Europe is currently the largest E-commerce market in the world, according to a recent report by the European Multi-channel and Online Trade Association, and grew over 19% in 2011, whilst Britain’s high streets lost on average 14 shops per day across the year. Whilst our economic recovery continues on slowly, we’re experiencing a continued growth in online retail, with British online sales increasing 16.6% in the first quarter of 2012, a remarkable 10th quarter of successive growth for the industry.

This represents a clear shift from brick-and-mortar retail to E-commerce, in large part because of the better deals available when buying online. Other factors contributing to the sector’s growth are aggressive merchandising and discounting from daily deal retailers, more online loyalty programs which reward customers for return visits, and the growing popularity of smart phones and tablets which leads to more time spent online, including for shopping.

This isn’t new information for those who have been engaged in E-commerce for some time. It’s clear that the market is growing rapidly; it’s estimated that online retail will have grown a further 44% by 2016, and as growth continues it’s going to become more and more difficult to stand out from the crowd. Competition over prices, discounts, and offers is tight, but the real challenge is getting the necessary exposure for your site, so that people find you, and are then converted to customers by competitive prices and offers.

So how do you get that exposure you need? Marketing, more specifically, search marketing.

93% of online experiences begin with a search engine – it’s where people go to find what they are looking for, just like a traditional high street. For a brick-and-mortar store one of the key components of your selling point is your location; being right on the main road where people can see the store and passers-by will come in to see what’s for sale. The same applies to online sales; being well positioned in search engines will determine how many passers-by come in to browse your goods, and your location in search engines will drive sales. 60% of all clicks in search engine results go to the top 3 sites, so getting yours up there will yield far greater traffic to your site. Fortunately, repositioning your shop isn’t as complicated online as it is offline, all you need is a strong, well planned ecommerce search engine optimisation campaign.

SEO is not a quick fix, it can be a time consuming effort, but it is cost effective and the results will have long lasting benefits for your business. An average E-commerce site is likely to receive 60% to 80% of its total visits from search engines if optimised correctly, so paying attention to your most valuable traffic source is crucial.

There are, of course, other marketing techniques besides SEO that can help online retail sales, such as email marketing, social media marketing, pay-per-click advertising, and online PR, and whilst many of these methods might be cheaper or easier than SEO, generally speaking the return on investment from SEO activities is far greater, with businesses doubling or tripling their turnover from some well applied strategies.

With more E-commerce sites added to the growing plethora of websites each day, standing out from the crowd is becoming more and more difficult, and even more important. If you’re still unconvinced that organic search optimisation is the best way to market your online retail store, check out the results we’ve achieved for our clients.