By 2017, e-commerce is going to pass the milestone of $400 billion in sales in the United States only. The industry is rapidly growing worldwide, so everyone can participate in the competition. E-commerce seems like such a simple money source at first glance, but actually it is much more complicated. There are tons of important nuances which separate online merchant from success. In this ecommerce startup guide, we offer a complete compilation of key advices, which will help you enter the new business level with your online store. The article include tips for both B2C and B2B businesses. There is also a checklist, which shows the readiness of ecommerce website. Last but not least are success stories related to different platforms. Let’s start the journey.
4 Important Strategies for Every E-commerce Beginner
Unfortunately, there is no any guaranteed formula of success, but there are 4 important strategies for every e-commerce merchant. Due to growing competition and consumer sophistication, these strategies are gaining more and more importance. They are no longer a competitive edge – they have turned into fundamentals of every ecommerce store. Nowadays, you can’t immagine successful online businesses without these four aspects. You are going to run an ecommerce store, right? Start with the following strategies:
Take the maximum from the mobile era
Mobile devices are everywhere. They have become a native part of our daily lives. Constant internet connection, powerful hardware and almighty software turned e-commerce buyers into m-customers. We don’t even speak about the necessity of mobile websites and applications – their availability in the arsenal of ordinary e-commerce merchant is obvious and inevitable (check our post about Mobilegeddon to understand why we think so). Our idea is following:
You should provide your mobile customers with the unique user experience. Being mobile is not a competitive edge anymore, so you have to create an advantage from the available technologies. Think about extra motivation. It doesn’t matter whether it is implemented through usefulness or entertainment value.
You can gamify your mobile app or website by adding different game elements into user experience, or provide your customers with a builder. For example, you are selling clothes. Create a builder, where your users will be able to see, how different clothing items match each other.
If you work with glasses, you can offer another interesting experience. Create a tool that gives an opportunity to upload photos and attach different glasses to the pictures. Provide your customers with the ability to share such photos via social networks and you will get a significant jump in traffic. It’s all about growth hacking. Want to know more about this marketing technique? Check our growth hacking guide.
Minimize the human factor
Let systems run the business for you. Minimize the human factor and you will have more chances to become successful e-commerce merchant. This strategy does not eliminate employees from your business, but you provide them with another more modern role: people run systems, which run your online store. With the help of different platforms and extensions you will be able to optimize the work of your e-commerce website. Most of this platforms are highly scalable, so they can grow with your business.
Improved Tax Management extensions, PIM (Product Information Management) systems, DPO (Dynamic Pricing Optimization) services, SAP, ERP, CRM, Project Management and dozens of other tools are available for everyone. You have a wide variety of different solutions with all possible features, so we recommend you not to hurry up – it is extremely important to make a right choice.
Offer your visitors exactly what they are looking for
Despite this strategy is obvious, it is still often overlooked. E-commerce entrepreneurs just run their stores without any thoughts about what their visitors are looking for. Such behaviour is possible only in the environment of low competition: online shop works and remains profitable, but it is far from its maximum effectiveness.
First of all you should think about your content: put it on steroids. Find the content that performs well and make it better. You can add more relevant examples, images, and videos; create infographics and tutorials. You can do this even before your e-commerce website is launched.
Then you should think about sharing. If your content is really helpful and interesting, your visitors will share it in all possible social networks. You can also rely on growth hacking. For example, you have a list of advices on how to choose the right goods. After each advice you can place a CTA with “Tweet This Advice”, “Share on Facebook”, “Tell Friends”, or other similar text. This will help you gain new visitors and as a result buyers from social networks. Of course, this is not the only possible way of interaction with social media, but we have a complete guide here.
The third important aspect is collaboration. Strategic partnership with companies that already exist is important for you, your customers, and finally for these companies. Note, you should collaborate with other businesses that complement your product offering.Your buyers will get wider range of goods, you will get more loyal customers, and your partners will get a new sales channel (especially if they don’t sell online).
Last but not least is building relationships with influencers. They can do a lot for your e-commerce success from an accurate advice to promoting your brand in a crowded blogs or on a social networks. You can offer influencers an endorsement (if it is possible of course).
Keep in mind, that self-centered attitude towards your business provides a destructive influence on a startup. It is the surest way to be ignored by everyone. So we strongly recommend you to be promoted by someone your customers trust.
Don’t ignore brick-and-mortar experience
Don’t let the success of e-commerce giants fool you. Small merchants often need the traditional brick-and-mortar experience. Due to such services as Foursquare, brick-and-mortar stores are important for mobile customers passing nearby.
They also serve as an offline ad of your e-commerce business. Chances are, that your potential customers don’t know about your e-commerce website, but you can always inform them with the help of brick-and-mortar experience.
Showrooms illustrate another use for more traditional experience.Chances are, your customers want to see your goods before purchasing them in the Internet. With the help of brick-and-mortar store, you will offer such experience.
Despite sales are rapidly going online, we have no reasons to speak about the end of brick-and-mortar era. Thus, we recommend you to explore the market to get the clear understanding of how important is more traditional sales channel.
The Comprehensive List of Important Advices
Let’ go on. Below we prepared a list of small but extremely important for every online store aspects. Note, that successful ecommerce business is almost impossible without compliance with the following requirements.
The almighty brand identity
Don’t get lost among hundreds of faceless ecommerce stores! You only have to take care of your brand identity. The design of your website should promote recognition and trust. It should immediately tell your visitors where they are, who you are, and what you can offer. With the right brand identity you visitors will know they’ve come to the right place, so it won’t be difficult to turn them into buyers.
The endless opportunities of customer experience
Proper customer experience is another component of e-commerce success. The goal of your website is to engage customers or, in other words, drive them to conversion. Everyone understands this truth, but we still see lots of websites providing terrible user experience. Thus, it is especially important to make all elements of your ecommerce website user-oriented. For example:
use the best ecommerce software;
provide your customers with intuitive navigation;
take care of multiple, high-quality images;
create a section for reviews;
always place search bar in the same place;
use suggestive search;
provide your customers with a smart online shopping cart;
make the checkout process seamless
assure simple and secure payments with streamlined payment system;
post expert recommendations and other useful content;
avoid too complicated things with unnecessary features.
And don’t forget to make your store fast. If Magento – the best ecommerce platform – is your choice, check our performance guide related to it.
Customer service as your key priority
Remember! You should always be with your customers. The lack of face-to-face interactions in e-commerce should be compensated with a top-notch customer service. Take care of several contact channels (email, chat, social media), always respond to inquiries, and you will keep your internet customers satisfied. This will also help your brand gain more value.
Vital marketing support
Brand identity, ecommerce website design (check our post about key ecommerce design trends), customer experience and support are very important, but your website can still be worthless without relevant marketing data. Appropriate information shows how successful is your store. It is also vital for all possible campaigns and website improvements. All your actions should be based on stats. It is unacceptable to change something within your website or business just because someone did this before. You should consider all pros and cons and predict the impact of performed actions. That’s why ecommerce marketing plays such a vital role in a successful online business.
Inevitable Search Engine Optimization
Everybody wants to see his or her website among top search results. That’s why you should think about SEO on early stages of your ecommerce business. Optimize both your website and content to take leading positions in your niche.
E-commerce success and regular customers
You have the first buyer. You might think that it is your ecommerce success, but we have to disappoint you. Now you it;s time to turn this buyer into a regular customer. But why are regular customers so important? Due to several reasons.
First of all, they constantly visit your shop and purchase something there. The second reason of their importance is word of mouth. Regular customers love your ecommerce website and tell their friends about it. Thus, you get new visitors, which can become regular buyers. Got it?
You can turn your visitors into regular customers with the help of high quality goods, low prices, top-notch user experience, right email or social media campaign. There are dozens of effective methods, so you should choose the right one or combine several techniques depending on your unique conditions.
Your сompetitors as a driving force of your success
Competition always was a driving force for all possible market players. As you might guess, ecommerce is not the exception. Thus, you should pay your attention to other ecommerce merchants from your niche. Utilize their experience to make your business successful – it is absolutely legal. You can even implement dynamic pricing optimization – a strategy when prices on your store are changed every time your competitors change them on their websites. Check our post about DPO and you will find out how to implement this strategy on your store.
Other selling channels
We’ve already mentioned a self-centered attitude and its destructive influence on ecommerce startups, but it is important to return to this problem again. Note, that having several channels is always a plus. Therefore, you should utilize the power of eBay and Amazon. It doesn’t matter where your sales come from. On your way to success, you should gain maximum from available resources.
Some of your potential customers live in constant fear that their credit card information will be stolen, your store is not real, you are selling customers data, your goods are fake, orders from your store will be lost, or you will not accept them back if something goes wrong. In order to become a successful ecommerce entrepreneur, you should reassure your customers. Prove that your store is the safest place in the Internet and you will gain sales.
Short B2B E-Commerce Success Guide
There are a lot of B2B companies among top ecommerce sites. They provide unique user experience, and require a little bit different approach to business management. If you are going to work with other companies, or add a B2B component to your online retail business, then the below guide is for you.
Attract business customers to your website. SEO and PPC advertising are important components of success, but you should pay your attention to user experience first, due to specific requirements of B2B relations.
Convert leads with the help of right email campaigns. Note, that your emails should be specific enough to your target audience, and you should send them at the right intervals.
Provide top-notch sales services. Inform your partners about all possible conditions of shipping and delivery. Explain all the details on product ordering pages, provide information on reliability metric showing your previous experience, offer customers the ability to track their orders.
Gain customer loyalty and build return sales. You can achieve this by providing proper user experience. Check our articles about B2B e-commerce and B2B platforms to find out nuances specific for this niche.
Note, that B2B e-commerce has lots of nuances. You can still rely on B2C experience, but you should adapt it to the needs of business-to-business sphere.
The Final E-Commerce Website Checklist
You can easily find out what is missing on your site with the help of the following checklist:
We also recommend you to check the below infographic:
Infographic by Ecommerce-Platforms.com
E-Commerce Success Stories
Despite every ecommerce platform has different pros and cons, all of them are suitable for successful business. The following links will lead you to the outstanding ecommerce examples from the history of most influential platforms. Magento, Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, and Prestashop prove, that successful ecommerce is a widespread phenomenon.