E-commerce is growing enormously in the retail sector, making it more difficult to stand out of the crowd and knowing how to market an online shop the more important. In fact, with double-digit growth and record sales, e-commerce is considered to be the growth area of trade per se.
As online shopping is steadily becoming more and more part of our everyday life, it is not surprising that many traditional trading companies expand their business model with an online shop. But the key factor for success is not only a well- programmed portal and an appealing offer, but well thought out marketing, too. Therefore, I wanted to get to the bottom of the question, how operators of web shops can achieve efficient attention.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Search engines are the main starting point for online shopping, as it is simply most crucial to be found in the first place, isn’t it? Besides that, purchases on the web are often accompanied by longer search processes. As a rule of thumb: the more expensive the item, the more extensive is usually the search process. Relevant for the advertisers in this context is the distinction between the organic (regular) results and paid advertisements (paid listings): While the organic search results are sorted according to relevance of the landing pages, the visibility of paid listings is controlled through bidding. With a market share of 80% in this area, Google is therefore by far the most important supplier with Google Adwords.
By producing a win-win situation between the consumer and the retailer, search engines are an attractive advertising channel for shop owners. Who is looking, for example, for concert tickets online, would most likely buy these, too. In general, the consumer doesn’t feel annoyed by paid advertisements if it is related to the search. Actually quite the contrary, they serve consumers in return as a convenient reference point, while the dealer can get excited about paid listings having higher than average click and conversion rates in the e-commerce area. Fact is that a well-managed Adwords campaign can prove to be a significant revenue driver for an online shop.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
In addition to investing in paid search results, there is of course always the opportunity to put on a good visibility in the organic search results. The advantage is obvious: While paid listings are billed on click prices, organic search results lead to a free flow of visitors. The key to success is being listed on the first page of Google search results. Certainly, the click-through rate on the search results fades quickly from top to bottom and the second page is usually only called up in the context of a long and extensive search process - generally just regarding expensive products - but who wants to achieve visibility on the first page of Google, still has to come out on top of 10 competitors there.
SEO is understood as an adaptation of web pages to the relevance criteria of search engines and is further divided into on-page and off page optimization. On-page SEO summarizes all actions that can be performed on the source code of a page, while off-page SEO reviews external measures such as link building or blogging.
Within the past two years, Google has introduced many changes that benefit e-commerce, for example, the direct display of product previews and prices in search results. As Google is constantly working to adapt the criteria of relevance of its search engine to the behavior of real users, a good SEO is not an end in itself, but also the optimization of the usability of a page. Therefore, the loading time of a website is an important ranking factor in Google as well.
In addition to paid listings in particular, search engine optimization is highly recommended for online shops. It is of advantage to coordinate both measures with each other as well as the keywords that have difficulties to reach a good SEO placement to opt for paid ads.
Meanwhile a successful social media performance is closely linked to the field of search engine optimization. Since Google takes into account the presence of a business on social networks, like Facebook and Twitter or even when looking at the company's website ranking, it's just useful for that reason alone not to ignore social media. Especially in e-commerce there are even more interesting applications for customer loyalty and attracting new customers. A Facebook page is, for instance, an excellent multiplier for promotions, such as bonus points or discounts and can in addition be used to connect directly to customer support. Further, there is the possibility to display targeted ads on Facebook, since the company provides numerous ways of targeting, using the profile information of its users. And if social media is consistently used as a customer retention tool, there is last but not least the possibility to make use of social CRM software that complements existing customer data in a CRM system with the extensive data from the communities, which can be more than useful for loyalty campaigns as well.
Banner ads are still the classic version of online marketing, but with the disadvantage of a large waste circulation. For advertisers, however, that’s only a problem if the advertising partner charges by impressions. In case of billing by clicks, it can be assumed that most people that click on the ad banners have real interest in the offer.
Banner advertising is usually taken out by ad networks, so-called affiliate partners that are a kind of interface between advertisers and sellers of advertising space, which has the advantage for the involved parties of not having to have a variety of individual contracts.
Of course, Google has opened up this market as well and offers its own display network that can be accessed via Adwords. As an alternative it is possible to turn to a media agency which takes care of the distribution of the advertising budgets to different marketers. However, especially for providers of niche products, who want to advertise on professionally relevant pages within a clear market, it can also be useful to contact selected advertisers directly.
Remarketing represents a special form of display advertising in this case, and is of course also offered by Google Adwords. Its special feature is that ads appear only to persons who have previously visited the site of the shop owner. So if you have been looking, for example, on the home page of a fashion label for shoes, you would later on see banner ads for shoes on other pages.
Technically, remarketing works via a cookie which is distributed to site visitors on an online store. If the cookie then moves across the network, they get advertising that resembles their remarketing cookies. Typically, remarketing has significantly higher conversion rates than regular banner advertising, but is only suitable as supporting advertising due to its very specific targeting.
Email marketing is the oldest form of online marketing and has been pronounced dead many, many times. Its big problem is spam, legal limitations and comparatively high investment costs, for a relatively low click-through rate. The fact that e-mail marketing can still work well in the context of online shops, however, proves for example the newsletter of the e-commerce giant Amazon. Prerequisite for a well-functioning newsletter in e-commerce is the use of CRM software that is able to support the creation of personalized newsletters. If such a newsletter is based on purchase history and clicks of a user, it works just as well as a remarketing campaign, because the key to success is here to provide the customer with relevant and interesting information as well, instead of bothering him with mass mailings.
The nuts and bolts of marketing for online stores are a continuous measurement of performance. The clicks on the web can be tracked accurately and the operator of a web shop knows every day not only how many visitors have been on his site and for how long, he can also examine the ways in which the visitor clicks through the pages and where there are stumbling blocks. All this allows a precise performance measurement of all online advertisement activities. The key metric to measure success here is the conversion, which means the clicks that have led to a call for action. That way, the online marketer has the chance to continuously measure, which of his actions actually generate sales and can adapt the strategy accordingly.
Essential for measuring success is the use of web analytics software and the standard that blossomed in this area is the free tool Google Analytics. Other significant alternatives are, for example, Piwik, econda or SiteCatalyst from Adobe, which all have in common the goal to support with the measurement of advertising effectiveness and the continuous optimization of the webshop.
By Daniela La Marca