:: By Rohan Ayyar, E2M Solutions ::
E-commerce is hotter than a red-hot iron right now --with no signs of cooling off.
If there was any opportunity ever, it’s here. With so many Web-based e-commerce store solutions available left, right and center, the barriers to enter e-commerce are lower than ever.
All you need to do is pick products or services that – ah, sell.
If you have an e-commerce business or an online store, the money just can’t wait. You spent days or months sweating through every component of a business plan. You’ve already invested some money into the store, it’s up and ready, waiting to roar into business. As an entrepreneur, the onus of responsibility is on you. The burden of profitability is yours to heave. It’s the same old weight on your entrepreneurial shoulders except that you have a lot more choices to exercise if you wanted to.
What are the important steps you should take to launch your online store into the profit trajectory as quickly as possible?
Dedicate yourself to smart marketing
Digital marketing is smart by itself. Yet, there are a lot of loose ends and not all business owners or marketers get it. Invest in the time and effort it takes to master “smart marketing.” This investment pays off for a lifetime of entrepreneurship. Learn how to put social media to good use. Fish out all possible and effective ways to generate leads. Master the art of continual engagement by building a list of enthusiastic and interested email subscribers. Get all those moving parts within your business plan aligned to work in tandem with your marketing efforts.
Either be smart or don’t bother with an online store or even a blog for that matter.
Use landing pages
When Oli Gardner, co-founder of Unbounce, embarked on the promotion of their "Guide to Conversion Centric Design" course, he decided to be a smart marketer and lead by example. Instead of throwing money at pay per click ads, he created dedicated landing pages and fine-tuned them according to the traffic they got (co-branding some of those pages in some instances). Landing pages are powerful, focused and the right way to build your lead base.
Anything else you are driving your traffic to is wasting money. Your home page has too many links for visitors to take any action. Your e-commerce homepage is like a mall. When was the last time you knew exactly where to go when you visited a new mall?
In an actual mall, there’s physical activity involved, and you wouldn’t leave so soon. An e-commerce store, unfortunately, is like any other website. If visitors don’t get it, they’ll move on. That’s your marketing investment showing its back to you.
Go for paid advertising
Free advertising is for bloggers and solo-business owners who sell services all by themselves – “microbusinesses” as Chris Guillebeau calls them in his book "The $100 Startup".
It could be that you are starting an online business all by yourself too, but that won’t matter. You are running an online store with products or services to sell. The fastest way to get some drive traffic to your landing pages is through paid advertising (yes, we aren’t even talking about your home page anymore).
Go for direct advertising, tap into new trends such as retargeting and also pick up on paid advertising on social media platforms. Explore and revisit offline channels.
Create content, push content
Ads lead to landing pages and this kind of setup allows you to build leads. How about engagement, trust, social proof and thought leadership? The paid (and quick) route to all of that is through sponsored “updates.”
Now, updates are not ads.
Sponsored updates are cleverly written, unbiased and valuable content designed to let your target audience consume it for their own benefit. This content can come off your blog, whitepapers, slide decks, videos, podcasts, or other social posts. Each update is for building trust, nurturing engagement and building your digital footprint. Deploy sponsored updates intelligently and you’ll get more eyeballs (and later hearts) tugging at your content. When customers and prospects like what they see and read, they are more likely to buy from you for the rest of their lives.
It’s easy enough to put up an online store today. The challenge lies in marketing the store. Therein also lies your ultimate profit utopia: earnings with loads of goodness floating around you.
Rohan Ayyar is responsible for project delivery and campaign management at E2M Solutions, a digital branding agency that focuses on content marketing and leveraging its intangible potential for premium clients.