“Build it and they will come,” goes the line, but with so many options for online shoppers, how do you get them to come? Selling online means the world is your customer, but that can also mean more competition for those online dollars. If you are looking for immediate traffic, and have set aside some funds for promotional use, paying for online ads is a fast way to build a customer base. You generally don’t pay based on how often your ad is displayed, but rather only when someone clicks on it, which makes online advertising a good way to get customers, and reinforce your brand. When you have more time and are looking for a long term strategy, there are a number of great ways such as SEO, social media and email to get the public’s attention; they just take some time and a bit of elbow grease. Done well, this is where you might have an edge over some of your competition since many stores often overlook these strategies as being too time-intensive, or not possibly relatable to their industry. Here are a few ways to lead those shoppers to your virtual door.
1. PPC (Pay-Per-Click) Ads
There are a lot of “pay-per-click” options out there, but PPC generally refers to the text-only ads that appear at the top of your search results. These text ads may not be as eye-catching as other types of online ads, but they do allow you an opportunity to describe unique benefits of your store and products: easy returns, non-stick, made in the USA.
Best for… broad categories of similar products that have an average to above-average profit margin (shower curtains, car parts) and for services (accounting, wedding planners)
2. Comparison Shopping Engines
These are the product images you might see while searching for products. Examples of comparison shopping engines include Google Shopping, Bing Shopping, Amazon Product Ads and Shopzilla. These increasingly popular product ads run based upon a feed that is uploaded from your store to the shopping engine before being displayed. Should you change a product price, if an item is out of stock, or you add new products, those changes will appear in the shopping feed results almost immediately. These ads also display the product image you have in your store, so searchers literally have a clear picture of the product you are offering, increasing your conversion rate (the number of people who click on an ad and continue on to purchase) and discouraging unwanted clicks.
Best for… products with good pictures, product titles/descriptions and competitive pricing/shipping – since the price is displayed with the product for all ads for customers to compare.
3. Banner Ads
These are the rectangular graphic ads that appear on individual websites as opposed to in the results of search engine query. You can pick which participating websites you want to advertise on, but a more recent use of banner ads is called Remarketing or Retargeting Advertising, where you target customers who have already visited your store. Since they have already visited once, you have a higher likelihood of getting them to make a purchase in the future. You can create different messaging to target visitors who just perused your store, to those that added something to the shopping cart and left, or your customers that bought something and you want to encourage them to make future purchases. Remarketing ads are a good way of reinforcing your brand, and driving traffic to your store.
Best for… stores with a longer buying cycle (furniture, real estate, auto) or with frequent, returning sales (food, clothing). It is also best if you have the ability to design your own ads, or have access to someone who can.
4. Dynamic Shopping Feeds
Similar to remarketing, dynamic shopping ads populate a banner ad with a picture of a product your customer recently viewed. It’s basically an advertisement tailored for that customer! No design expertise required – just pick a format and color scheme, upload a logo, and the search engine will populate it with the appropriate products from your store.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has evolved along with the search engines’ algorithms. There are dozens of techniques and tactics when it comes to optimizing your site, but many of the current strategies can be boiled down to creating unique, relevant content for every category and product page of your site. Many of your competitors are using the same manufacturer-provided product information, or repeating the basic description for every product in a category. Writing detailed descriptions for each of your categories and products will help you stand out to the search engines. It’s a daunting task, so prioritize and update your site as you have time.
Best for…every online store!
6. Social Media
This is a great place to demonstrate your expertise in your industry and create a loyal group of customers. Best of all, you can create a community around just about any industry. If you sell air filters you can create a forum for allergy suffers to get advice from each other. Sell seasonal items like pool supplies? Keep your audience thinking of your through the off-season by posting dreamy, vacation-spot pool photos in the winter time. The goal here is to stay top of mind, so that when they are ready to buy, they visit your store first.
We have written much on this blog about the different flavors of social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Snapchat, etc. They all have their audience, and one or more of them should work for your brand.
Best for…every store owner who has a finger on the pulse of their audience, and the time to post several times a week
Don’t overlook email marketing for incentivizing your visitors to return to your store. Use targeted promotions, discounts, coupons, and articles relevant to your audience’s interest to keep them coming back.
Best for…stores that want to promote a design style, or service, and have the potential for frequently returning customers.
Whatever you do, don’t forget the passion you have for your own business, and put that into your marketing. Make people sit up and take notice, and turn them into customers for life.