As we gradually emerge from the global recession, those businesses that have been lucky enough to survive should now focus their attention on creating new ways to sell their products or services online. After all, the Internet accounted for over $150 billion worth of sales last year, a jump of 17% on the previous year. Ignore these figures at your own peril.

The reality is though, and might come as a shock to some, but selling online is pretty much the same as the old traditional methods of selling. In order for your business to succeed online, it is essential that you use the knowledge that you’ve obtained about your business over the years, readjust it (with the help of an expert) and there’s no doubt your business can flourish online.

The Basics
Right now, it’s not uncommon for businesses to offer cut price deals to attract new customers. Everywhere we look there seems to be a retailer with a new sale on. But after you’ve won that order from your new customer, the key is to continue to provide a great experience for them so that they keep coming back for more, even when times are good again.

The same applies to the Internet, you need to treat each customer as if they were visiting your physical shop.  You should constantly look for ways to improve user experience and give your website that competitive edge. And what’s the best way to know what makes your customers tick? Yes…just ask them! You should get as much feedback as possible from your customers and action on those things that your customers feel are most important.

Marketing
In every downturn, the first item on the list to be cut is generally the marketing budget. Trying new channels is probably worth the effort. Spending more money in one area and less in another, but this isn’t worthwhile if you can’t quantify the return on investment from each channel.

The beauty of online marketing is that there are so many free tools available to you to build a dynamic marketing campaign. Having the ability to quantify the success of your marketing campaign is easy and in real-time! Unlike traditional methods, you can be reactive and respond quickly by modifying your campaign in response to user behaviour.

Google, unsurprisingly, lead the way in terms of offering free tools to website owners to help them establish a great online presence. Not only do they provide tools to help you research and find what your potential customers will be looking for online, but they also offer many tools to help you quantify the success of your campaign.

Take Google Analytics for example, an enterprise statistics package that will allow you to analyse visitor behaviour which in turn can help you quickly establish the areas of your website or campaign that need improving. In conjunction with the their Conversion Tracking feature, you will be able to establish the chain of events user by the visitor to complete a transaction or an area that is making the visitor leave your website before completing the transaction.

Couple this with another great weapon from Google; Google Website Optimiser, you can get down to the finest detail to find out what makes people react more positively to your website. Google Website Optimiser allows you to run free A/B split tests on your website.

Search Engine Optimisation
If I’m completely honest, Search Engine Optimisation bores me. It’s not because I’m tired of seeing just about everyone jumping on the gravy training and suddenly offering becoming an SEO an expert, that does annoy me, but it’s not that. No, my problem is that I believe every website regardless of how big or small should be designed with the search engines in mind. SEO is an integral part of any online campaign. If your website cannot be found, really what’s the point in having it in the first place?

SEO isn’t rocket science and I believe anyone who wants to promote their business online should know the basics. And when I say basics, I mean the basics! Search engine optimisation is an interesting topic and as soon as you start doing a bit of research you quickly find yourself being drawn into the inner workings of it all. However, a lot of the information that you find on the web (if you don’t know where to look) is either inaccurate or completely out of date.

Since SEO is the foundations of every website, your focus should now turn to conversion optimisation. Spend more time working with your designer to create areas of increased conversion opportunities on your website.

Social Media Marketing
It hasn’t taken long for this phrase to be on the tip of every Internet sales guys tongue. According to most Internet marketing gurus, Social Media Marketing is the future of the web. In fairness I do believe it is and will be an important part of online marketing, but at the moment it is too difficult to quantify the real return on investment.

Engagement is the key word here. To get anything back from your social media marketing, you need to engage with your customers. A lot of companies with Facebook pages prevent people from posting on their wall in fear of one unhappy customer posting scandalous remarks about their business. But believe it or not, a lot of potential customers are happy to see how you, the company, deal with customers like this. Engaging with even the most insane customer to attempt to resolve their issue publicly could actually work in your favour.

Twitter is a different beast altogether. A lot of companies believe the strategy for Twitter should be to simply post as many links to their blog, products or any other article related to their area of expertise. In fact, this strategy is most likely going to damage their reputation. Twitter is about networking – it’s no different than going to your local business network meeting only that it is done online with no particular agenda.

To summarise what we have discussed above, boosting your online sales should be approached in same manner as you would your off-line business. The customer should always be your core focus of attention. Regardless of how you attract the customer, their experience should be the best it can possibly be so that they continue to comeback for more and recommend you on to their peers.

If you need help building a web strategy that will boost your sales online, why not contact me to see how I can help you. Email tom@2bscene.ie or phone +353 1 2190223

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