Retailers: how to get noticed

Raising the profile of your shop is not an easy task in today’s high-tech world. Brides are inundated with information and you need to know how best to promote your latest offers and newest collections. We asked Steve Barnes, CEO of the leading online search specialists Infoserve, for his beginner’s guide to online marketing

As more and more people turn to searching the internet, it’s definitely worth asking where your business would feature on any search. If you’re not easily found, the chances are your competitors around the corner will be and you could be losing out.
Next time you’re online, do a few searches for your business. Obviously putting in your company name may produce good results, but what if you were a potential customer searching more generally? What would you search for?
For those who get lost in all the internet jargon, increasing your online presence may seem a hopeless task. The trick is to understand how people search before thinking of the best ways to get noticed online.

How people search for your business
An amazing 86% of us search for local services, which means searching for specific products or services in a certain town or city. So, a bride-to-be looking for ‘wedding dresses in Winchester’ or ‘evening wear in Exeter’ presents a priceless opportunity for you if you’ve tailored your marketing to this product and locality.
Armed with an understanding of how people search, the next step is to consider how best to promote yourself. Below are four key approaches which take full advantage of the growth of online local search.

Getting noticed online
Here are some straightforward Q&As you should focus on:

Q How does your business rate on online directories?
A
Although paper directories and phonebooks are now a thing of the past, people still respect online directories as being authoritative and useful resources. The best results can be found by registering on different types of directories – those that are locally focused as well as industry specific ones. Local directories, such aswww.cityvisitor.co.uk, list businesses in a certain geographical area and often have the added advantage of being found on the first pages of search engines.
More industry specific directories focus on a certain sector, such as www.weddingsomewhere.co.uk. Offering more of a guide, many also include wedding venues, advice on how to dress for the occasion, and helpful tips and advice to ensure the day runs smoothly.
It’s surprising how many businesses fail to take advantage of free directory listings, so it’s worth shopping around and seeing what may work best for you and your local area.

Q Why is it so important to have a website?
A
A website is one of the most cost effective forms of advertising and can really set you apart from the competition. From breathtaking wedding dresses to makeup advice, opening times to directions, you can publicise everything your business has to offer. A website also mean that you are never actually closed - anybody can find out what they need to know 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 
Whereas a few years ago, having a website used to be a sign of being a progressive business, it’s worth acknowledging that consumers are going one step further these days and looking for websites that are dynamic and up-to-date. Although some websites go as far as offering bookings facilities or virtual tours of the business, it can also be relatively simple and equally as engaging.
You can set up your own website – there are lots of online guides - but there are plenty of companies like us who can build, and help improve your website for you from as little as a few hundred pounds, including design and copywriting.

Q Explain Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
A
In a nutshell, Search Engine Optimization means modifying the content of your website to feature relevant, specific search terms. When someone then searches for a particular term, the internet is scanned for relevant content and your website will be indexed in the search engine results.
Although it’s a simplistic view, the more tailored the content of your website to specific search terms, the higher you naturally rank in the search engine results meaning it’s a good long-term strategy for increasing your online presence.
Once you have the basic SEO measures in place, there are many other tricks of the trade to boost your position but it’s worth remembering that with SEO, there are no quick fixes and appearing in the top results in a Google or Yahoo! search takes time and patience, and will be a never ending task.
Learning to describe your business using the words that potential customers are likely to use is a good starting point, so if you wanted the highest possible search engine position when customers looked for ‘formal menswear’ in ‘Fareham’, you would need to tailor your website to these key words.

Search Engine Advertising and Pay Per Click campaigns
Search Engine Advertising enables you to appear next to results when someone searches for specific search terms. One of the most well-known types is ‘Pay Per Click’ (PPC) advertising, where you only pay when a visitor clicks on your ad and is directed to your website.
PPC can produce instant results which can be measured, making it one of the most popular choices around and a well controlled campaign can see a good return on investment. Costs vary depending on the popularity of the specific search terms but you have tight control of your budget, ensuring you only spend what you can afford.
Again, you can run these campaigns yourself, or, as most businesses do, get a Google AdWords Reseller to do all the work for you. They can design and run your campaign, updating and modifying your search terms on a regular basis to ensure you get value from every click.

Worth considering?
If you’re a beginner, you may not have even considered an online marketing plan, but with more people going on line to search for and compare bridal retailers, including prices and location, the competition is wide open. Even if you have thought about it, it can be difficult to know where to start. Or if you already have some ideas, it’s sometimes hard to know what steps you need to take to put them in place.
The industry is swamped with companies who offer to run your online marketing campaigns for you and it really is worth getting some advice on how best to increase your online presence. The bottom line is that structured online marketing can really help raise your businesses’ profile.

CASE STUDY
The Bridal Gallery is a family-run business based in Northumberland. Almost five years old, the shop had traditionally gained custom from passers by, printed directories and word of mouth, and whilst these methods are still important, the company has re-evaluated its marketing strategy to become more online focused.
With internet usage rising rapidly, director Maxine Brown, has increased her online advertising to two thirds of her marketing budget and admits that using online directories such as http://www.city-visitor.com has proved an extremely important tool in her online marketing plans.
Although word of mouth plays an important role in generating sales, Maxine has exchanged paper directories for online ones, and keeps her website constantly updated to attract an increasing number of new client visits. She also underlines the importance of SEO and relevant content to ensure The Bridal Gallery features high on search engines such as Google.
According to Maxine there are a number of benefits she has identified since making the transition to online.
“The obvious one is that it is highly relevant. After all, people would not be looking for a wedding outlet in our area online unless they wanted to use one. Newspaper advertising on the other hand can be a lottery because someone has to be looking for a wedding fitter that day in order for it to be relevant. If they want one a week or so later they may not remember your advertisement.
“People searching online can also find out so much more about your company, as they can click straight through to your website. The website will inform them of everything they need to know about your experience and specialisms, as well as your contact details.”       
“More and more of my clients are visiting the store having found us online. It has been an obvious choice to switch the majority of our marketing budget to online and also ensure we keep our website fresh and right up to date.”

If you need advice, it may be worth calling Infoserve on Freefone 0800 089 0869

 

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