Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

Essential Ecommerce Insights with Matt Winn from Volusion

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This week, we’re proud to be featuring Matt Winn from Volusion, an ecommerce platform that provides a wide range of services, including web templates, SEO services, analytics, and many other customisable features for online stores!

Matt Winn is Volusion’s Marketing Communications Manager, where he helps oversee the organization’s branding and communications efforts. Matt has created hundreds of articles, videos and seminars on all things ecommerce, ranging from online marketing to web design and customer experience.

Without further delay, here are his answers to our interview questions!

There have been many changes lately in the marketing world: Search engine algorithm changes, big changes at Google (not provided, publisher/author markup, TOS changes, G+ comments for Youtube), Facebook custom audiences, Twitter ads etc. What are your thoughts on these changes? How has the role of online/ecommerce marketing evolved in light of them? I think that these changes represent a shift towards a couple of major trends.

I think that these changes represent a shift towards a couple of major trends.

First, and more specifically related to Google changes, is the move toward content marketing as a highly valuable business strategy. Gone are the days where retailers can simply launch an ecommerce site and hope to sell products. Now, the notion that retailers must serve as publishers is extremely relevant. Essentially, Google is looking to provide the best content possible to match their users’ search queries, so online merchants must meet that demand via high-quality content if they hope to retain and increase their overall traffic.

The second trend is the sheer proliferation of marketing channels, of which online retailers now have to not just participate in, but keep tabs on ever-present changes. This means that online marketers and retailers must make important decisions on which channels they pursue, and to what degree. Furthermore, participating in a growing number of channels means that the role of consistent, integrated branding is more important than ever, as is the ability to track the customer experience across a growing variety of touchpoints.

What challenges do you think SMBs might face with online/ecommerce marketing in 2014? What can they do to overcome them?

One of the biggest challenges SMBs will face in their online marketing activities comes from the idea discussed above: managing an ever-changing, growing number of marketing channels. This task is particularly challenging for smaller shops, as the time commitment required to manage, monitor, integrate and analyze the impact of each channel is a big one. Beyond that, a decision must be made as to whether some of these activities should be outsourced, which leads to additional marketing costs.

To help overcome this challenge, SMB owners and/or marketers should take a long look at prioritizing their marketing activities among the clutter. This can be done by leveraging analytics tools to see which channels are most impactful, and which are “nice-to-haves.” For example, in light of major changes at Google, SEO will likely be a top priority moving into 2014, whereas pouring dollars into social media advertising may not be as high on the list.

84% of consumers say they trust word-of-mouth the most. What are interesting/ innovative uses of word-of-mouth marketing you’ve seen? Any thoughts on how marketers could take advantage of word-of-mouth?

Word-of-mouth is definitely a sure-fire way to gain new customers – after all, we trust our friends and social circles more than anyone else. One word-of-mouth tactic that we used at Volusion took place at the South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, where we reached out to the budding population of entrepreneurs attending the event by offering them “seed money” to launch their business idea. We simply got a huge stack of $1 bills and added a sticker that let them know that this was their first investment and encouraging them to chase their business dreams. We got a lot of positive pickup from that campaign, and made some real connections with our target audience.

On a much smaller scale, marketers can leverage word-of-mouth by delivering an exceptional customer experience, both online and off. This is as simple as adding personal touches to transactional emails, reaching out to customers on social media, and providing surprise “thank you” notes and/or gifts to loyal customers. The idea is to make customers feel special so they share that experience with their networks, who then feel compelled to give that business a look themselves.

Finally, who do you think will win: Google or Facebook? Why?

It really depends on what you mean by “win”. To me, winning between the two giants means which is able to remain relevant the longest. Using that definition, I’d have to say that Google will be a lot more relevant than Facebook in the future, mainly because it is such a big part of everyone’s daily lives. From their wildly popular search engine to their ownership of YouTube and their continued charge to product innovation (like Google Glass), Google is morphing itself from just an online information provider to a full-scale tech company that will impact us both online and off. Because of this (and the fact that social users tend to be fickle and always ready to jump on the next big thing), I think that 10 years from now, Google will be in a much better market position than Facebook.

Points to ponder over:

  • Google is aiming to provide users with only the best content available, so focus on marketing good content to stay relevant and retain traffic.
  • Due to the sheer amount of marketing channels available, marketers should choose which ones to focus on and keep track of. This also raises the need for an integrated branding strategy.
  • Managing multiple marketing channels can be very challenging, especially for SMB owners. Instead of trying to handle everything, it’s more useful to spend some time prioritising your marketing strategy, focusing only on the essentials and the most impactful elements.
  • Word-of-mouth is definitely a good way to gain new customers. SMB owners can utilise word-of-mouth by providing an excellent online and offline customer experience, so that customers will feel special, and be encouraged to share that with their networks.

For in-depth tips and advice on your online business, make sure you check out the Volusion ecommerce blog, and don’t forget to find Matt  on LinkedIn & Google+!

Samuel Hum

As a finalist in Esquire's Best Dressed Real Man contest, Samuel is ReferralCandy's fashion ecommerce expert and resident sartorialist. He is obsessed with human behavior and social psychology.

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