Many ecommerce merchants are too reliant on Google organic search referrals. Some merchants depend on Google for 70 percent or more of their traffic. About five years ago that was fine, since that was where most shoppers began their shopping search. Today, this is simply not the case.
More shoppers begin their product searches on Amazon than any other site, including Google. Google is currently investing heavily in Google Shopping to recapture some of the shoppers it has lost in recent years. According to comScore, the tracking firm, Amazon processes 3 to 7 times the number of product searches that Google Shopping does. This means if you are not selling products in the Amazon Marketplace or advertising there, you may be losing a large part of your potential customer base.
Likewise, if your site is not mobile ready, you are probably losing shoppers who use their smartphones. Mobile shoppers are more likely to place larger orders than those who shop from their desktops or laptops.
It’s time to leverage multichannel marketing and sales to ensure that your products are visible to your potential customers.
Potential Marketing Channels
There are many ways to market your products. Some require substantial investments. Others are free or at least relatively inexpensive. Here are a few ideas.
- Comparison-shopping engines. TheFind (free), Shopping.com, Shopzilla, Nextag, Google Shopping, Bing Shopping, Become, PriceGrabber, and others. They vary in presentation, but most allow shopping across a huge variety of products using various filters. Most are pay-per-click models that refer shoppers back to your online store.
- Amazon product ads. This is a pay-per-click advertisement that appears at the bottom of Amazon pages within relevant categories and products. Merchants see both increased traffic and revenue from this channel. Some prefer it to Google PPC ads.
- Pinterest. Pinterest is becoming a hotbed of social ecommerce. You can create Pinterest boards that show off your products that are then shared among friends in the Pinterest social network. Pinterest is adding a “price alerts” feature that allows you to follow price changes on individual products that will make this even more attractive to brands and consumers.
- Facebook Create a Facebook page for your company, at the very least. Advertising products on Facebook is another option, though its effectiveness in delivering sales varies. For some niche products, Facebook is a good venue for advertising your products. Pages are free. However, advertising tends to be more expensive than some other ad platforms.
- Tumblr. This viral blogging platform is used by many brands to establish photo or video blogs and promote their brands and individual products. Tumblr is visual — like Pinterest — and many blogs there are mostly photos with some other content. Tumblr accounts are free.
- Affiliate networks. These are large ad networks that place promotional links on sites that are usually targeted at specific topics. The sites earn commissions from sales that result from those links to your online store. For some merchants, this will put their products very close to a target audience.
- Search advertising text ads. This includes pay-per-click text advertising on Google and Bing and throughout their networks of search affiliates. You select which networks for your ads to appear in to some degree. This can be a wise investment or a black hole depending on your expertise, the products you sell, and the competition. For many merchants, this is easier and less expensive than organic rankings through investing in search engine optimization.
- Google Product Listing Ads. This is a PPC program that displays individual products within Google search results. Many merchants are experiencing high conversion rates from this program. Relatively few merchants are actively using PLAs, so there is still an opportunity for smaller merchants to be visible.
- Display advertising. Remarketing is popular. You have likely noticed an ad — a remarketing ad — from a site that you have visited. Remarketing ads also appear on Facebook feeds. The conversion rates from those ads can be high. There are several remarketing networks to choose from.
Another alternative to get your products visible is to sell on marketplaces. You may not want to sell all products, but most merchants find some products in their inventory that are likely to be profitable marketplace sellers. Choices include Amazon Marketplace, Sears, eBay, and many others. If you want your products to be found by the largest number of potential customers, also create a store on Amazon and eBay. Yes, the price competition is fierce, you may be competing against Amazon, and your margins may decrease. But, your sales revenue could skyrocket.
Amazon charges a fee — generally 15 percent or less — to sell your products there. Most merchants find that acceptable since they are already spending money elsewhere to market their products, and the Amazon audience is far larger than they could create by themselves on a limited budget.
Why Sell on Amazon?
Let’s look at an example product search for iPhone headphones — on Amazon, Google, and Google Shopping.
The Google search results, above, include two text ads and five Product Listing Ads. Then there are organic listings from Apple, Amazon, and other major brands for the remainder of the page. A small merchant really has its best shot at being seen in the PLAs. Notice that this Google search is, overall, not an appealing shopping experience. There is a lot of text and very few images or prices. There is no way to further filter the results without doing another search.
Next, consider the search results on Amazon, above. Notice the detailed product information from several different merchants. This is a better shopping experience. There are images, prices, ratings, and more detailed descriptions. There is also filtering available in the left navigation to refine the search.
Next, consider product advertising on Amazon. This is available for all companies, including non-Amazon sellers. Notice the four “Sponsored Links” at the bottom of the page. Merchants can bid on ads that appear on the bottom of search results, category pages, and product pages. The ads link to your store, where purchases can be made. You pay by the click only.
The conversion rates for these ads are high for most companies. Even though the ads are at the bottom of the page, the volume of traffic on Amazon is much higher than other venues. You have a good chance of increasing your revenues significantly.
Finally, let’s look at Google Shopping results.
For the Google Shopping search results, above, the user experience is similar to Amazon. The listings are pay-per-click ads through the Google PLA program. Shoppers are redirected to your online store to complete transactions. Google Shopping is growing quickly and will likely become a major factor in online shopping as more merchants and consumers invest time and money there.
Each of these alternative channels requires investment in time or money to prepare data feeds, ads, and supporting content. But, remember that your prospects are starting their product searches in these venues. They are probably not starting in your online store.