Online Sales Are Still Booming

Retail sales in Australia, UK and USA are down year on year, but online sales are up, and consistently performing in most countries at +/- 30% growth.

Are you making the best of your online sales opportunity?

Whether you have a main street shop, a boutique in a mall or only an online presence there has never been a more important time to maximize sales opportunity.

When you have a physical shop it is a great pull back for visitors to your shop, to be able to refer them to your website. This ensures you can continue a passive or proactive relationship with potential customers.

A passive relationship is where you are offering interesting information and content online to keep them coming back regularly.

A proactive site is where you are capturing email addresses, and physical addresses, to keep referring them to your website, and reminding them about your fantastic business.

If you can also offer them the advantage of ordering online, you are really entering the best opportunity space. You see, they know you because they visited your store – now they are building trust with you, so now is the ideal time to offer them online shopping experience.

There is a shoe shop in a nearby town that does this, and I buy regularly online from them. If they didn’t have the website, I would only spend about 10% of what I spend now! Why, because I am busy and it is a hassle to get there – but online takes me 5-10 minutes to order a pair of shoes.

Have you got an online webshop, or your own website?

Being an email user is your first step into online business, asking your customers for their email address (and importantly) permission to contact them. This way you can tell them about special promotions, sales and other new things in your business.

You can only expect the best results and participate in the online sales boom if you have a website, and preferably a shop online.

There are two ways to do this:

First you can go and have someone develop you a full website, depending on what you sell, this will cost you between $250 and $5,000. Also, there is an exciting new instant shop builder service about to be launched onto the world internet market in November, if you would like further information on this please contact us.

Alternatively you can have a web shop on most recognized classified websites. These usually cost a few dollars a month set fee, although some sites also charge you a % of sales on top of that.

Normally the type of shop you would choose depends on what you are selling, and the type of image you want to have.

Small businesses, with limited stock items, may well find that it suffices to have a webshop on a classified site. However, if you have a range of items to sell and would like to attract more new customers to your store, then your own website with full payment facility is the better way to go.

If you have a physical store your earliest sales will come directly from your physical customer base, and their friends, capturing additional sales from people who have visited you. In my mind, this works better than a loyalty card – I refuse all loyalty cards (I never seem to have the right one at the right time), but I happily give my email address to shops I like – I want to know when they have a promotion, and I want to shop online!

You can also offer a small discount, similar to a loyalty card for all customers whose email address you hold.

If you only have an online business, and no physical presence then of course you also have to put some work into new attracting customers to your store! Let us look at some of your needs now.

Do you have your online store maximized for getting customers?

Unlike the High Street, just opening your website doors will not bring you customers; in fact no one will likely even find you.

First you need to be listed on as many relevant directories as possible; there are even services that will do this for you.

Next you need to make sure Google and Yahoo will find you, this means you must have good keywords relevant to your content on the home page. If you sell shoes, mention the word shoes at least ten times on your home page and add it to your key words. Then perhaps you might like to add the brands you sell, the style of shoes etc, even the district or demographic that you see as your target market. Be sure that whatever keywords you use, the Google searches will find those keywords on the relevant page!

Beware of using words with too much competition. For example the word ‘shoes’ alone, will not be enough to get you on the first thousand pages of a search. If however, you had shoes, Nike, sport shoes, sports shoes, ‘your town’, ‘your region’, tennis shoes, golf shoes etc. Then you will have removed a large number of your competitors for ranking.

As you become more web savvy, you can use keyword search tools to choose the best key words for your site, but the truth is it will sap up a lot of your time for only a small advantage. There are other things you can do to rank faster.

Can you write an article, like this one? If you can, that is a fabulous way to attract visitors to your site. We will use the shoe shop as our analogy throughout this article. So write about shoes, give advice about shoes, give the top 10 most important things to understand when buying new shoes. Send that article to key article sites like ezines, article cube, etc.

Perhaps you could have a blog attached to your shoe shop, sound funny? It works. First you can give shoe tips, fashion tips etc, but your customers will also be interested in your life and what you do on weekends etc. If you play competitive sport then give your results, good or bad, add some humour. People love to read about the lives of others, particularly someone they know.

It is good practice to join social networks like Facebook and Twitter and link your blogs directly to them; this again increases your market exposure quickly.

Blogs and Articles are the fast food for search engines, their impact and speed in rocketing you into top spaces in searches cannot be underestimated.

If you sell for example sports shoes can you link up with local sports clubs and advertise and link back to your online store from their site. Write simple, strong ads around your website name in the sport magazines. By this I mean a simple statement or line to attract customers, for example:

Great Shoes, Top Brands, Best Prices and Family Friendly Service!

You can visit us online at ‘your website address’.

You can also offer to make the sports club newsletter more interesting, by donating an article about a new shoe release, or the purpose of special soles for balance or whatever is applicable.

Now, I know we just talked about shoes here, but you can apply that to almost any type of shop it all applies equally to art, jewellery, tyres, vitamins, Tupperware, clothing, or even services like restaurant, wine bar, coaching, sport etc.

Are you using AdWords or similar online advertising?

If you can afford at least $50 per month, then affiliates (other websites) is a good way to bring new traffic and customers to your online store. Google AdWords, or Yahoo! Advertising, in fact most search engines all run similar affiliate advertising possibilities. You may target by geography, and other demographics and you will pay for each person that visits your store. You can set the level, but it normally costs around .10 to .50 cents per visitor, some key words these days are getting very expensive as Google begins to have a stronghold on internet advertising! You will have to search for cost effective words and it is important that those words appear on your home page, or Google will not run your ads.

You can also sign up for an affiliate marketing program, I recommend ClixGalore as a reputable marketer where you can start at a reasonable cost. .Here you can also pay by click for a visitor (be very cautious here as many disreputable sites exist that pay people to click, this is useless traffic). I recommend pay % per sale. This means if they send a visitor to your online store who buys something, you pay a % of that sale to the referring website owner. Normally you need to offer 10 to 15% as a minimum but as it is for a sale you would not get otherwise, and then it is a good deal!

Once you attract this traffic, try and offer an incentive to opt in and give you their name and email address. You could offer a competition entry, or a free information sheet (downloadable is preferable) if they sign in. Then you must also include a box that gives their permission for you to contact them with a regular update or newsletter. It is against the law to use their email address to write to them unless you have their permission. It is worth the hassle, once you have an email database of say 500-1000 people, you can tell them when you have a sale, add a new line of products, promotions and even send regular information with special offers etc. This is a valuable additional customer base that may never visit your store.

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