The issue of whether online marketing is an art or science has been hotly debated by proponents of either view.
My own belief is that there are elements of both science, and art, in the marketing of goods and services online.
The true e-commerce guru has a natural and instinctual grasp of the principles which decide success or failure, and executes those principles in a truly exquisite form -almost in an artistic fashion.
The rest of us - those not born with an instinct for marketing - are reduced to laboriously studying and implementing those same principles - often through trial and error.
Being in the latter group, I have attempted to discover which factors come into play when determining the likelihood of making a sale online.
Based on the factors which I have observed, I've devised a formula which I believe can be used to accurately predict the probability of making an online sale.
For sheer vanity sake, I have named my formula "Dozier's Law of Ecommerce Probability".
The formula is written like so: P = ( D + U + DV + CF ) / 100 In plain English the law can be verbalized as so: There are four factors which determine the likelihood of a purchase being made online.
These factors are the buyers desire [D] for the product, the buyers urgency [U] in procuring the product, The Perceived Value of the deal [DV] as presented, and the amount of confidence [CF] the buyer has in the ability of the seller to satisfy his desire.
If one assigns a value from 0 to 25 to each of these factors, adds the values of all four factors and divides the sum by 100 - one may accurately predict the probability of a purchase occurring.
Let's look at an example: Joe Blow is in need of a widget.
He absolutely needs the widget for a school project which is due in six weeks.
Joe goes to a website which sells widgets, and finds a widget for $39.
Joe seems to recall seeing a similar widget for sale somewhere else for $29.
95 - but isn't sure where.
The website seems fairly well designed, but he's not familiar with the company.
Let's add up the numbers.
Because Joe absolutely must buy a widget, we'll assign a score of 25 to value D.
However - although he must buy a widget, Joe has a little time available to shop around, so we'll assign a value of 5 to value U.
The price seems a little high to Joe.
Not out of line, but he thinks he might do better, so we'll assign a value of 10 to value DV.
The website looks like it was professionally designed, but Joe isn't familiar with this particular widget vendor, so we'll assign a value of 8 to value CF.
Our formula now looks like so: P = ( 25 + 5 + 10 + 8) / 100 This calculates to 0.
48 - or a 48% probability that Joe will purchase the widget.
By raising any of the factor values, we would raise the likelihood of a purchase.
If Joe only had two weeks to purchase, the website inspired a little more confidence, and the deal was just slightly better, the probability of a purchase would be substantially increased.
The trick for the e-commerce merchant is to raise the value of each of these factors to a level where Joe reaches the tipping point and pulls out his credit card.
You might be tempted to believe that only two of these factors - deal value and confidence - may be influenced by the merchant.
This is not correct.
All four factors may be influenced, to some degree, by successful marketing.
Desire may be enhanced by skillfully displaying and describing the product and the benefits which the purchaser will derive from this particular widget.
This particular widget might improve Joe's life in ways which he never dreamed possible.
As an ecommerce merchant, it's my responsibility to point this out to Joe.
Urgency may be introduced by making a limited time offer.
Perceived Deal Value may be increased by pricing, special offers, better selling, etc.
This brings us to the Confidence Factor.
Internet buyers are a skittish lot, and must be constantly reassured.
This may be accomplished through several different techniques.
Most importantly - you must have a professionally designed website.
Your buyer has very little to judge you by, and how professional your site looks tells a visitor oodles about the company behind the site.
Unless you are a well known company, a prospective buyer doesn't know if you are a legitimate business, a 14 year old doing business after school and before bedtime, or an identity thief out to steal their credit card.
A well designed website goes a long ways toward alleviating fears.
Along the same lines - please don't think that good graphics, alone, will do the trick.
How's your spelling? It's impossible to tell how many sales have been lost because a misspelled word spooked the buyer.
Use a spell checker and get someone to proofread your site.
Testimonials can inspire confidence, as can product reviews.
Another interesting area is the color scheme of your site.
An entire field of psychology is devoted to studying the effect of various colors on the human psyche.
Some colors tend to make people anxious, and some colors inspire trust.
Finally, let people know that there is a real person or a real company behind the website.
If you are a one man (or woman) show, you can use frequent articles or a blog to assure the prospect that not only are the lights on - but somebody is actually home.
Every factor in the probability formula may be- and should be - influenced by you to some degree.