Sure, your company is online. Hey you have a webpage! Woohoo! So how is that working out for you? Driving tons of business your way I’ll bet.
Except when it isn’t.
Don’t you feel that sometimes you are standing there on the curbside of today’s business highway while all the really great orders are zipping past you like a Ferrari hitting fourth gear.
Zooooom! There goes another one.
Think about how your company is situated online for a second. What do you think is going on that might be causing that anxiety or stress of non-performance? Let’s take a look:
Robots are Taking Over
First, nobody really makes decisions anymore with online rankings. It’s all handled with fancy algorithms and AI programs. Despite what the folks at Bing or Yahoo will tell you, the de facto cutting edge is about how Google ranks you. Search isn’t processed with people, but instead Google uses a RankBrain algorithm that learns on its own based on experiences and evaluations. It is self-updating, like the computers in sci-fi movies that always go awry. That is of course until the next brainiac invents a better way to do it. Which I’m sure will happen twenty minutes from now.
When your customer types something in the search window, RankBrain is what determines the results. The results of your company’s webpage position or customer’s product keyword search query is based on a learning interface and you don’t have
much (any) control. What does help, besides just outright paying for ads, is to continually offering fresh information and content. So if you haven’t touched your webpage since 2008 you are taking a huge hit, compared to your competition down that street that might be updating stuff constantly. RankBrain just sees those other webpages as more interesting, so they get pushed to the top.
Think of your webpage as a produce stand. Unless you are constantly putting out new tomatoes and melons, most shoppers are going to be passing you by. Does anyone want some zucchini from eight years ago? Make sure you are giving them something to squeeze and thump.
Or just pay the big bucks and get to the top of the list with paid ads.
You’ve seen those goofy looking scuba mask-looking headsets that everyone is touting as the new face of digital. Look at that picture above. Is that where we are heading? How is that immersive content going to rule marketing in the future? Will you or your competition be the first to plant a flag into this new software and use it as an advantage? How expensive do you think that will be?
Web users are always on the hunt for more interactive experiences. What will shape the future in days to come?
Fashion VR apps are the wave of the future if you believe the hype surrounding some major fashion brands. Why lug yourself all the way to the store when you can just sit at home and try on outfits in a make believe store? Don’t believe me? Read this article. It’s true, at least in their minds.
Unless of course that VR headset thing just doesn’t go as far as some people think. How many people bought a pair of Google Glasses?
I just don’t see myself ever wearing one of these things. Of course I also defiantly stated that I would never get a cell phone either. Look at me now. Wrong about that for sure.
Who doesn’t love social media? Well actually almost everyone. Most social media users don’t post for business, but just seem to be ranting about politics, posting pictures of food they are about to eat, cats that are afraid of cucumbers, or just plain ol’fashioned insulting someone because they disagree with them. Those trolls have to live somewhere!
Ok, I’ll admit it… there are some people and companies that are really good at positioning themselves and making a difference with social media for their sales. To some degree though it’s just all so much noise. Is there a benefit?
You bet. But you have to do it correctly.
When I talk to shop owners about their social media marketing, almost to a person they state that “they don’t have time for that.” Those that do, almost always just throw some younger person into the deep end of the pool and hope they can figure it out. I guess it’s because they can type faster on their phones that anyone else in the office can on a keyboard that gets them the gig. That doesn’t mean they are qualified or even know what they are doing. But hey, if you are the owners daughter that just graduated from college and haven’t found a job yet, you are hired! “Might as well start an Instagram account, honey.”
Will that work? Maybe…
Social media is all about connecting with your customers where they thrive and hang out online. Interacting, commenting, sharing and liking. Just posting you having a sale a few times a week doesn’t get you the following you crave or even those sales for that matter. Eventually you’ll just get tuned out or even worse, unfollowed and ignored.
A better approach is to think about social media as going to a party. You want to be included in the cool group (your customers), so be sure to walk over there and start talking. At a party, you wouldn’t just start blabbing about how you’ve got this great deal next week. Nobody would listen to you. Instead, good conversationalists (and marketers) will get interested in what this chatty group is talking about, sharing and work their own point into the conversation. Sure, it takes more effort, but it works better and is real.
Create your own content. Videos, pictures, blogs, infographics. If you can do something different, funny or helpful you’ll stand out. Get on a regular schedule and post the content that matters to your customers. Use the channels that your customers use. Hunt where the deer live.
Get Personal with Data
How are you doing with using your customer’s information to push your marketing? You have loads of it already just sitting there. Do you use it?
I’m not talking about reselling it or any nefarious mustache-twisting evil ideas either.
Customers fill out forms constantly, and we have loads of order information usually in our database systems. Does your website offer personalized search results for customers, a way to save information or be able to target them later with a follow up? Is it easy to order and get set up for automatic reordering? Are you suggesting “other customers purchased this” with similar items?
When was the last time you sent them a thank you card, or maybe a personalized newsletter that contained information based on the items that viewed the last time they visited your site?
Another idea might be to search your own system and pull out all the customers that ordered jackets, sweatshirts or hoodies and shoot them a flyer that shows them some new colors and styles that are available this year. Call the program your shop “Idea Generator” and let them know you can get them on the production schedule pronto.
What can you do with the information you have in your system? Is it time for that big order again? What if you set a reminder to pop up a few weeks early and contact them?
When a user on your webpage abandons their shopping cart, do you send them a follow up inquiring if there are any questions regarding their experience? Have you even thought about this? “Hey we noticed that you didn’t complete that order…any questions?” That might go a long way for someone.
Most of the time we get so focused on all the stuff on our plates that we can’t think through our problems and see that we actually have a lot of information already at our fingertips that could make a huge difference with our sales outreach if we just used it.
Data mine your own system for some new customers once in awhile. If you number your customer’s accounts how many do you have? Of those, how many have an order in the system right now? What are the rest doing? Want to find out?
Keeping Up with the Challenges
So what is around the corner? I know some companies haven’t even upgraded their sites to work on mobile phones, so the next phase of the online experience is really going to throw them for a loop.
The big question isn’t so much “can we keep up?”, but will the next thing be accessible quickly enough to make a difference for us?
The really great thing about using technology in your business though is that it makes things easier. That’s the real benefit. The struggle is to learn what’s available and how you can use it in your shop. Usually this just means tinkering with stuff and seeing if you like it. I do this a lot, and it is even sometimes fun.
It’s always a challenge, as there is no cure for the internet. It’s evolving.
“We’re still in the first minutes of the first day of the Internet revolution.” – Scott Cook
“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” – Bill Gates
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust