The next step after your e-commerce website going live is e-commerce marketing. Not to rain on your parade, your ‘shiny’ and ‘fancy’ website is basically a needle in a haystack for the public. Nobody is going to know your existence until you ‘come out.’ You need to do marketing to make your e-commerce site really visible. A successful marketing campaign is like the ‘energizer’ battery. ‘It just keeps going and going.’ You might not need a battery at this moment, but you’ve heard of energizer before.
So we know of a few successful TV marketing examples. TV, however, is not the only, and probably not the most cost-effective marketing tool. Any mass media can be used as marketing tools, e.g., radio, magazines, newspapers, etc. Now that we are talking about e-commerce marketing in particular, the Internet is a reasonable starting point. The Internet though works a little differently than other mass media. For one, it has potentially a larger reach. It practically materialized the ‘global village.’
There are a variety of ways to make your website known. You can advertise it using PPC (pay per click) campaigns, get it ranked in search engines via some systematically planned marketing, or use the most efficient and cost-effective network marketing.
Pay Per Click Advertising
PPC is the fastest way to get your website out there. It is instant, as long as you are willing and can afford to pay. PPC campaigns though can be efficient, they are risky especially if you have limited capitals. It also depends on your supply-chain approach. It is more effective if you are geared toward niche markets and maintaining your own inventory. In that case, you work more closely with the manufactures and preferably have your own product line. You build your own brands (or even better, your patents) and sell items that only you provide. Regardless of using PPC campaigns or not, you will still need some (other) long-term and persistent marketing efforts.
The way PPC works is that you pay for each click of your potential customers. Examples of PPC campaigns are Google Adwords, and price comparison sites like priceGrabberm Nextag, shopping.com and many more. Shopping comparison sites are widely used by most large e-commerce sites. However, they are mostly arranged like Amazon, grouping identical items together. Competition becomes an issue.
Awords lets you decide how much you want to spend for each click. When you do a search on Google, you will see paid (i.e., sponsored) results on the right side and the top of the search results. Those are Adwords ads. The placement of your ads, of course, depend on your bid. The cost of each click can get pretty high depending on the items you sell. Evidently if people who click on your ads do not turn into buyers, you lose the money. To use Adwords, you have to spend time to learn how to create efficient campaigns. Since Google wants to satisfy their users, they don’t just rank your ads by your bid. They talk about quality score, a measure of your ad’s relevance. A badly written ad can cost you money without bringing you desired results.
Before you start pouring money into advertising or marketing, you might want to take advantage of the free and easy to use Google Merchant Center (GMC hereafter). GMC, according to my personal experience, is actually very powerful. You can easily get some free sales in a matter of days. You can easily modify your product feed and upload it to GMC. Obviously because it is free, you will have a lot of competition. It is crucial that your listings are ranked well in the search results.
The ranking depends on various factors including, according to my experience, how often you update your product feed, number of (good) reviews. Adding some custom columns to help google understand your item can be helpful. You can look at reviews of other sellers to find the review sites Google takes into account. They included epinions, resellerratings, rateitall, etc last time I checked. I am not sure how easily these ratings can be manipulated. You can always inspect the top ranking sites and try to figure out why they are liked by Google. Ranking on Google Shopping is definitely worth the effort.
It is understandable that if you have not updated your inventory for a while, it is likely that your business is not a serious business. If even you don’t take your own business seriously, why should Google? A caveat about GMC is that dropshipping is against their TOS. My account (‘Google Base’ back then) was suspended after 2 years because of that. Seriously if they want to crack down on dropshipping, many large sites including Amazon, buy.com should have been suspended too. I later discovered that you can always create another account pretty much immediately.
There are some other sites that accept product feed submissions for free too. However, nobody even comes close when compared to Google Shopping.
Search Engine Ranking
If you sell products that people are already searching for, you will want to rank your website (or webpage) high in the search results by keywords related to your products. If you are selling something most people have not heard of (e.g., your invention, or brand), you will need other ways to build your brand first. In this case, of course you will rank on Google, but if nobody searches for it, the rank means nothing.
When it comes to ranking well on search engines, people talk about SEO (search engine optimization). There are also on-site SEO and backlinks. On-site SEO takes into account keyword density, meta description, title, load speed, mobile friendliness, legibility, to name a few. Link building can be done through blogs, guest posts, news, forums, social networks, etc. It takes a lot of time and efforts to build good backlinks. Relevant forum and social network postings though can bring instant traffic. Spamming though might hurt your reputation as well as your ranking.
One of the best and free way to market your brand is Amazon. Amazon requires a UPC code for each product (with some exceptions). Getting UPC code is cheap and easy, and it makes you look legit. This is good for building your brand. You can also list your products on eBay or have your own eBay store.
Another method that is used by all major e-commerce websites is network marketing, a.k.a, affiliate marketing. One of the proven ways to sell products, online or offline, is through the ‘word of mouth.’ It is like having a free sales force or hiring sales people without base pay. For that reason, it is also called performance marketing.
The way it works is that you get affiliates who spread the words for you about your products. When the products sell, you pay the affiliates a percentage of the revenue. The advantage of this approach is that it does not cost you anything if there is no sales. Since the affiliates get paid depending on the revenue they bring in, that gives them the incentives to sell for you. Most of efficient affiliates have their own targeted audience or followers. So their success rates are higher than random spamming of links.
You can sign up for an affiliate performance marketing program share a sale here. You make a deposit, determine the commission amount (usually by percentage), list your products or e-commerce website for potential affiliates to see. If your commission rate is attractive, and/or your products fit their audience/followers, they go out and work for you. When sales are made. commissions are deducted from your deposit to pay the affiliates. You can make more deposits when the current balance is depleted.