Indeed there are many many stories of people who have made millions on the Internet and become fabulously wealthy by establishing online businesses. With billions of people surfing the Internet daily, surely one particularly attractive ‘type’ of Internet business is an online shop, right? Just look at the likes of etsy, Amazon and eBay.
Setting up an online shop is easy, with very little bars to entry. However, many online retailers are surprised at the dismal performance of their shops. This article shall attempt to address this.
Selling On The Internet
There are dramatic differences between selling online and in a physical shop. In an online shop, the shopper’s experience is limited to a computer screen. How can selling best be done through a computer screen?
Do you remember the old rule of business? The customer always comes first; she is always right. This is important even more in an online shop. It is so very easy for the shopper to click away at any time so you as the seller have to work hard to keep shoppers happy and interested – make it very easy to get any information that the shopper may need. And make the buying process as easy as possible – there’s no need (and little sense) to make people fill endless forms and register for anything.
Building an attractive physical shop is hard work. Similarly, building a good online shop takes careful planning and masterful execution. You have to make sure that the products and all information is displayed correctly as well as ensure all the back end operations work perfectly. No one wants to buy from a broken shop.
Remember that the shoppers are probably new to your website – they must learn to use your navigation and ordering system as they decide on whether to make a purchase. Sadly, these systems are often designed by tech. people who, quite honestly, don’t often put too much thought into the user experience. This is the number one reason why an online shop has low sales.
Finally, no one will purchase from your shop unless they completely trust you. Establishing trust and confidence in your site’s visitors is a complex affair but shops that function without glitches and with no typos or poor grammar are definitely ahead of the rest.
Search Engine Optimisation For Online Shops
So, you have an elegant shop. How do you attract shoppers? There are very, very, very many ways to do this. One of the most effective, however, is making it possible for people to find you when they search on Google or another search engine. The process of improving the chances of people finding your website through a search engine is called search engine optimisation (SEO).
How do search engines work? At a very basic level, search engines access your website and, in some way,decide on whether your website’s pages are more important than those of other websites. They then rank all web pages so that when people search for something, they see more useful/important pages ranking higher than others. SEO is about making your pages rank higher than others’ pages.
SEO is complex and can get very technical. However, in my experience, there are two major, Major things that you need to worry about. These are:
Search engines do not in fact see websites as a whole and thus do not see the whole online store. A search engine indexes individual web pages and each web page in a sense stands alone. If your online store web page includes only the information provided by the manufacturer, then your product page looks no different from similar web pages put up by other online stores for that product. The trick is to have unique content for each of your website’s pages.
For example, if you are selling Kiondos online, you will want to list each kiondo on its own page. You want people who search on Google for “Kiondo” to find you so you will put unique and descriptive content on your site that mentions the term “Kiondo” and describes your content.
It is important to realize that the search engine uses only the information content and picks up nothing from any images or Flash content on the web page. However, do not forget that the people who will buy from your store are not search engines but real people – do not SEO your page so much that it puts off human visitors.
One of the methods that search engines use to determine the importance of your website is the number and quality of websites which link to yours. It works a little like voting. If yahoo.com links to your website, search engines take it to mean that yahoo.com is saying “I vote for this site, it is useful”. So the more sites that link to you, the higher your site’s “importance”. Also, it maters if the sites that link to yours are virtually unknown or already popular/important. Links are very important in SEO and should strive to get as many as you can.
c. Things that can hurt you
Search engines try to index as many web pages of websites as they can. This is done by search engine spiders or robots that are continuously surfing the Internet to find whatever web pages they can. Unfortunately there are many ways an online store can create technical barriers that block or confuse these search engine spiders. Here are some of the more common ones: frames, session IDs, Dynamic URLs, Redirects, etc. Google publishes webmaster guidelines which will help you to avoid these.
Online Shop Internet Strategy
I know, I know, this article is not very encouraging. As I said earlier, the problem is that setting up an online shop is relatively easy and so you are bound to have strong competition. When competition is fierce, SEO often proves to be very difficult and running your business sometimes resembles trench-like warfare where you tussle and struggle with competing websites.
Many companies who believe they are selling good products spend a lot of their time and resources trumpeting the strong points and features of their products. Other companies, however, try to get into the mind of their potential customers and understand what they want. Often, such companies are more successful than those which are product-centric.
If the online shop believes it is only selling products, then the purchaser will choose based solely on the company’s product web page versus the competitors’ comparable product web pages. But what if you made your shop stand out? What if you provided more than just product pages and descriptions?
Once a potential customer is in the online shop, he or she can be encouraged to do a little exploration. If the online shop has something special about it, then the purchaser may in a sense ‘buy the shop’ before in turn buying a product from the shop. Equally a repeat buyer who has had a good first experience may well use their bookmark to return to the online store. Customers with good experiences are also more likely to refer their friends to come shop at your place.
SEO’s place is important in that it draws in potential customers to your shop. However, it is more important to make your shop stand out from the crowd.
A useful approach is to establish a brand for your shop. Your brand is something that your customers remember you with. The best brand is something that implies a promise to your customers of what benefits and experience the should expect. Another way of looking at it is establishing a unique selling proposition (USP). That is something that customers want but which is only available from your shop.
Once it is clear why customers should buy from you and not any other shop, then additional web pages can be created to demonstrate this USP further. Since the benefits of your USP is something that potential purchasers are looking for, the additional pages created should rank well in search engines and draw visitors to you. The Internet marketing strategy should thus be ensuring that more and more people are aware of the online shop and the associated USP.
The beauty of Internet marketing is that you can measure everything in great detail and decide what works and what doesn’t and your strategy can be adjusted to improve performance.
At Like Chapaa, we have been on the internet scene for years and we understand Internet marketing and how it works. If you want help with setting up or marketing your internet shop, we are available for hire.