Notes & Thoughts

The State of
Ecommerce

Selling products online has never been easier.

Or harder.

We built our first ecommerce-capable site in 1998. A band we were working with wanted to sell t-shirts and CDs online. They didn’t have room in the van for all the inventory they could sell on tour, so it was either get a bigger van, or try something new.

They tried something new.

When they’d run out of CDs or shirts at a concert, they’d hand out cards telling fans there were always more online. It’s an enviable model and one that made ecommerce seem pretty simple. They had a product, demand, an effective promotion channel, and an easy way to buy. *sound of a cash register*

All these years later, the basic model is the same. Retailers still need to clearly demonstrate the value of their products. They still need to build an audience, promote demand and make it easy to purchase. It’s rarely so simple as that site from 1998, though, especially if there’s an expectation for scale. (And there always is.)

Demonstration

Let’s start with your value proposition. Simply put, explaining your product is key to selling it. Because online customers can’t physically examine items before they buy, you have some work to do. Your story needs to be clear, concise and on-brand. This is a matter of nailing both content and design, and it’s a fundamental part of building demand. This is also the place where most retailers get it wrong.

Customers need to be able to envision themselves with your product. They need compelling details written with familiar vernacular. They need to be able to see lifestyle photography and product videos to get a sense for your product in use. And your site design and overall buying experience need to match your product persona.

The right online experience can even beat a physical point of sale. Think of how Apple sells products. The experience they create online actually enhances the buying experience. Yours can too.

Find an audience.
Build demand.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is inevitably the first tactic you’ll use to tell the world you exist. It’s also the first tactic your competitors will use. So, while you need SEO to be a big part of your strategy, you don’t want to stop there. Smart marketers know there is a lot more you can do to find audiences and build demand. You’re smart. Let’s talk about those other things.

Go where your customers are

Maybe (probably) your customers are on Facebook, for instance. There are a lot of ways you can connect with customers on Facebook. You already know you can create a business page. Did you also know you can create campaigns with ads that target specific audience segments? Let’s say you sell bikepacking gear. You can target people who’ve expressed an interest in bikepacking and/or cycling and/or camping. You can target people who’ve liked Bikepackers Magazine. You can target people who’ve like Salsa Bicycles or people who’ve liked your competitor’s bikepacking gear or people who’ve liked SnowPeak or Big Agnes or people who are men or women or who live in a certain place or people of a certain age. You can target people who’ve been to your site or signed up for your mailings or purchased from you previously. It goes on.

Let’s take a breath. The point is simple: the Internet allows you to find specific audience segments — i.e., customers — and new technologies and platforms let you create relevant content they’ll actually want to see. That isn’t to say these methods aren’t misused–they are–but you have a huge potential as a smart marketer with a great product and a clear message to find an audience and build demand. You just need to…

Stand Out.

Retailers today contend with a huge amount of online noise, both from actual competitors and from general distractions. Have you seen this video of dogs failing at being dogs?

Now that we’ve established how easy it is to learn what people are interested in, there’s simply no reason to create more noise. You know your product, you know your brand, and you should know enough about your audience to create relevant content–whether that’s an ad, an email or a post. All of these forms of content can be designed to stay on-brand.

Now that we’ve established how easy it is to learn what people are interested in, there’s simply no reason to create more noise. You know your product, you know your brand, and you should know enough about your audience to create relevant content–whether that’s an ad, an email or a post. All of these forms of content can be designed to stay on-brand.

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