The View from England

How I advertise my ecommerce site

Last week whilst I was walking my dogs I noticed an advert on the back of a bus. It was promoting adverts on the back of buses. It suggested that more people would see the advert than an equivalent ad on social media. It was a bold promise. Even if true, was it worth it?

Ecommerce merchants need to promote their websites. Merchants need to drive prospects to the site and get them to make a purchase. Just having a website does not in itself guarantee any orders. Likewise, advertising alone does not guarantee orders.

Take the back-of-the-bus advert. How do you know how many people see it? Can you trust the optimistic figures that the salesperson will tell you? Further, who will see the advert? The bus advert will no doubt be seen repeatedly by drivers. The right advert will stick in their mind. What do you sell that these drivers want?

Assuming that you have desirable products and the advert gets their attention so that they remember it, how are you going to obtain the sale? A driver is hardly going to stop, pull out her phone, and go to your site — much less write down your URL.

When you have sales, how do you know if they came from the advert? How can you tell if that advert paid for itself and is thus worth repeating? Did it increase your brand awareness and improve the chance of future sales? How can you measure it?

Digital ads

The advantage of a digital advert — on social media or other channels — is that you can control all this.

An advert works better if it is targeted at people who are likely to buy the products it is promoting. Repetition helps as it increases brand awareness, so long as it is not annoying. A good digital advert has a call to action that takes the reader straight to your site, where the product is clearly available. Ideally you should know how many people have viewed your advert, how many click to your site, and how many purchase. These figures give you immediate feedback.

An advert is a part of a conversion funnel. The numbers tell you not only how many people enter the funnel by viewing your advert, but where they are in the process. A low click rate indicates that you are either targeting the wrong people or you have the wrong message.

The drop rate of people who land on your site but do not purchase is also valuable. Either the wrong people are coming through (and thus your message is too vague), your prices too high, or there is some other problem that makes them not want to purchase from you. These statistics can help you diagnose where people go to work out how to increase the order rate.

It is much easier doing all this with a digital advert. The back-of-the-bus ad may be tempting, but it is much harder to prove if it delivers.

Worth repeating?

So, when you advertise your site, start by having a proper campaign. Plan whom to target and how best to target them. Decide where you want them to go when they land on your site.

How much do you want to spend? How do you determine if it is successful? How should it be tweaked to improve the response? An advert should be so much more than a billboard on the back of a bus or an ad in a newspaper or a banner in social media. You should know if it is worth repeating or not — without the need of a salesman.

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