Digital marketing

Lessons from the road: 5 tips for online success

- November 16, 2012 3 MIN READ

Part of my role in the Driving Business Online seminar series was to present my ‘Five tips for online success’. Let’s look at how the theories stack up after a few months on the road.

Aside from my keynote presentation, a major component of this year’s program involved meeting and interviewing small business retailers who were kicking goals online. Frankly I was a little uncertain how my tips would align with their own real-world experiences.

As it turned out, my mild anxiety was unfounded and I was astonished at how these pioneering entrepreneurs achieved their success.

1. You’ve got to stand out

In my talk I cite the example of a species of monkey that’s born bright orange in order to attract the attention of its less-than-committed parents.

Online we need to get noticed and while bright colours can help, it takes a lot more to really play the standing out card. You might stand out from the competition through branding, service, content, packaging, pricing, delivery speed or ideally a combination of factors. 

In Parramatta we met the husband and wife team behind Stylish Underwear and while men’s undies may well present something of a head-start to the concept of standing out, it’s their strong approach to customer service and rapid response to customer feedback that really sets them apart.

2. Target your message

When we met Steven Gangell in Hobart, a sprightly butcher with over 40 years experience I wasn’t expecting a cutting edge approach to online retailing. If you’ll excuse the pun.

How wrong could I be? With Farmhouse Meats Steven is building a niche local business to suit his transition into a less hectic, reduced overheads way of working and in so doing fully embraces my ‘target your message’ tip.

Selling meat online doesn’t sound straightforward to me. How will it stay fresh? What if I’m not home when it arrives? How can I be assured of the quality?

Clear, straightforward answers to these questions (and many more) contribute to Steven’s success and help his potential customers see that here’s a business that understands objections and wants to retain a smallish band of loyal, local and highly targeted customers.

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3. Direct the traffic

Dive into the world of David Macaulay’s impressive and expansive Kitchenware Direct business and you’ll be left with no doubt of the purpose of your visit. The site masters the ‘direct the traffic’ concept brilliantly. At any step of the way you know where to look, where to click and how to buy. 

Ever been to a site unable to find what you’re looking for, or been ready to buy but can’t find the checkout? Directing the traffic is a key element of a successful online business. You’ll find that a vast majority of your visitors come looking for the same three or four things – make sure you make it easy for them to find them, fast.

4. Monitor online behaviour and adapt

We don’t have to delve too deeply to find websites that have been set up and practically abandoned. Not so with the successful entrepreneurs we’ve met on the road.

Take Roxanne Baker from Nunie and Yu in Canberra. When Roxanne first set up her site she assumed her bricks and mortar customers would seamlessly move across to purchase items online. While a good few of them do just that, by studying her analytics carefully Roxanne discovered a very different kind of clientele online versus in store. She adjusted her product range, messaging and pricing accordingly to make the most of the online opportunity.

Similarly it was only by observing online behaviour and responding to customer needs that Andrew Lygo supplemented his online business by opening a retail outlet – that’s online spawning bricks and mortar!

5. Be reliable and consistent

Each of the Driving Business Online seminars opened with a member of PayPal’s executive team sharing industry statistics and insights . These were a fascinating, up-to-date summary of the habits and behaviours within the ecommerce marketplace and, for some, they were an alarming wake-up call. 

Perhaps the most shocking statistic was the number of transactions that fall over right at the point of checkout – in excess of six out of ten sales.* That’s like people arriving at the counter of a shop with money in hand and then changing their mind!

Through discussion with our fine case studies, it’s clear a contributing factor is failure to act reliably and consistently. It only takes a small inconsistency on your site or in the sales process to create doubt in the shopper’s mind. 

Online, our customers must feel reassured and comfortable if we are to expect them to part with their hard earned cash. After all it’s what we demand isn’t it? – Baymard Institute, November 2012.