E-commerce is booming right now. An estimated 8% of all retail sales in 2016 were conducted via online channels. This is astounding growth, considering the fact that e-commerce virtually came into existence only 20 years ago. There can be no doubt about the fact that e-commerce is definitely the future of shopping. End customers overwhelmingly prefer e-commerce sites to brick and mortar stores due to the sheer simplicity and ease with which they can buy, and more importantly, compare the products they need. Additionally, because on the internet prices from various retailers are explicitly visible, this leads to cut-throat competition between retailers, and the customer gets to reap the benefits.
Problems with e-commerce
It is not all rosy with e-commerce, though. There are still a lot of significant hurdles to be overcome before e-commerce can truly dethrone brick and mortar stores and delegate them to the bin of obsolete technologies. Internet technology is still not as pervasive as it should be, with large pockets still not covered by wireless or even wired internet connectivity. Additionally, the logistics of getting a product from a warehouse to a customer’s home might be easy enough in cities but is definitely a challenge for rural regions, especially if the need for the product is urgent.
Getting started with e-commerce
However, for most entrepreneurs looking to get their e-commerce venture off the ground, you simply need to find a demand and meet it. That is the basic law of business and it holds ground with e-commerce as well. Giants like Amazon and Alibaba too started out as an underdog someday. And along with actually delivering products that people actually want to buy, you will need to adequately market and promote your e-commerce venture with the proper audiences if your venture is to succeed.
Why is marketing necessary
Let’s be honest, the market today is extremely competitive. And with power concentrated in the hands of only a very few and titanic corporate giants, breaking into the domain is more difficult now than ever. Therefore, if you are to stand any chance of existing long enough to make an impact, you must focus on marketing and customer acquisition from day one.
In the absence of active marketing to keep your website in front of the eyeballs of prospective users, their attention will invariably be occupied by something else; they call it the attention economy for nothing. The internet has unwittingly created a very high turnover rate for businesses by creating the opportunity to start one very easily and at the same time making it easy to fail as well. Therefore, product lifecycles have shortened, and along with the rise of online video and social media, so have the attention spans of the people. Therefore, if you are to make your online e-commerce venture a successful enterprise, you have to do market it actively and enthusiastically.
There are many forms of marketing that you can resort to. Advertising is the predominant form of advertising on the internet and it has its fair share of benefits. However, there is one very significant drawback of pay-per-click or display advertising, the ability to target specialized audiences. Display ads and pay-per-click ads do not differentiate or discriminate between one user and another. Your ad is just as likely to be shown to someone interested in actually buying something from your store and someone who is not. This obviously reduces the efficiency of your marketing infrastructure and gives rise to the overhead that eats into your profits (or the ability to turn a profit). So while pay-per-click advertising is good in that it directly puts your ad in front of people’s eyeballs, you should not invest the entirety of your marketing budget in these advertisements. As with any successful investment portfolio, the key is diversification.
Affiliate marketing is the next-generation marketing strategy that truly has a wide array of benefits and very few downsides. Affiliate marketing involves getting people who already have a good audience to direct them to your site in exchange for a commission. This includes vloggers, review websites, journalists, and any other form of online publication. The huge benefit of affiliate marketing over traditional internet advertising is that because you choose who your affiliate partners are, you get to decide who diversified an audience you want to reach. If your e-commerce venture is about cosmetics, you can partner up with a beauty tips blog or someone who reviews cosmetics on YouTube. These people have the influence over their audience to recommend your web venture to them, thereby driving more traffic to your e-commerce website. Affiliate marketing prevents the overhead that was a key disadvantage of traditional online advertising. Viewers reading beauty blogs and watching cosmetics reviews and makeup tutorials on YouTube are already interested in the product you are selling. By directly targeting that audience you are assured of direct and outright engagement with your prospective customers.
You can also drive affiliate marketing by teaming up with content creators like bloggers and YouTube channels to create content specifically for your website. Such sponsored content or paid content is essentially similar to television personalities and movie stars advertising products but with the added benefit of running on the internet instead of TV. Again, you are assured of the content is engaging to the audience, which gives rise to a greater probability of driving traffic to your website which then translates into increased sales.
Share your products on the internet
Customers on the internet are savvy and are always on the lookout for a good deal. Comparison shopping engines like Google Shopping, PriceSpy, Idealo, LeGuide etc. are price aggregators that collate item prices across different e-commerce sites into one place so that people can see where they can purchase what they want at the lowest price. Therefore, you must make sure that your e-commerce products synchronize with these comparison shopping engines. It is an easy way to ensure that you target a particularly net-savvy demographic.