It’s no secret that the internet has forever changed the way customers make purchasing decisions. Research shows that a staggering 70 percent of consumers buying computers and cameras use websites to research and make their final purchasing decisions. As a result, the influential power of advertising and other traditional forms of marketing are being challenged while real-time information from websites is gaining momentum as a major consumer influencer. Businesses that succeed will have to in some way generate information at the precise moment the consumer interest is at its peak.
Microsites (small, focused websites) are excellent sources of in-depth, targeted information about a product, brand, or service. In addition to its main website, Pentax Imaging Company currently hosts three Microsites — h20camera.com, pentaxslr.com, and pentaxsportoptics.com — where prospective customers may do in-depth research before they buy a Pentax product. These targeted Microsites eliminate the need for consumers to fumble around clicking through a much larger general website. If you think of a main website as a giant department store, Microsites are more accessible individual departments where visitors may gather information all at once about a particular product line. Microsites address the question, “why spend time wandering around Saks Fifth Avenue, when all you want to do is get right to the Lancôme counter?”
Building a Microsite, however, doesn’t always promise traffic will come. We invest in search engine techniques to effectively drive highly-involved, relevant, and qualified leads into its websites. These search strategies help to effectively target consumers during specific stages of the decision-making process including information seeking, browsing, shopping, and buying. Specific strategy and terms are relevant for each consumer stage. Such tactics help bring in more than 1 of every 5 of the visitors that arrive at Pentax sites and, in the past six months, have helped double traffic.
What happens each time a swarm of visitors arrive? The clean, streamlined design of Microsites guide and inform shoppers about features, benefits, and pricing of particular products and may send them directly on to their dealer-of-choice by using dealer referral links. By working with retailers who have a website, Pentax can place a dealer logo directly on the “Buy” page and deliver “qualified” and “interested” customers directly to the dealer’s online storefront. About 10 percent of the visitors that arrive at Pentax Microsites click-through to visit a dealer site.
The next question is, what happens to a potential customer once they leave a manufacturer’s Microsite and head for a dealer? Currently, the majority of web-based referral links are one-way. Manufacturers deliver leads, but may lose touch with prospective customers once they click-through to a dealer’s product page.
Meanwhile, many online retailers have become very aggressive about tracking shoppers who do land on their websites. In a recent Business Week magazine story on “Retailing The High-Tech Way,” one retail giant is recognized for using special software on its website to watch what customers search for so it may determine what products will be added from the shelves and made available for purchase online. Meanwhile, another popular internet dealer is recognized for pioneering the concept of suggesting complementary items to shoppers as they search. In essence, the websites ask, “we see you are interested in this, so would you be interested in that?”
The next logical step to maximizing sales through web leads is to use such tools to track the consumer’s behavior once he or she lands on the retailer site. More sophisticated tools are becoming available to better understand consumer behavior when making purchase decisions via the web. Further, web tools are now even sophisticated enough to customize the experience a consumer will have as he or she clicks-through from a manufacturer’s Microsite to the dealer’s online store.
Another step that enables the photo industry manufacturer or dealer to maximize the conversion of web referrals into orders is web-driven co-marketing and the understanding that a web-delivered lead is no different than a customer walking into your store.