Developing a Successful Online Retail Business
For online retailers, there’s a plethora of digital marketing strategies to explore in the effort to attract and win the loyalty of consumers. Many such strategies are of course targeted towards specific business platforms. After all, what works for a virtual banking site won’t necessarily make sense for an online shoe store. At the same time, there’s no shortage of online business strategies that remain essentially universal, comprising simple elements sometimes overlooked by even the savviest of businespeople.
Given this post is geared more towards the digital layman than, say, Elon Musk, it’s possible the following suggestions will occasionally appear obvious to some of you, but you’d be surprised at how many entrepreneurs, especially those of a certain vintage [read: over 40], remain distressingly ill-informed about the wealth of opportunities a few simple online retailing tools/strategies can offer their respective business’. So let’s get started. First we’ll explore a few software necessities you’d be wise to take note of, and later conclude by introducing a few simple yet key marketing strategies crucial to any online business.
POS systems offer a valuable tool when it comes to saving time and money. The flexibility of payment options they offer enables customers to purchase goods and/or services whenever it’s most convenient for them. The ideal POS system will take care of all your returns and refunds, while simultaneously tracking customer payments, transactions, and inventory. Another noteworthy benefit of employing POS technologies is that they afford round-the-clock access to Internet software and data, This way you’re able to run reports and manage loyalty programs whenever it suits your schedule. Many vendors also include bookkeeping systems as part of their POS packages, which will in turn help streamline your operation, freeing up time and energy you can use to focus on other business-building methodologies.
Another simple, yet vital, resource you’ll likely want to consider is shopping cart software. These days you probably won’t need to shop around weighing the pros and cons of the various software available, as most web hosting platforms include some version of shopping cart software enabling customers to do their virtual shopping at their convenience. Customers can add or remove products from their cart, change quantities, and even log out and return to your site whenever it best suits them, knowing they only need to login again to pick up where they left off. This is a huge benefit consumers could never expect from a physical store.
Most recent shopping cart software also includes features such as security functions, links to reviews and coupons, or more detailed product descriptions. Not just handy for consumers, these bonus features also provide retailers with built-in ways to better market their products. The integration of shopping carts and mobile POS apps is beneficial for both customers and retailers.
Online fax services
One advantageous advertising methodology that tends to get overlooked in the digital age are fax services. The ability to send online faxes from websites or email accounts means no more fax machines, paper, toner, or maintenance costs for your office. With nothing more than a mobile phone, you can fax documents saved on a cloud, or receive them, even when you’re out of the office. Better, with some online cloud and fax services, you even have the opportunity to choose your own local or toll-free fax number.
In some respects fax marketing is fairly similar to email marketing, in that an online cloud/fax service can transmit to an essentially unlimited number of customers via one simple interface. The content of these faxes could contain special coupons, sales events, or unique promotions unavailable to other shoppers, further helping you build a mailing list of loyal customers. It’s a relatively inexpensive and novel tool well worth investigating.
Define your target audience
As with traditional, brick and mortar retail businesses, any well run E-commerce operation will direct its promotions towards those most likely to be interested in the product or service they’re selling. For example, if you’re running an online dating service geared towards Millennials, you’re wasting time and money pursuing blanket advertising campaigns that reach out to seniors as much they do your target audience. So it’s wise to first identify your target audience as best you can, and then develop marketing strategies with them in mind. Unlike not so long ago when traditional media was the only game in town, Facebook, social media and other, similar platforms enable you to target your most receptive demographic like never before.
Content: It’s got to be good
Having a site that’s not only visually pleasing but free of spelling mistakes and poor writing is absolutely essential. There’s no better way to have your operation come off as amateur – or worse, potentially disreputable – than to leave it rife with [totally avoidable] spelling mistakes and/or poor grammar. There’s simply no excuse for it. It makes you look cheap, like you can’t afford a professional writer or don’t care enough about your product or customers to warrant the extra bit of effort/expense hiring a professional entails. Given the excellent chance your website is the one and only thing identifying you to potential customers, if you can’t even be bothered to get the writing down with no errors, well, what does that say to about the actual product or service itself? The text on your site needn’t be on par with Shakespeare, but it’s also not where you want to cut corners. Pretty simple advice, but you might surprised by how many thoroughly capable, intelligent people, tend to overlook it – albeit at their own, and their financial backers, peril.
Search engines, spelling, and security
Remember, it’s not only consumers judging your site, but search engines, crucially important entities that obviously play a huge role in bestowing not only the visibility of your business to the greater world, but it’s credibility as well. Ideally, the content of your site should reflect your brand in tone and style, and if only for the sake of trustworthiness and general credibility, you might want to consider including your business’ mission statement, services and policies somewhere in there too.
A poorly written and/or designed site could easily inhibit a potential customers willingness to place an order with you strictly out of security concerns. After all, how keen would you be to surrender your credit card information to some online business that can’t even get it’s spelling right? If a business can’t do that much, the discerning customer might also start questioning just how much attention said company pays to securing their customers personal information, let alone how well protected their site is from web-hosting vulnerabilities such as the HeartBleed bug that caused so much grief a few years back. Because when unsure, it’s all too easy for a potential customer to just go back to Google and do business with your competition instead.