Improving your Customers’ Shopping experience (2): Promote Your Online Presence
A few days ago, we published the first part of this series, where we examined the purchase funnel of a typical e-commerce business. Associated with the purchase funnel and with each of its 3 main stages we found a number of key actions which can be applied to improve our customers’ shopping experience, and today we will analyse the first one: promoting online presence.
In order to promote our e-commerce business’s online presence, we have a large number of tools that are widely used in online marketing, and which we will discuss following a certain logical timeline.
The importance of the URL
For a physical store, its address and location constitute a key factor for success. A store on the Gran Vía, the main street of Madrid, is infinitely more visible than a store in an alleyway in a hard-to-access area with not much pedestrian traffic. Even though some physical stores in bad locations have been successful, having a good location makes things easier for the store from the start. The same principle applies to online store. An overlong, hard to spell URL, with dashes or many “odd” symbols will be hard to remember by our customers, and so you will damage recurrent sales. When you choose the URL for our online store, you must take into account some important factors:
- The URL should match the name of your brand, and, if possible, it should be related to what you sell in your online store. There are many different cases in this respect. For example, there are stores like Mumumio, which has a rather non-evocative name, but it’s short and easy to remember; there are online takeaway websites like SinDelantal, which has a name that is closely linked to the purpose of the website (“Sin Delantal” means “No Apron” in Spanish), or Aceros de Hispania (“Hispania Steel”), which has a name and URL that are fully meaningful given their main product line. Even though finding a domain name is an increasingly difficult task, there are still plenty of opportunities, either through domains associated with specific niches which have not been exploited yet, or else because the domains are for sale. For example, not long ago, the Interactiv4 team launched Vinoteca.es, a website for the sale of wine in Spain, which has the perfect URL for the kind of product it sells.
- If you can, buy different types of domain for your store, as users often remember the name of the domain but not whether it ends in .com, .es, .ly, etc. Try to take this into account when you choose your domain, trying to find a domain name that is available at least for .com and .es (or the specific domain for your country). This will ensure to a certain extent that users will be able to access your store even if they don’t remember whether it ends in .com, .es, .com.ar, etc. It will also provide a certain degree of protection against freeloaders who try to book the domains which you have left free, taking advantage of your brand positioning.
- This last recommendation is rather optional, and applies mainly to stores with a strong brand value. If you can afford it, it is also advisable to buy domains that are similar to yours but which have typical spelling mistakes or typos. For example, a user may try to access Wal-Mart.com instead of Walmart.com or gogle.es instead of google.es.
As we said before, your store URL will be almost like the location of a physical store, so if you want your customers to be able to find you again, promote your store URL both online and offline. If you distribute leaflets, send ads, etc., always include your URL, and make it very easy for your customers to remember it when they need to buy something that you can provide.
Generate original, quality contents
You have chosen a perfect URL for our store, found a hosting service, and set up a technology platform. Now what? The next step is generating original, quality content. How can this help you to promote your store’s online presence? It’s very simple: if you just copy the descriptions of products in other stores, distributors’ catalogues, or use the same pictures as your competitors in the product data sheets, you won’t be any different from your competitors, you won’t provide added value to users, and you won’t provide added value to search engines (which, as we will see in the SEO part, are still a very significant part of the online marketing strategy). Why would Google give you a better positioning for a specific keyword than to the other 1,000 stores which used the same text that contains that keyword before yours?
Think about content as a differentiating element. For example, in Aceros de Hispania, many of the product descriptions, especially swords that are copies of the swords of historical or fictional characters, include those characters’ life and story. This provides added value to users, and it also allows Aceros de Hispania to be adequately positioned in search engines, in such a way that if they broadcast the film Braveheart on TV and people start googling “William Wallace”, they can easily reach their store and buy a reproduction of the Scottish hero’s sword.
But don’t think only about text. Think about providing larger images that show smaller product details; think about videos for those products that provide a value that is not only aesthetic. Or think also that you needn’t generate contents by yourself: why not allow and encourage your users to share pictures and videos of the products they buy? In this way, new users who arrive at your web can see the products from another point of view and decide to buy them instead of seeking other alternatives.
SEO remains key
Although we have already mentioned SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) in passing, there are many aspects related to SEO that go beyond the generation of quality products. Even though we could write endless posts about SEO, we will summarise some of the key aspects which you must take into account so you can have good search engine positioning:
- Make sure that you use the meta tags (meta information about your website) correctly. Meta tags should be different in every page of your online store (at least in most of them).
- Include a sitemap for your website, so that search engines are able to better analyse your website and can follow all the links in it.
- It is very important that your store URLs are SEO-friendly, that is, that they aren’t your store domain followed by “?product_id=12″, but contain relevant information about each page. A good URL for a page might be http://www.yourstore.com/videogame/little-big-planet, where “videogame” is the product category and “little-big-planet” the title of the videogame.
- Get links to your store from other websites, particularly other relevant websites in your target sector. For example, if you start a videogame store, get videogame blogs and media to link to you; or, if you send organic food, find bloggers who are passionate about the organic food movement so that they positively mention your shop and you.
- Continually analyse the operation of your store, finding which keywords are used by users, the most frequent landing pages, etc.
If you can afford it, advertise
Advertising in other websites or search engines is important, although it is highly dependent on what you can afford. If you are determined to set up an online store, it would be advisable to spend part of the initial budget in advertising in other websites to capture customers. To advertise we can use banners or other advertising items in content webs and blogs in your target sector, as well as in SEM campaigns so that your advertisements appear associated to the results of search engines like Google, However, advertising is a vast area and we won’t go into it in depth in this post.
Go find your users: social networks
Internet has been a social reality for a long time now. All our users are in social networks, of that I’m absolutely sure. What you must explore and know is what social network your target audience is in. For example, for us LinkedIn is more “profitable”, because the target audience of BrainSINS are companies and professionals, whereas the target audience of an online store will possibly be in Facebook and Twitter. However, explore the entire social network landscape, as there are many niche social networks, such as Nosplay, a videogame social network where we can better capture customers in this market, or Vivo, a social network for music lovers, where users can access information about many concerts.
In social networks like Facebook you have the option of going much farther, as they allow you to install apps that can provide added value to your users, or even integrate an online store, thanks to services like Beetailer. You must study and evaluate all Social Media options and have at least a “light” presence with a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a profile in any vertical social networks that are of interest to us. However, if you also have a Facebook store or socialise your online store allowing users to have greater interaction with each other and with their friends in relation to your store, you can only win and improve.
Attract more customers through email campaigns
Email marketing campaigns are, according to Forrester and many others, one of the best forms of online marketing, and better ROI, easy to calculate and precise. Moreover, you can use email in different ways:
- To obtain customer loyalty, sending our customers product recommendations based on their interests, as well as news that can be of interest to them.
- To increase your conversion rate by sending emails to users who leave an “abandoned cart”, as well as to make it easy for them to complete their purchase.
- To attract new users through more general email campaigns.
We have already discussed email marketing in depth in this blog, so if you are interested in this topic, you can find out more by reading our previous entries on email campaigns.