Shopping online is the new black.
Statistica reported that e-commerce sales totaled roughly $2.3 billion last year and is on course to reach more than $3.5 billion in 2019, and more than $4.8 billion in 2021.
E-commerce and digital marketing efforts also influence up to 56 percent of in-store sales—and e-commerce dollars alone make up roughly 10 percent of retail sales in the United States.
If you’re charged with boosting the brand of an online retailer—or are launching a shop of your own—consider these ways you can better reach consumers and boost your bottom line:
1. Make sure you have a stellar online presence.
For brand managers of all stripes—but especially for retail and e-commerce marketers—it’s crucial to have a stellar online presence and search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.
Even Amazon is feeling the heat after Google recently announced on its AdWords blog that it was introducing its Shopping Actions program, which enables marketing partners such as Home Depot, Target and Ulta to show up in Google Home and Mini voice search results and make it easier for consumers to shop directly from sponsored Google search results on their browsers.
Instead of charging these retailers based on clicks through to their site (the most common paid search fee model), Shopping Actions charges on a cost-per-sale model, earning revenue from sales generated from these placements.
Google insists that “No organic rankings are impacted or changed,” in response to speculation that preferential ranking would be given to these merchants ahead of Amazon. But this is just the latest of Google’s attempts to regain ground from Amazon in consumer product searches.
The focus on a stellar online presence and good content and SEO practices matters whether you’re marketing for a retailer with an established site or creating your own e-commerce site with tools such as Weebly, Squarespace or Shopify (you can even purchase established shops).
Whatever your base, make sure your products and services are easy to find and that your website is easy to navigate on both desktop and mobile devices. Use Google Trends and other keyword and trend tools such as SocialMention to help you identify keywords and key phrases that you can then use to create content and use within your product descriptions and throughout your website, helping you to show up higher in search results.
2. Regularly create and distribute engaging content.
The more your content focuses on information and storytelling that is valuable to consumers, the better. Creating and distributing infographics, videos, how-to articles and other types of content ( even if it’s repurposing old blog posts ) can keep consumers coming back to your online profiles and website—which means they’ll be closer to looking at your products and services.
Along with creating and distributing outstanding content—and pointing your followers and customers to other resources—don’t forget your calls to action.
Ask for specific actions such as a sign up or purchase (offering a coupon code can help) or call for consumer stories and interaction to feed your community and future content efforts.
[RELATED: Share the content that captivated audiences]
4. Take advantage of holidays, trends and breaking news.
Consider taking advantage of hot trends and popular topics for both media coverage and marketing efforts. For example, a Harry-Potter-themed yoga class grabbed several headlines and social media buzz after it grabbed attendees’ attention and fancy with its fun take on the wizarding world and exercise.
You don’t have to lead stretches to capture engagement and sales, however. Offer a free item with purchase or samples for holidays and to celebrate events, or schedule a few tweets with clever messages or picturesque images that connect your brand and products to the current trend. Remember to engage first and promote second—or you might face disgruntled social media users instead of retweets and likes.
If your product or service might fit into a breaking news story or larger trend, know who your experts are in your company and reach out immediately to offer insights. Prepare for holidays far before they begin, especially if your marketing and PR efforts include pitching journalists for inclusion in holiday-themed publications and articles.
5. Hone your customer service skills.
If your marketing and customer service teams aren’t already working together, make steps to help this happen as soon as possible.
The need for a symbiotic marketing and customer service relationship is only more important now, with consumers increasingly turning to social media as a way to communicate with businesses. In fact, social media is most customers’ preferred method of contacting a brand — preferable to live chat, email, or the phone.
Determining clear swim lanes and designated responsible individuals so marketers and customer support reps can use social media to achieve both of their goals is just one of the ways marketing and customer service teams need to collaborate.
Marketers can help support an organization’s customer service team in many ways, such as brainstorming on content creation ideas that answers consumers’ frequently asked questions and addresses potential concerns.
You should also ensure that online marketing campaigns are watched closely for engagement and interaction opportunities, because customer service opportunities online can enhance outstanding marketing content and ultimately boost brand reputation.