Let’s imagine that you’re thinking of adding ecommerce to your website, or perhaps starting up an ecommerce site from scratch. Your business might be something like these:
- A salon with a retail section that’s doing well in the shop, wanting to add products to your website so customers can buy them in between appointements
- A small CPG manufacturer wanting to make your products available to people outside your limited sitribution area
- An independent retailer wanting to provide easy online ordering for your current customers, and also to bring in new customers from outside your service area
Not long ago, you might have set up your online store planning that shoppers would type in “shampoo” or “exercise equipment” and find your store. Having found you via search, they would shop with you, love your stuff, and become regular customers.
Several things have happened in recent years that make it unlikely that this will happen. First, Amazon has had some effects on ecommerce. Not only will they pretty well always show up ahead of you in search, but they have also raised the bar for online shopping, Your customers will expect shopping with you to be as simple as shopping with Amazon and they will compare your prices with Amazon — but chances are good that you don’t have the kind of revenue, backing, or freedom to operate in the red that Amazon has.
In many ways, Amazon has done for small online merchants what Walmart has done for small brick and mortar merchants.
And Walmart is working hard on getting more traction as an online retailer, too.
So small ecommerce has to do a few things differently.
- Have unique products. If you make something special or can sell special things that can’t be found in mass market shops, you have an edge. Consumers still struggle to find hard-to-locate specialty items, and ecommerce is their solution.
- Build a community. If you have a local brick and mortar presence, you can develop a local following that will shop with you online for the same reasons they shop with you in person. If you don’t have a brick and mortar presence, you can still develop that feeling, since consumers increasingly fail to distinguish between physical world and online experiences. Social media can help, too.
- Be useful. If shoppers are at your website for other purposes — to make an appointment, to get information from a trusted source, to read your blog — they’ll often go ahead and shop with you because they’re there. And because you are a trusted source of information, and so forth.
Only one of these items is related to SEO, but that’s important. If you have unique products, you have to make sure that people can find them and you when they look.