Multi-Store Internet Retailing
Multi-store Internet Retailing is something I’ve done for years and is achieved by building multiple niche sites. There are many advantages to building and maintaining multiple stores. In this post I will explain the advantages I have realized as well as techniques that helped make my sites successful.Advantages
Multi-store Internet Retailing and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is all about the keywords (or key phrases). For example, let’s say you sell all brands and types of shoes and have a domain great name with the keyword shoes in it. Typically you will have links to your site with the keyword shoes, and keyword dense pages as well. This is all good and I wouldn’t recommend changing this. You’ve got the keyword shoes locked down, you’ve got good ranking and get a lot of traffic and sales.What Bulk Sender about brand names though? If you build pages with keyword dense content, URL’s, etc for Brand A, Brand B, Brand C, etc… shoes you will probably increase your ranking for keyword searches but at the same time you may be diluting the focus of your site. Instead, you could build an entire site just focusing on Brand A shoes, all your pages and links would be based on Brand A shoes. From my experience, it’s a better way to get ranking for a particular key phrase.UsabilityFrom a usability standpoint multiple stores/sites are great because they are focused in on what the customer is looking for. If they came to your site because they were searching for Brand A shoes, they won’t be confused when navigating your site and search results because everything will be focused in on the one specific brand.
Because you have multiple niche sites you have a lot more banner space available. Let’s take the example of the all encompassing shoe site and banners. If Brand A comes out with something new it would be great to promote this new product with a banner on your site. The problem with the all encompassing site is that many brands are coming out with new products at the same time and each of them is only a small percentage of your customers. The niche brand site allows you to provide advertising centric to your customers. This aspect of advertising is even more beneficial for your newsletter and is appropriate for all of you’re sites advertising.
Because of your keyword dense site and links you’re SERPS (Search Engine Results Page) should rank high for the site specific keywords because everything you are exposing to search engines has a very narrow focus. Granted you still need quality content and links but assuming you are not trying to spam the search engines you should be fine.Having multiple websites allow you to test different things on different websites to determine the best return while minimizing negative impact. For instance, let’s say you read an article about the benefits of pop-up ads on your website but you’re leery that it may end up turning away most of your customers. Since you have multiple websites you can take one of your less popular websites and evaluate the return you get from the pop-up ads and at the same time minimize the negative impact you will receive by customers leaving your website because you are annoying them.Another interesting concept is the ability to assign different prices for the same product on a different website. This would allow you to determine the all too hard to find price point that maximizes the markup without being too high to reduce the number of sales you make. This is probably better used as a short term test as customers may not be happy that you charge a higher price on one of your websites while still being the same company. Including services, shipping, etc, can help differentiate the product enough to justify the higher price.Deciding how to break up your products into different stores should be based on your products and key phrase research. In the examples above I based stores on they’re brand and I’ve had personal success in doing that.
I’ve also had success building stores based on product types. For the shoes example you could build sites with key phrases focus on types such as sneakers, dress shoes, high heel shoes, sandals, etc… Additionally you may want to explore different sites based on your customers, age, ethnic, geographic location, gender. For instance you could make two sandal sites, one for males and one for females or one for customers under 30 and one for customers over 30.I have my products linked to categories and manufactures in the same database. By adding a site table and some menu tables I can construct links to products that I want to display on particular sites based on the domain name. Since my domain name is always unique and since it’s trivial to read the domain name during page loads it makes the website code and database design straight forward. All of this means that I can create and maintain a “framework” that all the sites use. Instead of having to build and maintain a separate code base for each site, all the sites use the same code base but what is rendered in the pages is based on the domain name in the address line. This saves an enormous amount of time and money.
What prevents all my sites from looking the same you might ask. Obviously you will want to have a unique site banner (usually on the top of the page). In addition to the site banner is the cleaver use of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). Used correctly you can make two sites look completely different without changing any of the back end website coding. On a side note, changing CSS is a quick way to give your site a face lift. So how do you dynamically assign CSS to multiple sites within the same code base? With ASP.NET you can assign each page a “theme”. You can do this dynamically by using the following code: