Thursday, July 31, 2008

Web 2.0 Internet marketing has changed the game

Web 2.0 Internet marketing has changed the game

While driving new traffic to your website will always be important for growing online sales, driving return traffic (and increased sales from existing customers) is equally important. When used effectively, Web 2.0 marketing strategies are a great catalyst for repeat visits.

Your prospects and existing customers are not online purely to shop. They’re visiting Web 2.0 sites such as Facebook, YouTube, customer review sites, and blogs as part of their quests for more information. Online retailers that are tactfully marketing in these environments are finding that the brand exposure brings in much new business, and keeps existing customers coming back for more.

Some online retailers are still skeptical about the power of Web 2.0 marketing when building their brand and increasing sales. However, these skeptics are dwindling rapidly as more retailers see the positive benefits of marketing in a user-generated content environment.

A recent Pew survey found that 48% of Internet users watch web videos, 39% regularly read blogs, 30% post online reviews, and 16% participate in social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook. While all of these new Web 2.0 marketing tools and sites can have a significant impact on an online retailer’s business long-term, it has been clearly proven that the most successful tools for boosting online sales are product ratings and customer’s reviews. 82% of consumers surveyed last year by the consulting firm Deloitte & Touche said that consumer written product reviews directly influenced their buying decisions, and 69% of them passed these reviews on to others.

On average, an item with a high consumer rating, such as four-star (out of five-stars) will convert at 18 times the rate of a non-rated item. If your ecommerce site isn’t currently using customer reviews as part of your Internet marketing strategy, this is a clear must-have on your immediate to-do list.

Online video is also fertile ground for increasing online sales, if done correctly. Even high-end retailers such as Saks Direct, the online arm of the department store Saks Fifth Avenue, have seen increases in sales due to Internet marketing efforts on YouTube. If online video is well done and genuinely informative and interesting, visitors will talk about you, will want to know more, and will ultimately visit your website.

Blogging has also become a very effective tool for building your brand online and attracting new customers. Blogs that are strongly built around a brand or topic related to your website or your product can become a popular resource for expert knowledge and industry opinions. Effective blogging can also help your business and your products to be perceived as more than a commodity, due to the added value of the information.

Sites like MySpace and Facebook are often undervalued by online retailers, since they are perceived as youth “hangouts”. Overlooking these high traffic social networks is clearly a mistake.

JupiterResearch found that only 3% of online shoppers use social networks to research purchases. However, according to a study this year by Forrester Research, online sales that result from a social network site average a whopping $50.11 per sale, more than double the $19.33 average for sales resulting from paid search. When you compare the cost of participating in paid search (Pay Per Click) with the cost of social networking (FREE), it’s clear that the additional effort can be a very worthwhile part of your Web 2.0 marketing mix.

Attracting new customers and increasing existing customer loyalty isn’t as simple as it used to be, even just a few years ago. Particularly now that consumers are creating the messages and recommending which products or services should be purchased by others. However, with the advance in popularity of Web 2.0 social networking, online video, and blogging, more opportunities exist to increase your Internet marketing base - if you’re willing to put in the effort to make it happen.

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