Thursday, January 31, 2008

Targeted stores work

An article I recently read about NetShops caught my eye. In case you don't know them, NetShops is a company that runs over 200 very targeted Internet stores.

Each store is totally focused on a specific niche. Are you looking for a coffee table? There's a store just for that. Don't know where to put your bottles of wine? There's a store that is dedicated to wine racks. Tired and need a break? Head to the hammocks store.

Their strategy has proven very successful, and they keep adding new, niche-oriented stores to their portfolio.

When I first started blogging, the reason for it was mostly that I wanted to point out something that I see over and over on my job: Internet retailers that focus on a niche - if they know their stuff - will be successful. If they are not focused, or forget to stay on track, they have a much harder time.

There are many reasons why this is the case. If you have a few minutes, go back to The niche is the trick (first part) and The niche is the trick (second part) for more on the subject.

The story is not going to change in 2008. If anything, social networking (the idea of people coming together on the Net based on something they have in common) will make this even more true. Stay focused on what you know best. Become more and more the "go to" Web site in your niche (or at least one of them). It will pay off.

Some ideas:

- First and foremost: write good copy for your Web site, keep it current and make sure it is effectively indexed. Your home page should contain some of it, and change regularly to link to the new articles you have written. Those articles should link to products and categories in your store. Basic, extremely effective search engine optimization, without doing anything special.

- Create a community around your store by allowing visitors to write product reviews, post on a forum, and maybe even collaborate on a wiki. These are all things that have become quite easy and inexpensive to implement.

- If you haven't already done so, start a blog on the subject, then link to it from your main Web site.

- Consider attending industry trade-shows. Start small, see if the ROI is there. Given the cost of Internet marketing these days, spending a few thousand dollars on target offline marketing might turn out being money well spent.

And if your Web store ends up being one of the leaders in your niche, NetShops might even write you a check :-)