How to Run a Successful E-Commerce Business
There are 2 kinds of eCommerce Businesses, successful and not, learn how to run a successful E-Commerce business to avoid failure.
Ecommerce is on the rise, with the number of digital buyers worldwide set to top 2 billion by next year. Whether you’re a one person operation just setting up shop, or a well established business, there’s always room for growth in this sector.
With current global trends, ecommerce is set to thrive in the coming years as consumer confidence in ecommerce platforms increases alongside easier access. Given that ecommerce sales are set to account for more than 15% of total global retail sales in 2020, and will continue to rise, now’s a perfect time to focus on growing your ecommerce business.
Regardless of where your business is in its growth, there are certain best practices you should consider for ensuring its success. If you’re just setting out the tips below are a good blueprint for the initial phase, and if you’ve been in business for a while, they’re a good reflection point.
Over the past decade, businesses have been forced to adapt to major changes due to market trends. They are no longer restricted to brick-and-mortar stores and to focusing on a local customer base; thanks to technology, there is now the opportunity to promote goods and services on a global scale. Many businesses have even made the decision to go 100% online by opening an e-commerce store and offering worldwide shipping.
Entrepreneurs who make this transition can have much more success due to being exposed to a wider marketplace; however, if you are new to the world of e-commerce, it can be difficult to know where to get started.
This post will lay out 10 steps on how to set up and run a successful e-commerce business:
1. Develop your brand
You may not be sure whether your business has a brand or not, but you must pay close attention to your branding when the time comes to start up an e-commerce store. Customers make assumptions about your business based on your brand identity, so it isn’t a factor that should be taken lightly. According to a study in 2017, Americans choose to shop with businesses that are in correlation with their own life purposes and genuinely have the customer’s interests at heart, all of which customers will determine before deciding to make a purchase.
E-commerce websites are regularly stumbled upon by visitors and they automatically have their first impression of your online store based on the brand identity.
Remember, your competitors are no longer just in your town or city – they’re all over the world.
With this in mind, your e-commerce branding needs to stand out from the crowd and have a unique selling proposition that can’t be overlooked.
2. Know Your Target Audience
Perhaps you’re selling active lifestyle products to young active people, or you’re looking to target an older audience, knowing who your customers are, how they think and where to find them online is crucial to the success of your ecommerce business.
Start by considering these questions together with your team. Even if you’ve thought through them before, it’s a crucial exercise to periodically revisit them as customer trends change.
- Who would buy our product?
When you developed your product, or decided to market a specific product, you likely had a certain client in mind. Try to visualize that client- what they look like, what their habits and hobbies are, what their daily routines are, etc.
In this way you will be better able to ‘walk in their shoes,’ giving you insights that you can use when marketing your product.
- What’s stopping them from buying my product?
Perhaps your customers come from an older generation with a healthy skepticism to new products. Alternatively, they may be in a younger age group who values novelty and ‘being the first’ to buy a new product.
Both of these groups have different barriers to buying your product which you’ll need to address- the first needs to be convinced of the reliability of the product, while the other the novelty.
- Where do my clients spend their time online?
There’s certainly generational differences when it comes to online activity. It’s difficult to imagine, for example, a recently retired school teacher actively using some of the social media sites currently popular with teenagers.
These are just some of the questions you should be grappling with from the get go.
That’s why it’s important, once you have an understanding of who your clients are, to try to research where and how they spend their time online. That way you’ll be able to best gain access to them.
3. Streamline Processes
Ecommerce is all about convenience. Quick access to a wide range of products is one of the main reasons your customers choose to shop online rather than head to a store. It’s your task to try to make the online shopping process as streamlined as possible.
Approach the streamlining process from the point of view of the customer:
- When I head to the website is it easy for me to navigate to the products I want, or am I greeted with a labyrinth of pop-ups and unclear links?
- How simple is it for me to check out?
- Is there anything slowing me down in my total shopping experience?
These are a few of the questions you should consider. Ideally, your ecommerce website will present as few steps as possible between finding the right product and paying for it. The longer this process, the more likely customers will give up on their purchase.
This means you need to find the right balance between upselling and secondary marketing opportunities, and convenience.
4. Make the check-out process simple
While your customers may have a keen interest in the products and services you have to offer, it’s important to make the check-out process as streamlined as possible. Being transferred from page to page and being forced to enter lots of personal information can trigger the user to ditch their basket and browse competitor sites in the hope of a much more efficient check-out process.
There are many factors to take into consideration that will help make the check-out process more straightforward:
- Abolish the requirement for a login to a personal account
- Limit the number of click-through pages before payment
- Reduce forms and auto-fill where necessary
- Allow several payment methods
5. Go mobile
Most people are connected to the online world on a 24-hour basis thanks to smartphones, meaning they can shop whenever and wherever they please. In fact, 96% of Americans are cellphone owners and are more inclined to browse the web with their smartphones than on their PCs. With that said, almost all websites should be mobile-friendly to keep up with this demand. There are several reasons why e-commerce stores are becoming mobile-friendly:
- Google has a preference for mobile-friendly websites:
- It gives the impression of your business being contemporary and up to date
- Your website will have the ability to function on any device
- You will reach a wider customer base of those who perform mobile-friendly website searches
6. Develop Your Team
Your ecommerce business is unique in many ways, but just like any other business in one crucial way – it’s success is largely dependent on the quality of your team. Spending time developing your team is essential for your long term growth.
If you’re just starting out, now’s the time to put in place a clear management philosophy and professional development structure.
- What are the skills that your team members will need?
- How will you develop them?
- How will you give feedback on performance?
7. Lean consulting
Due to the competitive nature of the online business world, making sure that in-house practices are in check will ensure that errors are reduced and optimum quality is in place when it comes to product production. Owning an e-commerce site means that you must be prepared for an influx of orders around the clock, so you need to be able to deliver an effective and efficient manufacturing strategy to keep up with the high pressure of the online business world. It would be a good idea to invest in lean consulting to help streamline your company’s operations and help solve issues as and when they arise.
8. Don’t forget SEO
As the e-commerce industry is still set to grow in the coming years, it’s important to be aware of how to set yourself apart from the competition. E-commerce businesses are set to overcrowd an already crammed market, making it much more difficult to secure a customer base.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the most popular marketing trends to push your e-commerce website to the top of search engine results. Google’s algorithm chooses how websites are ranked based on the features and strategies used. There are several techniques that are important to research to help you boost your website’s SEO, including the likes of:
- The use of relevant keywords
- Quality of copy
- Link building
- Structure of the website
- Site speed
If you’re untrained in SEO, it may be best to hire a skilled SEO expert to give you guidance on how to put these techniques into practice and, ultimately, give your e-commerce store the competitive edge that is essential for online success.
9. Drive traffic to your website
Alongside SEO, customers must be able to find their way to your e-commerce website without having to make too much of an effort. However, this doesn’t happen automatically, and you may need to give your customers a nudge to help find your e-commerce store.
First and foremost, push notifications are a useful tool to reach out to potential customers by steering them in the direction of your e-commerce website with offers and discounts. These pop-ups typically appear at the top or bottom of a web browser or in the notifications pull-down on a smartphone when your app has been installed; they act as a direct form of communication between the business and customer in the same format as an SMS message.
Another technique to gain wider customer attention is to collaborate with more established websites to help bring higher levels of traffic to your e-commerce store. Start-up businesses, in particular, would find this extremely useful; however, it is not always easy to secure this opportunity. Creating a partnership just for the sake of it usually isn’t enough to make a deal. You may need to prove how your business fits in with the other business’s aesthetic and why your store link deserves a spot in their content.
10. Get the Right Tools
- E-commerce Tools
There are an ever-growing range of choices when it comes to tools for your ecommerce business management. These tools mainly fall into several broad categories: website management tools, analytics tools, marketing tools and research tools.
Of course, not all tools are created equally, or would make sense for your specific needs. You may not, for example, need a tool in all of the above mentioned categories. Do your research before making any commitments in order to make the right choice.
Ask your team what their views are of your business’ needs. Gaining firsthand input from your team can help you make the most informed choice as to the type of tool you need. Once you’ve collected this input, it’s a matter of researching which tools are the most well regarded in each category.
- Collaboration Tools
An ecommerce business is a team effort and thrives on collaboration. The ability of your team to communicate, share ideas and access information goes a long way to determining your long term success. That’s why it’s important to equip your team with the right tools for their collaboration.
The best collaboration tools will provide your team with a range of features for working together remotely. The right choice here could increase your team’s efficiency and productivity, two crucial elements to the success of your business.
If you’re an already established business, it’s never too late to review your strategies in order to make sure you’re on track for running a successful E-commerce business.
Seek out feedback from your team members to see how they feel on the team, whether they’re engaged, and what their development needs are. This will be time well spent once you see the benefits of an efficient and engaged team.
Ecommerce continues to be a growth industry, so there’s never been a better time to focus on your Ec-ommerce business’ long term success. Try out the tips above, and please share any other tips you have below!