In the South African context eCommerce has been a very late bloomer. While there are a large number of high profile merchants who operate online stores, the vast majority of South African consumers, including the sophisticated ones who live in the suburbs, haven’t fully embraced eCommerce as a viable means of buying most goods and services. This includes me. There are some things I will buy online, but there are also others I won’t. I will have to change though, given the outlook for retail over the next year or two. 

I won’t be the only one who has to change his consumer habits. There is quite literally a sleeping giant of a market waiting to be tapped once this lockdown business comes to a close. I do foresee that a lot of people still won’t want to risk venturing outdoors once we get to level 1 or zero. Those folks will be ordering whatever they can online. So, if you have been thinking of getting your business online in a way that isn’t just a simple website and/or Facebook page now is the best time in the world to begin planning your digital sales strategy. 

Things you need to be asking yourself are;

Who is my market? 

How do I talk to them? 

What have I got to say to them? 

How can I gain their trust if I don’t already have it? 

In the digital age talking to customers is a multi-fold business. There are many channels available to marketers these days, made up of a mix of traditional advertising as well as digital advertising and there is no “silver bullet”, so to speak. It’s a mix we need to understand and make the most of. This is a digital marketing website so this is the area where I am going to focus my attention to help you make sensible marketing decisions. 

Let’s Look At Email Marketing

In my experience the best way to talk to customers is still via email. 

Have you ever wondered why you are still getting so much spam even in 2020? The reason is because it works. Studies have shown that email marketing is up to 40% more effective than social media marketing. When it’s done right a properly timed and crafted email campaign can have a solid impact on your sales. I have seen this myself when I run newsletters on my Fotozones community website. There is usually a 40-50% rise in website traffic on the day I send out the email and if I am bringing a “call to action” I always get great responses from my community. 

However, it is a bit challenging to get your email delivered properly these days. You can’t just create a big list of email addresses in Outlook and then send them. You will get into serious trouble with your hosting provider and you may even have your website suspended for abusing the server. All hosting providers have limits on the amount of email you can send in an hour from a shared server, usually under 300, so if you have a big list of email addresses this isn’t going to be a solution for you. 

That’s why you need to do a bit of research into third party bulk email services that use SMTP relay or an API. There are loads of them! Over the past 5 years or so I have used several different ones to send out both my own and my clients’ newsletters. For Fotozones I have used SparkPost, ElasticEmail and MailGun. Each of these providers offers slightly different services at different rates. My best success has been with SparkPost, the worst with ElasticEmail and the most cost effective is my current provider MailGun as they fit best with my budget and small needs for that site. For this site (the one you’re reading) I have decided to go with MailChimp mainly because it is very easy to integrate with WordPress and WHMCS (my billing automation software) and doesn’t require me to set up DNS entries on my domain name to use their service. They provide an easy to use platform where I can develop, monitor and analyse my email marketing efforts. Another decent service that integrates well with WordPress is MailPoet

Once you get the right provider for your needs all set up, you need to think about what you want to say in your marketing email, remembering that the recipient is probably scanning through dozens of emails every day. If you don’t get their attention right away there is a very high likelihood that your email will land in the bin along with probably 80% of the rest of the emails that person read in their coffee break. 

Good copy (jargon for the written words you use) in the email title is critical. From there you have to continue laying on the charm in the introduction, body and call to action of your message. This is all granular stuff, but it’s super important if you want to make a success out of email marketing. The best part about services like MailChimp and MailPoet is that they offer great statistics on the success of your email, showing you exactly who opened it, how often they did that and also which links they clicked on. For a marketer this is pure gold and is not something you can easily track with traditional marketing methods. 

Obviously the average small business owner isn’t going to be thinking about these things, especially if they haven’t been involved in the digital marketing arena thus far. That’s where I come in. I’m here to help you not only make sense of the medium, but maximise its potential. Whether you need to start from scratch and build up an audience or if you already have a customer base that you’d like to begin campaigning to but don’t know the mechanics, head on over to my Contact page and let’s get the conversation going.