Success online starts by understanding this new business medium and what customers want on the Web. It is the first step to creating the right strategy and determining the best goals and objectives. Your customers can also point you as to when you should start looking to change direction.
Here are 5 e-marketing ideas for building customers online:
Understand what the Web can do for you.
The Web has shown that it is a powerful business channel, providing new avenues and opportunities to entrepreneurs. However, different businesses have different uses for the Web and your first goal is to understand what it can do for your business.
You can set up a purely Internet business, with no physical presence save for a web site and market to the global community. Whether you are providing content and information or selling products, a Web site can allow you to reach customers beyond the limitations of your geographical presence.
You can also choose not to sell online, but use the Web to drive offline sales. Your Web site is merely an online brochure containing pertinent information about your products and services. This strategy is useful for businesses with geographic limitations (e.g. a landscaping business based in Baltimore, Maryland may not be physically able to service clients located in Arizona)
You can also choose to diversify your sales channel: by selling through your own Web site, your offline store, or through an online auction. The key is to analyze the pros and cons of each strategy and proceed with the best option for your business.
Give them useful information.
The Web has become an all-important source of information to users. People use the Web to find the information they need, whether shopping for books, looking for directions, or reading about a particular ailment.
The key is to give your users the best possible information you can provide. If you are publishing an e-newsletter on online marketing, make it the best that they will ever read. If you are selling maternity clothes, provide clear pictures and detailed product information. Visitors also appreciate information comparing your product with your competitors (that is, if you think your product is better than the others out there).
Even if you are selling information products such as books or e-books, take heed that many users on the Web are looking for information first. Instead of a full-on sales pitch, a short article or excerpt of your information product can make visitors stick around longer. Those looking for information but see nothing but a sales pitch are likely to hit the back button to look for information elsewhere without even considering that your information product may be what they need. However, if you add more content (e.g. a short article or excerpt), visitors will tend to stick around your site longer which can increase the chance of them purchasing your product.
Harness the familiar.
Many people are averse to the unknown. Instead, they thrive on the familiar. While the Web is different from actual shopping, there are a number of ways that you can make the experience less scary for your users. Sometimes, you have to do a little handholding to your customers to guide them through your process and make their online experience with your site as painless and easy as possible.
If you are selling products online, your major challenge will be to show the products well on the computer screen without the physical object. As such, you need good, and yes, big or detailed, pictures along with clear information about the product. Many returns and exchanges over goods purchased online occur because customers expectations are different from the actual product. They may have thought the color is lighter or darker than shown on the computer screen, or the size may not have been clear to them. Pictures are particularly tough, given the different computer screen resolutions of the customers. Plus, pictures may sometimes not be able to capture the quality of the product, such as the iridescence of a silk wall hanging that you are selling. Study how your favorite e-commerce sites present their products and emulate them on your site. Remember that creativity is key.
Another good idea is to use live help that visitors can easily use for assistance with products, ordering, returns and exchanges, or any problems with your website. Think of live help as a reception desk or information booth in a brick and mortar store. Benefits from proper implementation of live help often include increase sales and order size, opportunity to up-sell and cross-sell merchandise, and improve overall customer satisfaction.
Listen to the voice of the customer.
If you are selling online, your success hinges on how well you understand the customer. Why is the customer shopping online? Convenience and price, as well as merchandise assortment, customer service, trust and execution are the main reasons often given by online shoppers. Are you giving these things to your customers?
Understanding the customer also entails understanding the concerns that prevents them from shopping in our site. More than anything else, shoppers are deterred by the shipping prices online. How are your customers reacting to your shipping fees? Are you using shipping as a profit center in your e-commerce store? If you are, note that changing this practice can go a long way toward pleasing the customer.
Take time to listen to your customers. Given the nature of the online business that prevents personal interaction and contact between the business owner and the customer, use available online tools to get their opinion. Run a short survey asking customers what they think of your site, what do they want to see, and ask them for their suggestions on how you can improve your product offering, presentation, layout, navigation, and other critical elements.
Respect their privacy.
Recommended Books on Building Customers Online:
- Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media, and Content Marketing
- The Ultimate Online Customer Service Guide: How to Connect with your Customers to Sell More!
- Guerrilla Social Media Marketing: 100+ Weapons to Grow Your Online Influence, Attract Customers, and Drive Profits
- The Stranger’s Long Neck: How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want Online
- The New Rules of Marketing & PR: How to Use Social Media, Online Video, Mobile Applications, Blogs, News Releases, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly