In last month’s article we met a customer of mine with an online gift shop idea that was doomed to fail before it even got off the ground. In that article I talked about the mistake he made trying to sell lots of different types of products on one website.
Sadly for him, that was not his only mistake…
A Difficult Question
“Who are your target customers?” I asked.
He looked at me blankly. I tried rephrasing the question.
“What sort of people do you think will be shopping at your store?”
“Well… Everyone”, he replied proudly, “everyone needs gifts don’t they? And my gifts are brilliant.”
He is no longer trading.
Find A Need And Meet It
You see, the problem with most start-up ecommerce businesses is that they are terribly excited about what they are planning to sell, but they often have zero idea who is going to buy from them.
Successful online businesses go about it the other way. They first of all spot a need that isn’t being met by anyone else, and then find a way to meet it with some good products.
This process has a name – and it’s one of the most commonly misunderstood words in business: Marketing.
What Is Marketing?
You see, marketing isn’t just ‘telling people you exist’. Marketing is the process of identifying the RIGHT people, and then telling them you exist.
For my ecommerce client, he was right in that everyone buys gifts. But he never gave any thought to why people would buy from HIM, when there are loads of other shops they could buy from. He cast his net wide, but the in the process never managed to give any one individual a compelling enough reason to buy from him.
At the time, I suggested he should focus on a few products that aren’t widely available which would appeal to a certain ‘market niche’ (market niche is just jargon for ‘group of people who think roughly the same way about certain things’).
You see, once you’ve identified a market niche who are likely to be interested in what you are selling, you can start thinking about targeting your advertising at people in that niche, and also tailoring your website to appeal to the visitors from that niche that come your way. Essentially you are pre-selecting your customers, but if you get it right you will be pre-selecting people who are much more likely to buy from you.
It’s all about basing your business around your customers’ needs rather than basing it around you.
Getting It Right
Let’s have a look at someone who got it right. Another of my clients sells a range of shaving products and toiletries for men. When the business was first set up, the website and the advertising was almost exclusively aimed at the men who would be using their products. However, when we did some analysis on their orders we found that lots of orders had different delivery addresses to the billing address i.e. their products were being bought as gifts. My client thought their customers were one market niche (men who like to pamper themselves) but actually there was another group of people to promote to (people buying gifts for men who like to pamper themselves). Based in this evidence we added a whole category of ‘Gift Ideas’ to the shop and reorganised the home page to talk about gift shopping a lot more. As a result, they saw their sales go up by around 20%.
Lessons to Be Learned
So what’s the mistake to avoid here? Your website must not be just about how wonderful your products are. Instead it should be about your customer’s needs and how well you can meet them. If you get it right, then the job of selling becomes much easier as people are already sold before they even arrive at your website.