Not to denigrate the work of marketing professionals in previous eras, but there is far more sophistication required today to get an enterprise up and running than in decades past. A nifty billboard, cool radio jingle and a warm smile could take a retail operator a long way in the 1970s, 80s and even for most of the 90s.
Now that task has been magnified tenfold, placing an emphasis on clever online techniques that manages to achieve a specific reach for a target market. A number of these tricks are not exactly trade secrets, yet they are regularly overlooked and undervalued when companies are strategising and scheduling their marketing campaigns.
‘Content’ will be a common keyword that emerges over the course of anything related to online business and e-commerce marketing. Professionals swear by it and search engines demand it to make a brand visible on the Internet.
This will arrive in a variety of forms, from blog pieces to news articles, interviews, Q&As, polls, audiobooks, podcasts, videos or photo galleries. On any occasion that broadcasts a message complete with a brand or company logo, that falls under the overarching banner of ‘content.’
Putting that to one side though, what other elements form part of a successful online business operation? How can you decipher between an enterprise that is executing the right objectives with a clearly defined outcome, to those that are simply mimicking competitors or giving their consumers lip service to providing a quality online portal?
Here we will run our eye over 7 key factors that differentiates the genuinely successful from those that only appear to be on the surface.
Competition In The Marketplace
There are examples of small niche sites that manage to garner enough attention to be viable and even successful to a degree. However, should your ambitions be bold enough to be ticking over six to seven figures annually or more, then it is best to cater to an audience that can tick over traffic in the tens of thousands or even millions per month.
Take any of the main fields of business as a case in point: technology, lifestyle, fitness, vehicles, entertainment, sport, home ware, kitchen appliances, landscaping, real estate, art etc.– anything that will pertain an ongoing value to the general populous will always be viable.
A software platform like Google Adwords can issue a comprehensive list of what keywords are trending in specific geographic locations and demographics, illustrating what people are searching for online.
Your goals will be relative to your own revenue stream where a return on investment (ROI) can be altered depending on your circumstances. The bottom line though in this respect is the need to be operating inside a marketplace that generates enough traffic and involves a degree of healthy competition.
Customer Support Network
Place yourself in the shoes of a visiting consumer for one moment and consider what you would want from a company’s website. Perhaps you have caught the eye of a product or service that suits what you were looking for, but there are some questions you have before following through with a transaction. That could be anything from delivery time to payment to type or style of product – questions will always arise.
It is those operations that have a fully functioning customer support network that will stay ahead of the pack. Quick and efficient response time is one key indicator, but the quality of that response will also go a long way to determining success, giving the consumer the right amount of information to guide them towards a call to action such as a phone call or a purchase order.
One case study that is interesting in this sense is the domain of … domains! Web hosting has boomed into a huge industry in the past 5-10 years and the US brand HostGator has rocketed up the rankings to be up there with an entity like GoDaddy. Their service and range of packages is enticing, yet it is their customer service portal for on-the-spot questions online and thorough Q&A bullet points that makes them such an attractive proposition.
Consumers feel a sense of security when there is a healthy customer support network in place. It speaks not so much to the “what” of a website but a “how,” enhancing a users experience via a team that is ready to guide a visitor through the process.
Tapped Into Mobile Commerce
Optimised sites that cater their traffic to mobile users are streets ahead of the competition today. So many online operators continue to think through the desktop prism, not because they aren’t tapped into current trends or evolutions, this is simply a result of continued practice that has made the phrase “online marketing” work in conjunction with the default mode of a traditional computer.
Take note of any of the top search engine optimisation (SEO) developments over the course of the past few years, and many of them will revolve around the drive towards mobile users. From Google to Bing and Yahoo, there has been an acceptance that local businesses are searched for by people on the go, requiring urgent and up-to-the-minute product and contact details as they venture down a city block or shopping mall.
This switch has been made both from a quantity standpoint, but also quality. Local mobile users are proven to be more active as participants in the consumer industry, faster to make a purchase or enter a store from a mobile search than their desktop and tablet counterparts.
To judge the worth and viability of an online business, check their mobile optimisation to see if their desktop performance can transition to the smaller screen.
We have already asked you to consider the position of the customer before. Well let us head back there for a moment to think about your reaction to sites or marketers who are aggressively pushing a product at you. Before you have all the information at hand or given time to consider alternatives, some outlets are in a rush to push through that crucial sale above all other priorities.
A bit of a turn off, isn’t it?
If we are taking cues from the top businesses in the global marketplace, then it is best to source those that provide genuine value through all manners of formats. Brands that want to go that extra mile to educate, inform and even entertain their visitors are demonstrating that the end goal will occur organically. Invest in the user experience first and see the results happen down the track.
To be an educator that provides assistance on any topic, your brand suddenly becomes an authority and go-to source on trends and news in the industry. Tap into this momentum by offering your customers any of the following:
- PDF guides
By showcasing your knowledge and passion on a subject, the website suddenly becomes a portal that is multi-dimensional and attractive for new visitors and returning consumers. It is also a great means of generating backlinks from external sources, boosting your search engine ranking in the process.
Product Variety and Re-Sell Value
Should you happen to be a shoe manufacturer that makes one type of shoe and nothing else, your scope is incredibly limited. Those shoe operators who cater to sportsmen and women, fashionistas, school children, professionals, formal events and more will have the capacity to branch their visibility to a variety of markets. The latter will be best placed to compete in the shoe industry for the long-term.
Take this rule and apply it to any field in the domain of online commerce. Manufacturing a consistent level of sales and revenue is the hardest challenge any business operator will face and to achieve this monumental task, you require a product or service that is targeted to an audience, all the while giving a series of options for the customer. Think of these as sub-niches within a niche.
Even those companies that are specialists with one type of product, say a water supply business, can tap into this necessity. From water coolers to covers, pumps, racks, stickers, toys, carry bags and more – there is always a means of giving variety and leveraging the bread and butter of what is sold 9 times out of 10.
Usability and User Navigation
First impressions matter when navigating a website. Tabs need to be clearly marked and defined, the aesthetics need to be pleasing without being dominant and it should not be difficult locating where more information can be found.
Think about your list of priorities though because this is not a one-size-fits-all approach. For those in the wedding photography business, your presentation through the website design will carry far more weight than an outlet that sells second hand lawnmowers. The demographics will shift depending on your target market.
What has to be at the top of the list for a business website is the navigation and clarity of purpose. Each tab and heading must have an end goal to provide value for the individual visitor and for SEO reasons.
Consider the XML Sitemap application, a program that ensures your content and web design is structured and clearly labelled. It is not just visitors that you are attempting to impress in this sense, but the search engines who demand the same amount of consistency and ease of navigation to rank you on keyword and content performance.
The best businesses utilise their site as an extension of their operation. It should be simple to follow through on a question or order. It should be presented in a neat, professional and clear manner. It should promote a positive message with the consumer’s needs at the top of the agenda.
Often it is those companies who master the basics that score the greatest amount of traffic and accumulate those much needed 5-star reviews.
Kieran is the Social Media Manager and SEO Expert at SEO Shark. He is an expert in Social Media, link building, PPC and of course SEO. In his time off work Kieran enjoys reading and playing rugby, as well as following all kinds of sports! You can read some more of his articles here.