I have a retail website, but where are all the customers?
For online merchants that have made the leap from eBay, Amazon, Etsy and other marketplaces to having their own online storefront, the potential can seem limitless. And it is! Whether you make the world your marketplace or you decide to focus on domestic customers, having your own online retail store is exciting. By having your own store, your business feels real, and you've turned a major entrepreneurial corner. You may still sell your products on other sites, but with your own web site comes a pride of ownership, business cards, and customers who come specifically to browse and shop for your stuff.
But once the opening day excitement of a new store dwindles, almost all independent online merchants ask the same questions. Where are all the visitors? Customers? Shoppers?
This brief panic is completely normal. Even the most seasoned of online entrepreneurs launch their website with an over-sized amount of optimism. With dreams of customers waiting to beat down your online doors, the disappointment when it doesn't happen immediately can be a great deflator. Your optimism is what helped propel you to create your own website in the first place, and without it, your storefront may not have come to fruition. Because this initial excitement and optimism was needed to get you this far, don't be too hard on yourself when your sales are far lower than you expected. Instead of feeling hopeless, turn yourself into an online marketing expert.
Marketing Your Online Retail Store
The nice thing about being a small online retailer is that your marketing options are limited. This is a positive fact because it truly allows you to focus. Your focus will be critical in gaining customers and increasing sales.
The top 5 budget-minded ways to get noticed are:
- Search engine pay-per-click & organic clicks
- PR and Media-generated publicity (Blogs, Newspapers, TV, etc)
- Social networking (Twitter, Facebook etc)
- Affiliates and paid ads (Links on other websites)
- Content & products (Creates return customers and viral referrals)
Focus on Search Engines First
There are two different ways to get located within a search engine. These ways are known as "organic" and "paid."
Organic is free, and search engines place your website according to the words and content on your site. The computerized scan of your site determines your store's relevance and where you should be listed within a given search word or phrase. On what search engine page your site is listed can be manipulated and worked on through a process known as search engine optimization. This can be a long process, and even seasoned professionals can't guarantee your website top placement. It should be on your long-term marketing plan, but the need for immediate sales will demand that you focus on "paid search."
Without a doubt, the most instant and most self-controllable way to gain customers is through paid search, which is also known as Search Engine PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns. Almost everyone uses search engines to locate what they are looking for, and a paid search campaign can get your web store accessible to thousands of potential customers daily. Paid search places your store's ads either in the top 1-3 positions or in the right-hand side column. Creating a campaign to appear on page one of search results will be paramount to your online success.
How to Create?
If terms like PPC are foreign to you, it is easy to feel that creating a paid search campaign is too hard or too difficult to create yourself. Although honing your search campaign to create optimal sales (highest sales at the lowest cost) may take a professional's assistance, the fact is, starting a campaign can be done by anybody and should first be attempted on your own.
Start with Google, as they hold the largest search market share. Go to adwords.google.com and follow the prompts. Google literally walks you through the entire process. You can create your own ads, create keywords and select the amount you are willing to spend per click and per day. There is no limit to the number of ads you can create or the keywords you can use.
Trial and error costs you nothing, and if you dedicate enough time and energy, paid search can be a sure fire way to increase customers and sales.
What Are You Waiting For?
Go get started! Customers are trying to search for your products on Google, Yahoo and Bing right now! Get your campaign started so they know you exist and shop with you instead of your competitor.
Once you get started check back in with AuctionBytes as there will be a follow up article, "Two Tips for a More Profitable Google Adwords Campaign." But before you need the tips of the best tweaks for a solid paid search campaign, you first need to get started, so get out there and create your campaigns!
If you liked this article, you might also enjoy reading:
"Five Things Every Merchant Should Know about SEO," by Danny Sullivan - Link
"The Retailer's Beginner Guide to Link Building," by Trevor Ginn - Link