We live in an attention economy. For those that are unfamiliar with this concept, put simply, attention is a resource, and a scarce one at that. Online content and product selection has grown infinitely abundant and immediately available. If a consumer wants to purchase a pair of pants online they can choose from a hundred thousand different variations brought to them by ten thousand different online stores. How are they going to choose?
For online retailers and marketers, attention is the only resource that matters. It’s easy to think that cash is king, but if online shoppers don’t visit your store to begin with, that cash is never going to make it to your balance sheet.
So, how do we get consumers to pay attention to us in an endless sea of ads, articles, tweets, and cat videos?
How do you compete with that face?
And moreover, once you get consumers’ attention, how do you engage and capitalize on it?
Here are 6 tried at true techniques to get new customers to your online store and keep them coming back for more.
1. Just because you build it, doesn’t mean they’ll come
Having a website isn’t enough anymore. Platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce have made it incredibly easy to create a professional looking online store. You can have a revolutionary product and an award-winning user experience; however, if people don’t know about it, then it’s all for nothing.
Online sellers need to be more proactive now than ever. As online businesses the question isn’t whether you should advertise, it’s how. Between SEO, SEM, email marketing, display advertising, social, affiliate, and PR it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Let’s simplify things down to the one visual that encompasses it all – the online marketing funnel.
The marketing funnel consists of three key areas:
- New user acquisition
- User Conversion
- User Retention
For this article, we are going to focus on the area that is the most important and underserved for small and mid-sized businesses: the top of the funnel -- new user acquisition.
2. Know your customer
If you haven’t done so already, take a moment to write down what your ideal customer profile looks like. Are they old, young, men, women, rich, poor, have they attended college and do they like red wine or white? The content you show on social media, banner ads and any other marketing channel should reflect the lifestyle of your ideal customer. You can’t speak to everyone so have a clear vision of what your customer looks like and speak to them directly.
There’s an incredible amount of data out there to target against. If you are a jewelry designer whose ideal customer is, 1) women, 2) 25-34, 3) high income, and 4) college educated, you can specifically target this in display networks.
It’s vital to your marketing success to know these key demographic attributes (or to at least have an idea of who you want to target). Online marketing success increases with the relevancy of your ads; spend the time getting to know your customer. If you are a young brand and don’t have much data, take some time to call your customers or send them emails directly. People appreciate a personal touch and this will be valuable on-the-ground insight for you. The work you put in upfront will pay off as you invest is paid advertising.
3. Feed the top of your funnel with display advertising
Paid advertising is the most reliable and predictable way to generate traffic to your site. Digital advertising allows for an incredible amount of precision, reach and personalization. The challenge with most ad platforms is that they require an incredible amount of expertise and capital to use effectively. For the largest 1% of online retailers, this isn’t an obstacle. For small companies, however, it proves to be a prohibitive barrier to success.
As online retailers with limited ad budgets, priority number one is finding a balance between ease of use and Return On Ad Spend (ROAS). Poln developed the first ad platform that specializes in user acquisition for small to mid-sized online retailers. Poln enables online retailers to leverage real-time shopper data to target new customers in an incredibly simple dashboard. The core concept is that by tracking user behavior, online retailers can show ads to people based on their actual shopping intent.
Poln customers have seen as much as a 30% increase in conversion rates compared to other forms of advertising.
4. Create compelling ads!
You only get one chance to make a first impression. Your ad creative may be the first time a customer interacts with your brand so it’s important to use this opportunity to make a lasting impression. Everybody is different but there are some tricks you can use to help your ads stand out from the rest.
First and foremost, keep your ads simple. Your ad is an opportunity to hook potential customers, not tell them your life story. Lead with a strong hero image that focuses on your product and match that with a powerful and concise message. This will encourage customers to click through and learn more on your site...which is where you can tell them you life story :)
Have a clear Call-To-Action (CTA). Customers shouldn’t have to guess what you want them to do. Tell them directly. If you want them to “Shop Now” or “Visit the Site,” be crystal clear about it.
Research other companies that have successfully targeted your audience and draw inspiration from their success. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel so look into other top performing campaigns in your space. Don’t copy their campaign but instead evaluate what you like and don’t like about their campaign and take this into consideration when drafting your creative. Moat has a great free database in which you can search for ads from most large companies.
Always maintain branding consistency between your ads and your site. Consider your ads as an extension of your website, not a separate entity. Maintain similar color schemes, imagery and messaging. Also ensure that the landing page you send consumers to is consistent with the ad you show them. Consumers can feel mislead or confused if there is an incoherence between your ads and your website. For example, if you run an ad campaign in which your creative highlights sale items but you are driving customers to your full-price, new arrivals page, you are going to see much higher bounce rates because the customers are not getting what they expect.
A well-crafted ad can enhance brand recognition, highlight your competitive edge and increase sales. To learn more about how to turn your campaigns from good to great check out Poln’s Top 10 Ad Creative Best Practices.
5. Test. Optimize. Repeat
John Wanamaker once said that “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Welcome to a new frontier, John. With digital advertising we have the luxury of incredible transparency and the analytics tools to measure the quality of our ads and tweak them in near real-time.
Take full advantage of the measurement tools and Google Analytics. You should actively maintain a benchmark of your ad performance to measure how well each campaign performs. Whether you’re a vet or a noobe, you can use performance data to adjust and optimize your campaigns.
A/B test your ad flights with different creative and messaging to see what generates the best ROIS. Compare your ad performance to similar brands and websites. If you are way behind the curve this is a good indication that there’s room for improvement. The best performing retailers and marketers monitor their performance frequently as even small changes in click-through and conversion rates can have a huge impact on your bottom line. Google benchmarks provides a great service for comparing your campaign performance to the industry as a whole.
Pay attention to the ads that drive you the highest amount of qualified traffic. Monitor the number of impressions served, the messaging, images and products that performed the best. Get in the habit of monitoring your performance now. It will pay huge dividends in the future.
6. Utilize social to engage customers for free
Social media is a great way to generate more touch points and keep an ongoing dialogue with your customers. There are plenty of channels to use, including Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, and many more. Rather than spreading yourself thin across all networks, work towards building a strong and loyal following across one or two social channels and then build off of that success. Engaged customers will usually follow you on more than one channel so building up one or two strong social outlets will allow you to grow your following elsewhere down the road.
As consumers, there are very few things we need to buy. Outside of our direct needs, the remainder of our purchases stem from an emotional connection to a brand or a product. Focus on posting compelling quality-oriented imagery, lifestyle inspired stories, and incentive based programs for your followers. Most importantly, use these networks to share your story – the narrative that’s unique to your brand. Consumers will connect with this authenticity, want to share it and will be more loyal to your brand.
We live in an attention economy, but lucky for us, we live in a time where tools that used to be reserved for Fortune 500 companies are accessible to everyone. By following the above steps you can reach more qualified customers and learn the patterns that drive sales and run a more successful online business.