There are a lot of things to consider if you want to emerge a stronger business after COVID-19. If anything, this crisis has taught us how vulnerable offline businesses are to external events. No one could have predicted COVID-19, or its sweeping impact upon the ecommerce sector and retail globally. What we can do is find new strategies and opportunities to innovate greater resilience for the future.
That’s why we’ve gathered the experts in ecommerce marketing, messaging and digital products including MessageMedia marketer Rachael Hooper and ecommerce specialist Damien Brennan, plus our special guest Digital Eagles marketing agency co-founder Dan Sim.
We’re here to help you understand how ecommerce websites and businesses are transforming themselves successfully to meet new market demands. Read our round-up of the tips and tricks you can learn from this webinar or listen to it in full detail below.
Digital channels and fundamentals
Starting an ecommerce business isn’t easy. So here are some basics, as explained to you by Digital Eagles Dan Sim, about your online marketing channels and how they can help drive traffic towards your store. It’s important you understand these terms before diving into how you can start transforming your online store. Here’s a quick summary for beginners:
- Google Analytics – free tool to help you monitor web traffic, and to optimise your website.
- Website optimisation – With internet users spending an average of around 7 hours a day online, it’s important to optimise your website so it runs well, efficiently and converts visitors into customers. Check out this 8-step guide on building and improving your website.
- SEO – Stands for Search Engine Optimisation. This helps you optimise the content of your website so that it is easily found by users when typing queries into search engines such as Google.
- Direct traffic – that’s when users get driven directly to your site because they’ve seen you elsewhere like on an email signature, billboards or a personalised truck with your logo and website URL.
- Organic search – just like its name, this is when people search and find you organically. In Digital Eagles’ case, they might pop up as a result if you Google search for ‘digital marketing agency Melbourne’. To optimise your website for this, this is when you use SEO.
- Paid search – that’s like Google Ads, or when an item appears in Google shopping.
- Social – could be social posts that link to your website or paid social ads/posts that appear when someone is scrolling in their feed.
- Email marketing – sending out email campaigns or chains for lead and nurture campaigns to get people to your website.
- Referral – when your website is on other channels, and people deem those channels authoritative enough to drive traffic towards your website or offering. For example, if your tradie business appears in the Yellow Pages, or your café is listed on Zomato, or your real estate listing is on realestate.com.au.
Which eCommerce and retail businesses are thriving
According to Dan, businesses were re-categorised thanks to COVID-19 into:
Struggling or closed
These businesses are unable or struggling to operate. Examples include:
- Events, event catering companies
- Service business that can’t operate online or remotely
Pivoting or limited by change
These businesses need to change their offering so it can be delivered online. These include:
- Cafes & restaurants
- Trade services
- Hair salons
Because of the change in COVID, many of these are online or eCommerce stores already. Ones in particular that are booming are:
- Essential product offerings – ones that offer hand sanitisers, masks etc
- Website and digital marketing agencies
- Any service businesses than can easily do their work from home or online
Focus on customer happiness
MessageMedia’s ecommerce specialist Damien Brennan is also seeing an emerging trend around customer communications. Where communications were once sales and marketing lead, they are now more focused on customer happiness.
The cost to attract a new customer in this current climate is more costly to a business, so there has been a heavy reliance on improving current customers relations in order to encourage repeat purchases.
How smaller businesses can get ahead
Interestingly, there’s been a lot of success stories for local businesses, even ones that historically had no online business, or did not use an ecommerce platform, but now do. According to Dan, however, the ones that have increased customer communication alongside marketing and sales spend, have risen as well.
For small businesses generating anything between $500 to $20k a month, this could be a really big boom time for you. With bigger retailers being closed like Myer, Dan advises, focus on your SEO. Because of restrictions around Facebook ads and the rising cost of Google ads, there’s been a sizeable uptick in small business owners getting ahead by optimising their site for organic searches
“We’ve seen businesses go from making $1K per month to making $10-15-20k per month, and it’s all coming from their SEO.”
Dan Sim, Digital Eagles
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Emerging trends for eCommerce and retail
Diversified product ranges
Not only are businesses pivoting, they’re changing their product ranges to include essential items including hand sanitiser and masks. Manufacturers are also jumping on this trend too. Damien mentions famed beer brewer Carlton United Breweries pivoting their efforts to make hand sanitiser out of the alcohol they already have.
Video conference advertising
A prediction only, but with the uptake in the use of Zoom and other video conferencing facilities, they may likely turn into a new advertising outlet for brands.
Search queries: Online vs ‘near me’
When you want to find a venue or business near you, you might search ‘café near me’ or ‘plumber near me’. If you want to buy something online, you might search for ‘buy groceries online’ or ‘plumbing supplies online’.
Since February, buy online search queries have doubled while ‘near me’ searches have dropped. If you’re a physical store, but one that can operate online or has pivoted online, you can optimise search queries for near me and buy online search queries. For example, you can optimise Google Maps to point those who search for your type business ‘near me online delivery’ in your direction. This is a great long-term strategy as we emerge out of COVID-19 as your ‘near me’ queries will increase rapidly too.
Dan is seeing service-oriented businesses, like plumbers, setting up small ecommerce shops so they can buy products from suppliers, then on-sell these products direct to their customer bases, who want to DIY new trades or skills from home.
“They’re actually making a little bit more cash while also being able to provide as service to their customers.”
Dan Sim, Digital Eagles
Capture repeat customers by building customer lists
It takes 3x more effort to win a new customer than it does an existing one. Once you get a new customer on their website, make sure you can re-engage them so that you can bring them back into the store. For example, when a customer comes onto their website, give them a reason to give you their details by giving them a great offer.
You can also try using a text-in competition where people can text in an answer to a question plus their name to go in a chance to win a prize. By doing so, you get access to their phone number and name and can start building your customer database. Make sure you are always legally and spam compliant if you do so.
In addition, Dan advises doing active lead campaigns on Facebook where you target people interested in your category or niche, then exchange their information for something they would find valuable such as an eBook, white paper or a promotion.
You can also get them to sign up to a VIP club or package, where they get 10% off, a birthday present and a special something over Christmas. Make them feel extra special by following their sign-ups with SMS campaigns letting them know about exclusive offers or campaign they can jump on before others too.
TOP TIP: Make sure that you’ve got set out in your Terms of Service or Terms of Conditions that their details may be used from marketing from time-to-time, but that they will have the ability to opt-out when sent any promotional messages.
CHECKLIST: 8 digital strategies to emerge even stronger post-COVID
Combining Damien and Dan’s top strategies, here is your checklist for making sure you come out ahead when all of this is over.
1. Understand your customer
There has been a significant transformation in retail, and therefore a huge change in how our customers interact and behave. Using what we learned about in the fundamentals above, use Google Analytics to understand where the majority of your users (traffic) are coming from. It could be Facebook, Instagram, SEO, Google Ads etc.
Use those channels to also dive into your customers and see where they are coming from and what their behaviours are. You can even speak to a few brand advocates and do your own qualitative research about why they choose to buy with your brand over others.
2. Consider the customer journey
While they might purchase on mobile, they might have added to their shopping cart on a desktop computer, abandoned the cart, then get retargeted on Facebook via their mobile device. What payment gateways are they using? Do they prefer physical products? Which product pages are visited the most? If you’ve got a product to sell online, understanding their journey will help you optimise your customer experience to convert more sales.
“It just helps you design ads. It helps you think about things like what size screen are they going to be seen on. People might be sitting on their phone on Youtube looking up something, then they get an ad for your activewear and they click on that. This is the data you really need to know.”
Damien Brennan, MessageMedia
Over half of Damien’s ecommerce client’s customers are buying through mobile devices. Understand where your customers are coming from, not just channels but devices too, and optimise for that.
3. Claim your free Google business listing
This is one of the easiest recommendations. If you haven’t already, by claiming your free Google listing , you can optimise for ‘near me’ as well as online and buy searches too.
4. Generate lots of Google reviews
“Did you know that 97% of all customers consult a review before getting in touch with the business or purchasing online. They look at that star rating.”
Dan Sim, Digital Eagles
Get your mates, mum, dad, colleagues to give you a good review. Not only will it push people towards purchases from your business, it may help drive up SEO. When you have 4/5 stars on Google Reviews, it could automatically increase SEO by 10%.
5. Optimise your website titles
On each of your pages, you want to make it clear who you are and what you are doing. Do not title your homepage ‘Home’. You want to be telling Google what you do, what you service and what you sell.
6. Get an SSL certificate
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and you have likely seen it before if you’ve ever shopped online. It usually appears as a little padlock at the bottom of a store’s navigation. It is a security protocol that allows data or information to travel encrypted so that anything contained inside remains private.
7. Update your social media
You should be posting regularly and with content related to what you are selling as further social proof that you are a secure and reliable seller. You should also make sure that all your pages are accurate, and consistent meaning that they should all have the same titles, logos, information, content and images.
8. Use SMS or email marketing to stay in touch
Improve communications by keeping customers up to date with your movements. Let them know you’re open, or if you’re online delivery or if you’ve got new products and services available.
OFFER: Interested in how SMS marketing can help you boost sales, recoup abandoned carts and more? Talk to us or get a free account now, and play with 25 SMS for free.
Final notes, further reading
The retail industry has changed considerably thanks to the advent of COVID-19. It’s up to you to make the move and engage in digital transformation to meet it and make the most of it.
Digital Eagles is a full–service digital marketing agency who does everything from SEO to email marketing content. They are also experts in the eCommerce space and are preferred partners with NETO, Magento and WooCommerce. With offices in Melbourne and Auckland, they have clients all across the world and really enjoy helping business generate more traffic, increase their marketing effectiveness and gaining more money and leads for their clients.
Dan Sim is the Co-founder and Head of Partnerships at Digital Eagles.
As Australia’s premium SMS provider for over 20 years, we have been helping over 65,000 customers across the globe engage through the power of messaging. As messaging specialists, we work with a range of industries from healthcare through to banks, with ecommerce and retail being one of our specialities.
Damien Brennan is an ecommerce and sales specialist, and Rachael Hooper is a senior product marketer with MessageMedia.