E-commerce: Plot Out Your Online Programs
Sure, you have programs for search engine marketing (SEM), e-mail and affiliate marketing. But how extensively have you plotted out your overall strategy? A key to your success involves a closely integrated program that involves all forms of online advertising. Following are some strategies revealed.
Gordon Hotchkiss, president/CEO of search engine marketing firm Enquiro, noted in his presentation during the Annual Catalog Conference in Orlando last week several key factors to managing a viable SEM program. He discussed two primary kinds of searches: Mapping searches are when consumers search by subject; transporter searches are when consumers search by company names or URLs.
Be prepared for both, Hotchkiss said. If you sell prom dresses, for instance, be sure you have those keywords especially during the key peak months in late winter and early spring when students search for prom dresses. Meanwhile, transporter searches are especially significant for those catalogers whose brands are readily familiar, he said.
Ensure that your company appears in”that golden triangle,” Hotchkiss said, referring to the top-left corner of search engine Web pages. He cited a recent Enquiro consumer eyeflow study showing that consumers first look to the top results among organic searches that appear in the top-middle of search engines such as Google and Yahoo.
Once you ensure that your site reaches that golden triangle, Hotchkiss said, be sure that surfers can get to a relevant page on your site. “Give some thought to the ‘welcome mat’ you offer,” he said. “Be sure your most common entry points offer a way to navigate your site. This is the front door to your store -- give it as much consideration as you would the front door to your brick-and-mortar stores.”
As for Web-integrated efforts, Howard Blumenthal, director of e-commerce and database management for multichannel tabletop marketer Pfaltzgraff, noted his company uses a large spreadsheet to keep track of all the company’s promotions within its assorted channels: print catalog, Web site, e-mail and retail. (As a side note, he said it’s effective to use the print catalog as the driver of all channels, because it requires the longest lead time to produce.)
Some simple techniques that Pfaltzgraff uses include e-mail reminders to alert housefile customers their print catalogs are on the way. “It not only generates excitement,” Blumenthal said, “but e-mails also can be tailored for different types of customers, whereas print catalogs can not. E-mails can tell different consumers to look for catalog pages that suit their needs.”
Consider electronic alternatives to print catalog mailings. For instance, an e-mailed online catalog designed for customer reactivation purposes can replace the mailing of a reactivation print catalog, Blumenthal said. Or consider mailing a reminder e-mail to customers who recently received print catalogs rather than mailing a second catalog.
What’s more, Pfaltzgraff uses e-mails that focus on different channels, such as its stores, specific catalog offers or multichannel offers. “Experiment with a mix of e-mails,” he advised.
Tap Outside Resources
Whether it’s SEM or affiliate marketing, consider outsourcing portions of Web-based programs. Lisa Riolo, vice president of client development for affiliate marketing firm Commission Junction, said catalogers whose sales peak at certain periods of the year can find it’s not cost-effective to have in-house employees devoted to affiliate marketing year-round. “Hence, components of Web marketing programs should be outsourced,” she said.
Harness the expertise of someone who has a bird’s-eye view of how to take advantage of SEM and affiliate marketing. “Your strengths can come into conflict with one another,” Riolo said, “so a partner can help by taking a look at what your objectives are, and how they affect your costs. Outsourcing both affiliate and SEM helps not only with this, but it also allows you to focus on your business -- which is your expertise -- while allowing your partners to focus on their expertise.”