A good business website is like a storefront. The best-designed sites are inviting and well organized. Even better are sites that highlight your products and services with more sophisticated e-commerce tools. But before all this can take hold, you need to let the world know your online store is open for business, and that requires good marketing practices. Here are five ways to use marketing to drive sales online:
1. SEO: Help your customers find you.
Also known as search engine optimization, SEO is the practice of telling Google, Bing, and other search engines what your site and store are about in order to drive the right people to your door. It's an invaluable tool. According to a 2014 study by BrightEdge, just over half of website traffic can be traced to organic search queries.
Say that you sell 100-percent Kona coffee. Your site should have lots of content that includes the phrase "100-percent Kona coffee." And it shouldn't sound forced. Instead, it should read naturally and teach your visitors something about the product they're investigating. (For example, did you know that 100-percent Kona coffee must be grown in volcanic soil?) SEO can be difficult to get started on, but once you understand the basics, it can be one of the best engines for driving sales to your site.
2. Social selling: Engage with customers where they are.
Other times you'll want to connect with customers where they hang out online. But to do that, you first need to identify who they are and what they respond to best. Set up business profiles on all the major social networks and then test for engagement. For example, if you've getting the most engagement on LinkedIn over other platforms, professionals may be your target audience. Regularly post both new and relevant content, or reply to posts from those who could benefit from your products — it can help to organically build your sales pipeline.
3. Email marketing: keep them coming back.
Finding your ideal customers is tough. But keeping them is easy if you're willing to put in the effort to connect regularly. Develop an opt-in email newsletter that you distribute on a schedule and includes offers that don't appear anywhere else. That way, readers have ample incentive to click.
Results can vary, of course, but according to MarketingSherpa, 72 percent of consumers still prefer email when it comes to communicating with businesses like yours. Take the time to investigate an email marketing platform if you aren't already using one.
4. Mobile optimization: Be ready at the right moment.
You'll lose sales if your website fails to deliver a good experience on smartphones and tablets. According to Custora (via Internet Retailer), mobile devices accounted for roughly one-third of online sales during the holiday shopping season. Importantly, that ratio was consistent with a similar report from a few months prior.
Make sure your site accounts for mobile visitors with responsive design and simple navigation that's helpful to those working with a small screen. Also, provide links to maps and hours if your business includes physical locations.
5. Close the sale.
Lead generation is a crucial first step for growing your business, but it doesn't do you much good without the right tools for closing sales. Your online store should work fast and give buyers rich options for completing a purchase wherever and whenever the mood strikes.
Say you're an artist. Having a rich online portfolio and online store for selling existing work is great, but what if you're at a show? Adding mobile payments (make sure you can accept EMV chip cards) can make it easy to sell profitable commissions on the spot, capturing revenue you might have missed otherwise. Do that often enough — whether you're selling art, books, crafted pieces, premium coffee, or something else entirely — and growth will soon follow.