In my last article I discussed why having an online presence is a must in our new world of smart phones, iPads and wi-fi hotspots. This month’s discussion will revolve around how to directly compete with the online retailer on your own terms and with little-to-no budget.
Learn from the success of others: How have the big boys’ online optical sales sites succeeded? Primarily from exposure. Every independent ECP believes that there is no substitute for hands on, real world training and ability. And this is true. But if a consumer is inundated with enough ads from online companies, they will investigate. And that turns into enough sales for online companies to make a profit. So how do you, the average ECP, with a small marketing budget, compete against that?
1. Facebook: Your fan page should already be up and with the help of your social media consultant you should be garnering new fans. Run specials solely for Facebook fans. Tie these specials back into your website, and to your store. An easy example would be offering a gift card to Facebook fans who mention they saw the post. Or that the 20th fan to like a particular post will receive some type of gift or discount in the store. Have your fans submit photos of themselves wearing your products, to be placed on your website ‘customer gallery’ with a giveaway drawing for one lucky winner. This last one will get lots of hits on your site: your customers will tell their friends about their photo on your site, and you'll be able to discuss this with customers in the store, giving them an incentive to enter the contest.
2. Facebook/Google marketing: Facebook has a marketing system similar to Google. You can take out advertising space on both (this would result in your business showing up on the right hand side of either of these sites). You can specify who you would like to target, via a slew of demographic choices. You then have a choice in how to pay for this marketing: CPC, or cost per click, is the most common. I recommend this for every client to start with as your ad shows up on your potential targeted customer’s page. If that person clicks your ad, which directs them to your website, you pay a very small fee. You can bid on this fee, but it's also dependent on some other factors. Overall it is extremely inexpensive and you only pay for results. You can even place a ceiling on how much you are willing to spend each day/week/month.
3. Groupon and other ‘coupon’ oriented sites: There are many Web sites that allow you to place coupons for your products, and in most cities there are local companies that offer the same types of programs. Again, a competent social media consultant can help you determine which of these forums is best for your business. An added benefit: many of the local companies don’t charge you a fee unless you actually garner a sale from the coupon!
These are just a few of the inexpensive ways you can directly compete against online retailers. Your ads will sit right next to theirs in many cases, depending on the target demographic you select. Think of online retailers as the latest incarnation of the ‘big box’ stores we all faced in the late '80s and early '90s. Standing toe-to-toe with these giants, we held our own. Now, you can do the same thing in the virtual world. Rather than a ‘sky is falling’ approach to this new world, think ‘the sky is the limit’. Because on the Web…there really is no limit.