By: Carolyn Clayton

E-tailers are simply retailers who use the internet to sell their goods/services to their customers, rather than actual stores. There are two types of e-tailer, one category whereby e-commerce is the only operation undertaken by the company; examples of such organisations include E-Bay, Amazon, and Dell. The other type includes e-commerce as part of their overall marketing strategy, whilst still having a physical, �bricks and mortar� tore, whereby customers can still go in and purchase the good/service. Examples of this type of e-tailer are Dixons, Tesco and WH Smith.

Those companies who operate purely as ecommerce stores are able to achieve greater profit margins, due to their set up and operational costs being much lower than that of a traditional store. They do not have to pay any rent on a building � whilst they still often have to pay for their Web Hosting, the cost is much less, there are no added rates for such overheads as water, electricity, gas, etc. Labour costs are significantly less, where one person could realistically run a website, package goods and answer enquiries via email; this is unlikely to be the case where a full time store is involved. On top of these price differences, an online store can be viewed/accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from only one location. Shoppers in China, for example, can purchase goods at the touch of a button from a UK based e-tailer, but would struggle to make the 10,000 mile round trip to go to the actual store!

It is becoming essential for retailers to have at least some form of internet based access, whether this is a site whereby goods/services can actually be purchased, or purely informational, so customers can preview products and gather information on the store in general (for example, their nearest retailer or company phone number/contact details) before they visit.

E-tailers must realize that it is not enough to simply have an aesthetically pleasing web site, which is full of product information alongside great photos and detailed product reviews; this is all well and good, but useless without sufficient knowledge of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in order to target the necessary traffic towards the site. Even something as simple as an appropriate domain name can have a big difference on the number of people visiting your site � they should be kept small and concise, preferably without a hyphen, as people tend to forget these and this could lead to them being sent directly to your competitor! Word of mouth advertising is priceless, so by using an address that sounds exactly how it is spelt can work wonders for spreading positive information.

SEO and SEM practices change regularly, and there is no guarantee that any particular methods will work. The best way to ensure a good ranking on the search engines is to employ an �expert� to work full time at increasing the chances of traffic being directed to your website. Whilst many web designers may claim to be adept at SEO, there a relatively few personnel currently in the UK with any real in depth knowledge of the subject, so it is worthwhile spending the extra time/money on making sure your company is well represented within the search engine rankings, and chasing that all important #1 spot.

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