The crucial aspects of building an e-commerce presence

Although it’s happened slowly for some, the vast majority of small to medium-sized businesses have realized that if they want to grow, they need to shift a significant portion of their attention – and budgets – to the online marketplace. With more consumers than ever buying products from the comfort of their own homes, the companies that are slow to adapt to the changing retail landscape are apt to fall by the wayside.

Analyzing online shopping trends from the holidays, Google discovered that not only did e-commerce as a whole rise sharply in 2012, but that consumers made their purchases from an ever-widening range of devices. Perhaps most shockingly, 41 percent of regular smartphone users  bought directly from their mobile devices during the holiday season, and 37 percent used those same devices to research the products they ended up buying.

Clearly, this reveals that businesses stuck in the past in regard to online shopping are missing out on a huge segment of the consumer population. To correct this, many businesses are looking for creative and effective ways to bolster their e-commerce presence.

Here are some marketing strategies for small businesses intending to make 2013 the year they finally – or fully – enter the online marketplace.

Paid search
There is no denying that direct advertising is among the most effective methods for luring customers. In this sense, the online marketplace is not all that different from traditional marketing avenues. Although this precept has rarely been in doubt, it appears that more companies are finally coming to terms with its importance.

A recent survey from marketing technology provider Kenshoo shows that retailers have wised up to the need for paid search and targeted online advertisements. According to the study, ad clickthroughs increased 23 percent in 2012 and converted at a rate 25 percent higher than they did in 2011. These signs were not missed by attentive businesses, which realized that more prominent and more effective online ads means that the online market is ripe for the plucking.

“Smart retailers capitalized on online consumer shopping activity this past year by proactively creating product-level search campaigns and optimizing them throughout the holiday season,” said Aaron Goldman, chief marketing officer at Kenshoo.

However, recognizing the importance of paid advertising is not enough – growing firms must tailor their ads to be as appealing and effective as possible. Whether this means hiring a talented copywriter or redoubling your efforts to dive into market analytics is up to you, but finding ways to craft ads that inspire clicks and generate traffic is part and parcel of a successful campaign.

Know your audience
In keeping with this, it is vital that you understand the targets of your ads before you launch your campaign. In terms of optimizing your initiative and getting the most from your money, there is no more essential strategy than knowing about your audience.

According to a new study from The Search Agency about the behavior and engagement of web-surfers, there are many important distinctions between different groups in terms of their online habits. Although the findings reveal a cornucopia of general differences between groups, some of the findings were particularly relevant to businesses entering the e-commerce fray. For example, women use Pinterest more, while men are more frequent tweeters. People in the South were more likely to click on paid links, while twice as many Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 clicked on search engine ads as did those older than 35.

Why the rapid shift?
Although distinctions between demographic groups are valuable information for online retailers, it is perhaps more important to understand why consumers in general are migrating their purchasing habits to the online realm.

According to Continuum’s 2012 Service Design Report, the major cause for this shift is not surprising: shopping online is more convenient and cheaper. Although this news is far from shocking, it can help e-retailers market their services to consumers. Explaining how your online shopping experience is more convenient than brick-and-mortar retailers – which is something that 43 percent of respondents said was important to them – can help you persuade them to become loyal customers.

The whole picture
Despite the obvious convenience benefits of online retailing, it is important to not stop there when promoting your business. Convenience is important to consumers, but it may not be enough to retain them indefinitely. Instead, you should design your online shopping experience to be as pleasing in as many ways as possible, such as by supplying extensive inventory, low prices and excellent customer service. By improving all aspects of your e-commerce offerings you have a better chance of convincing people to become committed online shoppers.

“There is clearly a benefit for retailers to concentrate not only on price but also on how they are designing as holistic experience as possible for their customers to be able to efficiently interact with their brand whether it is in-person or online,” said Craig LaRosa of Continuum.

How are you planning to launch or improve your e-commerce enterprise?

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