25 May 2024, 11:21
By Suzi Grala Apr 22, 2013

The possibilities of internet marketing

Do online shoppers know you exist? Generating customer awareness is one of the biggest challenges facing any retailer. You might be the new kid on the block or an established brand, but there’s one perpetual issue retailers all have in common – actively finding and encouraging new customers to buy, including via the internet route. Suzi Grala at Breeze Digital offers some advice …

Since the advent of the internet, consumers have the opportunity to spend whenever it suits them. According to Clare Rayner, respected UK retail consultant: “Internet sales tend to increase on Sundays and in the evenings, when shops are shut.” So are you, the retailer – no matter how large or small – making the most of the biggest shop window available?

According to information taken from internetworldstats.com, Europe’s growth in internet usage was 376.4% between 2000 and 2011, with the latest number of users recorded at 31st Descember 2011 totalling a whopping 500,723,686. Of course, you may not want to reach even 10% of this number of people – but the point is you have the chance to be on an equal footing with your competitors if you invest in a well-planned website coupled with a sensible online marketing plan.

Purchasing products or services online is a different experience for both customer and retailer – and the challenge for retailers is knowing how to give the same high quality customer service via a website as is offered in store. So, what are the essentials when it comes to investing in a website that aims to ensure a good customer retail experience?

“Getting things right from the start will help avoid costly mistakes, or facilitate ease of making changes or additions to your website later on, if required”

When trawling the internet it’s amazing how many websites have been designed without the customer or quality in mind. It seems that an awful lot of time and money can be wasted on websites that just don’t work hard enough for their owners, or cannot be found by internet users, ranking way down in the natural rankings on search engines such as Google, Yahoo or Bing.

Firstly, how do you know you are getting a professional website? Technology is difficult to grasp and you may not know what sort of questions to ask. One place to start could be to take a look around and take note of some of the websites you like – and importantly, the reasons you like them. You may like the graphics or images, and there may be features that you find desirable or deem essential for your own website.

Ask yourself what you’re going to need in order to deliver your services effectively. Will you require a content management system (CMS) to enable you to make updates to the website yourself, or a shopping cart, or perhaps a customer relationship management (CRM) system? Taking a look around before approaching a web designer can help you get a feel for what you might need before you commission a website.

Bear in mind that choosing a cheap or free product may cost you more in the long run. It’s worth taking the time to carry out some research before committing to a new website because, as with most things, you get what you pay for. Getting things right from the start will help avoid costly mistakes, or facilitate ease of making changes or additions to your website later on, if required.

Remember, people are busy, and with information overload 24/7 not only must your website grab their attention with an eye-catching design, but it must present them with useful information quickly and succinctly. You’ve got to give users a reason to want to spend time on your website!

Competition is tough – always has been, always will be. Consider what might motivate an internet user to choose a certain business or product. If users find that relevant information is lacking, or that the website is difficult to navigate, then it doesn’t matter how good your products are – it’s often easier just to look elsewhere.

So what makes a good website, and one that sells effectively? Top of the list has to be quality, targeted content. A typical customer wants to find what they are looking for easily, as previously mentioned. Your website should aim to give a good user experience to internet shoppers, by presenting them with clear information about the products they are interested in, from the moment they arrive on the site.

Tempt users to purchase by including some good quality images of your products. Make it easy. Including prominent, strong calls to action can help encourage online consumers to make a purchase.

The online experience your website offers should ideally encourage customers to buy from you instead of your competitors. In the longer term, it would be desirable to cultivate customer loyalty, encourage repeat purchases and encourage recommendations to other online shoppers via reviews, or targeted email marketing campaigns, for example.

Remember – the internet is simply another marketing tool, and as such should be integrated with and complement your existing offline marketing activity. Online options can be daunting, but they needn’t be if broken down into short-term and long-term aims.

Once you have your website, it’s time to start marketing online, so that customers can find it whilst it climbs up the natural rankings with the help of your search engine optimisation (SEO) expert. For instant exposure at the launch of your new website, creating a targeted pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaign can help get the site on page one of Google, for example – which should complement any SEO work being carried out over the longer term.

So, whether you’re about to take the leap and invest in a website, or are currently working on how to improve your website’s position in the natural search rankings – or even if you don’t have a website – there are options to use online marketing to promote your business, and it might be time to consult a search engine marketing specialist, who will help you plan how to get your website noticed!

Former Carpet & Flooring Review editor Suzi Grala now runs Breeze Digital, an online marketing agency based in Sussex, with agents in Surrey and Wiltshire. Article originally published in Furniture News, issue 280.

© 2013 - 2024 Gearing Media Group Ltd. All Rights Reserved.