Don't wait for customers to come to you – go to them

What needs, wants, or desires are you actually fulfilling for your customers?

Sometimes subtle insights into the true nature of your product or service offering can make a significant difference to the way in which you market yourself, and to who. By learning more about your customers needs, it becomes easier to find them and fulfil them.

An introduction to eCommerce

Video Transcript

An introduction to e-commerce for small business

Tim Gentle - Small Business Victoria Workshop Leader

[Vision:  Tim Gentle walking past boats]

G’day.  It’s Tim Gentle, and we are talking eCommerce or selling online. So what sort of things can you sell online? Well of course you can sell products but you can also sell services, time. Say you’re a hairdresser, people could book an appointment online.

Now we can sell eProducts, those are the electronic products, things like PDFs or audio files or videos. We can accept donations, we can sell subscriptions and we can also sell gift certificates. There’s so much out there.

Okay. So we know what we can sell online, but what are the benefits? Well first of all people are getting more and more confident in buying online. So if they’re on your website it gives them less excuse in walking away.

Now it helps improve cashflow. Nothing better than waking up in the morning and you’ve had a few sales.  Now it opens you up to an international audience as well. And what I think it does is it shows your business in a real professional way if you’re selling online.

[Vision:  Tim Gentle in park]

Okay. So you want to sell online. How do you do it? Well there’s lots of different models.  Now the traditional one is the shopping cart. You know, where you click and add to cart.  But also you can put your products into marketplaces. A great one is like Farmhouse Direct. This is where you as a producer, could sell your oranges online.

Now PayPal, that’s a great way to accept payments online. But there’s also a PayPal shopping cart that you can integrate into your website.

Now mobile commerce is huge. Now you can use things like say the Square reader, you can put it in your mobile device and accept payments on the move. And the one that I love is that I’ve got the ability when I send out an invoice from my accounting software, they click and they can pay that invoice online. And I’m using Stripe for that.

Okay. I wanted to end off with some tips and tricks on helping you to improve your selling online. Starting at the top, make sure you have various payment options. What I mean by that is accept your Visa card and your MasterCard, but also accept PayPal as well.

Now you want to also make sure you have an SSL certificate installed on your website.  In real simple terms that’s that padlock we see on secure sites. It encrypts the data and makes people feel safe.

Now have call to actions. Actually say to people buy online, you know, add to cart, buy today. Give them calls to put into action.

Now have various categories. You might sell one product but put it in multiple spots. For example, gift ideas under $100, and men’s clothing.

Now do some cross selling. If you’re selling a torch, sell them the battery. And I love social videos that show people how to use the product, or even reviews from customers.

And finally, have some refund options. Sometimes people are a little bit nervous in buying online so just give them the ability to get their money back to instil some confidence.

Alright, well that’s selling online and you can learn more about growing your business online in some of the Small Business Victoria workshops. My name’s Tim Gentle and I’ll catch you soon.

[Victoria State Government - Authorised by the Victoria Government, Treasury Place, Melbourne - Spoken by Tim Gentle]

How well do you know your customer?

The more niche your business offering, the easier this question is to answer. If you sell hats, you might say your customer is anyone with a head, which is too broad. You need to target your audience as much as possible to maximise your ROI (return on investment) for whatever activity you're investing in. 

Focus on key demographics, such as:

  • age range
  • marital status
  • location – locally, nationally, overseas, or even in very specific locations
  • gender
  • affluence
  • race/ethnicity.

A good online tool to help you better understand your likely target markets is Google Trends. Just give it a search term (just like you would a normal Google search), and let Google reply with popularity and location information.

Doing market research can also help you define your target market, making it easier to know where to look for them.

Know where to look

You know what you're selling and who you want to sell to. So where are your customers?

Do a search on relevant keywords and phrases. See where the discussions are taking place. Note which competitors websites appear prominently and learn from their design and content. Keep in mind Google localises searches, meaning you'll get different search results back for the same keyword search depending on where you're geographically located at the time.

Don't be shy in asking your customers where they spend their time online – you might learn about some relatively small niche website with a very high density of target market individuals that isn't yet showing up in the search engines.

Research the social media landscape

According to the 2017 Sensis Social Media Report, Australia's use of smartphones (more than eight in every 10 adults) has driven more people onto social media platforms than ever before (79 percent – up 10 points from 2016), revealing:

  • Facebook continues to dominate the social media environment, used by around nine in 10 small, medium and large businesses that have a social media presence.
  • LinkedIn is the second most popular platform, but only used by a majority in the large business segment (82 percent).
  • Twitter increases in popularity with business size, from 24 percent of small businesses to 36 percent of medium sized businesses and 55 percent of large businesses.
  • Instagram is more prevalent in medium (39 percent) than small (19 percent) or large (20 percent) businesses.
  • Snapchat has almost doubled in popularity since 2016, jumping from 22 percent to 40 percent of social media users.

Depending on the demographic of your target audience, and the type of product or service you're providing, you might want to include other popular social media platforms such as Pinterest and Tumblr in your research.

Aiming to help Australian businesses make more informed decisions about how to use social media channels to engage with consumers, the Sensis Social Media Report is an important resource you should use to ensure you're up-to-date with the social media landscape – which can change rapidly.

For example:

  • People are more likely to inspect a brand's social media presence before making an online purchase if they have not purchased from their website before.
  • There were increased levels of trust for brands that interact with customers in a positive way on social media (up from 52 percent in 2016 to 64 percent) and businesses with engaging and relevant content (up from 52 percent to 63 percent).
  • Among small and medium businesses (SMBs) just under half (47 percent) have a social media presence while for large businesses numbers are higher at 60 percent.
  • In 2016, 76 percent of large businesses using social media platforms as a two-way communication channel but now nearly all do so (95 percent). This compares with 58 percent of small firms (previously 46 percent) and 41 percent of medium firms (previously 45 percent).

Source: Sensis Social Media Report 2017

Know what to do

So you know where your ideal customers are. Now what?

Take a little time familiarising yourself with the channel you choose – think about how it works, the etiquette, and the advertising opportunities. Consider some targeted advertising spend – a little at first, and more later if it's paying dividends. Include some clear business goals in your digital strategy, and think about how you'll measure the success of your efforts.

Try actively using your chosen channel to promote yourself as an expert/leader in your field. Don't blatantly self-promote at every single opportunity. Write articles. Be professional, courteous, helpful, prompt, sincere.

Engaging with social media in the form of articles, conversations, support, ideas, etc. might not give you the instant hit (i.e.increased traffic to your site) that paid advertising might, so think of it more as a long-term investment.

The benefits of paid advertising stop the moment you stop paying. Your online words and deeds will be around, and findable, a great deal longer. Learn more about how you can use social media for business.

If you're using your own website to engage with your customers, remember to consider the legal aspects of privacy, spam and electronic transactions.

Measure and monitor

Make sure you've decided what you're measuring – such as click-through-rate (CTR - i.e. how many people are coming to your site from a particular location) and conversions (how many are continuing on to buy something).

Google Analytics
remains the standard for measuring and monitoring visits to your website. Ensure you've got a Google Analytics account hooked up to your website, and take some time familiarising yourself with it. If you're too time poor, there are professionals to assist.

Google Garage offers free online course on topics such as running search ads, helping people nearby find you online and getting noticed through social media.

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