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E-Commerce: Attracting customers - UPDATED

I am an independent retailer and I pride myself on the fact my store looks different to the high street shops because of its design and because of the labels I stock. I feel it is important that my site reflects my shop but how can I achieve this?

Also how can I drive traffic to my site? I don’t just want all my real live customers to stop coming in the store. I want my website to attract new customers from around the country who have never heard of my store. I don’t have the first clue about how to do this though and am quite daunted by the task.

Carl Davisis CEO of Dealgroupmedia UK Ltd:
I have split the answers into two sections below:
“I feel it is important that my site reflects my shop but how can I achieve this?”: Your website is an extension of your store - they are both mechanisms for selling your products, so you should try and get the same “customer experience” for both.

However, without knowing your brand, it is hard to say exactly how you should do it, but the essential point is that the site must make it really easy for consumers to see the products, compare them and buy them, whilst showcasing your products in the way that you do in the shop. Alot depends on how your customers interact with your brand - if they need to touch the clothes to get a good feel, then you need to show them a close up picture and supply them with all the information about what the product is made of - if they only need to see the design, then show them numerous angles and people wearing the products.

“Also how can I drive traffic to my site? I don’t just want all my real live customers to stop coming in the store. I want my website to attract new customers from around the country who have never heard of my store. I don’t have the first clue about how to do this though and am quite daunted by the task.”:There are a few ways you can drive traffic to your site and get consumers aware of your brand and buying - by optimising your site for the search engines and consumers, by getting relevant people to link to your site, by conducting some Pay Per Click advertising or Affiliate Marketing.

All of these will help traffic get to your site - if you decide to conduct more than one of these, you need to ensure that you know where these “new customers” are coming from - for examply the Pay Per Click or the Affiliate, so that you invest more in that channel and also only pay for that new customer once. At dgm, we are happy to offer advice on how retailers can use one or a few of these channels in conjunction with each other and explain what they can deliver for you - it is complicated when you look at it from the outside, but as long as you know what you want to acheive, I’m sure we can help!

Fadi Shumanis the E-Commerce Director & Co-Founder of Pod1:
I agree! Too many ecommerce sites look the same. We’ve made it our guiding principle to ensure that all sites we design have strong branding throughout so that the customer always knows where they’re shopping. A good test to see if you’re site is ‘vanilla’ is to cover the logo with your hand and then have a click around: can you see any of your marketing assets/colours/brand anywhere? Could this be your competitor’s website?

It’s very easy for a designer with a small budget to simply do what everyone else does. It takes time and creativity to stand out from the crowd.

Another fundamental reason for many sites looking the same is due to the technology that’s used to power them: an off-the-shelf back-end system like ‘Actnic’ will not give the designer as much freedom as a bespoke solution.

So if you need something that looks different, and your budget allows, try and find an agency that can create a more bespoke website for you.

For a quick solution to drive traffic to your site, use PPC (Pay Per Click, www.google.co.uk/adwords). Within 30mins, you can be attracting customers. However, be warned, if you don’t know what you’re doing, this could be a very expensive waste of time. It’s all about getting the right traffic to your site by choosing the right keywords. Google offers in-depth training for this within their the site so make sure you read through this first.

Long term, you shouldn’t have to pay for the privilege of being on the 1st page in Google/MSN/Yahoo. You can achieve this through Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). This is when your site structure and content is tailored so that when Google scans your site, it regards you as an authority for whatever you want to rank highly for and therefore places you on page 1.

Other marketing methods include using Affiliates, Email, and possibly even advertising on the various Social Media websites like Facebook (we call this Social Media Marketing).

If you have time, do a search on your preferred search engine for the various items I’ve mentioned above and start learning! It’s not as complicated as first seems.

Let me know how you get on.

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