Just in case you hadn’t heard, the Internet is coming. The truth is, the Internet is here and it’s already affecting everything we do from our mobile phones, our friendships, the way we learn, watch TV, listen to music to how we’re educated.
Now it’s time for our businesses to be affected too. In fact, your business is already being affected either by your action in the digital revolution or lack thereof. If you’re an individual and have had that one idea that you wished you could sell to the masses, then your world is about to open up wide.
Commerce has changed. At the very least commerce shifted somewhat from a face-to-face experience involving human beings exclusively to one that occurs online while the customer sits comfortably at home or work and clicks around your website looking to buy something you’re selling.
A new form of commerce is already going mainstream and it’s called e-commerce. Trust me when I say this: Your customers are looking for what you’re selling and if you aren’t online to offer it to them they’re going to find it somewhere else.
David Perel, co-founder of Obox, a wordpress theme company and SalesGenius, a trend tracking company, says that an online store was the best way for him and his brother and co-founder, Marc, to gain exposure for their talents: “My brother and I are really good at what we do – web design and development – but we’re not great salesmen. So the best way to get our products out there was with a great e-commerce site.”
There are some among us who didn’t hesitate and created online stores that are generating revenue and will soon be huge. There are others who sell their digital goods online, their eBooks, stickers, clothing, pet food, website themes, kitchen accessories and everything in between.
Is it right for you?
When considering online commerce it’s important to think about the value of selling online for your business, product or service. Sometimes being online for the sake of it can do more damage than good. For example, if you’re selling something online but your payment process is broken, your customer will get irritated with you and probably never return.
Be sure to understand the reason for entering the realm of digital commerce carefully. This isn’t a case of dive in headfirst and learn to swim on the way towards the water. You’ll probably drown in all the nuanced complications that arise as you progress if you don’t prepare effectively.
For Luke Jedeikin, one of the founders of Superbalist.com (previously Citymob.co.za), starting an online store and selling other people’s products was a simpler proposition conceptually than doing it in real life.
“Build a webstore and find existing real world products to sell from it. As opposed to, build a webstore and build a digital product. We actually started selling coupons during the group buying storm but moved to physical products after the first year or so,” he says.
Some people will tell you that getting started is difficult, others will blame payment processes, design, the government, banks, technology or fulfilment for the difficult time South Africans have when setting up an online store. But there’s no good reason to avoid online commerce and there are many resources and tools to assist you along the way.
Choosing a platform
Choosing the correct platform for your needs can be a difficult task. As with anything, the first step is always the most overwhelming and this is no different. The biggest question on most people’s minds is “Where do I start?”
There are many options that you can choose from. The criteria you use to get started on your online shop should look something like this:
- How much money do I want to spend building?
- How big is my product list?
- Do I need people to pay me immediately using a credit card?
- Do I need to support recurring credit card payments?
- What countries will I operate in?
- Is my product virtual (digital download) or physical (delivered by a courier company)?
Each question is important and can lead you down a rabbit hole of confusion. Fortunately, most of the services out there will walk you through all of the solutions when you sign up.
Here’s a list of services that you can visit right now to evaluate, investigate and figure out which is best for your needs.
WordPress + WooCommerce
WordPress is a free to use platform that you’ll need to instal and host yourself to operate a WooCommerce store. There is a fair amount of knowledge to acquire in order to become an expert in using WooCommerce, but it’s the first choice of over 500 000 stores around the world and is a South African company. Online tutorials, walkthroughs, a forum and lots of Googling will help to get to grips with the platform.
I chose to use WooCommerce to set up my online store where I sell socks (www.nicsocks.com). The reasons for using this platform were simple; I found it easy to set up and it was free. I took photos of my products using my phone, uploaded them, added a price and began to sell. The cost of expanding happened after launch but this is standard practice for free platforms. They allow for growth if you’re happy to pay for it.
Courtenay Farquharson, an entrepreneur who founded www.petheaven.co.za, an online company that delivers dog food to owners around South Africa, chose Magento because it’s free and well supported: “I was looking for something free that would allow me to expand. Magento simply seemed to be the most supported software out there. I also liked the fact that I could write modules and extend it if need be and it came with hundreds of various themes for me to choose from.”
Shopify is definitely one of the most well-known online commerce platforms in the world. It’s well supported globally as well as in South Africa and is fast and easy to use.
If you’re a company that requires a lot of functionality that doesn’t come standard in any of these free platforms, then you’re probably going to require an online store that is built especially for your needs.
Beware, this route can become a black hole of expense and is not for the faint hearted or the under-prepared. Be sure to evaluate the partner you choose to build your store and be sure to find out about ongoing monthly costs to maintain your site, get access to the core platform and what would be required if you were to leave the partner.
Once you’ve had a look at your platform choices it’s important to understand what kind of payments you will need to support.
Are you selling a single product online? Is this product a once-off purchase or does it require a monthly recurring payment (similar to a magazine subscription)? Are your customers in South Africa or abroad?
Let’s consider the various scenarios and problems that may occur:
- First you can ask your customers to do an electronic bank transfer into your bank account. For this option it’s probably a good idea to get a business account at your bank. These are fairly easy to acquire and your bank should be happy to assist.
- You could also support credit card billing in your store. This option has become increasingly simple as most of the e-commerce platforms support various payment providers such as Payfast, Paypal or PayU. WooCommerce will even walk you through setting up and installing the various payment providers they support.
A word of caution about using Paypal. As of yet Paypal does not support the South African Rand as a currency. This means that your local customers will checkout and see dollars as opposed to rands in their baskets. This is not a major problem and many stores happily do this, but be aware of it nonetheless.
“Our products are sold in dollars which proved a huge challenge when setting up our payment gateway. We use 2checkout, which is based internationally, but sends payments to us once a week. The downside is they charge a lot per transaction but currently it’s the only way to sell our products to a massive international customer base,” says Obox’s David Perel.
- The other option for payments that is often overlooked by small businesses is cash on delivery. This option is available to you if you or a staff member are doing the deliveries for your online orders. You arrive at your customer’s door with the product and they pay you in cash. Simple and effective.
Take note: A red herring in this entire process is that sometimes you will be required to have a merchant account to support some of the payment options. While your bank will tell you that this is a quick and painless process, my bank made it extremely difficult for me and the process took over six months to complete.
At NicSocks my biggest issue isn’t platform, technology or payment providers. My biggest challenge is customer acquisition. South Africa is a very young online shopping market. There aren’t that many people who shop online using their credit cards or any other payment mechanism for that matter. Those who do shop online mostly shop at trusted sites with a history and shy away from young upstarts whom they feel may expose them to unnecessary fraud or risk.
This leaves small online stores with a major challenge: Marketing and promotion.
Almost all of the e-commerce products out there will help your store appear in search engines like Google and Bing. They’ll also optimise your content for these search engines (this is known as Search Engine Optimisation or SEO) so there’s no need to focus too heavily on this in the very beginning but this needs to become a focus as you grow.
Superbalist.com co-founder, Luke Jedeikin feels strongly about email as a key to their online traffic: “Email brings us around 90% of our traffic. SEO, Google, and social media brings the rest. We’re focusing heavily on lessening our reliance on email.”
Social media marketing is also extremely valuable to niche online stores. Building content that people want to consume and share with their friends can really boost sales and drive loyalty. Make sure you have a Facebook page, an active Twitter account so that you can respond to customers in real time and if you’re a visually driven brand or product be sure to make use of Pinterest for a further push.
Generally speaking the time is right to enter into the online space and provide your customers with a place to buy your products. The South African online e-commerce market is expanding rapidly and if you wait too long you’ll be left playing catch up to your competitors.
However, there are areas of concern right now to be mindful of. Be sure to choose the right fulfilment partner. Shipping is a sensitive issue in South Africa and if you charge your customers too much to deliver your product and fulfil their order you’ll lose them at the point of payment.
Access to Internet and the devices being used to access your specific shop online can become problematic for stores that aren’t optimised for multiple devices.
Be sure to consider who your target market is, where they are browsing and if they even have access to the Internet at all.
Fighting for consumers’ attention should be your priority. Be different, stand out and try to maintain their attention long enough to get them to buy something from you. For this you’ll need a few simple things: A great product, a visually appealing but simple website that promotes spending and finally, amazing customer service.
An online store is simply another way to get feet through your now virtual door and sell your amazing product. Keep it simple and dive in.
Recommended Reading: How to Not Lose Your Customers Through Your Site
The Launch Of Instagram TV
Giving a run to other institutions for their money, Instagram today has launched IGTV, a new application that will allow users to upload videos on its Instagram facility.
Commencing with one minute long videos, speaking at the launch today, Instagram CEO, Kevin Systrom, announced that users can now upload up-to an hour long video. This application will allow famous videos from celebrities. However, with IGTV, one does not necessarily need to be a big-name or famous, since creative individuals and groups can upload videos.
For now, everyone who enjoys the clutter free, easy to navigate Instagram, will be able to upload an hour-long video, except the smaller and new accounts that will enjoy this application after the expansion of the facility. This application will be globally available on Android and IOS and will allow viewers to browse through many longer videos, as well as visit the browse tabloids or suggest followed videos.
Furthermore, viewers will have the choice to watch ‘old’ videos and also get notifications on recent uploads. IGTV will also allow creators and inventors to develop Instagram Channels with various videos that other viewers can subscribe to, drive traffic of viewers to particular videos, granting the inventors the capability of uploading clear links of the video.
Systrom confirmed that there will be no advertisements on IGTV for the meanwhile. He added that this is still a great platform to put up advertisements at a later stage, as creators or inventors put in more time into videos for IGTV. This translates into an opportunity to make money. Instagram will not pay creators for the IGTV videos at this stage. IGTV has so much potential since creators will be from the over 1 billion current Instagram subscribers. At the same time, this could be big business, since the number of subscribers may rise.
Expectations are there to add to the monetisation option, and these include the potential of Instagram getting profits close to $5.5 billion in 2018, as compared to Facebook, which is just above $202 billion.
Moving up from just filtering and sharing photos, today Instagram has advanced from mobile networks, screens, and cameras, of which neither the longer videos could be supported. This has opened a new mobile TV for teens and families.
Additionally, Instagram can become the dependable place to view something on that small screen via creators’ and publisher video content curation, as opposed to YouTube, which always has a wider breadth of content.
5 Steps In Adwords Competitor Analysis: A Practical Case Study
In the second part of this article, we’ll be getting practical. What steps to take and what to do in each step.
In PART ONE of this article on the importance of competitor analysis in an Adwords campaign, we demonstrated to you the value that can be uncovered by performing a proper analysis of what your foe is up to on Adwords and how they can actually help you do better.
In the second part of this article, we’ll be getting practical. What steps to take and what to do in each step.
Pens sharpened? Batteries charged? Lets go!
As a case study of a local Adwords campaign, we’ll be taking a look at one of the main spenders on PPC in South Africa, booking.com, and see what information can be gathered about their competition in paid search results.
Step 1. Find out who your client’s true competitors in paid search are
First of all, let’s get on the same page, by stating that your organic and paid search competition is not the same thing. If you know who you share the SERPs with, it doesn’t mean that you’ll share the paid ads section with the same set of companies.
Booking.com knows what we’re talking about.
Here’s the organic part of the SERP for ‘book a hotel’. Booking.com shares it with Trivago, hotels.com and Agoda.
They could have thought: Okay, so these are my competitors, I know what they’re up to, I’ll look into their strategies and I’ll be fine in both organic and paid search. But wait, what is happening there at the top of the SERPs? Who is this dark horse?
It’s Expedia! In organic search it stands further down from booking.com than the rest of the domains from the first page, yet in paid results Booking and Expedia are the closest rivals.
But that is just one keyword. There are many other keywords for which the companies want to advertise in Google, so to know whether you’re actually competing with them, you need to evaluate your competition level.
It’s a simple process of comparing the number of keywords you have in common versus the number that are unique with that competitor.
By estimating this value, you can distinguish your true competitors from big generic brands, niche competition and temporary distractions in the paid search.
Jokes aside, Booking and Expedia share a relatively similar online presence and are, of course, familiar with each other’s PPC strategy. That said, if you’re not a huge domain and know your usual competitors, it is even more frustrating to miss an audacious market newcomer or an organic outsider trying to cut the line and get to the top of the SERPs with an aggressive PPC campaign. So, the analysis of your true competition should be performed regularly. For the agencies that we support, we usually revise the competitors list once every quarter.
Step 2. Estimate your competition PPC budgets
Now that you know who you are rubbing elbows with in paid search, try figuring out how much they spend on PPC. There’s no way to know exactly what their budgets are (except for corporate espionage, but we don’t recommend that), but you can still make use of an estimation.
For that, you need to know how many keywords they target in paid search, what their cost-per-click values are, as well as their estimated search volumes. That is practically impossible to reveal manually, but the competitor analysis tool in SEMrush for example provides you with an estimation of the company’s PPC budget based on the data from their keyword database. Similar tools should be found in whatever quality software you’ve opted for.
Here’s the info we could gather about Booking.com by solely analysing the keywords for which it was showing up in paid search and the CPC values of those keywords.
Though it is a rough estimation, this info is helpful in planning your PPC campaigns in a way that meets with market trends.
Step 3. Find out your competitor’s unique keywords
What’s even better about competitor analysis is that it will help you save time by not needing to do the tough jobs yourself by letting you (legally) steal the best ideas from your competition and dwell on them. Remember, if you’re doing it to them, they’re probably doing it to you as well! All’s fair in love, war and paid advertising!
What’s the practical value of this? Well, your competitor’s unique keywords can be your missed opportunity.
By comparing the keywords that Booking and Expedia are bidding on, we see that there are a lot of keywords related to means of travelling and travelling companies in Expedia’s portfolio, but they are missing in the Booking.com set. It is obviously just another tactic for such a big brand, but for a smaller company, this comparison list could be a golden goose of new ideas.
Step 4. Research your competitor’s ads and banners
If you have ever been online, you know that the SERPs are crowded. The served results in both organic and paid search have to constantly overcome the viewer’s lack of attention, so the message in your ads should be short, clear, and actionable.
Your competitor’s copy can be a great source of information.
Comparing your ads to your competitor’s allows you to see the context and the standards of messaging in your niche and adjust your voice to or diversify from the usual tone.
Also, sometimes you need to develop multiple ad copies with similar content. Whenever creativity abandons you, you can look into your competitor’s copy and borrow a few ideas from them.
Step 5. Check your competitor’s target URLs
Imagine running an online retail business. Summer sales are coming, and you want to promote your goods with an AdWords campaign. Apart from the keywords that you want to bid on and creating appealing ad copy, you also need to think about the page which your ads are going to take your leads to.
Is it common in your client’s niche to have a specific landing page for a promo like this? Or is it enough to have banners on the home page? Take a look at your client’s competitor’s target pages and find out.
The Value Of Competitor Analysis On A South African Adwords Campaign
If you have doubts about the efficiency of an AdWords campaign being run in South Africa, here are some stats about the South African market to convince you.
Running a successful AdWords campaign can sometimes be like trying to understand the maths that Elon Musk is using to put a human being on Mars: you’re pretty sure it will work, but trying to figure how and why burns too many brain cells.
Well, help is at hand! In this TWO PART article, we’re going to demonstrate to you the value of performing a competitor analysis on an Adwords campaign, and show you just how and what you should be looking for.
As a digital marketer of any kind, you’ve probably had a crack at running and managing an AdWords campaign. Let me guess:
- Predicting the results and outcomes was impossible;
- You outsourced to an agency this one time. It cost you a fortune and they kept asking questions you couldn’t possibly have answers to;
- Setting the budget was more complicated than understanding the nature and purpose of Snapchat;
- And speaking of budget…it’s NEVER enough and always runs out too quickly.
Nobody is arguing with the fact that AdWords is one of the most complicated digital marketing efforts that you can undertake on behalf of a client or yourself. However, if done right, it could also be one of the most rewarding, effective and business-altering activities you could do.
If you have doubts about the efficiency of an AdWords campaign being run in South Africa, here are some stats about the South African market to convince you:
South African PPC market in numbers
In 2017 the total spending on Google ads in South Africa across all industries reached $30 million. The market’s thriving!
And these websites were the most generous spenders on Google ads. If only your budgets could compete, right?
However, these were the industry’s spendaholics.
Generally, businesses are way more careful with their PPC budgets: only 3.8% of all the companies spend more than R50 000 monthly, and the majority of 34.1% is just indulging their curiosity with somewhere around 1000 bucks a month.
And if you worry about your ad copy, take a look at the most popular phrases and CTAs used in South African ads:
So, how do you enter that market AND, at the same time, save your money?
Well, that’s like eating an elephant — get help and do it in pieces.
If you thought that running and managing an AdWords campaign was complicated, try getting advice from the pros on best practices to net best results. Just like deciphering that Musk math again.
- Split test your copy
- Use different ad extensions… or all of them
- Try out different calls to action
- Manage and track your budget daily
- Get your targeting on point
But also don’t forget about the foundation of any marketing campaign, digital or not: research your competition.
As wholesalers of digital marketing services to South African digital agencies, by far one of the most important and most advised best practices we suggest to the agencies that we support when running an AdWords digital marketing campaign is to ensure that they practice comprehensive and thorough competitor analysis.
What is competitor analysis for your Adwords campaign and how do you streamline it?
Running a competitor analysis during an AdWords campaign is like having a video camera in your competitions training session. It’ll help you pull back the curtain, see what they’re up to and adjust your efforts accordingly to ensure optimum results from your AdWords campaigns.
In our experience, many companies do not perform PPC competitive research, or don’t do it as often as they should. However, not having the full picture about your PPC competition is risky and can result in running ineffective campaigns. That means wasting your or your client’s budget without netting tangible results or missing the opportunities available to your client by underinvesting.
But recognising the difference that competitor analysis can make in your AdWords campaigns is only the first step. The next step is to find the right tool to help you perform your competitor analysis on a regular basis. The stats and data provided in this article were pulled by our team using SEMrush. It’s a software that we have found invaluable in helping us to provide white label, wholesale digital marketing services to the South African and international digital agencies that we support.
That being said, there are a wealth of similarly effective and powerful digital marketing tracking tools on the market worth investigating. We encourage you to get out there and see what works best for you.
The data that you should drill out of your competitor analysis
On all the levels of digital marketing, there’s a constant rivalry between best practice and revolutionary ideas. The question of whether to follow a well-trodden path or to do things differently in an effort to distinguish the brand you’re working on is always on the table. Or desktop in the case of digital marketing.
However, to make an informed decision you need to know the niche you are playing in as well as its main players. These questions will help you gather that information:
- Who is your true competitor in paid search?
- How much do they spend on PPC?
- What are their most profitable keywords?
- What do their ads and banners look like?
- What URLs should your ads target?
Now you know WHAT to ask. But what do you do with the answers and how do you use them to improve your own Adwords performance.
In PART TWO of this blog, we’ll be diving into just that. CLICK HERE TO READ ON!
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