According to the U.S. Department of Commerce in a February 2014 press release, e-commerce for fourth quarter 2013 increased nearly 17% over the same period the previous year. In other words, there was 17% more online shopping for the holidays last year.
E-Commerce continues to increase as mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets become more widely owned and online shopping is no longer restricted to the desktop. In fact, online shopping even occurs during visits to brick and mortar stores.
On top of this trend, the effectiveness of traditional “interruption” marketing has eroded to the point that some users will abandon sites using it. It is now imperative that eCommerce companies become focused on inbound marketing essentials.
Here are a few quick tips to get you started:
Simplified Website Architecture/User Experience
Make it easy to navigate and find products and services; don’t bury them in deeply nested pages or require too many clicks to reach them. As the number of products or services increase, other navigational methods may be more practical:
Iconographic product navigation
Slide-out sidebar navigation for subcategories
Categorical breadcrumb navigation
Affinity-based product suggestions for top products/categories
Uncomplicated Keyword URLs
Simplifying the URLs and optimizing their structure enhances search engine appearance. Optimize the URLs by:
Removing stop words (a, the, about, almost, if, may, so, etc.)
Removing query strings and non-alphanumeric characters
Featuring important keywords
Separating words with dashes
Optimized Product Names, Titles, and H1-H6 Tags
Search engines evaluate the relevance of your based on a number of factors; one of the most important is the proximity of important keywords (yes, this still matters!) to the top of a page or section and its semantic relevance to subsequent lines of content. But don’t just do this for the search engines. Think about how people search and ask questions, then provide easy to interpret, contextually relevant answers.
Contextually relevant product titles generally follow this format: Brand > Model > Product Type (broad-based, brand agnostic keyword[s]).
For example: Samsung Galaxy Note III Smartphone, or Blue Wave 3" Chlorine Tablets 10 lb Bucket (Tri-Chlor).
Social Media Presence
Selling begins with awareness. If nobody knows it’s there, no one looks for it to buy. As part of your market research you should be learning where your customers hang out online, in particular the social media networks they favor.
Create your accounts and build a presence on each channel where you can find your ideal customer. A Facebook page can display samples of your catalog, and updates on special offers and promotions. Twitter can be used to announce and monitor events, and engage with customers in real-time. Image-heavy channels like Pinterest can be used to promote the aspirational qualities of your brand. Google Plus, ignore the haters, is far-and-away the best place to promote your blog content on social media--people on G+ love long-form content and engage in lively discussion, bringing traffic to your site and authority to your brand.
Never use social media as a hard-selling tool.
Metrics and Measurement
One of the biggest advantages to being online is the amount of discrete information available that you can use to make changes to your marketing, messaging, or method of selling. You can get results in real time about how your website is performing, whether your marketing campaigns are hitting their targets, and how quickly a particular item is moving.
eCommerce has come a long way since the first online sale was made, when many marketing and sales practices were simply duplicated from pre-digital times without questioning whether they were appropriate for the platform. Customers have changed as well; the customer is now in charge of the relationship and does not want to be “sold to.” What they want is a shopping experience that is convenient and easy to use, killer customer service, and good shipping. Get out of their way and let them shop.