Phil Rothwell is an ecommerce expert with more than 20 years’ experience helping retailers to sell online. He was there at the beginning of ecommerce and played a leading role in growing Actinic Software from dot com start-up to floatation on the London Stock Exchange
We have now been in and out of lockdown for the best part of 10 months and, to be frank, it has not been great for most people’s general wellbeing. From a business perspective, however, it has been very revealing.
For the retail and hospitality sectors the Internet has proved to be part saviour and part nemesis. Many businesses have been able to survive (and sometimes thrive) because of their online presence, while others have struggled.
There is a good chance that the government has managed to plot a path out of this nightmare and a possibility that we might see things return to some kind of normal before the summer.
This is welcome news, but what we do not know yet is the long-term impact this is going to have on consumer behaviour. With smaller retailers forced to close, more money has been spent in the supermarkets and online.
When the surviving retailers are able to open again, will their customers return? My guess is that they will, but some things will have changed forever.
With this in mind, these are our recommendations for growing your business in the New Year:
Whatever business you are in, you should consider your online channel to be your primary marketing platform, even if you do not have, or need, an online store.
If you do not sell products online, that means communicating your business proposition in a compelling and persuasive way.
If you do sell products online, that means giving your online customers a high priority. Making sure you deliver products on time and provide good after sales service.
There are a lot of fraudsters out there. In fact, a recent survey of one platform identified that around 20% of the online sellers posed a risk to their customers. Unless you provide online customers with plenty of evidence to the contrary, what is to stop them thinking you are one of them?
This is where having an address, a trading history and customer reviews is important. It is tempting to think that money spent building credibility is a cost centre, but credibility might be the only reason customers are buying from you. Fundamentally, it is a brand investment.
Develop a brand not a website
The biggest mistake most companies make is they build their websites before they think about their marketing.
If you are an established business, that means developing a good understanding of who your most important customers are and focusing your marketing on them. Your “brand” needs to reflect your unique ability to meet these people’s needs.
If you are not sure if you currently achieve this, ask someone to look at your home page for 30 seconds and then tell you what your business does and what makes it stand out. If they cannot, you have a problem.
Work the channels
The days when you can afford to maintain ideological purity about how you promote your business are long gone.
It does not matter if you use Google Ads, Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any other platform. What matters is that they help you to generate sales and profits.
That is why everything needs to be measured; to ensure investment is made in the channels that generate the highest return.
Remember though, the most cost-effective channel that we know of is email marketing. You will struggle to find any other channel that enables you to build your brand and promote products to potential customers for such little cost.
Building and running an online business requires a multidisciplinary set of skills. Only a few, very gifted people are able to run a company without help. I am not one of them, and the chances are, neither are you.
That’s why we’d recommend you give us a call.
You may not need what we have to offer, or you might not have the available budget, but we promise that at the very least you will benefit from some additional insight rooted in experience.