Trends & Features

E-asy does it

Chris Barling, CEO of ecommerce and EPoS systems specialist Actinic, highlights five areas to help grow online sales

Although economic life remains tough and looks like it may get tougher, ecommerce still has the benefit of growing around 15 per cent year on year.

But ecommerce retailers need to stay on their toes as competition appears to be growing at the same rate, and this is just as true in the sports sector as in any other.

With access via iPhones, iPads and Android-based devices rising rapidly, it’s time for some hard thinking. The first action is to look at the logs for your website – how many people are accessing your site using these mobile devices and how much is this growing?

Then try looking at the site yourself with a smartphone. If your site looks terrible, then statistics may be misleading as you won’t see many sales from mobiles because visitors will be put off. Consider tweaking the store or having a separate mobile site.

Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are all growing like crazy. In terms of getting business from them, it’s like the Wild West, with the rules still to be established.

If your customers use social networks, they’re a great way to foster direct relationships, by answering queries and offering special deals to followers, for example. But you must tread carefully, as blatant self-promotion is entirely counter-cultural on these networks.

Email is a more traditional means of marketing and can be used in three main ways. The first is buying a cold list and attempting to drum up new business. The second is where prospects have registered their email address with you, typically to receive a newsletter. But the easiest to exploit opportunity is where the prospects have previously bought from you – so you already have some form of relationship.

Use the opportunities for email wisely and make sure that you mug up on the rules first. You can easily damage the potential with thoughtlessness. Consider the mechanics; you need to get your email past anti-virus and spam filters, so consider an email marketing service.

You need to think carefully about the ‘from’ and ‘subject’ fields of your email, as these will determine whether it gets opened. Learn from the big guys by looking at what they are doing and then experiment to optimise results.

If your site is successful, have you got different channels working together? For instance, it’s possible to integrate the systems for ecommerce, mail and telephone orders plus EPoS if you have a physical shops. Improving your business efficiency should help achieve better service, increase repeat orders and drive down costs.

Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing usually presents a huge opportunity if you have not done it before, and often there is potential for major improvement even if you’re already involved.

Firstly, understand the keyword process. Keywords (which can also be phrases) are critical to succeeding with search engine marketing because it’s what people type into Google. Check out Keep a master list of your keywords (and phrases) and track results against them, adjusting your spend as necessary.

Nobody would expect to win in a high stakes poker game if they had never played before. With PPC it’s similar. At least learn the basics before you waste a lot of money. Make sure you understand the structure of ad groups, ads, pages and keywords, and fully comprehend the differences in matching rules between exact match, broad match and phrase match.

Ecommerce remains one of the few fast growing parts of the economy. While that’s great for participants, it also means that there is a constant stream of new entrants. There are also continuous changes and new ideas emerging.

At Actinic we try to anticipate many of the changes, which is why we have already integrated mail order and ecommerce with shop channels.

It’s when it comes to deploying the next stage of an ecommerce store that using a package proves its worth, as the cost is typically an order of magnitude less than would be the case with a bespoke development.

However, whatever the technology you use, it’s important to remain on the curve. Good luck with the next stage of your evolution.

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