Small businesses that are looking for new areas to expand into, or entrepreuners looking for a niche to fill may be able to find some ideas from a new study released by shop.org and Forrester Research Inc.

The study stated that online shopping by women is expected to show a surge in growth this year, with more women heading online to both research and make purchases. The increase will mark a steady trend of women leading the way in online shopping. Data released by BizRate earlier this year stated that 62% of online purchases were made by women in the fourth quarter of 2004. That number is up from 60% of purchases in 2002 and 55% in 2003.

So what areas are expected to show the most growth? According to Shop.org, online retailers will see a 33% increase in cosmetics, fragrances, jewelry and luxury goods. Online sales of flowers, cards and gifts are also expected to rise by 30%. None of this is surprising if women are expected to be the primary driving force behind an increase in online sales.

"Online retailers who sell products that are purchased by women are in a favorable position this year, as we expect those categories to grow substantially," says Scott Silverman, Executive Director of Shop.org.

So how to target these buyers? Well, it goes beyond simple search engine marketing, but it's still all about getting your site in front of buyers when they are looking for it. There's plenty of other data out there to support some strong theories of where to target your search marketing dollars.

Aggregator sites like Amazon.com, BizRate, DealTime, mySimon and Froogle are great places to start. According to data released by BizRate and Shopzilla, 59% of online shoppers start out at aggregator sites rather than at merchant sites. That's a 13% rise over the last three years. These sites are a natural destination for searchers because they offer comparison price shopping from a variety of retailers and usually feature nice databases of consumer product reviews. Taking the time to learn about how these sites work and making some room in your search marketing budget to get listings at them are usually well worth the effort.

Even going beyond getting your site in front of your audience in the right places is the type of content that you populate your site with. It's long been a rule of search marketers that content and links are the golden combination to excellent online sales. While aggregator sites, pay-per-click marketing and organic search optimization can create the links that drive traffic, those links are unlikely to send users if you don't also have excellent content.

Take a cue from aggregator sites and learn what makes them so appealing. It's not just the price comparison features. It's the information. Allow visitors to your site to submit consumer reviews of the products you sell. Add high-quality images of any and every angle of the product that a consumer might want to view. If you have brick-and-mortar buildings, make it easy for visitors to find the store nearest them. Better yet, allow them to make their order online and pick it up in the store.

Once you've added appropriate content, make sure to maximize any keywords that you target. If your site now offers reviews, make PPC bids on widget reviews and track the difference in ROI over phrase like "buy widgets," "widgets" and "widget reviews." You may find that you can adjust your bids because of radicalaly different ROI levels. You'll also want to remember that content like consumer reviews will open up a whole new world of incoming links from sites that might not have been willing to link to you before.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas Forum.
May 26, 2005





Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.







Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > Women Lead Surge in Online Shopping