For most businesses selling online, the internet begins and ends with Google. Nick Wheeler, CEO of shirt retailer Charles Tyrwhitt, says that Google’s Adwords helped improve sales by 10 per cent.
‘It is a very important source of revenue but you need to be on top of it. Don’t just buy a load of Adwords at a fixed price and expect the business to come in; you have to monitor everything on a daily basis so you can understand where your sales are coming from, what’s working and what isn’t.’
The company’s new website is set to be launched this month. ‘People want websites to be quick and easy to use, and it’s amazing how many aren’t. Technical teams often want to put Flash all over the site, and it becomes confusing and slows it down,’ adds Wheeler.
According to the monthly e-Retail Sales Index by IMRG and Capgemini, online spending in July 2010 hit a record level, with UK shoppers spending £5 billion online. If you’re looking to grab some of this spend, it makes sense to conduct proper research to establish your niche in the market.
Online hotel booking service HRS did just this, and after tailoring its services accordingly, the company has already grown sales. Director Jon West says, ‘The more data we get on our visitors, the better the opportunity to sell to them. Now we have that information, we can save a huge amount of time, meaning quicker conversion of suspects into prospects, prospects into customers and customers into revenue.’
By the same token, business intelligence (BI) software is often a good investment for mail order businesses to target specific groups of customers and increase sales. Online underwear and swimwear retailer Kiniki (pictured) installed a BI system 12 months ago to refine customer preferences in its database of 500,000 contacts.
Marketing director James Walker says, ‘Contacting Mrs Williams in Glamorgan after 8pm on a Sunday night, offering her the latest items in the colour blue in her preferred size in a price range we know she prefers is more valuable to us than sending out a blanket email to an expensive data list.’
Social media has also been beneficial for Kiniki. Building profiles on a couple of notable sites has boosted the company’s followers to more than 1,000. ‘Apart from having a great reception, customers have provided us with feedback on the products they would like to see in the future. Social media is not just great for viral marketing, it’s a great outlet for improvement,’ says Walker.
Opening online communication channels with your customers also gives you an opportunity to remind them about seasonal promotions. Christy Foster, founder of baby equipment retailer Online4Baby, says, ‘We’ve already seen a sales increase of 20 per cent in August after putting “buy it early for Christmas” in our listing descriptions.’