Developing Successful E-commerce for Small Business

Part 2 - So .... what's the web traffic development roadblock?

In part one of this four-part series, I laid the foundation for creating sustainable web traffic, explaining the importance of the website. It's pretty logical - if a business deploys a poor-quality website, then there's not much point in developing traffic to that site. It's also pretty logical that if an investment's been made to build and deploy a world-class website, the buy will likely be a waste of money unless there's a similar strategy to build traffic to that site.

In the second of this four-part series, I will explain the importance of content as a requirement for developing sustainable website traffic and as the foundation of successful e-commerce for small businesses.

A typical mistake made by resellers in the office products vertical regarding their websites and web strategy is to focus only on the product catalog and the selling of products out of that catalog. The failure here is to understand that only a tiny percentage of web traffic is ready to buy at any moment. If all a reseller does is continually "go for the kill," aggressively promoting products in its catalog. It fails to cater to the much larger segment of web traffic that may be looking for something else at that particular moment.

To expand the audience a website caters to, two significant components must be accounted for within the content that's published and accessible from the site:

  1. Educating the target audience
  2. Building trust and authority

Let's expand on these two components:

They are, firstly, educating a relevant audience, specifically regarding the office products industry.

We are part of a vast market - $25 billion spent annually in the United States alone on ink and toner. Approximately $50-60 billion is probably spent annually on all office products. Not much argument ... this is a large market, and there's no shortage of material to create relevant content about!

The two most prominent retail players serving this market are DepotMax and Staples. Between them, they have nearly $40 billion in global sales, and over 40% are online. This equates to $16 billion in e-commerce. There should be little argument regarding whether or not buyers of office products are willing to conduct a significant portion of their business online because they already are, with combined site traffic of 1.2 million unique daily visitors. Of course, there is an undeniable link between e-commerce and website traffic.

How can a small reseller intercept some of this traffic and start to compete effectively with organizations such as DepotMax and Staples?

Typically, this is where the second mistake is made. It's not difficult for a reseller to look at sites like DepotMax and Staples, and it's not too difficult to copy their format. However, this is usually where it all goes wrong for a small reseller.

I'm continually advocating the importance of content on a reseller's website to establish trust and authority, educating site visitors - such as researching buyers. However, this type of content on websites such as those deployed by DepotMax, Staples, New Egg, Tiger Direct, Amazon, Wal-Mart, etc., appears to be absent - at least on the surface.

Because it's likely many independent office product resellers looked at these competing e-commerce sites and then attempted to replicate them, they have overlooked the requirements for the type of content required to develop a successful web strategy. Copying the strategies and tactics of large organizations doesn't work for small independent resellers. By failing to create content to educate and for building build trust, the small reseller s web strategy is fatally flawed.

Large organizations with successful e-commerce have many other factors in their favor that allow their strategies to work, which I'll go on to explain in Part 3 when I deal with the "science" underlying internet traffic. For now, I'll continue to focus on the importance of the content component for a small independent reseller and its web strategy.

For a large industry, there's a remarkable absence of content "about" the industry. Internally, we focus on the aftermarket and lament the declining aftermarket share. There's a focus on the challenging market conditions, and there's intense competition between the office products dealer, driving aftermarket prices down and damaging the longer-term viability of the aftermarket. The fact that there's a $20 billion growth opportunity in ink and toner office supplies alone is mainly ignored.

For the most part, the aftermarket hasn't earned the right to participate in the $20 billion growth opportunity because it hasn't deployed strategies necessary to make the respect and trust of researching buyers before they're likely to consider alternatives seriously. The industry has failed to use the available tools and platforms to demonstrate to exploring buyers that they're experts and deserve consideration.

  • Content has not been created to specifically educate potential customers about the industry and the aftermarket options to build authority, demonstrate knowledge, and establish trustworthy credentials for doing business with the buyers that currently collectively spend $20 billion every year on high-priced OEM cartridges,

The aftermarket has collectively failed to reach the $20 billion growth opportunity explained in part one.

Instead, despite the availability of high-quality alternatives, the aftermarket has mostly sat back and allowed the OEMs to publish their material, spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the aftermarket alternatives unchallenged.

Unfortunately, creating high-quality content strategically published to target buyers that may be researching long before they're ready to make a buying decision is not easy. The requirements are typically overwhelming for a small business, especially with the challenges of developing web traffic.

  • Creating worthwhile content takes time,
  • Creating content with a strategic purpose takes even more time.
  • Investing time in content and establishing a parallel strategy for developing web traffic requires more time.
  • For the most part, independent resellers don't have this time available.

Furthermore, and significantly compounding the time allocation dilemma, most of the skills required for creating and effectively publishing content and developing web traffic are outside the capabilities of the typical reseller in the office products industry!

This is not an encouraging combination and helps explain the underlying failure of small independent resellers to establish effective e-commerce and to take part in the $20 billion growth opportunity.

In the third part of this 4-part series, I'll explain the challenges of web traffic development. In the fourth and final part, I'll present an option for a solution to help overcome the dilemma described here.

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