An online presence is a must for any business. According to statistics aggregator Statista, estimates are that online sales in the U.S. rose 12.9% in 2018 to $504.58 billion and will see consistent double-digit growth between now and 2022. Statista's forecast expects worldwide e-commerce sales to reach over $4.87 trillion by 2021. Those figures represent just the online sales of goods. The numbers do not include the sale of services or transactions that occur locally where initial contact or comparison shopping began over the Internet.
The bottom line is that if you are not on the web, you are missing out on a major market for your goods and services.
Many small businesses put off establishing themselves online because they are confused by Internet marketing concepts. In actuality, although the medium is different, the concepts of Internet marketing stay the same.
To make the most of your online shop, you need to learn about what makes the web different and how to make the most of its strengths for your business. Here is a look at five basics you need to understand.
A website that is appealing and engaging is step number one. Just like a clean, well lit and welcoming storefront, a well-designed site attracts visitors. If they like what they see and can easily get their questions answered, they will probably buy from you.
If you already have a website but are attracting few paying customers, have a professional review your website.
Evaluate your content. Does it answer questions clearly? Is it interesting and useful?
Ask friends and visitors how easy it is to navigate through your site. If it is confusing, visitors will simply leave. Consider utilizing a usability testing firm to provide you with feedback on the effectiveness of your website.
Do you use attractive and professional looking graphics, photos and even video? They are essential attention-getters because you only have a second or two to convince a visitor to stay on your site longer.
Search Engine Optimization
Usually called SEO, search engine optimization simply means appealing to the algorithms used by the different search engines, like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. By far the majority of your search engine traffic will come from the behemoth Google.
Your goal is to get on the first page of the search engine results, and preferably in the top five. You do this by consistently updating your content with useful, engaging copy. Use keywords in your website text that match what you believe to be potential customers most popular search terms. Also, take advantage of social media, use quality backlinks on your website, and make use of Google+.
Using email effectively is the best way to stay in touch with prospects and customers. Provide them with helpful content and offer them sales opportunities periodically but not too often. Over time, you will build brand recognition and customer loyalty.
Online, everyone complains of overstuffed inboxes. The way to get people to look forward to your emails is to send just a few emails, but pack them with genuinely helpful advice and excellent deals tailored to their needs. If you follow this formula, your emails will get read instead of being immediately deleted.
There are so many social media platforms that it can be confusing knowing where to make your mark. You are better off choosing two or three and then consistently updating your content and regularly engaging with followers.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn are the big ones. However, there are many other smaller spots on the net where prospects gather. Find out where your target audience is and set up an active, interesting, and entertaining presence.
You cannot confine yourself to a blog or website copy. Content marketing means spreading the word about your brand, products and services using every type of communication method available on the web. This certainly includes your blog, website copy, email, and social media posts.
Go beyond those essentials with ebooks, whitepapers, press releases, podcasts, infographics, photos, graphics of all types, and especially videos. There is a reason that more than 75% of all marketers now use video content on their sites and YouTube has more than a billion visitors each month.
Learn which types of content work best for your audience and do more of it. Then keep it updated and fresh.
You need to be online. The days when it was optional are long over. If you are not online now, start small with a website and gradually add all the elements discussed. It is a wise investment in the health, longevity, and profitability of your business.