fact Time: If your competition is doing it, you should be too, only better.
You don’t have to advertise everywhere, but you do have to get in front of the customers and fans you want interested in and talking about your brand. Use social media to tell the personal story of your brand and regularly interact with others to create a sense of community. Social media platforms give preferential treatment and placement to those accounts with the most activity and positive interactions. So, what may feel like playing around is actually helping your social profile gain authority. Keep it up!
A few other things to think about…
Visitors to your store will need to face as few barriers to conversion as possible. One way to make things easier for them is by activating all the payment methods your customers could possibly be using. Whether by credit card, PayPal, Cybercash, or one of many other payment options, the easier it is for them to navigate the purchasing process, the more likely they are to follow through.
Did you know: 69.89% of people abandon online shopping carts, and 6% of those specifically said they abandoned because there weren’t enough payment options.
Soliciting and managing reviews is an important and relatively new avenue for advertising your products. These are user-generated promotional devices that carry a ton of weight. Reward positive reviewers with shoutouts on social media and other tokens of appreciation while addressing negative reviews politely and positively.
Negative reviews don’t have to be a bad thing; they offer merchants an opportunity to show their dedication to customer satisfaction and that the defect/s in the product can be remedied immediately. Check out this post I recently wrote to learn How to Obtain & Manage Reviews for E-commerce.
Running a business is expensive. If you want to keep up with your competition, you’ll need to be willing to have a designated advertising budget using multiple platforms, including social media. The truth is, for businesses, social media is a paid advertising platform, and you’re going to have to pay to play. Lucky for you, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and others have exceptional audience segmenting capabilities to ensure your ads get in front of the right crowd. Do your research before diving into online paid advertising as you can quickly find yourself overwhelmed or you may not exactly understand how to target ads properly.
PPC (Pay-per-Click) advertising through Google AdWords is a versatile tool you can use to get in front of a wide range of customers viewing search engine result pages, other websites, gaming platforms, and much more.
You know how you keep seeing that ad for that thing you want from that site you visited but aren’t ready to commit to buying yet? Give it time. Those are remarketing ads, and they provide higher conversion rates than other types of ads, so you’ll definitely keep seeing them.
If you’re going to be aggressively showing your brand to potential customers, you’ll want to take the time to create thoughtful, eye-catching ads they won’t mind repeatedly running across. To accomplish this, I feel that every advertisement should have at least these three elements:
- Informative – convey your products’ value quickly
- Entertaining – make them laugh, cry, gasp, or say ‘wow!’
- Persuasive – change their minds/convince them to act
If you can put potential customers at ease, instill a genuine sense of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), or give them something to believe in, your brand will become inextricably linked to those feelings. You’ll have the best chance of encapsulating those experiences with high-quality images and engaging content. Style and humor will go a long way towards helping you sneak into the psyche of your customer base.
Paid advertising is a great way to supplement your SEO and blogging efforts, but should be developed into a cohesive plan that builds on your most relevant content and most important products. Category and product landing pages should be fully optimized with built out Meta Tag Titles, H1 tags, unique and informative on-page content, and high-definition images before they are used for paid advertising. Since you are paying for this traffic, they should be seeing the very best of what your website has to offer.
Many of you are running brick-and-mortar stores while simultaneously managing your store or working full-time jobs while managing your store in the evenings and on weekends. This can be exhausting, and you may feel as if you’re spinning your wheels. Remember, your progress will have peaks and valleys. Try to think about jogging a marathon instead of running quick sprints – pace yourself to avoid fatigue and frustration. You don’t have to get everything done right now and give yourself credit for how far you’ve come. Yes, it feels like a constant uphill battle. But, it’s one you’re going to win!
In all actuality, setting your store up for success is a process without an end. There’s always room for improvement, and new obstacles will surely arise as time goes on. Taking the extra time and effort to optimize your website with informative content and slick images is a great start and supplementing it with blogging and creative social media content will allow you to shape the story of your brand in the best light possible. Paid advertising is a fantastic way to gain traction while you create relevant and targeted content for search engines to index and your customers to enjoy. Make sure you’re cautious, diligent, thoughtful, and patient. 2019 is your year and Volusion is here to help!
Guest Author: Mike Welford has spent the last two years working with the Volusion Marketing Team hosting webinars and writing blogs. When not at Volusion, he enjoys playing music and spending time with his family.