Tis The Season For Internet Marketing

It’s here. It’s been creeping up. It’s been whispering sweet nothings in the ears of millions of shoppers. Yes it’s the time of the year to turn the bottom line from red to black – Black Friday!

Are you ready? Are your customer service lines staffed with friendly, knowledgeable people? Are your warehouses jammed with product? Is your site being found in the search engines for the right keyterms. Is it in the local directories? Is it mobile friendly?

Can users navigate to the products they want, filling their carts and then checking out with confidence that their details are safe? This is the time to turn the bad economy and lackluster sales around.

If you’re like many retailers and ecommerce companies your sales this year are vital to the continuation of your business. Whether you’re in a mall or on Amazon, the next 29 days can decide the future of your business.

With the season upon us, it’s too late to make any major changes now. But if you’re a brick and mortar store just thinking about coming online, maybe this factoid will help you embark on an online venture in January.

Recent studies published in The Real Cost of the Digital Divide state “being online adds up to almost $8,000 a year in savings– and that’s after taking the cost of being connected into account. While online shoppers may save more by being connected, online bargain hunters may still spend more money.

Who can blame online shoppers for handling Black Friday events from the comfort of their favorite living room chair? I know I do everything I can to avoid the crowded mall parking lots, wishing for a personal urban tank of my very own if I have to venture anywhere near them.

With the convenience of easy price comparisons, shipping guarantees, and no hassle checkout, it’s no wonder the internet has become the largest shopping mall ever imagined.

But if you are a retailer and you’re not online, you are missing out on those sales that could put the black into Black Friday. If you’re already online and not being found in the right places, not being sure your site is a part of the mobile explosion, and not using internet marketing techniques effectively, you could be wondering what all the fuss is about.

In the coming weeks you, dear reader, may get tired of hearing me say four words – social marketing and mobile friendly. But I and other internet SEO and marketing experts know that those two phrases are vital to your online success in 2011.

If your site is not mobile friendly you are ignoring the 100 million people who use Smart Phones. Let me give you a real world example that happened over the weekend. I was having lunch with my son’s fiancée and her sister and brother in law. All 20 somethings, they all had their iPhones and Droids handy. The girls were strategizing their Friday shopping, hitting  web sites for price comparisons, coupons, and deals. They had a list – broken into two columns. One side was “hit the mall” the other was “hit Amazon”.

They pulled up the mall map and marked the stores each would check, and detailed how and when they would stay in touch via phone to maximize their bargain hunting efforts. Fast forward to next year and the bar code readers that work within smart phones will be linked to the comparison sites. Perhaps even feeding the all important customer reviews into that screen as well as other relevant information like warranty limits or recall notices.

Some of their decisions were even made by browsing the company website. Laughter exploded as they looked at some stone age sites – “Ewww look at this thing. Would you EVER want to buy from a site that looks like that?”. “Oh good grief when will these guys stop doing things in Flash. I can’t see a single product pic. I’ll have to go to the store and hope they still have one.”

Mobile is big – it’s getting  bigger every day. It is a part of the shopping experience for many, and will become a mainstay of that experience in the years to come.

I know that Amazon is huge. I know this from my beloved stats. I know the net is made up of real people doing real things online. But to watch two real people bypass every website except Amazon while planning their shopping trip, was enlightening. If you aren’t on Amazon, get there – today. There is still time if you burn some midnight oil to become a part of this behemoth.

And seeing these young ladies checking Facebook pages for customer reviews and company interaction was also enlightening. A major retail chain which will remain nameless was a turnoff to these shoppers because of how they mismanaged a customer post.  Presence matters, but engagement matters more.

My wish for you, Mr. or Ms. Retailer, is that you have a stellar Christmas selling season so we can continue our conversation on engaging netizens and turning them into customers far into next year.

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