eCommerce has been on the rise over recent years with more US citizens using the Internet to make purchases than ever before. For the consumer, eCommerce represents hassle free shopping. An online retailer can provide a solution to the consumer’s problem at the click of a button without the customer having to leave their home. For businesses, it means they can reach a global audience with very little overhead costs that apply to the more traditional bricks and mortar retail store. Additionally, having an online store can offer brands with physical stores increased accessibility for a wider audience. With so many benefits, it’s no surprise that more and more startups are popping up on the online retail market. Nowadays, with the plethora of eCommerce platforms available, a young business can set up their online store website and be ready to sell their first lampshade quicker than you can get a Big Mac Meal for a minimal monthly fee. But having an online store and a catalogue of amazing products is only half of the Straight away you can hear the sound of a cash register ringing away and imagine the burning smell of plastic as you max out all your credit cards to market your unique, innovative business. Online business marketing costs big money doesn’t it? Well … no, not necessarily. The whole purpose of the Internet is to share information for free and as marketing is simply sharing information with people who might like to buy your products, the web wide world is the perfect place to spread your message for free. Social Media One of the best places to start with your online business marketing plan is, of course, social media platforms. Now if you haven’t realized the benefits of using Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts to build a following for your business then you really have no right to be in eCommerce. But rather than stick to the social media power trio, try to be more diverse in your efforts to engage with your audience. Pinterest, for instance, is brilliant for any kind of creative products from fashion to health and beauty to DIY. Creating interesting boards and attracting followers is a brilliant way to create interest in your own products. When it comes to social media though, one of the main benefits for online retailers is that they can get closer to their customers and really engage with them – if they get it right. Take Black Milk for example, the unique clothing brand from Australia that now enjoys a dedicated global following. Black Milk were one of the first online retailers to embed Instagram photos on their website. They invited customers who had purchased their products to take a ‘selfie’ of themselves wearing the item and post it to Instagram or Facebook using a dedicated hashtag. This ingenious idea works in a number of ways: The hashtag helps to take the product and brand name viral. By posting pictures of real people in the clothes, Black Milk instantly became more authentic for its fans. Fans actually became the advertisement. They got their 5 minutes of fame while spreading the word to their friends and followers. Google+ Hangouts Google+ is quickly establishing itself as one of the premier social media platforms where businesses can effectively market themselves for B2C and B2B purposes. Online retailers will definitely benefit from the ‘circles’ feature on Google+ which allows businesses to departmentalize their followers. This is extremely handy for targeted marketing campaigns/ads etc. However, one of the best and amazingly underused aspects of the platform are the Google+ Hangouts. Hangouts are essentially live conference calls between numerous people within the same circle. They are free to make, However, one of the best and amazingly underused aspects of the platform are the Google+ Hangouts. Hangouts are essentially live conference calls between numerous people within the same circle. They are free to make, the amount of users on a hangout is unlimited and they are without doubt one of the most powerful free online business marketing tools around at the moment. There are a number of ways to use Hangouts to promote your online store: Q&A – Invite followers and fans to a Q&A session via a Hangout. This works best when somebody who is intrinsic to the design or production of the products is doing the answering. This will really engage customers while sending a very clear message that their voice is important. In today’s age of the informed consumer, it’s important that every consumer feels that their opinion and concerns matter. Trust and relationship building will bring about loyal customers who return time after time. Show and Tell – This works very similar to a newsletter in that the customers can be updated on the latest happenings for the online retailer. Businesses can talk about new products, favorite products and any news such as the new opening of a physical store. This is a great way to show customers how products would work in the real world. With a little careful planning, businesses can make the most of this infomercial style Hangout by allowing viewers to select the products seen during the hangout from a separate menu and purchase it during the live hangout. Follow Along – One of the best ways to sell a product is to show people just how great things could be with that item in their lives. Using hangouts to invite consumers to ‘follow along’ is a great way to do this. For example, having a cook along hangout using the ingredients sold on your online grocery store is a brilliant way to inspire customers to buy your products. Testing – “Cadbury UK’s Winning Flavors Hangout” saw Cadbury’s lovers opening a bar of Cadbury’s chocolate live during a hangout and reviewing it for the rest of the Hangout users to see and hear. It was a great way to promote the new flavors while getting valuable customer feedback. Online business marketing doesn’t have to cost lots of money. Time and effort dedicated to knowing the strengths of your product, your audience and how the two work together will allow you to reach out to your customers as individuals and really show them something that they want to see. When you can do that, you can enjoy a dedicated following of customers who believe in you and your product enough to ignore all the other eCommerce startups that are popping up around you as you read this. Images: ”Online Business /Shutterstock.com“ ______________________________________________________________________________ Tweak Your Biz is a thought leader global publication and online business community. 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