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Proven Tactics for Tough Times

The newest insights into online marketing that deliver customers

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

With dollars so precious in this economy, owners need to invest in the best tactics in order to produce sales. Several recent studies confirm that savings and safety--generally obtained by exploring many avenues before making the "right" purchase--factor into most buying decisions. And these studies point to several online tactics that are rated highly by consumers and can lead to online and offline sales.

and product or service research are significant contributing factors to sales offline as well as online. So it's not surprising that select tactics play extremely successful roles in influencing purchase decisions.

Online Opinions Sway Consumers
When JupiterResearch conducted a survey of more than 800 consumers nationwide on behalf of Bazaarvoice and richrelevance , it discovered that more than 60 percent of those who are reluctant to make certain purchases today said they could be positively influenced by online shopping resources. Bottom line: Consumers find significant value in that conveys the opinions and behaviors of other shoppers because, as they cut back on spending, they're looking for more validation for their purchases.

Right now, nearly all consumers spend more time shopping around online to reduce their spending. More than four out of 10 shoppers visited three or more sites to research their last purchase. Consumers are relying on user ratings and reviews, recommendations based on what other consumers have purchased, or even on the browsing behavior of others. Consequently, numerous sites now show what other customers have bought or simply "liked."

Your website must grab and hold on to shoppers by providing ratings, reviews and recommendations. Since customers are looking for savings and safe decisions, your website must demonstrate how you'll meet both criteria, no matter whether you send customers to your offline retail store or if they complete their sales online. The great news is that online shoppers have open minds. According to JupiterResearch, before they begin shopping online, very few have made up their minds about the price they're willing to pay, which item or brand to choose, which store they'll use or even when they'll make their purchase.

Relevance and Savings Pay off
Do you know what your best customers want most? It's never been more important to understand your customers' needs and develop relevant messaging. A newly released survey by Lightspeed Research and the Internet Advertising Bureau shows that consumers in every age group are most likely to pay attention to an online ad they consider relevant or useful. And all age groups are increasingly interested in ads that give them money off. They are least likely to pay attention to ads that merely give them new or exclusive information, or are entertaining.

If you've wondered whether paid search advertising and advertising on websites with related content are right for your company, now may be the best time to jump in. Every age group surveyed chose sponsored links and advertising within a page as the top two ad formats that lead them to click through to an advertiser's website. And don't overlook e-mail advertising. E-mail is particularly effective when sent to an in-house opt-in database, and it remains a low-cost, high-return tactic. Customers over the age of 25 are the most likely to have seen and sometimes clicked on an ad from e-mail, according to the IAB study.

In all, a great website with reviews, recommendations and smart pricing coupled with online and e-mail advertising are hard-working tactics you can count on right now to deliver customers in this tough economy.

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