Creating a successful and profitable e-commerce store takes work. Store owners know their jobs are only partly done when they've finished uploading their entire inventory.
"There's an old saying: 'Work smart, not hard,'" writes e-marketing blogger Katherine Best. "In the case of an Internet business, you are going to have to do both. You are going to have to work smart by knowing the most effective means of bringing your store to your customers, and work hard by doing it."
Auctiva Commerce's many featuresincluding mailing lists and couponswill help you draw in buyers. But combining those features with a few more approaches will really draw in the crowd. Let's take a look.
Build your brand
You should start off by "branding" your business, says Auctiva marketing specialist Stephanie Seufert.
"Branding is essential to building your business because it is a key component to customer loyalty," Seufert says. "A carefully executed brand will help your customers quickly identify with your company and understand exactly what you do and how that benefits them."
A custom domain is a great way to start branding your business. If you have one, it'll be easier for customers to remember how to return to your store. Remember that most buyers don't bookmark pages; they just memorize the names of their favorite stores or sites and type that in as the URL. So if your store name and domain name match, buyers will be sure to find you and not a competitor. Investing in a domain also shows buyers that you're a serious seller who expects to be in business for a while.
You can easily buy a domain through Auctiva. The company will handle the registration and point your Commerce store to its new address. For more information about creating a custom domain, check out Auctiva Commerce's tutorial.
Sending out e-mails to customers after they received their products to make sure they're satisfied with their purchases presents another opportunity to promote your brand. Be sure to include an e-mail address where customers can reach you, and your store's URL.
Adding a coupon or note to every shipment is also a good way to promote your business, says Auctiva product analyst and eBay PowerSeller Rebecca Miller.
"That's a quick and easy way, because on a single piece of paper you can create about 12 slips, cut them out and include them in packages," Miller says. "It takes just a few seconds."
You could tell customers about new products in your store, special offers or merely thank them for doing business with you. This will make your business memorable and will let customers know you're a serious seller. Be sure to also include business cards in every shipment you send out.
Know your products inside and out so you can provide accurate, up-to-date information
Become an expert
Blogs can help you build credibility by showing customers how much you know about your product or the niche market you operate inwhether you write your own blog or post a comment on someone else's. Be sure to keep information current, though; search engine spiders don't like dated material. And do your homework. You should know your products inside and out so you can provide accurate, up-to-date information. This way you'll be able to contribute more to forums and respond to blogs by other authorsposting your store's URL along the way.
Also consider researching and writing articles on a topic related to your store. Article submission sites such as Ezine Articles, GoArticles and eHow are always looking for original pieces from everyday people to publish. Sites like these allow authors to include snippets about themselves, their business and their Web sites. And consider this: Ezine Articles has millions of unique visitors every month and more than 100,000 RSS feeds. Think of all the people you could reach.
Improve your SEO
Remember that people aren't going to browse through dozens of pages of search results when they're looking for an item they want to buy. You're lucky if they go as far as the third page. So increasing your standing in search enginesespecially in Googleis important.
"Google ranks your site primarily by how many links are located on other sites pointing to it, and the context in which your link is found," writes "Explode Your Affiliate Checks" editor John Young. "Google and other search engines rank a Web site by how many 'one way' links point to it from other sites."
So paste your store's URL wherever you go online. Forums are great places to do this, especially if it's a forum based around one topic. If you find a group that shares your interests, they are probably more likely to buy your items. Contributing regularly to a forum with pertinent and accurate information will help your store because it will foster trust among you and other Internet users.
Keep keywords in mind as well, and sprinkle them throughout your store. Make sure to give each page a unique title and ask people around you how they would describe your products. You don't want to miss out on a sale because someone searches for "K9 treats," not "doggy treats."
You should also submit all of your items to Google Base to make them easily searchable. The service is free and you can list almost any product. Many Auctiva Commerce customers have said this service is very effective. That's because, based on the relevance of your products, it puts your items in front of Google users, via both standard search and Google Product Search.
Google Base is very helpful because you can add attributesor words or phrases that help describe the characteristics of your productsto your items so they're easier to find. However, you will need a Google account to use this service. For more information about how to Google Base your products, check out Auctiva Commerce's tutorial.
With more than 200,000 active users, Facebook has a potentially very large captive audience for your products
The power of social networking
Another service you can try is Facebook ads. With more than 200,000 active users, Facebook has a potentially very large captive audience for your products. You can quickly and easily create image- and text-based ads targeted specifically to your intended buyers. You can decide if you want men or women to see your ad, specify your target audience's age group, location, even relationship status.
There are some limitations, though. For instance, ad images can't be larger than 110 pixels wide by 80 pixels tall. For more information on limitations, click here.
Facebook ads aren't free, but you decide how much you want to pay for an ad and its duration.
If creating an ad seems too complicated, simply post a link to your store on your Facebook or MySpace page so your "friends" can check it out.
And don't forget about Twitter. About 20 million Americans use the microblogging site daily, so if you have special deals or promotions, tweet about them to let customers know. Remember, though, that you only have 140 characters per tweet, so keep your messages simple, informal and relevant. You can also sign up to follow Auctiva and Auctiva Commerce.
Keep it functional
These techniques should help bring traffic to your Auctiva Commerce store. But once you've achieved that, make sure you keep your inventory up to date, and that all the links on your site are functional and practical.
The Internet offers shoppers a world of options. Your site's job is to convert as many visitors as possible to customers. And functional roadblocks, like poor navigation and unorganized content, only stand in the way of maximizing sales.
Visitors to your site are in the process of shopping online, so convenience is a factor. Don't thumb your nose at this ideal with a site that complicates the process of commerce. After all, compensating someone in exchange for a product is a simple concept. It shouldn't be a difficult process. So maintain those sites, and keep buyers interested in your shop.