The Competitive Nature Of The Internet

The Competitive Nature Of The Internet

The internet is an extremely tough and competitive world, where almost everyone is on a level playing field. It is therefore absolutely paramount for a company starting up or moving into the e-commerce environment to find themselves a sustainable competitive advantage through developing their own existing distinctive competencies, whether by selling exclusive products, providing exceptional levels of additional customer support, or ensuring the actual site is easy to navigate yet attractive, innovative and unique in its design.

It is very important to be aware of the tactics being used by your competitors online; as there are various factors they could change/add on/stop using which could adversely affect the number of customers using your site ahead of another to make their purchases online. These include basic features such as price; some companies base their price on what their competitors are offering, and ensuring theirs is always the cheapest/best deal. Post and packaging is a cost that all e-tailers have to contend with, in order to get their product(s) to the customer. Deciding on what rates to charge the customer, whether making a loss by rendering all ‘p&p’ free when a certain amount is spent, or charging more than necessary to regain any profits lost by offering the product itself at a reduced price, is an important decision. Some e-commerce stores may require a membership before you can shop online, which could add a certain prestige factor to the experience, but could also work the other way and repel potential customers when they realize they have to pay for the privilege of simply browsing what is on offer.

The website itself needs to be well built by an experienced web designer, preferably with SEO and SEM experience, although this is not essential as a separate person can be employed to make the site search engine friendly and build in all the tags and links once the design has been completed. A good web designer is well worth spending the money on, because a poorly built, home made site will not only be unappealing to customers, but give them no faith in the security of the site, meaning they will be unlikely to hand over any credit card details. Many sales, and therefore potential profit, could be lost by trying to cut corners with the initial preparation.

Besides the actual design of the website, the marketing and promotion of it is even more essential. A perfectly designed, attractive looking site won’t do anyone any good if no one knows it’s even there! SEO and SEM look to ensure that when a keyword or phrase is typed into a search engine, your website is as high up on the list, or ‘rankings’ as possible. The higher up the better, but even more important is to be on the first page of results – browsers very rarely look further than that. This is achieved by making sure these keywords appear regularly in the text on the website, so that when the search engine generates its results they can be picked up quickly. Another popular, but expensive method is known as Pay Per Click advertising, where companies are guaranteed a small ad on the results page for certain keywords that they bid on. However, only when the advert is clicked on, do you have to pay the search engine the agreed amount, hence the name ‘Pay Per Click’. It is easy to see why costs generated from this can add up – just because a browser clicks the ad, it doesn’t mean they will make a purchase from the site, so there is often a lot of money spent for a small return.

Businesses not currently involved in e-commerce should certainly jump on the bandwagon sooner rather than later, but it is important to view, and budget for, the e-commerce as a separate sales channel and plan accordingly, to achieve the best success.

Ecommerce Marketing Strategy- Within the Realm of Ecommerce

Ecommerce Marketing Strategy- Within the Realm of Ecommerce

Every business needs a marketing strategy, and that includes those within the realm of ecommerce. It is incredibly easy for anybody to start an online business, but the vast majority of them will fail miserably. While there are many reasons that any business can fail, it’s a safe bet to say that the successful ones have all implemented an effective ecommerce marketing strategy. The following information will help you set up the best strategy for your internet business.

The best marketing strategies are those that are incorporated into the initial planning stages of the business. In other words, consider what your marketing strategy might be while you are figuring out what to sell, selecting a domain name, designing your site, and so on. Marketing is much more than advertising; marketing permeates every aspect of your business and paints a picture of your company and your offer in the minds of your prospects. Don’t make the mistake of marketing only after everything else is up and running.

You need to have a firm idea of who your target market is before you can start marketing to them. Who is your product for? How old are they? What is their education level? Income? What are there hobbies and interests? What do they identify with? What problems do they have? And the list goes on. The more detailed your image of the ideal customer, the easier your marketing will be.

The next step in a good ecommerce marketing strategy is to determine where your customers are most likely to see your message and be receptive to it. You could just plaster a link to your site anywhere and everywhere that will allow you to do so, but if your target audience doesn’t go there, or if they perceive your ads as intrusive, then they won’t be inclined to follow those links back to your site. For example, if they are likely to be watching music videos, you could put ads on video sites, but you would want to avoid any ads that interrupt the viewing process.

Knowing your ideal customer and how best to reach them is a good start, but you also need to market to them using their language. We aren’t referring to English, Chinese, or Norwegian, but rather using the terminology they are familiar with. Be careful that you don’t overdo it, and that you fully understand their vernacular, otherwise you run the risk of coming across as phony.

Once you have all of those things in place, you can decide which methods you want to be a part of your strategy. There are many options for online marketing, and there are also options that can fit into any budget. Again, your decision as to whether or not to use a certain method should be based on how your target market is likely to respond.

Now it’s just a matter of implementing everything and tracking the results. Test variations and make adjustments as needed. Following this blueprint for an ecommerce marketing strategy will lead you to success.

Security is the number one concern for internet shoppers today.

Security is the number one concern for internet shoppers today.

The e-commerce business is all about making money and then finding ways to make more money. Of course, it’s hard to make (more) money, when consumers don’t feel safe executing a transaction on your Web site. That’s where SSL (Secure Socket Layer) comes into play. Understanding how SSL affects e-commerce business can also potentially help you to unlock (more) money from your customers.

You need SSL if…
– Your business partners log in to confidential information on an extranet.
– You have offices that share confidential information over an intranet.
– You process sensitive data such as address, birth date, license, or ID numbers.
– you have an online store or accept online orders and credit cards
– You need to comply with privacy and security requirements.
– You value privacy and expect others to trust you.

If you are doing online business where sensitive information such as credit cards, Personal data will be transferred, you surely need to secure your website. Gaining your customers trust is of the utmost importance. Your customers will only purchase the product if they feel safe and confidant about you.

Before the introduction of SSL it was difficult to ensure privacy over the web in online transactions. There was a general distrust of the ability to conduct online transactions and a fear that an individual’s credit card information could be picked up by a third party and used for unauthorized purchases.
SSL should be enacted on pages requiring a password or might contain personal data most clients would like to keep private. Some sites will place SSL on some pages and forget other pages that are equally as sensitive. For the sake of your personal experience with ecommerce, you should implement SSL protocol.

Any website that conducts business over the Internet and has e-commerce transactions should use SSL (Secure Socket Layer). It is the standard way to secure transactions by encrypting data and providing authentication over the web. SSL prevents hackers from accessing personal information, impede misuse of information.

A certificate authority (CA) is an authorized company or individual for that matter that has the ability to issue and verify digital certificates. There are several of websites that offer a digital certificate. One of the popular Global Certification authorities is MindGenies (www.sslgenie.com).

Blog And Ping – The Basics

Blog And Ping – The Basics

Blogs and ping are the most frequently used words in the IT sector today. These two words are on everyone’s lips today. So why are blogs and pinging getting so much importance today? Blogs and pinging can get you very good profits in the wrong run. So what exactly are blogs and pinging?

A blog is a website where members can discuss online their views on a particular topic. There are some blogs that are general in nature where people can discuss anything and there are blogs on which you can discuss only on a particular topic. However it is advisable that when you start a blog it should not be generalized but it should be opened on a particular topic. For example instead of starting a blog on the Information Technology you can start a blog only on Microsoft Technologies. There are a lot of blog softwares that you can use on your server and then run it independently.

Blogs are increasingly used for SEO marketing. Through blogs you can advertise your internet site on the blogs. Blog and ping is a process through which you can post a snippet of information from your site to a blog to increase your SEO. When you post snippets of your website information on the blog, search engine sites like Google and Yahoo will find it more easily. The search engine will be able to track your site more easily due to spidering and indexing. You can blog and ping only very important information from your site and not all information. You can also rent links to your site which makes the work of spidering easier for search engines. There were many aggressive marketers before who used to blog and ping all their web pages and that also repeatedly. As a result the search sites termed the individuals spammers and then banned their websites from ranking.

So how is blog and ping done successfully? The tasks can be easily done with the help of softwares like WordPress and RSS to Blog. Using these softwares you can submit your links to over 50 blog directories at a click of a button. You can download WordPress and RSS to Blog and then install them on your computer. Once you have installed the programs on your computer you should them customize them according to your needs. Then you should create a list of links from your site that will use in the blog sites. You can do this automatically using RSS to Blog. You can save these links for future use also so that you don’t have to enter the list of links all over again. You also have the ability to add more data to RSS to Blog from external sources. The list of blog entries are automatically modified when you make more entries.

Hence we see that blog and ping are one of the best methods to make your website more famous in the search engines. You can use them and also modify their configuration according to your needs.

Consumer Website Marketing With Content

Consumer Website Marketing With Content

Amazon is widely recognized as the most successful ecommerce site in history. Much discussion has been devoted to the role of Amazon’s affiliate program, website usability, website personalization, and capital investments. But little attention has been paid to the vital role content plays on the Amazon site, and how big an advantage Amazon has over its competitors thanks to content.
How Does Amazon Use Content?
Unlike most ecommerce sites, Amazon doesn’t stop at a simple product image and a blurb.
* Amazon includes just about every bit of text the manufacturer or publisher of the item provided. For books, this is the publisher’s description and selected quotations of reviews.
* Then there are the famous user reviews. A lot of sites give visitors an opportunity to cast a review, but few sites accord their reviews the pride of place that Amazon does, with the result that there is rarely a product or book on Amazon that doesn’t have at least a few reviews.
* Finally, there are the original reviews Amazon’s in-house writers create. Even with a wealth of content it does not have to pay a writer for, Amazon still sees the value in professionally crafted words.
What Advantages Does Web Content Bring Amazon?
* Eyeballs. A visitor who is reading something is much more likely to stick around the site. And as every web marketer knows, the longer the visit, the better the chance of them buying something. Meanwhile, you’re much more likely to turn to Amazon in the future when you’re in the early stages of shopping. After all, Amazon is one of the few ecommerce sites that actually provides the information you need to make a decision.
* Mindshare. Were you ever sitting on the fence about buying something, until you read something on Amazon that sold you? You probably didn’t realize it at the time–we all like to think our decisions are ours alone and not the product of careful marketing–but carefully placed content was working its magic on your decision-making.
* Trust. An oft-overlooked dimension of content on ecommerce is sites is how it can built trust enough in visitors to make them feel comfortable pulling out their credit cards. The ultimate trust issue in ecommerce is that the product isn’t really what the visitor wants, that when it finally arrives it won’t be quite what you had in mind. Detailed information about the item goes a long way to assuaging those fears.
* Search engine traffic. Certainly there have been numerous times when you’ve searched on a product or book name and Amazon was one of the first results. How often do you see Overstock-com or BarnesandNoble-com appear? How could they? They don’t have anywhere near as much text for a search engine to base its listing on.
* Reduced advertising expenditures. Overstock-com has launched a relatively massive (for the web world) television advertising campaign along with a significant web advertising campaign. It’s even followed through on the campaign with a lot of truly great bargains. Yet Amazon-com is still number-one in ecommerce and has not felt the need to make a big splash on offline media in quite a while. When you have the search engine traffic and mindshare that website content brings, even the biggest advertising budgets will have a hard time unseating you.
In short, Amazon may have the most sophisticated and carefully fine-tuned ecommerce operation in existence, but it still appreciates one of the most time-honored methods of selling something: words. If your business doesn’t have the advertising budget of Overstock-com or the brand recognition of Barnes and Noble, that’s an encouraging fact indeed.

Marketing Your Small Business

Marketing Your Small Business

Small business marketing may be the most important part in owning and maintaining a successful small business. A good portion of the marketing effort is determining the needs of your target market and then explaining that you provide solutions to meet those needs. Contrary to popular belief, it is a lot more than posting a sign or handing out flyers. Though many of the philosophies and tactics may be similar, small business marketing is an entirely different discipline than marketing of large companies. Successful marketing is not just a tactic or strategy; it is an entire process and you are sure to fail if you are not enthusiastic about your small business.

Done properly, marketing can and will attract all the clients your small business can handle. But I would suggest you get to a place where you work only with clients who value what you have to offer. If you commit to following simple small business marketing systems, strategies and ideas you can significantly increase what you charge for your services. Unfortunately though, most small business promotions focus only on how great their products and services are. But you need to stay focused on what products and services your ideal clients want and need.

Here’s another big no-no to avoid. Instead of marketing only when you need money or cash flow, commit to marketing your products and services all of the time. It is very important to consistently market your products and services because as I have been saying for years, success is based on persistency and consistency, not magic.

Planning is also a key ingredient to the success of any small business. Developing a small business marketing plan will be one of the most crucial elements to your success. By creating your marketing plan you will eliminate the panic and need for an instant solution to financial problems because you can avoid many of the ups and downs that result from the all to common stop and start marketing. Your plan does not have to be set in stone, it can evolve as you and your business grow. The important thing is your dedication to consistency with your marketing.

The lack of persistency and consistency will lead to an unused marketing plan. This in turn will lead to spits and starts in your cash flow. Successful entrepreneurs who have a small business marketing plan make more money in less time. When you start to think of who your ideal client is and what products and services they want or need and then combine that with your marketing tools and techniques, an effective marketing plan is not far behind.

As you are probably starting to see small business marketing is an entire process, a synergy of the individual tactics and strategies. That’s right, small business marketing is a system where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Another common misconception is that small business marketing is just common sense. Nothing could be further from the truth. An understanding of how small business marketing is conducted is essential for you if success is your goal. You do want results and success don’t you?

It’s all about determining the needs of your target market and then providing solutions to meet those needs. So many people believe that marketing their small business is all about running advertisements, but it isn’t. If you are serious about your success in business, then make understanding marketing an on-going priority.

The ultimate result of small business marketing is to attract more new customers and persuade existing customers to purchase your products or services in higher quantities and more frequently. The successful can attribute their success to having a strategic plan and following it consistently. When you create a marketing plan you will be able to compete at a higher level. Your odds of winning the game significantly improve when you take the time to create a plan.

To your success!

What Marketing Can’t Do For You

What Marketing Can’t Do For You

I thought I would clear up some misconceptions about marketing in this two-part series: What Marketing Can Do For You and What Marketing Can’t Do For You. This issue is about what marketing can’t do.

While there’s no question a solid marketing program can increase your business, it can’t fix everything. Below are 5 things marketing can’t do for you:

1. Marketing can’t make you an overnight success. Just because you start a marketing program doesn’t mean you’re immediately going to see your business explode. Marketing is about getting your name in front of your target market on a regular basis until they finally decide to give you a try.

On that note, if you’re in trouble right now – sales are down, a new business isn’t getting off the ground like you planned — depending on how bad the trouble is a marketing program may not be enough to save you. A successful marketing program needs time to work and more likely than not, a little money as well. If you’re panicked about one (or more likely both) you may need to start looking at other options.

2. Marketing is not about doing something once and forgetting about it. The very best marketers test. And test. And test.

For instance, maybe your Web site isn’t converting visitors to customers as well as it should be. You could hire a copywriter to tweak it for you. You could test the different elements to see what raises your conversion level. That’s one way to use testing. You can also test different headlines, different offers, etc.

3. Marketing can’t fix a bad experience. This is a big one. If your customers have a lousy experience with your products or services or with your customer service reps or sales people, etc., that’s it. Worse yet, not only have you lost a customer for good, that customer will probably tell others about their bad experience. So now you’ve lost more potential customers as well.

Marketing can get people in the door, but it can’t ensure they’ll have an experience they’ll want to repeat. Before assuming more marketing is what you need, take a moment and make sure your current customers are truly satisfied with your business.

4. Marketing can’t fix a flawed business. Much like tip number 3, marketing can’t fix cash flow issues or staff problems.

Okay, I can hear all of you saying “Of course, marketing can’t fix cash flow problems. Do you think we’re stupid?” My answer is no, I don’t think you’re stupid at all. I think what happens is sometimes you get so caught up in the day-to-day challenges of running a business you can’t see the forest for the trees.

Let me explain. Let’s say you have a business that’s struggling with cash flow. The first thing that springs to mind may be revving up marketing. After all, the idea behind marketing is to increase revenue. On the surface that makes sense. However, if you look a little closer, what you might find are expenses that are out of whack or not getting invoices out in a timely manner. So what you should be fixing is your accounting problems rather than changing your marketing.

5. Marketing can’t make people buy things they either don’t want or can’t afford. It doesn’t matter how great your product or service is, if you’re selling to people who either don’t have the interest or the means to buy it, then your marketing is going to fail no matter how brilliant it may be.

So basically it all boils down to this, before you decide you need more marketing, take a few moments and make sure marketing is really the right solution for your business.

Creativity Exercise — Reality Check

Before you launch into a new marketing program, take some time to analyze what’s really happening in your business. Do you really need a marketing program or is your problem:

* You aren’t able to close the leads you have
* You aren’t invoicing in a timely manner or following up with unpaid accounts
* Your customers aren’t happy with the product or service
* Your customers are having a bad experience with technical support or something else in the process isn’t working
* Your target market isn’t right
* You aren’t passionate about what you’re doing anymore
* Your business has way too many expenses

And so on. Basically I just want you to make sure marketing really is your problem before you start fiddling with it.

If you want to grow your business, then you should be consistently marketing your business. But if you’re using marketing as a bandaid for some other problem, then you could be headed for trouble.

Need An E-Mail Marketing Consultant?

Need An E-Mail Marketing Consultant?

Dear ,

Email marketing is an effective way to get your business fresh
in the mind of a customer. In fact this is to be the most use
way of marketing by 2008. The content of your marketing campaign
is very important. You are competing with many other businesses
for the attention of the consumer. It has to appeal to them and
encourage them to go to your website and make a purchase. The
concept is simple but the process is much harder. It can be very
time consuming. If you are struggling with your email marketing
processes or simply don’t have the time to commit to the
process, consider hiring an email marketing consultant.

What exactly is an email marketing consultant? This is generally
a freelancer who has skills in the area of developing effective
email marketing campaigns. There are businesses that employ
several email marketing consultants as well. They will help you
device effective promotions, specials, and newsletters for your
business. The amount of time you use an email marketing
consultant will depend on how regular you plan to send emails to
your customers. These consultants are very familiar with the
email marketing process as well as what consumers respond well
to. They know the market trends and many other aspects that are
part of the formula.

Since email marketing is such an important part of the entire
marketing concept today, take the time to investigate the
consultant you plan to use. If they are part of a company then
check them out with the Better Business Bureau. You will find
out about any issues and complaints filed against the company by
other consumers. Check the internet for reviews about the
company or individual as well. It is important to ask the email
marketing consultant exactly what they will be providing for
you.

Ask for references and information previous projects they have
worked on. Most email marketing consultants have a portfolio.
Putting the wrong person in charge of your email marketing can
damage the relationship you currently have with your customers.
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself changing email marketing
consultants down the road once your business has grown and the
objectives of the company have changed. Sometimes the
relationship can continue long term but if your company heads in
a different direction then some changes in marketing and
creativity may be in order.

An email marketing consultant should be willing to listen to the
goals of your business. They need to be aware of exactly what
you want to accomplish. Keep in mind they may need to make
changes to your plan based on the best marketing practices but
they should be willing to discuss the changes with you as well
as why they are needed. If the consultant isn’t willing to talk
with you about the goals of your business or isn’t easily
reached then don’t work with them. They may not be effective or
they may have too many projects taking place to do yours
justice. Any agreement with you and an email marketing
consultant need to be clearly placed in writing for both parties
to sign.

It may take a marketing campaign or two for you to start seeing
the effects. You should see a small increase in traffic to your
website as well as sells. Don’t expect to see a huge difference
overnight regardless of the product or service you are offering.
Your email marketing consultant should go over this information
with you as well. A consultant knows the process and market
trends enough to give you a realistic forecast of what to
expect. They can also help you analyze data that can be used to
make your next email marketing campaign more effective.

To Your Success,

P.S.
Email marketing is a valuable concept that allows you to reach
volumes of customers quickly, effectively, and inexpensively.
The process can be difficult and time consuming. An email
marketing consultant can help you meet your email marketing
campaign goals while allowing your to use your time to operate
other aspects

OS Commerce

OS Commerce

Executive Summary

eCommerce platforms are being commoditized. Enterprise level solutions are coming down in price and new open source solutions are being made available to anyone with an internet connection for free.

The most robust of these open source solutions is OS Commerce (OSC) – a community driven eCommerce solution that is flexible, scalable, and user friendly. As eCommerce becomes even more a part of mainstream retail, OSC will provide businesses of all shapes and sizes with the functionality and capabilities of the big boys. This brief examines some of the advantages of OS Commerce and provides insights into how it can help your business.

There is no such thing as a free lunch.

Maybe so, but you CAN get an eCommerce platform for nothing. Offered for free at www.oscommerce.com, this eCommerce solution provides tons of bells and whistles and provides a user friendly interface to manage the administrative portions of the store. The code is based in the PHP scripting language and runs on the Apache web server – a user also needs access to a SQL database to initially upload the files that manage the categories and products within the admin section.

Now that sounds complicated, but really anyone can do it with some concentrated effort. Much of the documentation online regarding OS is very thorough and provides step by step plans on how to get your store up and running. Any newbie to this type of work will likely come across some roadblocks, but the OS Commerce community forums are only a click away to start trouble shooting.

The solution is community driven, meaning that like minded OSCers are ready to help out their peers with answers to posted questions. Yes, at times this can be extremely frustrating waiting for an answer, but it is very rewarding to overcome a technology bug on your own.

Contribute to the Cause

The best part of OSC is the number of contributions that can be added to your site at any time. Again, there is no cost for these enhancements and upgrades – just the need to be patient in your installations. In most cases, contributions are located on the OS commerce community section and are downloadable via zip files. After opening the file, read the “read me” file which will walk you through the file additions, subtractions, and code changes needed to make your enhancement work properly. If you explore the OS platform be sure to upgrade with the following contributions.

Ultimate SEO URL’s by Chemo

This cool contribution allows the site owner to create static URL’s out of a database driven site. This will dramatically help in search saturation as more pages are able to be indexed. Its no secret that search spiders like traditional urls better than ones that are dynamic and this contribution helps achieve that.

Easy Populate

No need to input product data manually, this contribution allows you to import data from a basic excel file into your store. A true timesaver!

Featured Products

If you have an ecommerce store – certain products are more attractive to sell than others. This contribution allows you to tailor the featured products that you want to showcase within both your home and category pages.

Final Thoughts on OSC

Myself, I am a marketer. But after learning OS I really feel like I have some programmer blood in me! This platform is easy to use and perfect for a small to medium size business in getting online. Yes, there will be headaches along the way but stay with it and you will overcome them and soon have an ecommerce store to bring you in a new revenue stream.

Craig Smith is the founder of Trinity Insight LLC – a management consulting firm for the E-Commerce sector.

E-Commerce First Impression

E-Commerce First Impression

E-Commerce landing pages are like front doors… friendly, easily accessible and an invitation to the visitor to enter. That’s how you want cyberspace visitors to perceive your landing page. You are selling products and/or services on your e-Commerce site, and you need to have a landing page that invites readers in to take a look. There are some tips that you can consider as you build your front door to make it as friendly and inviting as possible.

Once the visitor clicks on your well-placed ad, he enters your landing page, your front door. His/her eyes go immediately to the area above the fold and to the upper left side of the screen. Put the information there that you want your visitors to see first. Write headlines that pop. Don’t add fluff; make sure the visitor knows what you are about. Your message should be clear to the reader, and it should define the value of your product or service. Remember that pictures always speak louder (and frequently more effectively) than words.

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify. Content on your page needs to be organized so it’s easily followed. Columns help visitors browse your pages, and they help search engines identify who you are. But research suggests a single column produces more conversions than multiple columns on a page. Take a look at the composition of your page and minimize columns if at all possible. Keep your copy easy to read and understand. If your visitor has to wade through a morass of language that is difficult to follow, you will lose him/her.

You will also lose your visitor if you require a sequence of clicks on several pages to complete a purchase. If I’m in a store trying to purchase an item and find the process lengthy or otherwise frustrating, I’m likely to leave and go somewhere else. There are too many options in the world of commerce to have to put up with being challenged when trying to make a purchase. Try to make buying your product or service as easy as possible; preferably, one click on the landing page should get the customer to the page to complete a purchase. No eCommerce site reaches 100% CTR. But yours will increase if you make the process simple.

Finally, it’s important to remember you are promoting your brand. Some of the tips will need to be individualized for your particular site. You won’t want a page full of energy if you determine a less forceful approach is desirable. Likewise, don’t create a calm and pastoral page if you want an edgy feel. Your brand needs to be compatible with the tone of your page; each needs to complement the other for maximum appeal for visitors.

If you keep the ‘front door’ concept in mind as you create your landing page, your chances for visitors to become customers will improve.