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August 26, 2008

7 Ways to Compete with the 800 Pound Gorillas for Online Sales

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If you have to fight an 800 Pound Gorilla you’re certainly not going to match might for might.  Your only chance would be to use speed, agility and anticipation.  Even then I wouldn’t bet on you.  The small Internet retailer will similarly have a hard time competing with Internet giants like Amazon or Buy.  Most people buying online are looking for the best price and loyalty is not very common.  Below are some techniques to help the small Internet retailer.

New Products
People love buying the latest products and many times large retailers can take a while to offer these new products on their websites.  If you are able to integrate these new products into your website right away you can get a jump on your competition.  Not only should these products be on your website but they should be highlighted with banners and pictures on your home page and sent out in the next newsletter.  Your initial customers will tell others that this cool new product can be found on your website.  Even if your vendors do not yet have stock of an item you can have a pre-release sale allowing people to pre-order this new product.  You need to convince them that ordering now will get them they’re product sooner as orders will be processed first come first served.  You may only have a small window to capitalize on new products until the large retailers take the mainstream market this means you should have a process ready to be used each time a new product is released.

Emerging Markets
This is almost the same as promoting new products except you will typically have more time to take advantage of sales prior to the large retailers grabbing most of the sales.  Don’t depend on these emerging markets finding you, not only do should you actively be looking for new markets, you should keep up to date on current research in markets that may benefit you.  Start providing content on your website for this research, that way you can have top ranking for these terms when products emerge.

Long Tail Optimization
Long tail optimization is an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) technique where you go after keywords or phrases less used when people are searching.  This technique is great for someone who is willing to put in a lot of effort for the long term payoff.  You need to be very methodical and patient for long tail optimization to pay off but it’s certainly worth the effort.  For example, let’s say you sell computers on your website.  As of writing this when I search for computers in Google there are well over 500 million results.  A popular keyword search tool tells me there are about 225 thousand daily searches for that keyword.  Even though there are many searches daily for this term, there is an enormous amount of competition.  Additionally, I’m trying to attract people who are interested in purchasing computers.  Using a term as general as computers means most people are not searching for reasons of purchasing.  If I change my keyword phrase to Laptop Computers, the number of people searching drops from 225 thousand to 17 thousand and the number of results in Google to about 32 thousand.  If I look for similar key phrases I’ll find Desktop Computers, Notebook Computers, Cheap Computers, and the major manufactures (dell computers, hp computers, apple computers, gateway computers).  I have much better chance of getting higher ranking and more targeted customers by writing multiple pages of content with each of these longer phrases than I do with the generic term Computers.  After creating page for Laptop Computers I may want to create a page under that called Dell Laptop Computers, then one under that for Dell Laptop Computers 1720.  You’ll have to use your keyword research to determine what phrases are being searched for to best determine how to optimize your website.

Niche Markets
Granted you probably won’t find many people searching for a “Cookie Jar Piggy Bank” but you won’t find competition on the search engines or large retailers either.  A “Cookie Jar Piggy Bank” isn’t the best example but good niche markets are not easy to find.  If I find a new one, I’m probably not going to just give it away in my blog!

Hard Internet Markets
Many products are regional, don’t ship easily, or have specific regulations that make it hard to sell from a website.  Finding ways to make money selling these products online give you a market that large retailers will shy away from, giving you much less competition.  Can you find creative ways to ship products that are heavy or break easy?  How about products that cannot be shipped using normal methods due to regulations?  Can you find regional distribution for your online products?

Offer Services
Offering services such as free installation of purchased products is a great way to add value to your products.  If someone wants to purchase a computer and a printer but they don’t know how to install the printer, many times they are willing to pay a small service fee to have someone do this for them.  They don’t have the headache of doing it themselves and don’t have to pay a service fee to have someone come out to they’re house and do it for them.  By performing these services you will have to account for getting extra calls to your customer service but offering theses services either free or for a nominal fee will give you a large distinction between your website and the large retailers.

Expertise and Salesmanship
Setting yourself apart by being an expert in a particular market will allow you to recommend quality products you may not find at the large retailers.  My wife for instance did a lot of research a while back on candles.  Her research convinced her that soy candles are the best and she buys them from retailers that have sold her on this because they are experts in their field.  She will continue to use this same retailer over and over as long as she doesn’t have problems.

About the Author,

Edgar E. Kneel is the lead IT professional for an Internet retailer and an amateur tech writer.  With 15 years of professional IT experience he has a broad knowledge of hardware, software, platforms, networking and programming.  You can visit his blog here http://www.internetretailerblog.com/Blog.aspx and don’t miss his new web page load time tracker tool here: http://loadtimetracker.internetretailerblog.com

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