As an owner of an e-commerce store, you are probably already aware of the importance of using a variety of social channels and other platforms for growing your business. Although getting your website on the air and establishing a presence on social media present the first steps to creating a successful business in an increasingly competitive marketplace, there’s still a lot more to do.
The good news is that digital marketing has evolved enormously in recent years, and there are now more ways than ever before to tap into new markets. Experts estimate that there will be around 1.3 billion online shoppers globally in 2016, but you’ll still need to take the right steps to ensure you can reach your target audience. The following five steps will help you to grow your e-commerce business by raising awareness and encouraging return business:
Building Trust and Loyalty
Given the fact that people are increasingly likely to seek out reviews before making a purchase from a new store for the first time, it is imperative that modern businesses be transparent in their marketing efforts. Building brand trust and customer loyalty rely on clear communication, impeccable customer service and a consistently influential presence in the world of social media. However, you’ll also need to take some extra steps to ensure your branding is consistent not only on your website but also on any other online platforms you use. After all, people will come to recognize you by everything from the colors and typefaces you use to your brand logo and distinct voice.
Having a professional website is important, as is paying close attention to detail. Things like spelling and grammar mistakes or glitchy design components will only erode people’s confidence in your brand. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the UK-based Global marketing Alliance in 2013, as many as 59% of British shoppers said they avoided e-commerce stores because of spelling mistakes and poor grammar.
If your website is lacking in the professionalism it needs for your brand to maintain its credibility, your bounce rate will skyrocket. By contrast, a great website that enhances the user experience will greatly increase your chances of success. You should regularly check your website to see if it’s due for a tune-up. Following are the most important things to look out for:
- Slow-loading pages, typically due to poorly optimized graphics or simply a bad hosting company can quickly spell the death of a website.
- Broken links and other problematic on-page elements spell frustration for your visitors, and they’ll quickly end up looking elsewhere.
- If your website doesn’t also offer an excellent user experience on the small screen, the majority of mobile users will leave quickly.
- Security is one of the most important concerns for any website, such as an e-commerce store, that handles personal or financial details.
You can further enhance the credibility of your website by applying for some widely recognized trust seals. As consumers become increasingly wary of exchanging their financial or personal details online, they’re more likely to shop at websites which display instantly recognizable trust seals that reinforce security, privacy, and honesty. Even more importantly, you should always openly display correct and up-to-date contact information for your business and have an excellent about page that reinforces your brand’s commitment to its customers.
Optimizing for Search
Search engine optimization (SEO) remains an important area of digital marketing, not least because most Internet traffic still originates from Google or Bing. Online shoppers often turn to the search engines to find products they’re interested in, so to stand out from the competition, you’ll need to make sure your website appears in the first few results. Few people ever look beyond the first page of the results, hence the necessity to take a few extra steps to enhance your visibility.
Most importantly, the purpose of your website should be clear to both the search engine crawlers and your users. Relevancy is the most important factor of all when it comes to getting in the search results, so don’t even think of trying to target keywords and phrases that are not completely relevant to your target audience. Concise headings, title tags, and meta descriptions are of particular importance since they are among the first things people will experience before even visiting your website. URLs should also be easy to understand, while images should be put into context using clear alt text to describe them.
A regularly updated website with consistent contact information and a clear, user-friendly design featuring excellent content will make a major difference in the longer term. It can take up to a year to achieve substantial results from your SEO efforts so you will need to be patient and persistent.
Another increasingly important factor in SEO is to optimize for mobile search results. In 2015, a major Google algorithm update greatly improved the rankings of websites the search engine deemed mobile-friendly. If you conduct a search using a smartphone, you’ll see that Google now prioritizes mobile-friendly websites in these search results, although searches carried out using desktop computers are not affected. Additionally, you will lose many potential customers if your website doesn’t offer an excellent experience on the small screen. Be sure to test everything thoroughly on multiple platforms to reduce shopping cart abandonment rates.
Improve the Customer Checkout Experience
People shop online for convenience more than anything else, so it is important to make the process and quick and straightforward as possible. If there are any distractions or obstacles along the way, you’ll find people abandoning their shopping carts in droves. Studies even suggest that around a quarter of consumers abandon their shopping carts if they are forced to create accounts, so it’s also important to allow your visitors to make purchases as a guest.
Another common reason for shopping cart abandonment is a lack of payment options. Consumers are increasingly wary about giving away their financial details online, and most would rather stick to the payment platforms and methods that they’re used to. You should support all of the major credit card brands as well. For example, many businesses won’t accept American Express due to higher fees, but it’s simply not worth missing out on a sale. Another important payment system to use is PayPal since it provides the quickest and easiest form of online payment of all for anyone with an account.
Similarly, offering plenty of shipping options will also help to decrease your shopping cart abandonment rates. More and more companies are also offering a free shipping option for those on tighter budgets, and you should consider doing the same.
Never add any unnecessary steps to the checkout process, since they may turn customers away by distracting them. For example, things like surveys and newsletter signups will often annoy your customers, so it’s best to leave them as optional extras on the checkout confirmation page. You should never try to force your users to take any course of action other than making a purchase. Finally, make sure you thoroughly test the checkout process to iron out any distractions and frustrations.
Invest in Remarketing Efforts
Remarketing is an increasingly important discipline in the world of digital marketing since it helps you to regain the attention of consumers who have previously browsed your website or made a purchase. In other words, remarketing serves to keep people aware of your business and its products and services. More businesses are investing in remarketing as a separate area entirely, with most of them intending to increase their spending on it.
Most remarketing involves displaying targeted ads on other websites. This method allows consumers to see ads showcasing products that they’ve looked at on your website before, but without making a purchase. Other ads might display products related to those your customers have previously purchased. Your remarketing efforts can make use of all of the major online platforms, including search engines, social media websites and email marketing. To ensure customers get to see the most relevant ads, consider integrating a wish-list feature on your website, and don’t let them forget or lose interest in products they’ve viewed before.
While remarketing involves careful targeting and the creation of multiple, unique ads, it is important not to become intrusive or annoying. For a start, make sure your remarketing strategy doesn’t involve showing people ads for products they’ve already purchased and don’t have your ads displayed too frequently, particularly on irrelevant websites. Fortunately, most remarketing platforms provide a wide range of features allowing you to target your efforts to a more relevant audience.
Before you start remarketing to your potential and existing customers, you’ll need to establish your retargeting audience. This process involves setting up retargeting cookies on your website and creating custom audiences using platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google AdWords.
The beauty of e-commerce is that the whole world can be your target audience, but it’s not always easy to start finding customers overseas. It’s easy to try to do too much, only to invest a great deal of money marketing your business to audiences that aren’t likely to be interested. When it comes to global e-commerce, it’s a good idea to start small and take it one step at a time. After all, different countries have different laws and customs, and you’ll need to pay close attention to these if you want to have any hope of appealing to their populations. In fact, it’s wise to take a unique and dedicated approach to each geographical region you want to target since there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for international e-commerce.
Taking your business beyond your borders requires careful planning and preparation. For example, in Europe, the vast majority of consumers prefer to purchase from a website in their own language. In other words, if you want to target foreign-language markets, you’ll need to have your website professionally translated. You can forget about integrating a machine translator if you want to have any hope of success.
Overseas consumers may also prefer different payment methods, and while credit cards are almost universally popular, there are other payment platforms that are specific to certain countries or wider geographical regions. Not every country uses PayPal, for example.
Before you can hope to target a global audience, you’ll need to make sure your website offers an excellent experience for its local and existing customers. Only then should you consider expanding, and it’s best to start small by targeting one country at a time. You might want to consider creating a localized website complete with a country-level domain, a professional translation (if required), prices in the local currency and customized payment and shipping options.
Growing your e-commerce business can seem incredibly challenging considering there’s so much competition in the digital world. For this reason, it is important to start small by finding your niche and defining an audience. Only with a unique approach and a distinct branding will you then be ready to capitalize on new opportunities both at home and abroad.