Put the words “retail”, “online” and “internet” together and you cannot be condemned for e-commerce or online retail immediately springing to mind. Coming from a background of retail and digital marketing, I tend to take a much broader perspective of these terms. I’ve come to recognize that there are some commonalities in these industries that when brought together will provide astronomical benefits. The time has come for business owners to look beyond their industries and seek out the best practices, principles and strategies used by others so that they can adopt them and improve their processes.

If you’re just about ready to apply the above scenario, here are some retail principles you can use to effectively market your website.



Retailers know, all too well, how crucial it is to understand customers’ buying behavior. Insights like these dictate the products they sell, how the products are displayed and the type of promotions that deserve their focus.


Promoting a website should be no different. Are you paying close attention to the way customers behave on your site? You should be.

Analyze. Tweak. Analyze and tweak some more. Sometimes you’ll need to change the navigation, other times it might be the content or product images that need changing. The important thing is to make the changes until customers are doing what you want them to do.

Your evaluation of the website must include a review and interpretation of your web analytics. Make notes of who is visiting and how they’re finding you, but equally important is an evaluation of your visitors flow, in page analytics, landing pages and site search (for sites where a search box is implemented). This data will reveal what your visitors are interacting with most, what they’re searching for and where they’re spending the most time when they land on your site.

You cannot overlook search engine marketing. Are you focusing & buying the right set of keywords in your PPC campaigns? If not, use keyword tools to gain valuable insight on how users are searching for information in your industry, and include them in your campaigns.

Use power words in your ad copies to increase your click through rate and conversion. Would you click an ad that said “complimentary”, or would you much sooner click an ad that said “free”? If you want real results, you have to start thinking like your customers.



You won’t set up shop in a run-down area of town, would you? Every retailer knows just how important location is. The population density, neighbourhood, demographics, competition and purchasing power of the people in the area are factors that influence choice of location.


Developing an attractive website is not enough. Your goal should be to have your site positioned prominently in the search engines. Get the site published on relevant directories. Get featured and active on social media. It’s all about location.

The principle of location also applies to your ad campaigns. Your click through rates and conversion will skyrocket if your ads are appearing on relevant websites. A simple tip to get your ads strategically positioned is to bid on keywords that have good conversion rates & minimal competition.



Point of sale messages influence customers buying decisions. Signs like “50% off” and “Buy One Get One Free”, compel customers to open their wallets even when that was never their original intention. Placement is also important. Retailers position signs at the entryways and in the windows to draw passersby in.


Call to action prompts like “contact us”, “free 30 days trial”, “newsletter sign up” and other banners and sliders can be likened to POS signs.

They must be strategically positioned on the page to capture attention and draw visitors in. Header banners or sliders must be eye catching but not overwhelmingly so. The graphics should never drown out your message, which needs to be clear, telling visitors exactly what you want them to do.

Split tests and event tracking will help you to identify the ads that work. With event tracking, you’ll monitor visitors’ interaction with certain website elements. The goal with split tests and event tracking is to tweak your elements and campaigns until you arrive at a working formula.

Don’t throw advertising dollars behind ads with no call to action. Studies reveal that visitors are compelled to act when they feel a sense of urgency. Your job is to create a sense of urgency and communicate it in your ads.

Again, split testing will help to find a winning strategy in your ad copy. Develop at least two ads and run them to see which one works better. If you must tweak, limit it to one element at a time, so you’ll know exactly what element is hampering or improving the results.



Retailers use secondary displays to increase a product’s sales, prominence and availability. The secondary displays showcase fast moving and impulse driven products such as snacks and soft drinks. They might also feature non consumables such as batteries, tissue and razor blades.


You want to sell your key product; that’s obvious. Then why limit it to only one page on your website? Think outside the page. Include links to the key product on other product and content pages on the site. Banners in the sidebar and header also call visitors’ attention to the product. Repetition lends itself to the permanent storage of information in our minds, use it wisely.

The principle of secondary displays can also be applied to search engine marketing. Ad extensions, where additional links are included in the ad, are a form of secondary display. Visitors can click these alternative links if they are more relevant to their search.


Look beyond the desert of your competitors. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot you can learn from them. But the pastures could be greener when you look to other industries to see what works.  Apply the principles learned in your own business. It will take you miles ahead of your competitors and into unspeakable realms of success.

What are some other retail principles that can be applied to website marketing?

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