Tips for E-commerce Managers

Jasmine Sandler
March 4, 2010 — 1,525 views  
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In my ten years of experience providing strategy and overall online marketing assistance to firms from small businesses to Fortune 100’s , I have come to realize e-commerce managers of small and mid-sized businesses (whether brick and mortar with an online storefront or a pure-play with an e-retail model) face very similar challenges:

  • Online sales goals do not fit in with overall company marketing plan
  • Lack of a structured online marketing plan with clear and defined goal
  • Lack of personnel resources to manage online marketing programs
  • Lack of dedicated media and marketing budgets to utilize effective channels
  • Unknown or negative brand perception amongst target audience


In this article, I have outlined some simple, yet effective tips on how to begin to resolve these issues so that e-commerce managers can realize better results in their online marketing programs. A balanced program can help to drive the following results: increased online brand awareness, online audience development, and conversion.

Challenge #1: Online sales goals do not fit in with overall company marketing plan.


Recommendation:
Because Sales is a function of Marketing, the two disciplines must be in agreement as far as goals, efforts and resources are concerned. In the online world, the off-line model doesn’t exactly apply -- there are no clear real estate costs, shelf prices, POP prices and in-store promotions don’t work the same. Further, the online audience is much more fickle than the local customer. The web represents both a marketing channel for off-line acquisition as well as a sales point. Before pursuing any channel execution, internal marketing and online sales groups must work together to define clear online goals, timelines and action plans.   In short, there should be a page in every business marketing plan dedicated to the website, and that page needs to be reinforced with a dedicated budget and clear goals such that this area is a tactical piece of an overall strategic plan.

Challenge #2: Lack of a structured online marketing plan with clear and defined goals.


Recommendation:
Prior to investing in any online marketing channels--whether in media or in resources--it is essential to spend time developing a plan with defined goals (traffic, sales, ROI, etc.). As part of the plan, it is wise to do real research and further, analysis of your industry, competitors and target audience(s) to determine opportunities and threats. Only after research and analysis in complete should a plan for success be built. Agent-cy has delivered online marketing plans for most of its clients, including www.citylightscruises.com, www.BestMoviesByFarr.com and www.ShopDI.com, and as a result, these firms have been able to drive real awareness and acquire new customers in a cost-effective manner.

Challenge #3: Lack of personnel resources to manage online marketing programs.

Recommendation:

Once an online retailer has a well-defined Online Marketing plan and supported action plan (tactics), each element of that plan should be assigned to a responsible person or group. If the firm does not have the budget for a full-time staff person, an agency can be very useful in developing and managing such programs as Search Engine Marketing, Affiliate Marketing, Online PR, Media Buying and Planning, Web site enhancement and growth and E-commerce technology development.

Without defined resources, an e-commerce manager may become overburdened with too many responsibilities. As a result, all programs do not receive all the attention and modifications they need and most fail.

Challenge #4: Lack of dedicated media and marketing budgets to utilize effective channels.

Recommendation:
Investing in web marketing is not a one-time expense. Similar to traditional channels (Print, TV, Radio, etc.); a dedicated budget for one-time and ongoing expenses related to new online marketing programs is necessary. This will help to ensure that a small to mid-size business will be able to capitalize on online acquisition opportunities.

As an example, Pay Per Click Search Marketing can be a very effective tool for driving immediate sales amongst ready buyers if done correctly. However, this medium has become a very saturated marketplace for some industries, which has results in increased CPC costs. An e-commerce manager in markets such as Mortgage, Electronics, etc would be wise to have an optimized budget for his/her PPC campaigns during high-season periods.

In general, it is smart to make room for line items in your expenses for such necessary marketing work as:

  • Paid Search Media
  • Search Engine Optimization Program Development and Management
  • Online PR Program Development and Management, including writing, pitching and placement
  • Affiliate Marketing Program Development and Management
  • Creative development (i.e. E-mail marketing, corporate web site, micro site, affiliate banners, viral marketing or promotional online campaigns and associated landing pages, etc.)
  • Technology development (i.e. widgets, integration of systems, html implementation, web analysis and reporting, development and/or implementation of CMS, inventory systems, etc.)
  • Media Planning and Buying
  • Blog Writing and Development
  • Development and Management of Online Partners in Blogs, Sites and Social Networks
  • Re-production of branded items for distribution
  • Content distribution and syndication


Not all of the above apply to every situation. However, the list is a good overview of items to be aware of in terms of web marketing investment. There are reasons behind every item on the list. However, your best bet is to first have an (online marketing) expert analyze and recommend around your specific needs. If, for example, you have a low budget, offering a revenue share from online product sales can encourage a person or agency to manage your Affiliate Marketing or Search Campaigns.

In determining your ROI for any or all of these components, it is important for each expense item to have an associated marketing goal and that that goal be measured ongoing to reveal effectiveness.


Challenge #5 Unknown or negative brand perception amongst target audience.

Recommendation:

Especially with an e-commerce site, products themselves only drive a specific buyer’s interest. Therefore, an excellent way for e-retailers to differentiate themselves is to become a resident expert in their industry area.

One of Agent-cy’s clients is Diamonds International, a leading fine jewelry retailer with over 100 stores worldwide and an e-commerce site at www.ShopDI.com. In working with this client, who is the leader of Tanzanite jewelry in the Caribbean and owns Tanzanite International (www.tanzaniteinternational.biz), we have been effective in driving awareness around the company’s expertise and sale of Tanzanite jewelry. As a result, we have had success in the release and distribution of an article to national newspapers and online fashion sites. You can view the article at http://www.shopdi.com/Press-Releases/ab/abpress18.cfm.   And by continuously adding new content regarding tanzanite jewelry to Diamond International’s monthly newsletter, and by reaching out to design school, fashion magazine and fashion websites on topics related to bridal jewelry, jewelry design and gemstone authenticity, we continue to showcase Diamond International’s status as gemology experts.

“When it comes to purchasing a high value product, especially online, consumers tend to feel more confident to purchase from a retailer who is an expert in that product line.  Agent-cy has been instrumental in getting the word out that we are the authority in tanzanite jewelry.”
Isaac Klugmann, vice president of e-commerce for Diamonds International

Concluding, to transform and grow their businesses online, e-commerce managers need to first understand online opportunities and challenges; then plan for realistic online sales goals that are in alignment with business marketing strategies; and, finally, invest in media and experienced personnel as applicable. To improve brand awareness and grow a viral audience, e-commerce managers need to develop their businesses as product category experts so that an effective Online PR program can be developed and delivered. In this way, a small or mid-size business can be perceived by online customers as a category leader.

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About Agent-cy

Agent-cy is a niche online PR and marketing agency that helps small to medium-sized businesses drive significant online audience development through effective strategies and planning, online PR and Partnership Development & Management, and SMB education.
The Agent-cy team has delivered successful programs for SMB clients including: The American Brain Tumor Association, City Lights Cruises, Clear Office, Diamonds International, The ESRB, STDateline.com, and BestMovies ByFarr.com. Results of Agent-cy’s work include online brand awareness, increased key online partnerships, increased online sales, and increased online audiences.
For more information, please visit www.agent-cy.com.

About Jasmine Sandler

Jasmine Sandler, CMO of Agent-cy, has been a major player in the online marketing industry for the past fourteen years. Her expertise is in helping brands find, build, and grow substantial and loyal online audiences. She has also been involved in the development of several online communities and social networks. She has an MBA in Marketing with an emphasis on consumer behavior and has worked on online audience development projects for such organizations as The Entertainment Software Rating Board, Diamonds International, Best Movies By Farr, Citigroup Mortgages, Intellicorp Corporation, Loews Hotels, Diageo Brands, Artist Direct, Sony Music, and many more. She is also a featured and guest speaker on the topic of Online Marketing Strategy and has spoken on the tours of NYXPO, Online Marketing Summit, Samsung’s Taste of Technology and more. Her agency, Agent-cy, a niche online PR and marketing strategies agency, is based in New York City and has a website: www.agent-cy.com. Miss Sandler can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] or at 212-209-3975. She is also available to answer any online marketing questions on her blog www.agentcy.wordpress.com.

Jasmine Sandler

Agent-cy