The rise of online shopping has left many brick and mortar retailers feeling overwhelmed by the intense competition created by large, exclusively online retailers like Amazon and eBay.
Although it’s impossible to deny the incredible impact the presence of these large brands has on smaller local shops, it’s not impossible for business owners to remain competitive in their respective markets despite the fierce competition.
Online shoppers are often looking for the best deal, but many are still seeking unique products and quality production that larger retailers simply can’t offer.
This is where your business has the upper hand. By building and maintaining a solid online presence for your brick and mortar brand, you can get your quality products in front of the masses and finally feel as though you’ve gained some footing in your attempts to compete with the heavy hitters in online retail.
Check out my five step guide to get started.
1. Create a Quality Site
Building a website is an obvious first step. What’s not so obvious to many small business owners is that in order for your business to obtain optimal results online, you must invest in a quality site.
If you’ve got the funds to work with a firm or a freelance designer/developer, that’s great! Using a freelancer will usually be cheaper than using an agency and it’s easier than you think to find one to work with using sites such as UpWork and Freelancer. If not, the DIY approach can still be effective and relatively simple with some of the software available today.
Start by finding a domain name for your site that is intuitive and easy to remember. Using your exact brand name would be ideal, but with so many sites out there, your chances of getting the exact name you want are pretty slim.
If your ideal name is already taken, do not fear, there are lots of new domain extensions to pick from. Try enlisting the help of a domain name generator like this one to find a variation of your name that will appeal to online consumers.
Once you’ve selected and purchased an awesome domain name, it’s time to find that agency, freelancer or software to create your own website. There are many services that will help you get started as outlined here in this article.
These programs offer a variety of free and low cost site templates to help you get started on the process of creating a functional and aesthetically pleasing site.
2. Understand the Difference Between Online and Traditional Advertising
Small business owners tend to struggle when it comes to fully understanding the important differences between online and in person promotion. Fortunately, there are tons of awesome, free resources to help.
All small business owner looking for online success should dedicate some time each week to learning the fundamentals of online advertising.
You’ve already found a great resource in Business.com, but additional places to look might include the blogs for Moz and Kissmetrics. You could also check out Marketing Profs and Mashable’s Marketing section.
Related Article: What Makes a Successful Online Store?
3. Invest in Paid and Organic Search
Once you’ve learned a little bit about online advertising and how it differs from your current traditional promotional efforts, it will be time to build a strategy for site promotion.
The best approach here involves a combination of both paid and organic search engine marketing efforts.
It can be overwhelming at first with just how much there is to learn about organic search. Thankfully Google has put together a guide on how to get started in this handy PDF.
To get started on a paid search strategy, check out WordStream’s free PPC (pay-per-click) University course to learn the ropes.
There will definitely be a learning curve here, but once you’ve got the process down, you’ll realize there are incredible benefits to adding paid search to your search engine marketing strategy.
4. Build and Maintain a Strong Social Presence
Social media marketing is essential for brick and mortar businesses looking to excel in the online sphere.
This platform allows you to display the unique value your products and services offer that larger retailers don’t.
It also provides another avenue for organic and paid reach through social sharing and sponsored posts.
Start by determining which sites will be most beneficial for your brand. For example, B2C food and clothing retailers would do well on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, but could probably put less focus on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter.
Choose quality images to set up your profile and invite your current friends on each platform to like or follow your pages.
Once you’ve made it this far, do some research to find out what others in your industry are doing to be successful in their social media efforts.
What are they posting? What content are they sponsoring? Are they implementing influencer marketing? Look for answers to these questions, then consider how you could use some of the same items in your strategy.
If you’d like a little more guidance, Moz offers a free beginner guide for social media marketing.
5. Evolve to Meet Your Audience’s Wants and Needs
The evolution of online marketing never rests. This constant evolution creates new user demands for site speed, aesthetics, and marketing tactics.
Keep up with the SEM industry by continuing to learn more about organic search, social media marketing, site design, user experience, and paid search even after you’ve learned the basics you need to know for your initial efforts.
To keep up with your industry, select a few of your top competitors and keep an eye on what they’re doing. How have their sites changed over time?
What unique social promotions are they running to acquire additional followers and engage their existing audiences? And most importantly, how can you continue to evolve with your industry to provide your audience with a better experience than they would have with your online competitors?
Now that you know the steps, it’s time to get started on the process of building an online brand that is capable of standing up to major retailers that have been posing a threat to brick and mortar stores for years.
If you have any questions along the way, I’d be happy to help you find answers.