Finding the Right E-Commerce Sales Strategy

In this online world, an informative, user-friendly website (and store) is more important than ever.

Let’s talk about e-commerce. These days, if at least a good portion of your sales strategy isn’t focused online, you may be dead in the water. That’s a fact.

The problem is that it’s a very crowded and noisy place already. To stand apart from the herd, you need a solid 

strategy that will give you the traction to compete. It may mean rethinking how you bring your ideas to market, or even the core list of customers you are trying to win over.

Here are some concepts that can help guide you when building your e-commerce plan.  

Find a Community

No, I don’t mean the neighborhood in which your shop is located. Those geographic borders used to be a primary 

way custom shops defined themselves, but they’re pretty meaningless today.

It’s much easier to go to market if you narrow down your prospect list a bit. Instead of trying to be all things to all people, what if you singled out a specific niche? What if your shop became the king of selling shirts and gear to German Shepherd owners, Civil War reenactors, scuba divers, or Cajun gumbo cooks?  

You are probably already in a community, but you haven’t really thought about it. What hobby or interest do you have that you are knowledgeable and passionate about – something for which you already know the lingo and esoteric humor involved?

That’s a community that you could build a chunk of business around. You may be able to take that passion and build an e-commerce product experience that will be unequaled.  

Create Content

After you have nailed your community idea, the next thing to do is create content that will be seen and enjoyed. Remember, the internet doesn’t exist without content. If you want your e-commerce sales strategy to take off, you need visitors to your site.  

One principle to keep in mind is called the “90-9-1” rule. It’s simple. Online, about 90 percent of the people you target will read or use content. Approximately nine percent of those people will also like, share, retweet, comment, or repost.  

But here’s the kicker: Only one percent of the people in the community create the content. If you want to have more of that select audience involved in your e-commerce sales platform, all you need to do is to create the content. That drives the engagement that you need for your potential customers to know, like, or trust you enough to buy something from you.

By content, I don’t mean a newsletter about your big sale. Nobody cares about that. And if you constantly run sales, you’ll only teach your customers to wait a bit for that discount. Focus on creating an interesting blog post: perhaps your grandmother’s gumbo recipe, a funny video, or photos that people can relate to.

You want to create subject matter that people in your 

targeted community will identify with – something they love and crave so much that they look for more. Inside of those posts is where you plug your merchandise. When it’s authentic and handled well, your effort will align with sales.

Your posts can be information driven, but they can also be goofy or funny – even geeky or a bit nerdy. Just be sure they’re on target with your brand message at all times.

Get Ranked

One of the biggest factors in a successful e-commerce strategy is a decent Google ranking. If your content is driving people to your site, it will boost your ranking with Google, driving still more traffic and selling opportunities.  

How do I know this? Well, it’s what I’ve been working on for years. If you Google “T-shirt shop consultant,” you’ll find that 50,400,000 search results come back. Of those, I’m the only actual T-shirt shop consultant on the first page. I’m not paying Google anything, so how did it happen? 

Through content. My focus is helping shops, and I’ve been blogging about it for years. I know this approach works because it has helped me to succeed. It can help you, too. All it takes is consistently providing content that Google sees as worthy in its ranking algorithm. 

One great tactic is constantly using keywords (the search terms a potential visitor might use to land on your site) and making sure that they are positioned at the beginning of your article. Try to write your first sentence with the keyword if you can. But while it’s crucial to use keywords effectively, you can’t just cram them into your posts. The usage has to make sense and be natural.

Another great tip is to use outbound links in your post, things that circle out to other relevant ideas that your topic covers. This tells Google that your topic is more relevant than similar posts, so it gives it a boost. Just make sure that the outbound links are authentic, high-quality references.

Next, try to use well-written metadescriptions – informative summaries that describe your pages. Metadescriptions (which must be under 155 characters) tell the reader, and Google, that the page is relevant and should be viewed. After your page title and URL, the metadescription is the most important part of your e-commerce search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. 

Speaking of page titles and URLs, be sure you name them correctly. While you might be tempted to get cute with the word choices, think about how a potential customer might type what they’re looking for in the search window. Will your titles and URLs show up in the most commonly searched topics where you want to rank?

Take a minute to reread all of the copy above this sentence. Notice how the keyword e-commerce is peppered throughout the paragraphs above. It’s an example of how you can deploy keywords throughout your piece and make it more relevant for searches while making the references natural and not forced.

Internal Linking

Whenever you post something, be sure to include links to other areas of your site. This internal linking strategy helps you control your bounce rate (percentage of visitors who leave the site after viewing only one page). And it keeps potential customers on your site longer, which can increase your e-commerce success. (Notice what I did there?)

I’ve found that two to four links work for a short post, while four to six are better for a longer one. People clicking around on your site is a good thing; make sure you give them the opportunity. Also, be sure to include some sort of call to action – subscribe to the newsletter, get on our mailing list, click here to buy, that type of thing. Make it obvious and easy for your customers to do what you want. 

Images

Part of your e-commerce sales strategy should address how you plan to use images. Remember, a picture is worth 1000 words. What do you want your pictures to say?

Take time to be sure the image composition looks perfect – that the colors are vivid, the details are sharp, and the image is enticing. Create photos that stand out from the noise of the internet while simultaneously looking like your brand – even when they don’t have your logo on them.

The right aesthetic can make or break the reaction you get from your potential audience. Don’t simply post anything: Curate it. Make it intriguing.

Also, make sure you include your target keyword in each image’s alt text. Many people leave this blank when they post something, but this is a searchable item and can bring more potential customers to your webpage. Optimizing your images gives you a Google search boost as well, so don’t skip this step.

Responsive Design

How does your site look on a cellphone? In today’s marketplace, this is a critical factor for boosting sales. I know it seems obvious, but I’ve looked up plenty of shop websites that still don’t work well on a smartphone.

Give a potential customer an excuse not to do business with you and they will use it. A webpage that doesn’t load properly on a smartphone is a big one. Responsive design means that the website resizes to fit the width of the device the site is displayed on. This isn’t programmed per device, since there are hundreds of different devices that could potentially pull up your website. Instead, a responsive site automatically adjusts to the device that is requesting to view it.

Want to see how your site looks on different devices? Use the Mobile Friendly Test Tool (search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly) from Google and check yours out. 

Putting It Together

While all the businesses in this industry are different, they share one common need – to make online marketing a big part of their sales strategy. It doesn’t matter what you are selling: Your potential customers are going online to find what they need, so getting them to your site is crucial to your success.

Remember, people buy from companies that they know, like, or trust. Your strategy must be fleshed out to build those qualities. SEO helps with the “know” part of that equation – it helps prospects find you. When your customers or potential customers share your story, it further broadens your reach. Are you giving them that opportunity?

“Like” is the next step. When visitors return to your site again and again, it is much easier to make a sale. Think about how you will get that to happen. You could use an outreach campaign through MailChimp or perhaps a newsletter. Assign the responsibility of increasing return visits on your site to someone on your team. Remember, if you have uttered the words “I’m too busy to work on my marketing,” there may be a good reason you aren’t hitting your sales goals.

Next comes “trust.” When the content you are providing or the aesthetics of the website convince customers that you can handle what they need, it builds the trust to buy from you. Use photos or videos in a portfolio section to show your craftsmanship and friendly staffers. Include customer testimonials to prove your awesomeness.

After all of that comes “buy.” It’s been proven in study after study that customers are around 75 percent ready to buy from a company that they know, like, and trust. They’ve already made up their minds. It’s the call to action that pushes them over the edge. Be sure your website has such a call to action that asks them for the sale. 

 

Read more Marshall Atkinson or from the August/September 2018 issue.

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