I guess that I consider myself to be a relatively typical shopper, albeit probably a little bit more comfortable online than most. My own tendency, particularly when Im buying anything out of the ordinary, is to turn to the internet to first check out and research whats available and then to compare pricing.
It seems that I am not unusual in this. A recent survey carried out by Nielsen online (followed up by this post by Nielsen’s Ken Cassar) and reported by eMarketer, has added additional credence to the idea that whether we ultimately buy online or in the shops, we (as consumers) routinely carry out research online before we do so. Indeed, 8 out of 10 respondents who had purchased a product in store said they had visited the store’s website first.
Perhaps even more telling is that the survey, which focused on consumer electronics purchases, reported that more than half said they ultimately bought from the retailer on whose website they had spent the most time.
What does this tell us? Well, clearly that we, as consumers, are becoming more and more web savvy which is re-assuring. But from an online retailers perspective, it also shows us that the stickiness of our site is going to be a crucial factor in not only keeping shoppers there but encouraging them to buy. This is going to be the case whether we are running a small online store with a few items or a full ecommerce setup.
Enter blogs. I feel a full post on the subject of blogs and online retail or ecommerce is in order, but for now Ill restrict myself to a few key benefits of getting a blog on your site alongside your online store.
- More Information: the more information you give about your product or service (not just description but also how people have used it etc.), the more confident your readers are likely to be that it is right for them and the more comfortable they’ll feel about purchasing it. Just as critical, as the survey shows, the longer they stay on your site the more likely it is they will buy from you;
- Answer their Questions: giving people the opportunity to ask questions and re-assure themselves that their choice is correct will help develop trust not only in the product but also in you as the vendor;
- Customer Reviews: the importance we place in other peoples experiences and feedback with products has been proven time and time again. Using a blogs ability for people to leave their own comments will allow you to use the same techniques to improve your own sales that sites like Amazon, ebay and Hotels.com rely on;
- Search Engine Ranking: you’ll always want your products to be as visible as possible. Giving the Search Engines more to get their proverbial teeth into with a specific post about an individual product (linked back to its page in your online shop) will give you a search engine friendly page you can optimise for it and so the chance to appear more highly;
- Distribution: whether you have new products, special offers or just extra information on products, remember that a blog also distributes this information automatically through RSS and pinging, so it gives a proactive as well as passive side to your marketing.
Whether you employ just one aspect that a blog can offer or you build it in as an integral part of your online store will largely depend on time and resources, I guess. However, do remember to think outside of the standard blog format and try to use the functionality in specific business ways, such as incorporating customer reviews. That’s when blogs can really start to work for you.