3 Ways to Reach Consumers No Matter Where They Are
David vs. Goliath? Can't we all just get along … and sell more stuff? A recent New York Times article suggests there's a trend of consumers attempting to rebel against big online retailers like Amazon and eBay. Retailers shouldn't view the internet as an "us or them" scenario, however. Everywhere is local online. Some consumers will shop on Amazon, while there are others looking for the little guy. As a retailer, there's no reason why you can't satisfy both.
Local buyers are simply one of many consumer personas looking for a specific online experience. These personas can often change depending on the circumstances of the purchase, which is why it's important to consider the possibility that you can reach different kinds of purchasers in a relevant way that caters to their online shopping preference and motivations.
Independent retailers have the opportunity to reach every type of consumer by simply having their products stocked on all the right online shelves. The internet is a great equalizer, enabling independent retailers to compete and have the kind of competitive presence that would never be possible in the physical brick-and-mortar world. Consider these three ways to ensure you reach all types of consumers:
1. Create a rich shopping and buying experience on your site. There are always consumers who want to find that special place to shop and buy. Some consumers innately want to support the little guy and will avoid the massive retail superstore experience. You have the ability to create a unique user experience with your brand and products for those consumers who would rather buy from a smaller independent retailer. Create compelling reasons for consumers to seek you out and come back for more.
For example, Loehmann's has built up a huge following of loyal customers with its Insider Club. The retailer has created an engaging user experience that attracts customers to discover new products and fashion content. The Insider Club has three levels of membership that provide exciting offers and discounts, like 15 percent off on your birthday. This has created a VIP buying experience that entices customers to consistently shop on Loehmann's site.
2. Use multiple online channels. Retailers want to have as much direct traffic to their site as possible. So why not capture as much virtual shelf space as your larger competitors by being present on the multiple online marketplaces and comparison shopping engines (CSEs)?
View Amazon not as a competitor but as an opportunity. There will always be those convenience-minded consumers who are Amazon shoppers only, so why not present your products there? View it as complementary to your online business, not competitive. Don't stop at Amazon, however. Consider placing your products on other online marketplaces such as eBay, Overstock.com and Buy.com.
Retailers need to develop fresh content for product listings to accommodate CSEs such as Google Shopping. Many consumers using search engines to shop are more price conscious, so consider engaging with those consumers through deals and promotions.
3. Engage in social commerce. The next best thing to attracting and retaining a loyal customer is getting that customer to share their experience with their friends. Create rich engagement opportunities within social networks where customers can share their experience via ratings and reviews on your site. Ultimately they'll become your greatest source of growth and conversion. Even negative ratings and reviews drive up conversion rates because they demonstrate credibility.
Loehmann's made its online shopping experience more social with the use of Style Experts who share fashion tips and trends. The retailer creates content on its social networking pages that encourage consumer comments, which are then pulled back into its site and added to the contextually relevant customer and Style Expert content.
The great thing about doing business online is that your consumer reach is far beyond the 20-mile radius of the local shopper at a traditional retail store. Remember, you're only one click or two clicks of separation from any shopper online, so it's up to you to make sure you're seizing every opportunity to reach that consumer in the most relevant ways possible.
Sean Cook is CEO of ShopVisible, an e-commerce solutions provider.