You’ve come up with the perfect products. You have a tremendous brick-and-mortar storefront. Your customers are extremely loyal and have helped increase your exposure and brand awareness through solid word of mouth. And now, you’re ready to take your wares into the virtual world by launching your first e-commerce site.
Unfortunately, because of the intimidation presented by the big boys of e-tail—Amazon to name one— you’re feeling fairly intimidated and greatly overwhelmed. How can you compete against the giants of online selling? How can you grab a bit of the market and take your products to the masses? How can you step out of the shadow of the titans of Internet retail?
Here are some great tips on making your mark in the world of e-commerce.
Think Content Marketing
So much falls under the banner of “Content Marketing,” but mastering even the basics can make a huge impact on your bottom line. To begin, make sure your site has a blog component, and post great content on a regular basis. Doing so helps build authority in whatever product line you’re in and creates a definite sense of credibility. And be sure to blog with your readers—who are also your customers—in mind. Show them you have an important niche to fill and you can develop trust and a bond.
Also, be sure to provide links from your site to other sites that are relevant and have good resources to draw upon. And don’t be afraid to use lots of visuals—video, infographics etc.—to help tell the story of your products, as this is a great way to grow brand awareness.
Create Amazing Category Pages
Product and category pages for most retail sites follow the same basic design formula, so don’t be afraid to break out of the mold and try something daring and new. Add first-person testimonials to product listings and put your products in interesting layouts (rather than boring white-screen shots) that give them context. And consider having a “help” element to each product that can guide customers to pages that give more information on the applications of a particular product. For instance, someone browsing your site for, say, handcrafted pottery may not know what went into making a particular piece and why it’s so special. So give them a link to follow that shows why that piece of pottery isn’t like others that are similar: this may include showing them a back story on the creator or why the materials that went into it are rarer than those commonly used.
Also, be sure you use high-quality and wholly unique descriptions of your products. Dump the standard three-bullet-point listing and make the reader become vested in the merchandise. Don’t use the same verbiage as the manufacturer does or rely on generic descriptions, but rather create text that really speaks to the customer.
Involve Your Customers
Through allowing them to comment on your products or simply review them with a standard online form, getting user-generated content flowing is a great way to maintain and grow your customer base. Offer an incentive on their next order if they leave a comment, but make the process easy so as not to deter potential reviewers.
Think About Links
E-commerce specialists are continuously talking about the importance of links on your website. They help you get traffic and garner attention to your site and your products. The links should follow an intuitive train of thought, such as connecting readers to resources that relate to what you’re selling. Also, a great idea to is find an individual willing to review your products independently, and you can link to their site exclusively. A professional reviewer should have some known credentials in your product field, and you can offer them something free in return for their reviews. But keep your relationship with the reviewer professional: Google may detect that you’re “buying” links to increase traffic to your site, but not if you ask said reviewer not to follow other links on your site.
Find Your Niche
To really compete against the mega-retailers you need to distinguish yourself and what you’re selling. You can achieve this by selecting unique products and becoming the absolute expert authority on those products. Find something that a site such as Amazon doesn’t offer and push it in a big way. Another way to find your niche is to offer outstanding service in a way that Amazon cannot no matter how cheaply they ‘re able to sell a particular product. So be unequaled in customer service—although most people still buy on the basis of price alone, lots of them do not and see the value in spending a little more for outstanding attention to their needs, complaints, wishes etc.
Encouraging people to shop at their local farmer’s market rather than buying produce from a chain grocery store is a great example of speaking to a local customer base. So keep a “local first” element to your site and, if possible, consider even having a special product page that offers only things produced in your community. Amazon is too big to really leverage this idea, so you may find that the greatest numbers of conversions to sales are coming from your backyard or from clients who see the benefit to keeping money in the hands of the people who deserve it most.