What’s the Secret Behind Successful E-Commerce?

Published on February 06, 2010

It took radio 38 years and television 13 years to reach 50 million users. But the Internet managed it in four years and the iPod, just three years, said Alvin All, ’96, former CEO of iParenting Media and former director and general manager of The Walt Disney Corporation. “It took Facebook nine months to reach 100 million users,” All said. “If Facebook were a country, it would be the fourth largest in the world, between the U.S. and Indonesia.”

All and Craig Wortmann, adjunct associate professor of entrepreneurship and former CEO of ClearGauge, offered a variety of e-commerce techniques to capitalize on the ubiquity and power of digital media at Marketing and Monetizing Online, a daylong conference sponsored by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and the Kilts Center for Marketing, at Gleacher Center on February 6.

The Website as a Salesperson

Marketers should think of their company’s website as a salesperson and each Internet user’s visit as a prospect sales call, Wortmann said. “If a salesman walked into a call and said, ‘The features of my company are this, this, and this,’ the potential customer would be bewildered,” he said. “You have to lead with a sales trailer — or something engaging on the website — and begin to take the person down the path of visitor engagement.”

After users hit the site’s home page or another landing page, they must be carefully guided through a well-planned visit, much the same way a salesperson would engage them, Wortmann said. “The question is, how do you construct a path just as a salesperson would in a sales call or in a series of sales meetings?” he said. “How do you engage people in a conversation? I use the word ‘conversation’ very deliberately.”

Keywords are Key

When buying advertising keywords from Google or other search engines, marketers must cautiously monitor the results, All said. Keywords trigger a company’s ads during a search, and the company must pay a commission each time a user clicks on an ad, he said. “You’re going to get so much traffic that you have to adjust your keywords daily,” All said. “When competitors come and bidding goes up on the words, this process becomes a full-time job.”

The goal of buying keywords is to create a “funnel” that brings in as many interested users as possible, Wortmann said. “There’s not much science to this, but there is a lot of art to it,” he said. “There’s a huge cost if the funnel is not narrow enough and brings in too many people who bounce right off your site. But if it’s too narrow, then you don’t get enough hits.”

What a Website Needs

All offered the following tips for successful e-commerce:

  • Create a website that generates great search results and navigates users to their desired information as quickly as possible.
  • Display the company’s telephone number prominently to ensure quality customer service.
  • Show related products to promote cross sales.
  • Allow shoppers to access their carts easily and to add items without registering.
  • Create a wish list that allows shoppers to return and buy quickly.
  • Display security badges and certificates of trust.
  • Offer payment and shipping options.
  • Provide order details with payment confirmation and email customers after payment.
  • Limit shopping cart abandonment as much as possible by such techniques as offering discounts.
  • Post reviews with products or services.

--Phil Rockrohr