April 15, 2012

Building your Business Online – Tips for Driving Traffic to your Online Store

By Campbell Angus

I often get asked by clients with traditional retail business how they can drive traffic to their new online store. When you think about it, your online store is very much like a retail store, in that you rely on people frequenting your store (foot traffic) in order to generate sales. Foot traffic can come from a number of sources:

  • You’re on a busy street in a retail area – you have people passing by regularly
  • You’re on a busy street where cars pass by and see your sign, shop window etc
  • You have a reputation built over many years, and existing clients and word-of-mouth contribute to your business
  • Advertising in print media, yellow pages, radio, TV etc.
  • Sales events, VIP nights….

In the context of your online store, the same principles apply – you wouldn’t establish a retail store in the middle of nowhere, but putting your business online without promoting it is akin to setting up your store on a back road – sure, you’ll get the occasional person coming by, but not enough to sustain a viable business.

You need visitors to your site in order to generate sales, and have those people spread the word about you, leading to repeat and new business. So how do you drive visitors to your site and turn those visitors into buyers? Fortunately there are many ways, some at a cost; and others requiring you to do a bit of guerrilla marketing (making maximum impact at minimal cost). Here are some of the options you might consider for building your online business:

  • Organic search engine listing – organic means you get good search engine rankings (on the first page for your area of business) by ensuring your website is search engine friendly and key words are used appropriately. This is a whole subject in itself, but if you have a Blaze Online website we take care of this for you. Note that having good search engine listings will not benefit your business if your product or brand has no public awareness, for example, your own fashion label. You can have a number one search engine listing for ‘big banana Bermuda shorts’ but if people never search for ‘big banana Bermuda shorts’ it won’t help you.
  • Online email newsletters – sending out regular updates to clients about sales, new arrivals, new products lines, special promotions, and so forth will result in people visiting your site, and if your promotions are effective, into sales. Email newsletters are a very cost effective way to reach your customers, and have an immediate impact, but are not always read given the increasing volume of email people are receiving. Again, newsletters are a standard feature of all Blaze Online solutions.
  • Newsletter sign-up – have a book or form at your point of sale and encourage your customers to sign up to be eligible for online VIP offers.
  • Discount Coupons – Using discount coupons to encourage people to visit your site and make a purchase can be a great way to grow your online business. Drop a discount coupon in with every in-store purchase for use online. Drop a second discount coupon in with ‘for a friend’ on it to encourage your customers to pass it on to someone else. Even if they use both coupons themselves that’s ok isn’t it – it’s still business you might not otherwise have had. The Blaze Online E-commerce solution enables you to use different discount coupon types for different promotions so that you can track the effectiveness of campaigns.
  • Print mail – sending out newsletters by traditional mail, combined with discount coupons for use at your online store, and also offering incentives to encourage sign-up to email newsletters is still a very effective way of communicating with your customers, especially if you already have the names and addresses of your existing clients.
  • Go Rural – Think about marketing your business in rural areas – the internet has made shopping online very convenient for people who can’t easily make it to ‘the city’ to do their shopping. Think about how you could market your business to the very people who need to shop online.
  • Online Yellow Pages – Add your site to your yellow pages listing
  • Suppliers Websites – Get your site listed on your manufacturers and suppliers sites. This helps in two ways: First, it drives traffic to your website with visitors who already know what they want, and are looking for a place to buy it, and second, it helps improve your search rankings when you have other websites link to yours.
  • Product Labelling – If you market your own products, such as clothing, furniture, food and so on, add your website to the products labelling, branding. Eg for clothing, add ‘reorder online at www.store.com.au’ and include the size and model so your customers can easily reorder your product.
  • Repeat Business – Find ways to drive repeat business from existing online customers – the biggest barrier is the first sale – once you’ve made that first sale, and provided fast, efficient service to your client, they will be comfortable purchasing again. Be sure to give them a reason to do so.
  • Social Media marketing – Heard of Twitter? No. How about Facebook?  Ring any bells? Companies large and small have been using social media as a cost effective and very targeted way of reaching their customers. For example, Jetstar recently announced that 40% of its annual marketing budget would be spent on social media marketing. We’re talking serious money now. Here’s an example of how you can get yourself set-up on Facebook and use it to promote your business – http://webworkerdaily.com/2009/07/21/32-ways-to-use-facebook-for-business/
  • Online advertising – Google Ad Words provides targeting online marketing for almost any budget. How it works is pretty simple – you specify a daily amount you want to spend on online advertising, say $50, and Google will show your ad on their search pages any time someone searches on your chosen keyword , eg ‘Bermuda shorts’. Every time someone clicks on your ad, Google deducts a fee from your daily budget, until it’s used up, then the process starts again the next day. The fee they deduct varies based on how many other people are competing for the same keywords. Online advertising isn’t for every online business. Some thrive using it, and others get better returns using other forms of marketing.

Some of these ideas may not be applicable to your business, but select a few that are, and put a marketing plan in place where you try different tactics over a period of time. In some cases, you’ll need to test some of these ideas over a month or more in order to measure their effect. Find what works for you, refine it, keep doing it, test new ideas, and repeat.

Also, keep in mind that some of your local customers may prefer to make their purchasing decision in person, in your store, so the online store is still a great way to make them aware of new products and promotions, and will result in increased in-store sales.