The internet really is the great equalizer, especially when it comes to retail. In the old days, if you wanted to sell your own goods, you’d either have to go through a big chain store, or shell out for a storefront of your very own. Thanks to the web, and e-commerce, you can start selling products of your own with a few keystrokes and clicks. That’s not to say that there aren’t new challenges that come with being an online retailer. One of the most challenging is simply, how do you get noticed?
The advantage of opening a storefront is that people will drive past and see it every day, whether they’re planning on shopping there or not. On the internet you need to think more creatively. People are unlikely to accidentally stumble onto your website if they are not looking for exactly what you’re selling. This means that you need a way to get your name and brand out there, so that people will think of you the next time they need products or services like yours.
The most common way online retailers do this is by purchasing advertising space, either in pop-up windows on various websites, or sponsored posts on social media networks. This is a viable option for getting your name into the public consciousness, but it’s also a costly one. If you’re just starting out, you might not have a very heavy advertising budget yet. That’s OK! There are several free ways to drive traffic to your site without having to empty out your pockets.
Social media influencers
One surprisingly simple way to gain some notoriety is by working with social media influencers. If you spend some time on YouTube or Instagram, you’re likely to find people who are interested in your field, and have thousands of followers. If you can convince them to mention your product, that’s amazing advertising to a large market from a name that they trust.
Getting a shoutout from a social media influencer may also be easier than you think. If you can find a way to contact them, either through email or their DMs, you can offer to send them a free sample of your product. Many of them will also agree to give you a shoutout if you pay them a certain rate, so feel free to ask them how much it would cost. While this option isn’t free, it’s usually cheaper than purchasing online advertising real estate, and more effective. It might feel kind of weird, but this is one of the ways social media influencers make their income, so most will be happy to try out your product, and tell their followers about you.
Another effective technique for driving traffic to your site is creating a referral program. For example, if a customer refers a friend, give both the friend and the referrer a discount on their next order. Word-of-mouth advertising is more efficient than most people suspect, especially in the digital age. After all, most people trust their friends’ opinions more than they trust an online ad. By creating a referral program, you give the customers you already have an incentive to tell their friends about you, and you can also break down some of the doubt that a first-time customer might have. Even if they don’t plan on becoming a repeat customer, they now have a discount, so why shouldn’t they give you a try?
A subset of both of the previous strategies is paying influencers to give their customers a promo code to your e-commerce store. This is most effective with YouTubers and podcasters, and it’s mutually beneficial relationship. You give them money, and advertising on your site, and they direct customers to you. By offering a discount to listeners or viewers of specific online shows, you tie yourself to that influencer’s brand, and make yourself a household name to thousands of people.
Another excellent way to drive traffic to your site is by running a giveaway. People love free stuff, and if you play your cards right, you can use that to have people advertise for you. However, the giveaway needs to be formatted in such a way so that it brings people to your site. First, you must be sure that the prizes are things that people actually want. Limited edition versions of your products, gift cards, some kind of travel opportunity, or even just some free swag, these are all effective prizes. Once you have people’s attention, make sure that you incentivize telling others about the giveaway. For example, many stores allow people to enter multiple times by sharing the contest across different social media platforms, which include a link to your website. This is an excellent way to get thousands of new followers on social media, and all it will cost you is the prizes you give away.
The last strategy is also the most obvious, but it needs to be said; include links to your store in all of your social media bios. Every major social media platform allows you to add links in your bio, and it makes visiting your page from an account easy as clicking. This also makes it easier to includes calls-to-action in your posts, because readers can follow the link directly from the post. If you have a large following on social media, but aren’t seeing that reflected in your sales, this might be the little thing you are missing.
Never underestimate the power of web traffic. While sales are the lifeblood of your business, views and shares are what make it grow. With a few simple campaigns, you can bring in more visitors, and more customers, than you ever thought possible, all without purchasing a single advertisement.