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A Solid eCommerce Strategy is the Key to Success

Published by Charles Brodeur

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a constant battle online. I call it "Shiny Object Syndrome". It is so easy to lose focus these days and bounce from one great idea to the next before we have fully executed on the first great idea.

That's why we need a plan that follows a the path to success. 

Decades ago, business owners had it easy - they weren't dealing with the rapid and volatile change we deal with today.There was a strategic, focused way of managing a businesses that you may remember - the 4 P's.

The 4 P's, aka the "Marketing Mix", is a combination of four marketing ingredients that you must constantly balance and control when running your business.

The 4 P's are still relevant today, and we have a bit of an update to applying them to the eCommerce Business:

Product

Offering static, cataloged products no longer wins the race. With comparison shopping sites and huge online stores like Amazon, how do you compete on Product alone? Google has changed the way we buy online and your customers now start with the goal in mind (a product), then choose which supplier to buy from.
If you're selling eProducts or online services then you still have the power to innovate and stay ahead of the game, but if you're selling tangible goods you need to be offering a valuable experience AND proving your credibility.  Here are a couple of proven techniques to demand credibility:

  1. Allow customers to offer feedback with comment forms on blogs, announcements and products. This builds online credibility for your next round of customers to see, making them feel more comfortable doing business with you.
  2. Offer a public forum where customers can discuss what they like/dislike about your product or service. You can always moderate the forum if you are concerned about negative feedback.
  3. Give your customers individual, personalized attention through exceptional customer service.
  4. Prove that you're an expert by creating content & educating you customers about the products.Give customers detailed photo galleries, videos, specifications and anything else they won't find in a "bricks and mortar" store.  Customers crave information in their quest to become more informed.

Price

Competing on price is a hard battle to win.
The internet has introduced almost perfect competition and cutting your price is not the answer - it only serves to lower your brand image and the expectation of quality from customers.

Consumers are shopping for value not price, and value = benefit/price". In today's eCommerce world, the mental and emotional benefits often outweigh the price. Here's how your customers will justify paying your price.

  1. Make it easy for customers to contact you using automated enquiry forms, set up a detailed FAQ, and take away any emotional stress with instructional articles or videos.
  2. Use email marketing to send out regular Newsletters, containing updates about your eCommerce Business and some industry-specific hints or tips. Offering good, unique content will set you apart from the crowd and serve to justify your pricing.

Place

Customers browse and purchase products or services online - it's plain and simple. Crafting an effective "Place" strategy is about making what you offer accessible at the right place, at the right time and that means having an effective plan for Search Engine Optimization, Paid Search Marketing and Social Media Marketing.
Having an eCommerce storefront means that every product you offer has links to help spread the word, to be "Tweeted", Bookmarked, found on Google and blogged about. Help your customers help you. Let your customers in just a few clicks purchase, blog, tweet, and review your service for the world to find.

Also, here are a couple more ways you can add to the shopping experience within your eCommerce storefront:

  1. Display "Featured Products" on your front page, showcasing new deals that customers will be tempted to click on.
  2. Streamline the online shopping experience. Present only the information required, keep clicks to a minimum, and make the "Checkout" button always visible.

Promotion

The internet provides an overwhelming arsenal of promotional tools. The key is to use the sniper rifle instead of the shotgun - stay strategic and focus on the promotion at hand.
Due to the open nature and lower cost of online promotion, Marketers must ensure they are not lured into the trap of over-promoting and hence degrading their online image. Promotion, as part of the overall Marketing Mix, should be targeted, undertaken in moderation, and balanced with the other 3 Ps.

Here are some proven tactics for promoting your eCommerce Business:

  1. Use an online CRM system to segment your customer database; targeting discounts, special offers and email marketing at warmer prospects who are more likely to take an interest.
  2. Use a strategic mix of Internet marketing, Email Marketing & Social Media. Your eCommerce Storefront is now part of the wider web ecosystem and that means being present online for your customers so you can showcase, listen and engage with your customers.
  3. Publish content - videos on YouTube, photos on Picassa, articles on blogs - all content to have a link, a trail back to your eCommerce Business.

Mixing the ingredients

The best thing about the 4 P's is that it gives you the freedom to experiment, working out the unique balance of ingredients that suits your eCommerce Business. The key is to fine tune your overall strategy so that each of the 4 P's work in harmony with each other.
So make sure that your Pricing strategy suits your Product; that the Place (your distribution channels) take into account the nature of your Product, and that the costs are covered by the Price you're charging; or that your Promotion is highlighting the Product benefits your customers actually want, and you're targeting this at the right market segment.

So try it out, put together your strategy and refine your Marketing Mix a little bit more. Over time, you'll own the recipe for success with a unique balance of the 4 P's that suits you and your business.


Charles Brodeur
eCommerce Consultant
BigTurns Professional Services Ltd 
Vancouver, BC V6E 4R1
info@BigTurns.com

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