By Rieva Lesonsky
This holiday season online sales are projected to reach 16 percent of the $586 billion total spend according to National Retail Federation forecasts. Are you hoping to get your share of the ecommerce pie? You can’t just throw your business online and hope someone will happen upon your site. Selling online takes strategy and insight into what brings shoppers to your website and what makes them buy.
If you’re just starting your business, be sure online sales are part of your business plan, so lenders will be sure to pay attention to if you decide to apply for a small business loan. Luckily, online marketing efforts won’t take too much of your working capital. So how will you boost your ecommerce sales?
Know your SEO: Go to your favorite search engine and type your business name (or the name of one of your products) and see what happens. How far is your business from the top of the search results? If you aren’t making efforts to improve your SEO (search engine optimization), you’re not going to see the results you hope for. Hire an SEO expert or make an appointment with a local SCORE office or SBDC counselor to learn how to improve your SEO. To see what people search on most, and for help with your SEO keywords, check out Google AdWords and Google Trends.
Looks count: You wouldn’t ignore your store’s image, so you shouldn’t ignore your website’s either. An organized shopping experience, sharp pictures and detailed descriptions will make shoppers more inclined to complete their purchases.
Promote, promote, promote: Just getting the customer to visit your site takes a vigilant marketing strategy that includes regular email marketing blasts, getting listed on shopping comparison sites and promoting your site social media. Sites such as Bizrate.com and Google Shopping get significant click-through rates; don’t forget to develop a Twitter following and Facebook fan base.
Incentivize: Offer coupons and free shipping for purchases over a certain amount and make sure you’re offering a better deal than your competitors. At the very least, offer the same deal or you can kiss consumers’ purchases bye-bye.
Bring them back: Don’t let a customer go without figuring out how you’re going to bring them back. Once you know what they’ve purchased, it’s easy to send targeted emails suggesting related products. Ask customers for feedback on their experiences, so you can make improvements to your site. Also, make it easy for your customers to ask you questions on a product by providing a toll-free number and email address for customer service. Finally, use email and social media to encourage customers to tell friends about your site.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports