No e-commerce marketing discussion would be complete without a nod to social networking. Distributors cite LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram as some of the most successful social media platforms for driving traffic to their e-commerce websites.

Facebook is fast-becoming an essential business tool. It is also one of the most popular platforms for pay-per-click ads, a model of advertising whereby distributors pay the publisher only when their ad is clicked. With this advertising method, distributors can create customized ads targeting specific market segments.

According to Bruno, Facebook has garnered so much organic engagement that she hasn’t felt the need to run paid advertising — although she may look into it in the future. Gillette has had success with paid ads on social media; however, the pay-per-click model of advertising has proven costly and hasn’t yielded a return on investment.

“Pay-per-click can get expensive, depending on the products you’re looking to move,” says DePinto. “If it’s not monitored properly, you could be wasting a lot of time and money on it.”

Fortunately, distributors can use social media platforms to drive web traffic sans advertising.

DeStefano recommends LinkedIn to showcase distributors’ expertise and accomplishments, as well as research and engage with potential prospects.

Free photo and video-sharing services, such as Instagram and YouTube, are another effective means of driving traffic to distributors’ websites. DeStefano recommends creating a branded YouTube channel and uploading videos with optimized descriptions that bubble up in search results. Distributors can copy and paste YouTube’s embedded codes to run the videos on their website.

As with email campaigns, social networking posts with brief abstracts and teasers help drive traffic to e-commerce websites. DeStefano advocates content that is 75 percent educational and 25 percent promotional — and always sends people back to the website.

Social media platforms also provide an opportunity to promote fun activities and social events for top-of-mind awareness. Community engagement has always been an important aspect of Hill & Markes’ digital marketing strategy. Prior to the pandemic, the company hosted an ice cream event at its warehouse featuring show day specials, free giveaways and tours of its LEED-certified building.

More recently, Bruno organized a social media giveaway to support food service companies affected by the indoor dining shutdown during the pandemic.

“We knew some of our food service businesses were hurting, so we worked with vendors and bought gift cards to customers’ restaurants for a social media giveaway,” says Bruno. “The giveaway encouraged brand awareness for us and our customers — and we had high engagement on social media. People see that we’re doing good deeds for the community and we care about our customers.”

Sites For Sore Eyes

Driving customers and prospects to e-commerce websites is only half the battle.

“Getting people to your website isn’t the end goal,” says Gillette. “Getting them to make a purchase on the e-commerce website is the end goal.”

With this in mind, distributors’ websites should be user-friendly, visually appealing and easy to navigate. Banner ads and landing pages replete with images and videos capture people’s attention and motivate them to become buyers.

“One of the biggest things distributors overlook is the user experience,” says Gillette. “You have to make sure it’s worth it. If people come to your site and they have excessive load times or they have to go through four menus to get to your products, they won’t want to come back.”

Indeed, a good search engine that helps customers find exactly what they are looking for is one of the most important website features for gaining — and retaining — business.

“The process should be seamless,” says Bruno. “When people type something into the search bar, they should be able to find it easily. Distributors should also have options for downloading spec sheets and comparing different products.”

Last but not least, distributors need to test and analyze their website’s performance routinely and make adjustments accordingly.

“Every week I record, compare, contrast and make notes,” says Gillette. “We’re looking for trends — when are people doing more of something, where is traffic leading, and what do we need to bolster or communicate more of.”

Fine-tuning e-commerce websites is an ongoing endeavor — but one that is well worth it in the long run.

“So many businesses just throw their money at an SEO (search engine optimization) company or pay-per-click ads and let it ride, but often they’re not getting any results,” says Gillette. “Don’t be afraid to experiment and try everything until you find something that works.” SM

Kassandra Kania is a freelancer based in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is a frequent contributor to Sanitary Maintenance.

previous page of this article:
Engaging Online Content Elevates Distributors