Marketing is often a thankless and blame-heavy activity. Even with business owners who do their own marketing, it's not uncommon to underestimate the value of marketing with things are going well and to overestimate the effect with things go badly. To be sure, there are many things that marketing can help a business with, such as increasing brand awareness and website traffic. However, no amount of marketing can make up for a systemically flawed business model. In fact in such a case, marketing could actually exacerbate the problem because it was just highlight things that people don't like about the business. It's important for business owners to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of their marketing, but they should also be attuned to all possibilities when it comes to increasing sales. However, even when marketing can't fix a problem, it's still a huge part of the recovery effort. With that in mind, here are three things that internet marketing can't directly fix but how marketing can still help.

  1. Pricing
    For most shoppers, price is the most important factor when deciding what they want to buy. This is especially true when there are other options a consumer can choose from. If a business owner finds that their site has a large amount of traffic, good average time on the pages, but few conversions price is a good place to start looking for ways to improve. Check to see the pricing of similar products online. Most businesses that are just starting out will want their pricing to be in the low to mid range. Though it is possible, it's very hard to become a high-end retailer when first starting out. Consumers are usually only willing to pay more for a product if it's a name brand or there is a strong belief in the difference in quality, such with Apple products or BeatBox earphones.How Marketing Can Help
    Once a business owner is sure of their pricing, marketing is an essential part of getting that message out to consumers. Using sales and coupons is always a winning method. According to one study, 70 percent of brands rely on price discounts to get consumers to buy direct. Business owners should use paid advertising on social media (promoted content) to let their target demographic know there is a retailer around with good prices. Similarly, for businesses that feel their higher-than-average price is justified, their reasoning must be clear in on their website and in advertising. If the price is twice the norm, then marketers need to convince the consumer the product is three times as good. Also, a little good public relations can be used to justify higher prices. According to Nielsen, 46 percent of consumers are willing to pay more to purchase products from companies which have implemented programs to give back to society.
  2. Product Features
    Just like price, a lack of product features has been the cause of many dropped sales for businesses. When Henry Ford first started selling the model, he famously quipped, "Any customer can have a car painted any colour he wants so long as it is black." While this was okay when Ford practically sold the only cars in America, today, there is no car dealership that would only offer one color. The modern consumer base is made up of many individualistic people who want the products they buy to reflect their idiosyncrasies, and that takes more than one option. In a psychological way, the act of choosing in itself makes the consumer more attached to their decision. Customer satisfaction with a product will be higher if it feels more like the option they choose than the one they were forced to choose.How Marketing Can Help
    Business owners need to use their marketing and website to accentuate the features they have for products and services. Exclusive features especially need to be clear, since these will be often be the determining factor when two brands have similar prices. When designing marketing materials and website layouts, keep the psychology of consumer choice in mind. When there is only one option on the page at a time, consumers are left with a "yes or no" qualitative decision on if they want the product or not. When there are multiple pictures of items to choose from, consumers make a comparative decision on which one they like the best.
  3. Customer Service
    As was discussed on another article on this site, customer service is a huge factor in the success of online retailers. Even in 2014, shopping online can be a scary thing and consumers are extremely wary of getting into a bad situation. A recent study from comScore found that 66 percent of US online shoppers view a retailer's returns policy before making a purchase. Shipping options also matters a lot to online consumers. The biggest drawback of ecommerce is that consumers have to wait to receive their product. Any site that offers faster delivery or better shipping options will have an advantage over a similarly priced competitor. Read this previous article from our site for a lot of good statistics that show the importance of shipping flexibility. If a consumer is worried about a business's customer service record or how long it'll take for their item to reach them, they are far less-likely to follow through with sales.How Marketing Can Help
    No amount of marketing can fix bad customer service, but internet tools, like social media, websites and email can make it easier than ever for business owners to talk to consumers who are having problems. This can be accomplished with something as simple as a support form on the website or answering questions on social media. Having these channels available and properly using them help ease the minds of consumers who are trying to make the final decision to buy or not. For shipping options, business owners don't have to be the fastest. Just having adequate shipping is enough if it's low cost, better if it's free. The comScore study cited before found that 83 percent of US online shoppers are willing to wait an additional 2 days for delivery if shipping is free. Others are willing to add more items just to get free shipping.

Internet marketing is a wonderful thing but it's far from magical. When the basic tenets of good business are being violated, there is little that paid advertising or marketing can do to combat the loss in revenue. Price, shipping options and customer service are three factors that marketing alone cannot fix, but once these issues are resolved, marketing can't play a big role in getting the business back on track.

Published on: Jul 15, 2014
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