Throughout my career in the e-commerce industry, I”;ve often been asked for advice on how to ensure success in this incredibly competitive field.
For me, the foundation on which one builds a successful e-commerce property is to aim for continued growth.
Many people who launch online stores do so with the sole intention of reaching a specific point of revenue where they”;d feel financially comfortable.
This approach isn”;t necessarily a recipe for failure. However, I can comfortably say that if your objective isn”;t to implement strategies that will see a continuous increase in your revenue, the likelihood of success is significantly lower. In the online world of business, if you”;re not trying to move forward then you”;re moving back.
By addressing the four growth-inhibiting obstacles below, you”;ll be in a position where your earnings are likely to be curving upwards continuously. Being able to illustrate consistent growth over a long period is also one of the key factors in driving up the multiple should you wish to sell your business.
1. Don”;t Waste Your Traffic -; Prioritize Conversion
Yes, I”;m going to momentarily gloss over the not-so-small matter of driving traffic to your e-commerce store. Its importance is widely understood and usually regarded as one of the first steps towards generating sales.
However, you need to take certain steps to make the absolute most of all that traffic -; and this is where many sites fall short of the mark when aiming for sustainable growth.
Conversion isn”;t something you should take for granted. Visitors become customers because you actively encourage them to.
Visual Quality is Critical
This seems like a relative no-brainer, but I still marvel at certain online stores”; skillfulness when it comes to presenting their products in high-quality media -; imagery and video.
In the absence of being able to interact physically with the product itself, store owners need to do the next best thing and ensure that every angle of their product is beautifully captured and displayed.
Understand User Behavior
Building data on how visitors interact with your site”;s user interface gives you a terrific platform for identifying areas where your UI falls short in driving a sale.
Apps like HotJar track users”; entire sessions on your site, providing you with invaluable information on where the UI creates conversion roadblocks.
Offer Free Shipping
This is a simple case of keeping up with your competition, as free shipping is fast becoming a standard for most e-commerce sites. If you”;re still going with the additional layer of cost and complexity in your sales process, you”;re creating a massive barrier to conversion.
2. Don”;t Get Bogged Down in Admin -; Automate Wherever You Can
Few online stores have the luxury of employing an army of staff who can personally deal with research, customer interaction, and other administrative tasks necessary to ensure growth.
These days, no matter what task is taking up time that you know you should be spending on activities more valuable to your business”; growth, you”;re likely to find an app that can take the administrative load off.
Ensuring that you have sufficient stock so that you don”;t miss out on sales of popular items can be a very arduous task if done manually. When your target is sustainable growth for your business, spreadsheet-based inventories and manual ordering is not an option.
Enter products like Contalog. This incredibly useful tool offers numerous features related to stock management, including order management and automatic inventory monitoring across all sales channels. It also has a feature for predicting when a spike in sales of a particular item is likely.
If your online store has grown to a point where you”;re using multiple software tools to support your operations, consider a tool like Zapier to simplify how these tools interact with each other.
This revolutionary application allows you to use pre-built workflows called “;zaps.”; Zaps trigger various functions and behaviors among your previously-disparate tools without your manual involvement.
More advanced users can even create e-commerce zaps of their own -; enabling a near-limitless series of automated functions within your suite of independent tools.
3. Protect Your Reputation -; Put Your Customer First
Your e-commerce store should be aiming to generate 25%-30% of its sales from return customers. The overhead involved in luring an existing customer back to your site is significantly lower than attracting a new one.
Additionally, loyal customers are also way more likely to refer new customers to your store if you continuously show that you care about them and their needs.
Have a Multichannel Online Presence
Although vital, it”;s not enough to have your store”;s online presence spread across the usual channels -; web, mobile, social media, and email. You also have to ensure that an integrated communication strategy runs through these.
Different customers have different communication preferences, and offering a consistently excellent experience in all of these platforms is absolutely critical.
For one, pro-actively pushing information towards your potential customers across this spectrum of channels creates enormous credibility. And more importantly, it maximizes your chances of grabbing the attention of a customer who may not engage with a particular channel that you”;ve been neglecting.
No matter how accustomed web-users are becoming with conducting online transactions, human interaction -; even via a digital channel -; is always going to result in a more personalized experience for them.
A customer”;s comfort that they”;re not merely a walking transaction in the eyes of the store owner is backed up by some fascinating statistics, as highlighted here by Superoffice.
One of the most astonishing statistics here is the fact that more than half of customers prefer live chat over a telephone support call.
4. Prevent Plateauing -; Never Stop Improving
As you start automating some of the more time-consuming tasks involved in your business”; operations, you should actively dedicate time to monitoring new developments in e-commerce technology, customer behavior, and best practices.
Build a digital and offline network of specialists and actively participate in conversations where these topics are discussed.
And don”;t stop there. You understand your pain-points. Pro-actively research ways to solve them.
When speaking to a thought-leader in this space, be humble and transparent. Tell them where you”;d like to see improvements in your business”; growth and implement what they suggest.
Attending conferences is also a great way to absorb knowledge from a wide variety of industry leaders and peers. Never underestimate the benefits of getting up from your laptop and making real-world connections with knowledgeable people -; you might be surprised to find how comfortable people are with giving solid advice.
As an additional growth tip, I should also mention that implementing a solid traffic acquisition strategy often forms the foundation for these four tactics to succeed.
Several digital marketing strategies are as successful as the intelligent application of Search Engine Optimization. Having your property rank highly for keywords relating to your products is paramount in showing growth.
If you want to find out more about how to do this, check out this SEO strategy for e-commerce.
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