6 acquisition channels in online retail

Acquisition is the interface that brings people to your website. There are five commonly known acquisition channels in online retail: direct search, organic search, paid search, email, affiliate and social. Below is a brief overview of these channels.

When a user types the name of your company on the web browser or a search engine and lands on your website it is known as direct acquisition. A high percentage of direct acquisition denotes good brand awareness and loyalty. Statistics maintain that this channel usually has the best conversion rate as people following this channel are likely to be towards the bottom of the purchase funnel. It indicates trust, awareness and intent to buy. This performance appears to be somewhat consistent across most online businesses.
Considering the competitiveness of the retail sector most companies find themselves struggling with volume. Direct channel is more common with existing customers and is usually associated with low cost and high ROI. This channel witnesses the best customer base and a low acquisition rate may indicate need for branding.

When a user clicks on your website appearing in the search results section of the search engine it is known as organic acquisition. While direct searches indicate a high brand awareness, ranking up in search engines instils reliability and trust.
The biggest advantage of a good organic search listing is that you don’t have to pay for clicks. This usually results in a good ROI (return on investment). However considering the competition and resources you have raking high up in search engines may not be easy. SEO may include things like generating backlinks, directory listing, fixing tag errors on the website, buying links and most challenging of all, producing good quality original content.
One of the main drawbacks of SEO is the time lag in ROI. If you started SEO today it might take up to 6 months before you see any positive returns. Also most companies find it challenging to measure the ROI from SEO. This is because you might end up spending £2000 every month on it and wouldn’t know how much of it has actually brought what amount of traffic on your website.

Pay per Click
It may not be possible for all companies to get to the top of the organic search listings. Companies who are looking for a quicker option and want some degree of control over ROI might find paid search interesting. You bid for positions on certain variations of search phrases and pay each time somebody clicks on it. However simple it may sound paid search can be very tricky to get ROI from. Working with a good paid search agency or hiring an expert can help you exercise better control over your ROI.

Some companies like Groupon have built their entire marketing strategy around email marketing. Email marketing earns you free traffic however does come with certain challenges of its own. The biggest challenge in email marketing is creating an effecting emailing list. This can be tricky depending on how your website is structured and how your customers perceive you. Building a comprehensive email marketing list can take months and conversion rate is usually lower than other marketing channels. There are email marketing applications such as http://mailchimp.com/ that can help you collect and send emails. However it is also important to understand how your purchase funnel works and how your email marketing can contribute to it.
Affiliate: This is also known as referrals and refers to paying other websites to bring traffic or conversion to your website. Again, building a comprehensive affiliate network takes time. There are websites like http://www.paidonresults.com/ that can help you grow your affiliate network.

Many companies now days seem concerned with their social media marketing. To get best out of this channel it is important to understand how it works and how it should be used. It is important to remember that social media is a place to ‘tell’ and not ‘sell’. Therefore if your social media campaign does not drive direct sales you need not panic as this is not what it is usually expected to do. Social media is a place to tell your story to your prospects. Social media marketing is a highly creative field and can very tricky for businesses.

Of the above channels discussed SEO and PPC form the majority of most acquisitions. Direct acquisition is usually a consequence of good brand presence. Generally speaking, email, affiliate and social marketing only resort to a small percent of online sales. Creating a sustainable acquisition strategy depends on building a strong understanding of how various marketing channels work together to push a customer down the purchase funnel. It is perfectly possible for companies to build their entire marketing on some of the lesser known channels however such occurrences are rare.


Rick Tobin
Managing Director

Over 20 years dedicated PPC experience working with some of the world's biggest brands.

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