The best eMarketing techniques for retailers

There’s a famous quote from a long-since-forgotten marketing manager that’s been doing the rounds for years:

“We reckon about half of our advertising budget is a waste of time. Problem is, we don’t know which half”.

Because no matter how much recall and awareness research you do, the exact Return On Investment from different media advertising can never be accurately measured.

But while its measurement capabilities are unsurpassed, eMarketing expenditure can suffer a similar fate for an entirely different reason.

What’s your eMarketing mix?

Every single business is different in its product range, size, turnover, budget, culture and so on, so every business will get a different result from its eMarketing initiatives. That means that the magic eMarketing formula (essentially your ‘eMarketing mix’) is going to be different for different businesses.

What’s more, some techniques are so new there isn’t yet enough evidence of how effective they really are.

So while few are in a position to prescribe a foolproof eMarketing mix for your business (despite what they may tell you), we can at least provide some insights into which eMarketing techniques will suit different categories of business.

Over the next several weeks this blog will look at six key categories of business and rate how effective different eMarketing techniques and website features are likely to be – with ‘high’ meaning high effectiveness, medium – medium effectiveness and so on.

The following article looks at the retail sector.

Selling online: HIGH
Readers of this and most other eMarketing blogs must be tired of reading it. Retailers must embrace professional eCommerce for both growth and defensive purposes. On the growth side, the web provides a brilliant new channel to market for a very low outlay compared to your physical shop front. Defensively, if you don’t look after your customers online your competitors will.

Search Engine Optimisation: HIGH
As a business, your online mission is to be prominent on the search engine results pages for your line of business and particularly in your locality. That means your website must be well ‘optimised’ to ensure this occurs. There are a range of low cost activities you can do to optimise your website – most of which should occur when your website is being established.

The other critical factor is to ensure your website has an easy-to-use Content Management System (CMS). The basic equation is the more content on a given topic, the more chances you have for search engines to rank you well. A good CMS allows you to add as much content and product information as you like, improving your rankings with every new page.

Search engine advertising: HIGH
Despite what you might hear, well positioned and well written ‘pay per click’ advertising can offer an excellent Return on Investment. One of my retail clients receives about 80% of their new business from this flexible and accountable form of advertising (and no doubt others more than this).

It’s particularly useful in the event of your being in a very competitive category of business. It can be adjusted immediately in reaction to a dip or surge in your position on search engines due to either of a competitive action or change in a search engine’s ranking algorithm (rules).

Email marketing: HIGH
Arguably, this technique benefits retailers more than any other line of business due to the fact that retailers are able to take advantage of their constant foot traffic to gain new sign-ups to their email lists. Unfortunately, few take advantage of this critical advantage. The point is that most retailers are able to promote repeat business and email marketing is the perfect way to do this due to its low cost and (in the right hands) low invasiveness.

Online directories and portals: MEDIUM
The reality is that most people turn to the search engines when looking for a supplier of a product because this approach allows them to find out more about the product in question well before they turn to who is going to supply it.

However, because retail is a traditional line of business, many web users still use the different forms of Yellow Pages to find a retailer in their locality. Definitely worth a try but get in quick before your competitors get an all-important higher listing than you. There are also a number of ‘category portals’ such as Home Improvement Pages and Natural Therapy Pages that are also well worth investigating.

Banner advertising: MEDIUM
Despite being one of the oldest and most derided of the online advertising media, banner advertising can still deliver a strong Return on Investment. Best results occur when you can get an affordable placement on websites that aren’t necessarily obvious, like local newspapers, schools, business groups and clubs. It also has the benefit of providing both branding and ‘on demand’ benefits. So even if browsers don’t click on your ad immediately, they may recall if for future reference.

Social networking: MEDIUM (CONDITIONAL)
Success with social networking is less about business type and more about resources. Those who have time or resources to dedicate to this burgeoning technique can get good results, however those that don’t can spend a lot of time not only achieving very little, but distracting them from more profitable pursuits. However, for those retailers whose staff have periods of low in-store traffic, social networking is a fantastic way of utilising otherwise dead time.

Affiliate marketing: HIGH
Despite being one of the older eMarketing techniques, affiliate marketing is still a well kept secret in this country. But for a very low investment, you can have website publishers all over the world displaying your graphical and text messages for no cost but a performance-based commission. If only other more expensive promotional avenues would accept this ultimately accountable way of being remunerated!

All in all, the web can offer considerable affordable promotional benefits to retailers. As we have pointed out here in the past though, the bigger issue is how to budge the bulk of them from their complacency with the medium.

Do you agree or disagree with these ratings? Either way, tell us why below. We’d especially love to hear from retailers who have tried the techniques described.

For more Internet Secrets, click here.

Craig Reardon is a leading eBusiness educator and founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which provide the gamut of ‘pre-built’ website solutions, technologies and services to SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.


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