An effective online marketing strategy for retail attracts customers, offers a high-quality personalized experience and builds long-term relationships through content marketing and regular contact. For store owners, online marketing can form part of a multichannel strategy to offer customers greater choice. Online marketers are also using mobile marketing as an integral element of their communications strategy.
- An online marketing strategy takes advantage of the continuing growth in online sales. Figures from the United States Census Bureau show that total U.S. e-commerce sales for 2010 were estimated at $165.4 billion, an increase of 14.8 percent from 2009, while total retail sales in 2010 increased just 7 percent for the same period. A report by research firm Nielsen found that more than 875 million consumers worldwide shopped online in 2010, up 40 percent in two years.
- Product choice is key to the success of the marketing strategy. The most popular online purchases are high-volume products — books, clothing/accessories/shoes and videos/DVDs/games — according to the Nielsen report. However, retailers also recognize the revenue and profit opportunities from offering consumers a wider choice of niche products. Low-inventory costs combined with cumulative sales across a range of niche products make this an attractive opportunity.
- Quality customer experience is key to converting visitors to buyers. Landing pages and clear navigation from a home page take visitors straight to their chosen product. Retailers can simplify purchasing by allowing regular customers to bypass registration processes and complete with minimal mouse clicks. It’s important to monitor the quality of customer experience and respond to any feedback or concerns about poor experience. A study by customer experience consultancy Right Now reported that 86 percent of respondents stopped dealing with an organization because of a bad customer experience.
- Encouraging customer interaction on the website can build loyalty and attract other prospects. Allowing customers to post product reviews or participate in forums provides a valuable research resource for prospects. The Society for New Communications Research found that 74 percent of respondents choose companies and brands based on other people’s online opinions of their customer care experience.
- Integrating an online marketing strategy with other channels is important to retailers in certain sectors. Mobile marketing is a growing element in the mix according to an eMarketing survey of U.S. retailers. Some 60 percent of respondents planned to strengthen their existing mobile web presence or app. Retailers are using mobile channels to promote awareness by enabling consumers to research products via apps and mobile websites.
- Maintaining contact with customers is key to the long-term success of an online strategy. Retailers should gather data on website visits, browsing habits and requests to build a profile of customers’ information needs. They should refresh website content with useful knowledge, tips and resources related to those needs, using email to update customers on new content or product news. Many online retailers also are creating profiles on social networking sites to open new channels of communication. Many retailers maintain profile pages on popular sites like Facebook, MySpace and YouTube.
Every business needs to advertise and market itself. Television, radio, newspapers and magazines still generate the greatest revenue in advertising. But the Internet is moving forward by leaps and bounds when it comes to advertising. The following steps will help you learn how to begin and how get involved in Internet advertising.
- Begin your study and investigation online looking at the many articles on Internet marketing and advertising out there.
- Understand that though newspapers still make more money than the web does in advertising, classified ads are up against some stiff competition with Craigslist and eBay as well as search marketing on the web. Look into these venues for your online advertising needs when getting started.
- Go to special interest sites and blogs to see if you can write articles, give away information or otherwise get your name out there with links to your website, MySpace or AboutMe page on eBay.
- Start an e-zine or e-newsletter with a core group in a niche topic that interests you.
- Build your list of subscribers to your e-zine and grow it. Give tips and free information. Start selling small products to pay for your time and expenses. Grow the list. The e-zine serves as an advertising tool that builds trust with customers and clients as they get to know you and buy quality products from you.
- Try Google Adsense or Pay Per Click that links to a site you have set up about your topic of interest where people can opt-in for your ezine or to your web page.
- Learn all about search engine optimization to drive traffic to your articles, AboutMe page, MySpace or website. And, of course, you can always find and hire an expert to help you advertise on the Internet at a price you can afford.
In 2014, online marketing companies continued to grow and integrate with traditional advertisers and researchers, rapidly changing the list of top marketing firms. Hence ranking marketing companies requires more than looking at top-line sales and longevity. Arguably, some of the top marketing companies of 2014 include Nielsen, JD Power, Kantar and comScore.
NielsenNielsen is considered by many as one of the world’s top marketing research firms. It made the American Marketing Association’s 2014 AMA Gold Global Top 25 Report as one of the largest marketing research firms in existence. According to Nielsen, the company has a presence in over 100 countries, providing clients with a comprehensive view of what their consumers watch and buy. As a result, the company has two main operating segments focused on consumers’ viewing preferences and spending habits.
JD PowerJD Power also made the 2014 AMA Gold Global Top 25 Report and is another powerhouse marketing research firm. According to JD Power, the company has analyzed the voice of the customer in a variety of industries since 1968, providing valuable feedback to consumers and businesses. As an example, JD Power analyzes items such as product quality and service, pricing. and product planning in the automotive industry. This helps gauge the top manufacturers and provides valuable feedback for all industry stakeholders.
KantarKantar, another company on the AMA report, notes that it provides over half of Fortune 500 companies, small businesses and national governments a comprehensive view of their consumers. This includes information regarding the way consumers live, shop and watch entertainment, among other valuable market research data. Kantar operates around the globe and has a network of marketing companies that it owns and partners with to provide a wide spectrum of marketing services. Its global reach and breadth of services make it one of the top marketing companies in the world.
comScorecomScore also made the AMA report and provides a digital marketing intelligence platform that helps its clients collect an array of data points related to their target markets. The products and services the company offers focus primary on online marketing and market research. One of its largest services involves proprietary databases that its customers can use to enhance their marketing campaigns. As a publicly traded company and leading global marketing firm, comScore easily fits onto the list of the top marketing companies in the world.
A marketing plan increases brand awareness by telling a target market who your company is, what it does and why it’s qualified to do what it does. By conveying this information to potential customers, a brand generates sales leads that move through a sales cycle until they become “sales ready.” When the leads become willing to purchase a product or service, a business closes the sale. The effectiveness of a sales cycle in producing revenues and business growth depends on an appropriate marketing mix — the four P’s—that make up the marketing plan.
The Four P’s
- The marketing mix consists of price, product, promotion and placement — the four P’s — which are the essential elements of a marketing plan. A marketing mix is target-market and retail-outlet specific. This means it contributes to the conversion of a sales prospect to a customer willing to buy a specific product, which, in turn, supports the revenue and growth goals of the company that sells the product or service through a certain outlet.
Set the Price
- The first of a marketer’s challenges is setting a price that covers costs, reflects the popularity of a brand relative to that of its competitors and that’s reasonable, considering the financial wherewithal of the customers. To set a marketing plan’s price using the markup pricing method, a company sums the costs of its property and equipment, loans, inventory, utilities and salaries, as well as the costs of product shortages, damaged products, employee discounts, the cost of goods sold and desired profit. After you’ve sum all costs, you calculate the unit sales price by dividing total costs by the number of products to be sold to obtain a unit cost and adding the desired profit-per-unit to the unit cost. For example, if unit cost is $50 and the desired profit is $10 per unit, the product price is $60.
Determine the Product
- To identify the product your company will sell in a particular market, ask, “What consumer problem do I want a product to solve?” and “How do I want the consumer to benefit from our company’s product?” Next, ask, “To what customer demographic should the product appeal?” Once you have narrowed the range of products the company might sell, ask, “What features might a customer seek that this product doesn’t have?” Doing so will help you decide if you want to offer one product or many. Expanding a company’s product selection is a way to increase sales to existing customers. It may also increase the frequency of purchases because some products can be used for a variety of purposes. In addition, the larger a product range, the more likely a store will attract new customers.
Select the Product Promotion
- The third element of the marketing mix is product promotion. Considering the product a company will sell, its probable appeal to a target customer and its price, the company determines how to promote the product. For example, a business might launch an online marketing campaign using websites, email and mobile channels or opt for traditional advertising using print or television and radio broadcasts. Selecting the right product promotions ensures the company makes the best use of its time and money.
Define the Product’s Placement
- The final P in a marketing mix is product placement, which refers to where a product will be available for sale. For example, as a company creates a marketing plan, it may decide to sell a product online through its website or through those of online merchants. As an alternative, the business might sell the product online and to retailers with storefronts. A product’s target market, price and promotion will influence its placement. For example, a heavily discounted product is more likely to appeal to thrift-store customers than customers of a high-end retailer.