With so many competitors maintaining an online presence, how can you make sure yours is visible and stands out among the noise? Both independent sellers on marketplaces like Etsy and Shopify and large companies like Nordstrom and Walmart—with brick-and-mortar retail stores and an accompanying online presence—can benefit with some easy online marketing investments.
There is one strategy that has many tactics that, when used correctly and in conjunction with one another, can boost an e-Commerce website’s visibility (and therefore sales): Inbound marketing.
Focus on Inbound Marketing
Customers of both brick-and-mortar and online-only retail stores live in the online space in some capacity, such as using email for their work, staying connected to family and friends on social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, or using search engines like Google and Bing for research. But for e-Commerce stores, the only focus is getting customers to that online website, so all your attention and resources can be applied to marketing in the online space.
Inbound marketing focuses on promoting your company across the Internet. Think of an e-Commerce store you admire. Where have you seen them online? Maybe as an ad on a search results page or a sponsored Instagram post? The idea is that wherever your customers are, you will have a presence—and they will bring themselves to your e-Commerce website.
So, how is it done?
Inbound Marketing Tactics
You may already be using some of these tactics in your current marketing strategy. If you do, that’s great—but take some time to re-evaluate your efforts. How is your e-Commerce performing with these tactics? Can you identify any weak areas? If you do, how can you improve them?
Even if you do already use some of these tactics, it’s best to start from scratch (Don’t worry: If you find your tactics are performing well, you can incorporate them into your new strategy). You want to make sure the tactics work together so you can have the best possible inbound marketing strategy.
Here are a few tactics you can incorporate into your e-Commerce’s inbound marketing strategy.
Optimize Your Website for Search Engines
Since inbound marketing is all about bringing customers to your e-Commerce website, it’s important to have your website optimized for search engines. Here is a checklist of some main items to optimize:
- Make sure your website is easily navigable. Having an organized website is necessary for two reasons. First, it helps search engine bots more easily crawl your site and understand its organization. A website with a good site structure is going to be ranked higher than one that has a poor site structure—and that’s important for visibility. Second, you want your customers to be able to easily find what they’re looking for. If they get frustrated, they’ll leave without ever making a purchase.
- Make sure your website has a fast load time. Another way customers will become frustrated is with a slow load time. If your website takes longer than 3 seconds to load, it is more likely to be abandoned by potential customers. But for e-Commerce, the load time threshold is 2 seconds.
- Check how your website looks on a desktop versus a mobile browser. You need to make sure your website has a responsive design so customers on both desktop and mobile browsers can get the best possible experience. A responsive design will automatically make your website render in a way that is optimal for a particular browser. This way, it will maintain load speeds and easy navigation.
- Publish quality, optimized content. Content is vital to search engine optimization and is one of Google’s top 3 ranking factors. Including keywords is important, but ultimately your content needs to benefit your customer. Make it informative and easily understood. Create structure using header tags to visually break up the content and make it more easily digestible for the reader; this also helps them skim for information that is most important to them.
There are more elements to consider in making your website optimized, but by focusing on these four first and you will be well on your way.
Publish Content on a Blog
Part of having a website optimized for SEO is by publishing content, as content can help improve your search engine ranking. But content is so important to both SEO and inbound marketing that it deserves further explanation.
One of the easiest things to do is publish content to a blog—and it has great returns. According to one study, companies that blog see 55% more visitors to their websites and have 97% more inbound links. Any e-Commerce can benefit, and you’ll find that generating topics are easier than you think.
- For clothing retailers: Trends for [Year]’s Fall Season; Cutest Accessories for Spring; How to Heat Up Your Summer Wardrobe
- For toy retailers: Best Gifts for the Holiday Season; Why ______ Toys are Best for Toddler Development; A Look at Barbie’s Evolution
- For tech retailers: The Best Father’s Day Gifts for a Tech-loving Dad; Best Gifts for the High School Graduate; How _______ Will Impact Your Life; Top Fitness Gadgets for the New Year
In blogging, you want to provide quality, informative content that somehow ties back to your product offerings. Not only will you help your readers in their quest for information, but you can also show how your specific offerings can benefit them in some way. And because blogging can help you improve your website’s ranking (and thus improve your inbound marketing), there’s no reason not to blog!
A good rule of thumb is to blog at least two to three times per week. But if you lack the time or resources, blog a minimum of once per week.
Take Advantage of Email
Email marketing is still proving it offers a great return on investment year after year. According to the 2015 DMA National Client Email Report, that ROI is an average of $38 for every $1 spent. Here’s how you can use email as part of an inbound strategy:
- Target specific contacts. In using email for inbound marketing, you’ll want to only contact individuals who are already opted-in to receiving communication from you. Segment this list of individuals and craft messages that meet their needs, such as looking at previous purchase history or using geographical location.
- Try cross-selling. Let’s say someone bought a handcrafted leather purse from your e-Commerce site. A week or two later, you can send them an email about purchasing a care kit for leather goods. This is known as cross-selling, where you suggest a complementary product for something previously purchased.
- Use your content. Having a regularly updated blog can also help with your inbound marketing. For example, let’s say Father’s Day is right around the corner. You can write a new blog post or pull an older piece relevant to the holiday. We’re going to use an older (but relevant) piece titled “The Best Father’s Day Gifts for a Tech-loving Dad” and share this via email with our subscribers. That way we are helping our customers get ideas while suggesting some of our products.
You need to plan your emails in advance, but with such a high return on investment, you don’t want to pass this up.
Implement These Tactics Today
A better inbound marketing strategy can organically lead to improved e-commerce, as more people are likely to see your website and product offerings and be drawn to them. By using a variety of tactics as well as the right marketing tools, you’ll have a better chance of targeting customers wherever they may be online.
Once you’ve implemented your inbound marketing strategy, don’t forget to analyze and adjust as needed. Part of a good strategy is regular performance evaluations. What works today may not work as well (or at all) six months from now for different reasons, including a change in your customer base or new “best practices” regarding inbound marketing.