Nine Simple Keys to Web Marketing Success for Catalogers

In the course of helping multichannel clients in highly sophisticated marketing programs, we inevitably find that they are omitting to do some very simple things that could significantly boost their online business.

Below are what we contend are the incontestable dos and don’ts that have emerged as the keys to Internet success. Interestingly, we haven’t yet seen a company that has implemented all these simple tactics. Which means you can be the first; your reward will be increased sales and satisfied customers.

1) Test incremental changes to your Website on a regular basis to improve stickiness, conversion, and overall sales.

If you are unsatisfied by your Internet results (and who isn’t!), do not succumb to the impulse to redesign your whole Website, as a new site will have other problems and still may not meet your expectations. Before making wholesale changes, first implement simple changes based on reviewing your log analysis and customer service feedback. Conduct user studies with people from your company–or go to a coffee shop and buy some gift certificates to bribe people to spend 20 minutes with you as a user of your site. Observe how they interact with the site and what they find challenging. Make the changes to fix these challenges and measure the results. You will find that experimenting with incremental changes can have a great impact on your overall results.

2) Put your order line phone number, e-mail sign-up, catalog request link, shopping cart, and search box above the fold on every product and order path page of the Website.

Visitors to your site may have recently received a catalog and might just be researching their purchase. Many may be far more comfortable placing an order over the phone or need further information than is listed. By placing your phone number where it will be available when they are ready to order, you will effectively move them along the shopping path. Many Website owners mistakenly think they are saving money by not offering the phone number, then fret over the high abandonment rate. Since fewer than 10% of site visitors buy from a site but more than 50% of callers make a purchase while on the line, there is every reason to keep the order line available.

What’s more, 20% of those who request a catalog will become customers within a few months of making the request. They may want a catalog to get a higher-resolution photo or to keep as a reference. Catalog requesters have a far higher propensity to buy than simple Web browsers. Do not miss this chance to move them up the value chain.

Always make it easy for customers to get to their shopping cart. Leave products in the abandoned cart for at least one week. This way, shoppers can come back to the site, go to their cart, and continue shopping without having to start again. This is a great way to save a sale that you might otherwise lose.

Half of your Web visitors will use the product search function. These same customers are twice as likely to then purchase as those who do not use the search. Make your product search function prominent and as robust as possible. Even with the best site and the best products, a customer will not purchase from you if he cannot find the product he is looking for.

3) Aggressively promote e-mail sign-up. Segment your e-mail file and create targeted product and promotional offers. Use “abandoned cart” e-mails.

Increasing your e-mail database even 10% this year can dramatically improve on the bottom line. Collect e-mail addresses with every contact and every opportunity you have.

By segmenting your e-mail file into distinct groups and creating targeted message for each, you can increase click-through rates, response rates, and average order values (AOVs). Consider segmenting by incoming channel— Internet, catalog, store. You can also segment by high AOV and low AOV or active customers vs. lapsed customers.

Always ask for the e-mail address as the first item in the checkout process. If the person abandons the cart, you will at least be able to market back to him.

A very high percentage of people abandon their carts. It happens for various reasons, from getting interrupted to not being ready to commit to the purchase. Some simply use the cart to hold and compare products they are interested in. By maintaining the cart contents for at least a week, as suggested earlier, you can e-mail these visitors and remind them that they have product in their cart. Give them a special offer to complete their purchase in the next 10 days. This is a great way to increase you conversion and drive incremental sales.

4) Include cross-sell items on all product and cart pages.

By including cross-sell items on all product pages and as well as on the cart page, you can potentially double your page views per session. These cross-sell items lead to increased average order values, especially when they are complementary to the product being viewed. The cart page items should be dynamically presented based on the last item added to the cart. In addition, by showing previously viewed items, you allow visitors to cross-sell themselves.

5) Make checkout as quick and easy as possible. Include a catalog quick-shop option on the home page.

When customers are ready to check out they want the process to be as quick, easy, and straightforward as possible. Make sure your checkout includes as few clicks and pages as possible. The checkout process is the last place you want to lose a visitor.

The catalog quick-shop is the highest conversion location on a cataloger’s Website. Maximize the value of a catalog visitor by including a quick-shop function on the home page. You make it easy for catalog shoppers to simply enter the item number from their catalog and go straight to the checkout if they so choose.

6) Review your Web logs and internal search results to find your most popular keywords. Then self-manage sponsored-link programs with Google Adwords (serving Google and AOL) and Overture (serving Yahoo! and MSN). Also use this information to determine feature products for your next e-mail and, if you have stores, aisle end caps or feature tables.

This effort will reach 90% of the searches on the Web. The best positions to bid are usually number three and number five, as these are usually on the first search page and will normally get a much better ROI than higher-ranked terms.

By using the most-popular searches on the Web, you can create higher-performing e-mails. In addition, this information can be useful if you have stores. In many cases, you may experience different results regionally that you can then leverage in your stores. By taking the hottest searched items and creating an aisle end cap or feature table, you can enable your stores to sell a week’s worth of products in the course of one day. How many simple store marketing programs can do that?

7) Join Froogle, Shop.com, and Shopping.com.

These are the big three of Internet shopping channels that have proven effective for catalogers. Froogle is free and works well only if you provide a “trusted feed,” which a modestly skilled Web manager can do. Shop.com features members’ products in a highly sophisticated shopping format and then passes completed orders on to them. Shopping.com is a self-serve shopping comparison site with more than $500 million in sales of consumer merchandise. By joining these sites you not only will sell more product but will also gain secondary and tertiary SEO presence. Because both Shop.com and Shopping.com have very extensive programs to drive traffic, they are in effect paid search optimizers that yield very good results with a predictable ROI.

8) Test display ads to the “cookies” visiting your site.

You may not have heard of this yet. NextAction has partnered with DRIVE Performance Media, a division of aQuantive, to be able to deliver behaviorally targeted media for multichannel marketers. The program provides targeted Web media for both retention and prospecting efforts by capturing consumers’ Web activity on the home pages, checkout pages, and key Web pages across participating network merchant sites. Relevant ads will be served up to visitors from your own site or from models of all participating sites’ cookies. There is a lot of potential in this program.

9) Place your URL on all hangtags and product information sheets, each spread of your catalog, your phone wait message—in short, just about everywhere you communicate with your customers.

Most customers will simply Google your keywords if you do not give them your exact URL. Often this results in your traffic going to a competitor. Loss of brand affinity is a defining characteristic of the Internet, and you never want to encourage it by not giving the consumer the most effective way to communicate directly with you.

Bill Nicolai is senior partner and Michelle Farabaugh is partner at Lenser, a San Rafael, CA-based full-service direct marketing consultancy.

Farabaugh will be presenting “Maximizing Lifetime Value: The Promise of Multichannel Marketing” at MCM Live, a two-day intensive presented by MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT that tackles the tough issues of marketing, selling and fulfilling through various channels. MCM Live is scheduled for June 1-2 in New York and Oct. 5-6 in San Francisco. For more information visit http://www.mcmlive.com.

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