Business and Operations
Marketing Insights: Clicks and Mortar
Clicks and Mortar
By Michelle Brisebois
Does your business have an online presence yet? Is it
on your never-ending “to do” list? If you’re like many in business,
you have the feeling that a website to support your operation is
important, but you’re not sure how it’s going to fit into your strategy.
Does your business have an online presence yet? Is it on your never-ending “to do” list? If you’re like many in business, you have the feeling that a website to support your operation is important, but you’re not sure how it’s going to fit into your strategy.
You may not be sure even where to begin to have a site designed, how to launch it, or who is going to keep it fresh once it’s up and running.
Electronic marketing, or e-marketing as it’s called, has passed the point of being “nice to have” and is now considered a key component of the marketing mix – it’s now a “have to have.” The question is – what’s in it for you?
As Canadians become more comfortable with technology, they have increased their online shopping activity. According to Statistics Canada, 3.2 million Canadian households actively participated in e-commerce in 2003, up from 2.8 million in 2002. These shoppers placed 21.1 million orders, up from 16.6 million the previous year, a 25 per cent increase from 2.4 billion spent online in 2002.
One might argue that these numbers are great if you sell books or widgets, but some products just don’t lend themselves to online ordering. We’re discovering that it’s not really that certain products can’t be purchased online, but rather that it’s the logistics of delivering the product that makes or breaks the initiative.
People are buying everything from music to real estate electronically, and many restaurants now offer online ordering and delivery. If you don’t have a website yet, then don’t bite off more than you can chew. Executing a full e-commerce strategy is best done in steps. You probably didn’t open your first restaurant in a huge facility with hundreds of employees – you probably started small. Apply the same approach to your e-strategy.
For the first phase of your online strategy, you’ll probably choose to forgo online ordering. This means that your site is not a virtual storefront, but rather a virtual salesperson or online brochure.
Understanding its positioning will allow you to target your site more effectively. What is this website going to do for your business? How will you measure success? Probably, it boils down to two good objectives: 1) to increase business with current customers, 2) to increase trial and purchase with new customers.
The next good question to ask is, who is your target? Who are your best (most profitable) customers? What do they want to know about your products and services? Who resembles your best customers, but hasn’t tried you out yet? Why haven’t they come to your restaurant? Maybe you’ll find these answers by instinct, or you may want to conduct a bit of research, but armed with this information, you’ll be able to have a better site designed.
Find a reputable webmaster – there are many small businesses that can be cost effective. Take a look at other sites they’ve designed and then share your objectives with them. Balance what you do online with what you can reasonably manage on the delivery end.
Your web developer may become quite excited at the prospect of developing online tools with lots of bells and whistles. Allowing customers to customize their own meal and e-mail the order for pick up (with a sparkling drop- down menu) is a noble goal. However, if you have staffing issues or product availability challenges, you’ll defeat the purpose. Instead, consider allowing customers to view your current menu, print nutritional information, and locate your store. By starting small, you’ll be able to meet expectations, and this first phase will give you vital information about your site visitors.
It’s imperative that your website development include some sort of package to measure web stats. E-marketing is great because it’s cost effective and measurable. A good web stat package will give you reports confirming how many visitors you have per day, how many are new to the site, how many pages they view, where visitors land, what terms are they putting into the search engine. This information will allow you to evolve your website to better target your desired audience.
You may get 1,000 hits per day but if those visitors were searching for “Groucho Marx” and you happen to have a pizza on your menu called the “Groucho Marx special” – those who land on your site may not be looking for pizza, so they’re not the best target audience. Make sure you have a place where visitors can leave their e-mail address with express consent to receive updates and information about your products and services. You can use this later on for an electronic newsletter.
Once the site is developed and you’re comfortable that there are no glitches, it’s time to officially launch it. Include a link to your website at the bottom of all outgoing e-mail messages. It’s an easy tactic to promote your site and cost free. Have your web address printed on all packaging materials, letterhead, business cards and signage.
You can use different web addresses for different campaigns. Perhaps greatfootballpizza.com would work to promote pizza for a Superbowl party. Check out register.com to see if the address you want to use is already owned. By using a unique web address for specific campaigns you can accurately measure how many visitors come to your site because of the campaign. It’s a great way to determine your ROM (return on marketing).
Most importantly, remember that launching a website is a bit like letting a genie out of a bottle. It would be the kiss of death to set it up and leave it stagnant with the same information and graphics for weeks or months at a time. So go ahead and step into cyberspace. Take that website from your “wish list” to your “must do list.” A wish changes nothing; a decision changes everything.•