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How to entice your online customers

It’s a common misperception that the internet has turned the marketing world on its head, and that conventional tactics for customer engagement are no longer relevant. There might be significant differences in how we approach online channels, but we shouldn’t abandon all we’ve learnt from marketing traditions such as storefront merchandising. The principles underpinning supermarket and superstore success can easily be applied to the online world of today.

The merchandising strategies behind the design and layout of today’s modern supermarkets are well understood. Flowers and the sweet smelling bakery are generally at the front of the store to create a warm, welcoming entry point. Basic essentials like milk and bread are at the back of the store so that customers navigate a minefield of messages to pick up just a few items. “Buy one get one free” signs are strategically placed at eye level, to increase the average spend per visitor.

How do merchandisers and marketing folk develop these strategies? They constantly watch and analyse customer movements and behavior in the store. They use this data to fine-tune their tactics and strategies, and update marketing programs. As business owners, you can apply the same principles and benefit significantly in doing so.

Website visitors arrive at our online store or business through different ‘doors’ and navigate the site in a myriad of ways. One of the really cool things about the web is that we can automatically track visitor paths and clicks, unlike the supermarket where we need to sit for hours and watch people move through the store.

Thanks to today’s technology, we can see where customers come from, and where they went after visiting our site. We can easily tell if they’re new prospects or returning customers, whether they were driven to our site by a marketing program (search engine link or banner ad) or if they arrived at the site by typing in the exact web address.

This critical information can then be used to modify or abandon marketing programs and tactics. As your site changes and grows so will visitor behaviour, and without knowing how people respond to new messages and offers, business owners struggle to effectively measure existing campaigns and create new ones.

Understanding the real value of online advertising and marketing

Why is it that Australian business owners are pouring more than $1 billion into online advertising and marketing and yet the majority of us don’t know how to track the effectiveness of our campaigns?

There’s all this talk about search engine optimisation and increasing website hits being fundamental digital marketing goals, but we need to take our thinking to the next level and truly understand what principles, tactics and ideas are generating new business.

A banner advert, for example, can lead to a splash page on your site highlighting a specific offer. The number of clicks through to the splash page can be easily measured, and the marketer can decide whether to keep, change or modify the banner accordingly. But how do we know that it was the banner ad that contributed to a sale the following week and therefore deserves further investment?

What about the customer who clicks on the banner ad, arrives at the splash page, surfs the site for a while and then leaves? Some time later they come back, either directly or via a search engine, and make a purchase. We need to track these customers and attribute a portion of that sale to the original banner ad campaign to properly measure our ROI. But in cases like this, many would attribute this visitor solely to search engine success rather than the banner ad.

Customer-driven web sites

It’s important not to rely on marketing knowledge alone to dictate the layout, look and feel of a website.

By tracking and analysing how customers move through your site, you can develop a comprehensive understanding of user trends. By pinpointing how certain groups find their way through the site and what pages they gravitate towards, you can refine the design of your website to achieve desired outcomes such as increased sales, referrals and enquiries.

As an example, a site visitor who clicks on “solutions” before checking out the latest news and reading a review may prove a more frequent and valuable customer than someone who clicks on “products” and browses product features.

With this knowledge you can “herd” visitors down specific paths, to generate the best possible outcome for each visit. Just like a supermarket places the milk and bread in different places, you can arrange your website to increase the average visitor spend or length of visit.

Let the technology do the work

People are quickly realising that it’s the companies who understand their customers and how they interact with the business online, that are deriving real value from digital marketing investment. It’s all too easy to move beyond the simplistic method of counting web site hits – the tell-all information is there and it can shape your entire online approach quickly and effectively.

– Kevin Mackin is the general manager, ANZ, Coremetrics (www.coremetrics.com.au)

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