Growing your business by showcasing it online

Today’s consumers are web savvy, sophisticated, and cautious when purchasing products or services online.

Today’s consumers are web savvy, sophisticated, and cautious when purchasing products or services online.

The Internet gives you a global market to showcase your business. If you build a better than average website with a user-friendly shopping cart experience, thousands of people could be visiting your online store every day.

There are strategies that can help you win over hesitant web surfers and convert them into customers. But it takes a lot of effort, some creativity, and a little intuition – traits that entrepreneurs tend to have in abundance.

Choosing to trade online

Sooner or later you’ll have to make the decision to sell your products or services online. There’s a few ways you can go about it – from building an e-commerce website to selling through online marketplaces.

E-commerce sites

By creating your own e-commerce site, you can have total control over the design and detail of your online store. Unless you have the skills required to build your own site, you’ll need to factor in the cost of engaging a web designer to help you out. The cost of creating a website can vary considerably, so it’s a good idea to shop around and choose a business or person that can best meet your objectives.

The advantages of building your own custom-made site are:

  • Creativity – the world is your oyster when it comes to creating the image of your business online.
  • User friendliness – you can make sure that your website is easy to navigate and doesn’t have any overlapping images or text.
  • Adaptability – you’re able to tailor and develop your site to the specific needs of your business.

A critical decision is whether to add a shopping cart to your website. When making this choice, take into account the type of business you have, where most of your customers are located, and if you need to be paid upfront.

Pre-made templates

You may choose to use a pre-made website – a template already set up in a standard form where the images and text simply fit into pre-defined areas. A pre-made website may be best for your business if:

  • You are just starting up – businesses getting off the ground normally have limited cash flow.
  • You have a small budget – the initial set up cost for a template site can be very low.
  • You need a site built quickly – all the design work is already completed so all you have to do is enter your text and images.

The importance of accepting online payments

With an e-commerce website your customers and potential clients can get information on your business and order what they want anytime – businesses don’t close for the night in the online world.

You need an online existence to have a chance of selling your products or services to consumers with mobile phones and tablet devices. Your potential clients lead busy lives and some prefer to buy what they want while on the go.

Keep it simple and easy to use

Boosting your online success isn’t rocket science. Overall, your website should be simple and easy to navigate.

It needs to be inviting to your prospective customers in order to fulfil your objectives, whether that be:

  • Convincing them to purchase your products or services.
  • Encouraging them to learn more about your business.
  • Suggesting they visit your business in person.

It’s important to add content to your site regularly – to give people reasons to come back. And, you need to appear as credible online as you are anywhere else.

Hone your target customer

It’s all about quality, not quantity. You can have a ton of visitors to your site, but if they’re not the right visitors, they’re not good prospects to buy your product or service.

To attract the right traffic to your site, start by identifying your target market in terms of age, income, and gender. From there, you can create a detailed profile of your ideal customer and tailor your online offerings to that prospect.

Research your customers

Understanding your target market begins with really knowing who your current customers are.

You’ll want to know their online habits, their wants and needs, and their desires. Find out what other sites they visit and the features they’d like to see on your site, in order for them to visit it frequently.

Some attention-grabbing features may include:

  • Weekly specials.
  • The latest industry news.
  • Informative tips.
  • A customer feedback section.

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, there’s an easy way to find out – just ask. Conduct online polls right from your site, or email periodic surveys to your clients.

Study the competition

Visit the sites of your top competitors often and research their best practices. Find samples of sites you like and ask your customers to identify their favourite sites, and what they like about them.

Putting into practice the aspects your customers like will allow you to measure what works and what doesn’t. It’ll also spark some interesting ideas of your own to test out.

Build trust with your audience

There’s no point drawing potential customers to your site if they don’t trust you enough to do business.

Communicate your credibility

Provide visitors with your contact information – phone, email and physical address – to let them know that you welcome their feedback. Also, provide them with in-depth information about the products or services you offer, as well as a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ (FAQs) section.

Use top-rate photography

Don’t be afraid to spend money on quality photography. Visual samples of products, services, or previous work can convince consumers about the quality of your products or services, and can help increase your online sales.

Highlight security features

If you have ecommerce capability, ensure you inform your customers about the security features used for these transactions.

Market your website

Market your website in all points of contact, and in all marketing vehicles you currently use, such as:

  • Email signature lines.
  • Stationery.
  • Brochures.
  • Sell sheets.
  • Catalogues.
  • Newsletters (both print and electronic).
  • Booth signage for tradeshows.

Set goals

Set specific goals, objectives, and deadlines for your business. Some examples include:

  • Increasing your online sales by 10% each year.
  • Increasing the number of unique visitors to your website to 50 per day by the end of the year.

Measure results

Check which sections of your website get the most visitors, and tweak them as needed – then measure again. Be sure to look at visitor numbers following a marketing activity, like a tradeshow or e-newsletter mail out.

If you’re going to put this much effort into online success, it only makes sense to know what’s working.

Going online to promote your business through your website, social media, or direct email contacts with your database may seem fast and inexpensive at first. But remember, you have to devote the resources whether that’s your employees’ time or your own.

Like any marketing activity, if you do a great job, you’ll stand out from the pack and bring the results you’re seeking.

Next steps