Back-to-school promotions are well underway at major retailers, but there is still ample opportunity for small and midsize merchants to succeed in this competitive market. The key is to find ways to stand out from the big guys. Now is the time for online sellers to optimize their eCommerce sites to attract shoppers and increase sales. Here are a few tips from Auctiva, an eBay auction management system.
1. A unique description is the key to SEO.
When it comes to landing prime real estate in product search results, you might think it is all about keywords. In reality, these are less important to search engines than a unique, well-written product description, according to Auctiva’s in-house search engine optimization team. If you write information people will want to know about your product, it will naturally contain relevant keywords that will surface your listing in search results.
Now, if you are selling a backpack, by all means use the word “backpack” in both your title and description. But overusing words to try and get a higher search ranking can actually count against you.
Also, never copy and paste product information right from the manufacturer’s site. If you do this, your listing is likely to get lost among the hundreds of others who have done just that. The bottom line is that search engines will favor the unique and relevant over the “optimized.”
2. Take advantage of merchandising features.
Depending on your shopping cart or selling platform, you may have certain merchandising features available to you. Take advantage of these to make sure school shoppers see relevant items first, or can easily locate them in your store.
Use eye-catching banners to let buyers know you have the school-year essentials they are looking for, and feature your best school-related merchandise on the home page. Add a “back to school” category, and tag applicable products so shoppers will see them when they look in this category. Consider adding modules on your home page and product pages that allow you to cross-sell or up-sell related products, and offer incentives to entice people to buy more than one item.
If you are selling products that are available from many sellers, try creating a few unique product bundles. For example, sell a One Direction backpack with a lunch kit and water bottle that also feature the popular boy band, and your listing will stand apart from those that offer just one or the other.
You can also add “back to school” or similar terms to your listing titles to make these more visible to those searching for school items. Be prepared to revise these when the season ends, so you do not discourage non-school shoppers.
3. Think outside the lunch box.
Back-to-school time heralds not just a return to classrooms, but also the start of after-school sports and other extracurricular activities. Kids will need to be outfitted for these, too, reminds Rebecca Miller, Auctiva’s product manager and an eBay seller for more than 13 years.
The beginning of the school year is a great time to market items like cleats, knee pads, tennis rackets and other sports gear, as well as the essentials for non-sports activities students will likely be involved in, she says. Think dance apparel, musical instruments, art supplies and scouting uniforms, for instance.
4. Offer shipping incentives.
Online buyers have come to expect free shipping and generous return policies, so offer these whenever you can. In a recent survey by Boston Consulting Group, 74 percent of U.S. shoppers named free delivery as the top motivator for making an online purchase. In the same survey, 35 percent said free return shipping would make them more likely to buy. By tying a free shipping offer to a minimum-purchase threshold that is above your average selling price, it is possible to offer these incentives without eroding your profits.
Consider increasing item prices by a couple of percentage points to help offset the cost of shipping and returns. In the end, buyers will be feel more secure buying from a no-hassles seller, and this will almost certainly increase your sales, even at your higher price points.
5. Picture success, many times over.
Quality images are a must in e-commerce, and the more photos you can provide of your items to show various angles and details, the better for sales and customer satisfaction. Keep in mind that online buyers cannot pick up items and inspect them for themselves, so reassure them by showing them exactly what they will be getting.
It is best to photograph items against a white, solid-colored or neutral background that does not distract from the product. If you can, enable a zoom or enlarge capability, so buyers can get a close-up look at the item or focus in on specific aspects.
Avoid using stock images provided by the manufacturer. Even if what you are selling is brand new in the original packaging, taking the time to shoot original photos of the product that will actually ship lets buyers know you are an honest seller who cares about the details.