Setting the Right Target for Your eCommerce Business

Why a Hunch Can Lead to Disaster.

I remember a few years ago having a meeting with a charity client of ours at the prestigious Google offices in Central London, along with the Director of Marketing for Google (UK), to discuss how Google could potentially help with promotion of charity’s online business. This charity helped to get young people into work, so it’s a cause we were all willing to put our time into.

During the meeting, it became very clear that the target audience for the charity’s eCommerce website had been identified incorrectly, so much so that the focus of the meeting drifted off into talk of design elements, image quality and website content, something which would normally be locked down well after primary targets were identified and researched and certainly before any paid marketing strategy was discussed.

This meeting really brought home the dangers of under specifying business targets – you really need to know what the aims of a business or website are before you get into detail. There is no point even thinking of building a website before you know the purpose of that website and how you are going to pursue your chosen target market!

Identifying your Target Market

For our charity client, I’ll admit that locking down targets were maybe clouded by the overall aim of the business, that being to help young people into work.  This sort of difficulty should not affect a normal retail business, especially one which has been trading successfully for many years offline, however even established retailers can make some major tactical errors when it comes to locking down profitable, sustainable target markets.

So how do you lock down a target market? Not surprisingly this is a difficult task which can sometimes get hampered by ‘familiarity syndrome’, however there are things you can do to make sure you are going in the right direction.

First of all, if you have an established retail business, take all of the sales data over the past couple of years and analyse not only top selling ranges, but identify those products which have brought your business the best return on investment. Remember to factor in not only sales data but advertising and any supplemental costs for those ranges of products, you may be surprised how these can skew the results.

This task can be made massively easier by using a good Electronic Point of Sale system with reporting functions (like our own Connect system from Intelligent Retail) because otherwise we are talking about potentially many thousands of manual calculations.

Secondly, look at your traditional core market and get onto Google. The products you have been focussing on for many years, even if they are profitable, may not be what you need to be focussing on in 2020. New technology, tastes and trends pop up all the time, you must stay ahead of the curve in order to avoid your business becoming stale and irrelevant.

Check out the Google Trends website – search for areas of interest, see if your intuition is correct before you settle on targets. Whilst you are at it, check out the best sellers on Amazon and Ebay – these two websites account for a large percentage of all online sales in the UK and they both have masses of data on what sells. Try Amazon best sellers and Ebay Marketplace Research as these will both guide you on the best sellers in the area you are trading in.

Big Data

The phrase ‘big data’ has been around for several years, describing the manipulation of large data sets in order to glean market information and to lock down business strategy. Manipulation of these large data sets obviously take lots of computing power and take time and skill.

Whilst most independent retailers don’t need to get into this level of analysis, there is a whole host of things you can do with readily available data within your business which can actively help you to pinpoint your core target market, thus making your business more streamlined and more profitable.

For those who have been dipping into Google Shopping, Google Ads, Amazon, Facebook Advertising and Ebay you already have access to a whole host of data from these services on the products which are providing the best returns – analyse all of the data, find the most profitable targets for your business and then concentrate on those areas, doing further research to expand and update your offering.

Speak to your customers, after all these are the people who are buying your products. Record responses when quizzed about your product ranges. You can do this online as well as in a physical shop with surveys, either via email, on your website or via a third party like Facebook. This can sometimes bring surprising responses and take your business in a completely different, profitable direction.

Finally, don’t be afraid to take a step back and let someone not related to your business give opinions on what you should be targeting, sometimes the old idiom of ‘not seeing the wood for the trees’ stands very true!

In our meeting with Google, it became immediately clear that the target market that had been settled on by our client may not actually exist in a large enough volume to be financially viable, the client had been misled by the overall goal of the business and could not see that in order to meet that goal, the business had to sell volumes of products in a commercially pressurised marketplace, something that the current website offering was not geared up to support in large enough volumes.

As outsiders, it was relatively easy for our team to see that overall business goals for our client were severely clouding the route to success, thereby stunting possible growth with the current strategy.  Thankfully, a new target market was identified which was able to provide enough revenue to achieve the goal of helping young people into work.

David Fairhurst

Head of eCommerce

Intelligent Retail

David has been involved with Search Engine Optimisation and web development since 1999 and has spoken at many different retail and SEO conferences including Spring Fair and SES London

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