Introduction: What is Digital Marketing and Its Importance for Retailers?
Everyone is somewhat familiar with the concept of marketing – the different ways in which a business’s products and/or services are promoted, in order to gain new customers, as well as aiming to remain on the radar of the existing ones. But what is digital marketing? Marketing was simple enough to understand, why do these young people always have to make everything about their new shiny technology? If that’s what you’re thinking, you’d be right. Because digital marketing is indeed doing marketing using what is probably one of the most popular technologies known to man – the internet! Social media, websites, and email, among many others. That of course involves all the hardware needed to use the internet – phone, laptop, desktop, etc. As well as the software – for editing pictures and videos, SEO, for data analysis. When do you get ads on social media? That’s digital marketing. An email from a brand explaining their products or services? Digital marketing. When you somehow find yourself browsing a company’s website? You guessed it, digital marketing.
These last few years, as the internet gained more ground, there has been a digital transformation in retail, making the technology extremely important to the industry. Let’s explore how and why.
By investing in digital marketing, you are allowing your business to not only reach customers but also the right ones by using data based on their personal information and the way they behave online – age, gender, location, hobbies they displayed interest in, searches, and following. If you’re selling lipstick, for example, you could boost your Facebook post to target young women in their 20s who follow makeup pages. It will depend on what you need and what platform you are using. This way, you can target people who are potential customers instead of spending an exorbitant amount of money on a boring billboard that might not get you customers at all; most people ignore the billboards on the highway on their way to work, some people even ignoring it out of spite from just how many there are. That’s boring, which is the last thing you want your business to come across as.
With digital marketing, distance isn’t a limit anymore; you do not have to limit your target audience to the people who can travel to your physical store if you have one at all. A lot of retailers do not have one, they simply operate from their warehouses or office. This retail marketing strategy allows you to target customers who live overseas or in areas of your country that aren’t easily accessible. Retailers take orders from their digital platforms and directly ship them to customers. Being able to operate online removes the need to have a physical store, saving a lot of money that you can invest in more meaningful ways, whatever that means to you – pay your employees better, make more profit, provide more services, give discounts, invest in new equipment, etc.
When practising traditional marketing, say you rent a billboard. All you can do then is wait for people to notice. You’re in the dark, you don’t really know what is going on and what the impact of your campaign is going to have. Digital marketing for retailers, on the other site, gives real time data that can be analysed called – Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) – to measure whether the campaign is successful. The campaign becomes measurable and depending on the results – whether you have achieved your goals –, you can decide whether to redirect the efforts and funds or not. If you are leading a full-fledged social media campaign then the KPIs you should be monitoring are impressions, follower count, reach, likes, comments, click-through rate, customer testimonials among many others.
One essential part of any business is customer service; your business will directly depend on how good or how bad your customer service is. And digital marketing for retailers improves customer service. This is especially important since retailers are not necessarily the producers but sell to the final customers so if something goes wrong with any product, it is up to your customer service to handle the matter. With all the new instant ways of communication that technology allows – chat, video – you can talk to your customers directly, find out their needs/wants/complaints quickly and work towards making sure they are satisfied. This builds customer loyalty – the customer goes where they will be treated well, often willing to spend more money. The phenomenon of millennials not liking phone calls also plays a role in this. (Called telephonophobia, where they feel anxiety leading up to a phone call). With digital marketing, there is no need to call, they can just drop you a message on your digital platform; their complaints/wants to reach you in an instant way that doesn’t require them to call, thus avoiding the anxiety of it. if you offer that option and your competitors don’t, of course, they will choose you. But there is also the option of doing free calls. Almost all social media platforms now offer the option of voice and video calls, so it’s very personal and real for those who want it and it’s not for the ones who do not. There is an option for everyone’s comfort and thus, customer loyalty is maximised.
The modern customer, when they need to buy something, will pick up their phone and search for the item because they want to see all the available options and compare. If you market your products online properly – aka you have conducted a smart and effective digital marketing campaign –, you will appear in the top searches and catch the customer’s attention. Having a decent prize and nice reviews from previous customers (also part of digital marketing, this is very important for people browsing online for a product) is sure to get the customer to purchase from you. And if, on top of that, your customer service is quick and flawless, they are bound to come back to you next time they need one of your products.
In the grand scene of things and the rush of making sure your retail business stays afloat, sustainability might not seem important, but it is, for your environment of course but also for your business. Digital marketing allows for zero printing to be done, which saves money already but also allows you to advertise the sustainable lifestyle and that will attract the customers who care about living a greener life – the number of which has been increasing as global warming puts out planet Earth more and more in danger, and the environmental awareness campaigns gain traction. This is especially significant if your business has already discarded one-use plastic packaging.
Why it’s Important to be Competitive in the Digital Marketplaces?
Marketplaces are the life forces of commerce, where sellers can sell and buyers and can buy. Sellers can be buyers too. Business owners have a place to sell their products and customers can find the items they need or want. The Central Market in Port Louis is a classic example, if that helps you understand the concept. A digital marketplace isn’t much different, except that as the name suggests, it is online. And can deliver every kind of product and service under the sun. about every product can be found on Amazon, a ride to share on Uber, handcraft on Etsy. There is Clik Trip for photography services, Upwork for freelancers to get hired, Airbnb for listing and renting accommodation, eBay for bidding for products, even Rover for pet sitting services!
While having no physical location, it is as important as any traditional marketplace, especially in our modern ever-evolving world that has people turning to the internet and online shopping for anything they need.
Digital marketplaces rightfully occupy their space in the retail industry. There are so many reasons why, prime of which being that a lot of marketplaces already have a loyal clientele, people needing a book for example, and immediately opening the Amazon app to order it – and you as a retailer, can profit from that. A readymade target audience basically. On top of that, digital marketplaces aren’t limited to one area or space, they are global. People from all over the world shop online for everything, ranging from makeup and accessories to electronics and all kinds of gadgets. Whatever it is that you’re selling, you’re sure to find someone looking for that exact same thing somewhere in the world. You can reach that customer wherever they are, hence expanding your business considerably.
As a seller, you can also participate in and profit from sales that the marketplace does on special occasions, their black Friday sales, for example. Traffic is generated on the website and your products get exposure, increasing the chances of sales even if you aren’t offering discounts yourself.
But the problem is that as you can expect of any marketplace – digital or not –, it is crowded, with sellers and buyers alike. In such an environment, it becomes difficult to sell something unique; ten other sellers will probably be selling the exact same product that you are. They will be copying you if they aren’t already. Before getting on a digital marketplace and giving up control in certain aspects such as pricing, commissions and customer service among others, you will need to make sure you understand the marketplace’s algorithms and how they list products – often based on reviews and purchase frequency – to create a competitive advantage in the market for you and your business. It’ll be of utmost importance to be competitive to survive.
Digital marketplaces are technology and as such, they keep changing. Marketplace trends in 2022 weren’t the same a couple years ago and they will keep evolving in the future. If your retail business is going to keep up, you will have to be competitive in terms on price, pictures, reviews and marketing among others and follow the ever-changing trends.
How to Get Started with Your Digital Marketing Strategy?
Okay so you’ve been convinced that the internet is a very important tool, and your business needs to be online to gain more visibility and eventually customers, but you are no social media guru, and you have no clue what a good digital marketing strategy for retailers is. Don’t fear, our digital marketing guide is here! What is a digital marketing strategy, to start with? Well, it’s a plan to get your business seen by internet users. Depending on which strategy you adopt, you can use social media, paid advertising, SEO among many others. Whatever you choose, it will need to be clear and precise so that you maximise your business’s reach without spending an exorbitant amount of money.
To be able to get anywhere, you will need to start from somewhere. To be able to master online retailing strategies, you will need to start by collecting data. About your own business first – performance recently, marketing strategies; what worked and what didn’t, your current clientele, staff, and budget. You will also need to keep tabs on your competition, how and why they are a danger to your business and what they are doing in terms of marketing.
Just gathering the data will not do anything, it will need to be analysed to figure out what digital marketing strategy will suit your situation the best. You should stick to the GSOT (goal, strategy, objective, tactic) model to achieve a digital marketing campaign that will be clear and precise, bringing you optimal results. Setting a goal – the things you want to accomplish overall, increase sales by 20% for example – will help keep your campaign focused, having a strategy will be the ways and methods to reach that goal, you will need objectives to keep an eye on the numbers your campaign is doing, and tactics will be driven by your objectives.
Once these theoretical parameters have been set, they will need to be implemented. And for that, a target audience will be required. Your target audience is the group of people – usually categorised by age, gender, interests, location, education, purchase intention and others depending on what you’re selling – that are the most likely to become customers. If you sell cosmetics, for example, it would be smart to target women in their 20s and 30s. Young adults if you’re selling sci-fi or dystopian novels. Your target audience can be broader or smaller depending on what you’re selling and how specialised the product is.
Once you have decided who will be reached (the target audience) you need to decide what will reach them, aka the content. Whatever channel you are using – social media, paid ads, website creation, digital marketplace – content will have to be created to post based on what people are searching and what is trending. If you are posting on Instagram, for example, your content will have to be picture-focused with short, attention-grabbing captions. The use of keywords will help if you’re writing blogs for a website. Make sure the channels you use are going to be the ones that fit in your strategy and will profit you the most.
Last step before execution is to set the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). They are the measure of your success, or lack thereof. This depends on your business and the goals you have for it, but some examples include revenue growth and profit margin. KPIs allow you to analyse the effectiveness of your campaigns and, if required, make any changes in the right direction.
These are the basics on how to start a successful online store. Pretty simple guidelines but they can be quite daunting for the marketing novice. If you feel like digital marketing is not your cup of tea, it’s simple; just hire a digital marketing agency to do the job for you! Professionals with experience will take over your marketing campaign and give you the best possible results, boosting your business to its maximum potential.
How to Optimize your Website for Search Engines and Social Media Presence?
The internet works in mysterious ways, even more so if you are trying to make it work in your favour. Don’t worry though, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and social media optimization is on your side! The point here is to get search engines – Google in most cases – to rank your website as high as possible to increase the volume of visits and hence increase brand visibility. A complimentary social media presence will be of use to either increase website traffic through links users can click on or, vice versa, links to your social media pages on your website will help increase reach on social media. And while social media likes do not directly affect SEO ranks, the backlinks it generates for the website do help with SEO ranking. Let us take a look at the ways to optimise website search engine rankings and social presence.
There are quite a bit of tip and tricks you can use to make the best of your business’ socials, including posting at the right time. According to Hootsuite, generally, the best time to post on social media is 10 am on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays but that will vary with which platform you use and what you are selling. You can track your progress and change your posting schedule accordingly. Frequency of posting is equally important; it needs to be just right to engage enough your audience without being annoying. The recommendation is 3-7 times per week for Instagram, 1-2 times per day for Facebook and 1-5 tweets per day but, like timing, it doesn’t have to apply to everyone; you will need to try and see what fits best.
Your social media bio is important; it will be among the first things users will see and based on that, will decide if they want to engage or not. It will need to be short and sweet while describing who you are as a business, what you offer and how to contact you. Visuals are extremely important on social media, especially on the ones that are image focused, such as Instagram and Pinterest. Your pictures will have to not only be good quality and aesthetically pleasing but also of the right size; Instagram has a specific square size for its pictures and while it still allows users to post pictures of other sizes, the picture will be cropped and will not look good on your profile. The captions will make a lot of difference; attention-grabbing captions are short and friendly; social media users will not expect a formal tone from retailers so keep it chill and informal, with the most important information first, ask questions to generate engagement, direct users to your website and use tags! Platforms such as Tumblr and Instagram allow users to follow tags so that will be helpful to reach users who already follow the tag, aka potential buyers.
Now onto website optimization! To keep your website up there in search engine results, you should be following the best practices of e-commerce website design. First of which is that you have to use well-placed keywords that are relevant to your products. Product descriptions are especially important. All the published content should be relevant and accurate; the more the better! Structure your website with more web pages since those tend to rank higher – categories for products, reviews, complaints and blogs among others. Keep the quality in mind though, because too many web pages with weak content will have negative impacts on your ranking. Images are important as well; you can add descriptions on the images (especially relevant for retailers who already depend on product pictures) and in their alt text and file names to optimise your chances of ranking high in search results.
Conclusion: What You’ve Learned and How this Guide can Help
If you are a retailer, or you are about to get into the retail industry, and you want to give your business all the chances at being successful you may want to use tools such as digital marketing. It provides the best chances for visibility among users of the internet and will help you attract customers and build a loyal clientele, at relatively low costs whether you do it in house or hire a professional. The internet is a ruthless place though, it does no one any favours. Unique ideas never remain unique for long so you will need to invest – not just money – into rising above competition.
We got you, though, with our digital marketing strategy starter pack. A basic step by step plan containing everything you need to do if digital marketing confuses you, down to tips and tricks on how to optimise your website and social media pages. Use it to build a clear and concise strategy to boost your business.