E-Commerce Times Talkback
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In the early days of e-commerce, small businesses flocked to the Web with grandiose visions of transforming mom-and-pop shops into mega retailers. Those visions turned out to be pipe dreams for most merchants, and the dawn of reality convinced many early adopters to retreat to the brick-and-mortar world. But small e-tailers are not finished, according to analysts. In fact, they are just beginning to gain momentum in a Web world that finally offers the necessary technology infrastructure to help them get off the ground.
If small business retailers have traffic data in easy-to-understand reports, they will be able to determine their niche. We have often learned that while we may be targeting brand name visibility or product descriptions like "wedding bands" or "Christopher Radko", that shoppers finding our web sites through search engines are often interested in specific types of wedding bands or seasonal Radko items. It is by reviewing our traffic reports, that we have realized new marketing and sales opportunities to add inventory to areas that perhaps we're getting traffic but we're losing it the minute we're getting it. For example, one of our clients realized that they were getting several visitors a month looking for white gold wedding bands. We referenced it on the site, in our wedding bands area, but we were not converting any of this traffic. It's because we did not have enough inventory and it was not easy to locate these products using the site search tool or navigation from point of entry through the search engines. We added inventory, made site search and navigational modifications and sales resulted immediately. So, instead of going after "jewelry" visibility, we targeted very specific items and ensured we were consistently converting that traffic to leads or online sales. This is what makes a small business retailer able to compete with the Blue Niles and De Beers advertising giants of the world. It is finding your niche and tracking what's working. It's an ongoing process and has to be tracked weekly. But it can be successful if retailers are willing to have a person that knows how to make heads or tails of the data, and implement quick solutions.
I believe it is the time that we get our beliefs right about E-commerce. It is not about big portals selling stuff, but it is about selling goods that are needed by people in the most comfortable way possible. The article rightly points out that the consumer's needs are to be understood and addressed.
Although the beginning of the article suggested that small e-tailers are on the way out, the article does get down to one key point:
Niche markets are the way to go.
In fact, this story reminds me of the debate when free trade was introduced between Canada and the US. Canadian business felt that they couldn't compete against much larger US business. Some couldn't. However, the businesses that thrived were those in market niches. If their market was 1% of the Canadian market of 28M consumers, their market now included 1% of 250M US consumers.
The internet allows you to reach those niches around the world more effectively than any traditional media ever could.