& Online Store Marketing Tips
The Web is not radio or TV,
and it is especially not print. To make the most of selling
online, you need to take advantage of the Web's unique strengths.
So don't just shovel out brochure-ware by merely setting your
existing catalog or sales brochures in HTML. Your two bywords
for e-commerce should be innovate and integrate. At the same
time, don't ignore years of direct mass marketing experience.
Buy buttons should be prominently displayed on all online
product pages. Use strong call-to-action language to draw
the user's attention. OK is weak compared to buy.
Affiliate programs--sometimes termed referral, associate,
or partnership programs--offer a way for you to easily put
your Web site's traffic to use so that it begins generating
income. Affiliate programs are generally used by companies
which sell and promote their goods and services on the Internet.
In exchange for you sending traffic to their Web sites, they
offer to pay you commissions based on the sales you generate.
Commissions range from 1 to 30 percent, and some are even
higher. The best affiliate programs even provide online tracking,
so you can see how many sales you have generated and what
your commissions are. For more information on these programs
check out CNET Builder.com's Affiliate Center. Don't Alienate
Buyers With Technology Not all high-tech enhancements further
your commercial goals. Some Web surfers avoid sites that use
Java, for example, because of performance or security concerns.
Use technology only when it enhances your selling message.
Gratuitous use of plug-ins, for example, can discourage sales.
If you must use a plug-in on your e-commerce site, always
offer an alternative (if less interesting) method of seeing
the product for folks without the right tools. It's a good
idea to know what plug-ins ship with which browsers. While
the latest browsers have some built-in technologies (including
VRML support), you'll also need to learn which browsers your
Not long ago, Mobil gas stations started accepting a new payment
technology called the Speedpass. When you attach it to your
car and drive up to a gas pump in a participating station,
the pump automatically turns on and activates your credit
card number. With this innovation, Mobil recognized an important
piece of the selling puzzle: make it as easy as possible for
customers to buy. Sadly, many Web site operators don't seem
to understand this. A few innovators like Amazon.com and Virtual
Vineyards speed the ordering process by storing their customers'
billing and credit card data, thus making second purchases
easier. But many sites don't accept credit cards at all, forcing
the user to break the online connection and call an 800-number.
Still other places calculate shipping and taxes offline, leaving
the buyer clueless as to the final cost of their purchases.
Our payment tips can help you avoid these mistakes. Be Savvy
About Credit Cards Buying on the Web should be easy, and that
means your site should accept as many credit cards as possible.
Incredibly, many e-commerce sites don't accept credit cards
at all, requiring a fax order, a call to an 800-number, or
some other offline process to complete the sale. While undoubtedly
easier to implement, these systems simply do not meet customer
expectations on the Web. While you do need to offer an 800-number
for those Net users too nervous to submit orders online, you'll
lose business if you make shoppers break their Web connection,
write down or remember their orders, and then pick up the
phone just to buy your product.
Banner Exchange, Button Exchange
and Link Exchange Programs
An easy to implement, free way of gaining a lot of exposure
for your web site is to join a banner, button or link exchange
network. In return for displaying banners, buttons or links
from other sites your site your banners will then get displayed
on numerous other sites.
Here are several programs you might want to check out.
- ButtonXchange.com - Free, 88 x 31 pixel,
micro button exchange. Nice little program dealing exclusively
in the itsy bitsy buttons - see button to the right for
dimensions - that don't overtake a web page.
- LinkBuddies - offers banner (468x60),
button (88x31), text and box (90x60) link exchanges. It
operates on a 4:3 ratio and gives new users 500 credits
for joining. It also offers 5% of the impressions from anyone
you refer to their programs. One of the better link exchange
programs getting around.
- Free-Banners.com - is a great program
that offers a 2:1 ratio but with many added benefits on
top. They have a 3-level Webmaster Referral Network System
where you can earn more banner impressions and each and
every month your site will go into a draw to win 1,000,000
banner impressions. Lots of other tools and promotion ideas
- MLM ads - offers a 2:1 ratio and 500
credits on signup and also features a massive 15 level downline.
Each level is at only 2% of referred users total impressions
but if you have a site that generates good traffic and has
the potential to sign up a number of referrers the numbers
can stack up quickly. Features two types of fast loading
text ads at 468x60 and 180x70.
For more information and links check out our Promotion Tools.
Pop Up Exchange Programs
Another advertising program that might be useful, although
it might alienate some customers who hate pop-up ads.
- PopupLinks.com - offers a 4:3 ratio
popup exchange program and guarantees 100% effective traffic
for FREE. PopupLinks is a pop-behind exchange program. When
a surfer visits your website, a new full sized webpage is
opened behind your website. Likewise your webpage will be
opened when another member of PopupLinks gets a visit.
- ExitPit.com - is a 2:1 exit pop up exchange
featuring a 3 tier referral program. Your site will pop
up in a new window once for every two times your site displays
an exit pop-up of other member sites. Also includes the
option to purchase additional site or banner exposures.
- GoPopUp.com - will double your website
traffic every single day for FREE! - GoPopUp.com can increase
your website traffic by 50% immediately and continually
grow with this rate. Pop-Up Exchange is more effective than
any traditional banner exchange. GoPopUp.com can bring you
REAL web traffic instead of raw banner impressions.
Affiliate programs are an ideal way to make your web site
profitable. There is a huge number of affiliate programs now
available on line and you should be able to find a few that
will suit you and your type of business site. Here are some
affiliate resources for more information: Affiliate Networks and How to set up your own affiliate program or
Tools to help affiliates.
Additional words of advise
Once your site is up and running, take the opportunity to
enhance it with value-added content. Like mints on your pillow
at a fine hotel, it's the little touches that make customers
remember you the next time they go shopping.
To get customers to your site, choose a Web address (URL)
that's as close to your company name as possible. Always include
the URL in your printed advertisements, and make sure it appears
on all your other marketing collateral as well as business
cards. As a rule of thumb, wherever you put an 800 number,
you should put your URL.
Once you have decided to put your web site or online store
in place, providing product information and sales literature
at the virtual online community storefront can reduce the
expense of shipping pre-sales literature. When printing, handling
and shipping costs are combined, an average information packet
today costs a company around $15. Making the same information
packet available online eliminates this cost for the segment
of potential customers visiting the Web site.
Many companies have discovered that customers use Web sites
as an alternative to calling and waiting on customer hot lines
for information. Frequently asked questions sections in the
Web site can make use of graphics to explain difficult concepts.
By posting frequently asked questions and then directing customers
to the Web site, a company can significantly increase customer
support and, at the same time, reduce expenses.
If customer support cases involve unique questions, companies
should encourage customers to first contact them via e-mail.
Most experts agree that electronic commerce, including product
sales, banking and money transfer will soon explode. Many
Web-based businesses are planning and selling products and
services now. Yet the barriers to successful and easy electronic
commerce have not been easy to break.
Today the most common form of online payment is the credit
card. Research continues to show that many customers have
doubts about security. One of the most notable efforts under
way is the Secure Electronic Transfer standard from MasterCard
Copies of the SET specification can be found at http://www.visa.com
Antony Calvo is vice president of American International Market
Corp. based in Washington.
From the November 21, 1997 edition
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