By Michael Lee Burke, Zurleys

So the biggest challenge I think for most online retail businesses not succeeding or having customer retention problems is because of flaws/errors on their website/system. Coming from an ecommerce/online marketing background I have come across many problems with websites and for me it’s important to have a great website and a great management system that is adaptive. Many companies outsource the website/systems work and I think this a big NO because you don’t truly understand the most important part of your business - your website.

Many websites want to rank highly in search but don’t understand the principles of how search engines are put together and how they rank websites in their listings. This leads companies to outsource work to agencies which again causes more problems. I have been doing SEO for around 5 years now and still find new information. One thing I have been caught out on is duplicate and boilerplate content on products which were causing us issues in search. The key to online success is knowing every aspect of your website and managing the crucial parts of your business such as customer acquisition. We have overcome these issues now and have greatly improved our traffic and turnover in the last few months alone.

One of the biggest factors in our success online has been the fact that we have tried to understand what customers want to see. Customers want to see fresh unique content on product pages and so do search engines. We are pushing a large emphasis on this aspect of our marketing and customer experience and we are seeing the rewards in the last couple of months. Content creation in mass is a very labour intensive task and can be very tedious at times but is critical to success online.
If I was to suggest a few tips for online business it would be to

1. Put a large emphasis on eliminating duplicate content on your website and making fresh new content. Search engines love new content but more importantly your customers love reading new content about products. Customers don’t want to see similar content across the board. For example many retailers sell Samsung TV’s and I can bet that most of them are at a similar price. As a customer would you pick the retailer with copied manufacturer descriptions which you have read two or three times already on other websites or would you pick the retailer who has made the effort to talk in depth about the product in their own words to make their listening unique?

2. Focus on making your website visible to your target audience. This sounds a simple statement but I see quite often that business owners online don’t really understand too much of where their traffic is coming from and for what keywords (if it is from Search Engines). They believe every customer should convert and don’t understand what the customer came looking for. They may have searched teddy bear but you only provide unique niche teddy bears and thus your customers are unlikely to find what they are looking for because when a customer searched teddy bear they are most likely looking for a generic teddy bear. This example is one that I have tried to stress to a client of mine on over 10 occasions. The client could not understand why he wasn’t converting as well as he liked. The client was selling niche teddy bears and which were more aimed at the tourist market. His teddy bears where not aimed for the general UK teddy market and thus he was struggling to convert on the traffic he was receiving from search. We attempted to explain to the client that he should make use of his customer requirements and provide a generic plush teddy bear. After doing more research we identified that is what the traffic/potential customers on the website were looking for.

You may also find in your business that you sell quite a lot of a certain product and not so much of another. That doesn’t mean that your customers don’t like your other products. It could be down to the fact you do not rank well for those terms which would attract customers to that page in search thus not generating the traffic to warrant increased sales on those products. What I’m saying is don’t pull the plug on products because other products are out selling them if you’re an online business. Firstly look if you product pages or category pages relating to those products are generating equal traffic to better selling products.

3. Make your website user friendly because if customers find it hard to purchase on your website or don’t like the feel and layout they will simply leave your website. Now this sounds so simple and obvious but the amount of websites I see that are just poorly built, buttons don’t work, information missing and cheesy big banners are just a few I can think of. It only takes an ounce of doubt in a customer’s mind that they are not sure if what they getting is what they want and they will simply shop elsewhere. Shopping online still holds the stigma of being risky for many customers and proving you websites is reliable and safe still plays a part in customers choosing you over others.

I think it’s important for new online businesses to understand that you can’t build a website and people will come. You can’t take product feeds and put them on your website and expect to receive traffic from search engines. If you can do it so can 100 different people and who do search engines and customer choose to visit and buy from? The business that chooses to stand out from the crowd and create a unique approach to their website/business then differentiates itself from the competition.