Your customers expect convenience and accessibility. Would you agree?
Technology has accelerated the buying cycle, opening avenues to instant gratification and on-the-spot purchasing. With many potential customers preferring to avoid traditional brick and mortar shopping entirely, opening an eCommerce shop is now not only a bonus for your business, it may actually be a necessity.
Expanding your brand to include eCommerce options allows your business to engage your audience across social media in real time, personalizing their buyer experience and setting up shop just a few clicks away from wherever they are whenever the impulse to shop strikes.
That being said, eCommerce shops do not operate with an easy button. They are ongoing, ever-evolving animals that require constant attention, dynamic marketing and creative design. Follow these tips and develop an eCommerce store that will effectively market your business and improve your bottom line today, tomorrow and for the long haul.
Do Your Homework! Know Your Customer and Know Your Brand
Many business owners race to pop up an eCommerce shop as they race to counter the panic of lost sales. Almost immediately, frustration looms its ugly head when that shop goes unnoticed and falls flat on its face. Why is that? As with any business strategy, rushing to the finish line often creates an insurmountable chasm between you and your customer. Don’t rush the process! Take the time to do your homework.
1. Validate Your Products.
The one question that every business owner must ask themselves on a daily basis is this - Does the online marketplace need my product? This conversation must be raw and brutally honest. A business owner who struggles to define their unique selling point is a business owner who won’t be in business very long. Customer needs and buying habits change over time. Always stay abreast of the dialogue they are carrying on social media and beyond. Never make an assumption that you know what they need.
2. Define Your Customer.
Secondary to product validation comes the crucial, intimate understanding of who your customer is. Defining every aspect of their personality, habits and demographics is imperative to crafting effective marketing campaigns and continuing to convert on your product offerings. What social media platforms do they frequent? On which device? What time of day? What season of life are they in? How do they engage - casually or directly? What is their language?
3. Develop Your Brand.
eCommerce shops forego the traditional handshake that often marks good, reliable business for prospective customers. Personalizing your brand, giving it a face they can trust and rely upon, is a powerful way to allow your online shop to capture buyer loyalty in the absence of your in-person sales pitch. Take the time to clearly craft the face of your business, noting the unique characteristics and voice that set you apart from your competition. Make sure every employee, content writer and marketing advisor has this brand definition in hand, ensuring consistency across all aspects of your business.
Be in the Right Place at the Right Time
Once you have validated a specific need in your marketplace that you are uniquely able to meet, understand the language of your customers and have developed a concise brand voice that will creatively open that dialogue, it’s time to set up shop.
A small note before you officially jump in. Make sure to appropriately cushion your finances wherever possible as you get started. If you’re forced to rely on immediate sales to finance your eCommerce efforts, you’ll quickly lose focus on your customers and instead stay entrenched in your financial panic.
4. Launch Your Shop on Multiple Platforms.
Being in the right place at the right time means establishing a presence on all of the platforms that your customers frequent. If you’ve done your homework, you probably already know exactly where this is! A well-developed brand will also make cross-pollinating a breeze. No need to reinvent the wheel. What are your eCommerce listing “must-haves”?
- SEO Optimized, Keyword Rich Listings - My customers must be able to find me.
- High Quality, Professional Grade Images - My customers must like what they see.
- Well-Defined Product Descriptions - My customers must understand what they are purchasing.
When you launch your eCommerce site, consider how you can drive targeted traffic to your shop. Perhaps you may want to host a giveaway or raffle to create buzz and excitement. Explore bloggers that engage your audience and consider approaching them with product donations for review and share opportunities. Have a content marketing strategy in place that utilizes the power of original content to attract your audience.
Maximize Available Resources and Tools
Because your eCommerce store operates around the clock, it’s important to put systems and tools in place that allow your business to keep running even when you’re not. Good business means acknowledging you can’t do it all and implementing strategies and support that allow you to be in the parts of your business that require your personal attention, while those other areas thrive in the hands of those tools and team that are better equipped to produce results, both within traditional business hours and beyond.
5. Implement an Automated Email Marketing Campaign.
Do you have an email system in place that follows up with shop visitors who left behind abandoned carts? Do you periodically reach out to shop visitors to remind them about their wishlists or new items that coincide with their previous interests?
Make sure your call to action buttons and subscriber options are plentiful and visible in your eCommerce shop so that you can capture interested customers and continue to market to them even after they leave your site. Develop a compelling newsletter that keeps your audience in-the-know about your business, your products and your commitment to meeting their needs and exceeding their expectations for quality products housed in a convenient, personalized buyer experience.
Consider hiring content writers to develop top notch copy for your email drip campaigns, monthly newsletters and other outward-facing content to ensure your brand is always putting its best foot forward.
6. Capitalize on Free Marketing Opportunities.
Social media is one of the best ways to build an authority across a diverse range of communities, platforms and audiences. While investing in social media automation is crucial for those “off business” hours, commit time and energy to generating discussion that establishes your expertise and authority in your marketplace. Open a dialogue with your customers, be accessible and openly welcome their insight, opinions and even those tricky controversial or tougher topics. Develop your voice, but more importantly, develop their trust in your genuine interest in meeting their needs.
Engage like-minded industry peers or influencers for guest blogging opportunities and interviews. Spread the knowledge about your new eCommerce shop by partnering with media outlets, bloggers and other sources to cast your net to a wider audience that trusts those outlets to deliver quality information they can act upon. Develop a team of virtual cheerleaders that help spread the news about your eCommerce site and why they need to visit.
Stay in the Game! Don’t Limit Your Marketplace Opportunities
There are numerous eCommerce shop details that can dynamically improve your sales conversions, or in the absence of which, prompt your customers to click away and have you missing out on opportunities to grow and thrive. Be sure to carefully consider every aspect of your user’s experience to properly account for every way in which you can improve your shop’s chances for success.
7. Consider Diversifying Your Language Options.
It’s very easy for new eCommerce store owners to overlook the possibility that their business might go global. When you’re used to hosting your business in your backyard (natural market), considering customers far outside of that circle of influence can be hard to visualize. Don’t sell yourself short! eCommerce can open doors to new opportunities that would have been otherwise out of reach. Consider whether including alternate foreign language options may be a wise investment for your business.
8. Keep Your Technology Top Notch.
If there’s any potential kiss of death in the eCommerce world, it’s poor technology. Your customers have an expectation that you’ll deliver the very best every time they click to your website. Make sure your site is optimized for mobile. Always have the latest and greatest in safe and secure purchasing portals. Consider embedding a chat feature that gives your customers instant access to helpful representatives that can walk them through any questions or concerns. When your customers feel safe and informed and can easily navigate through your site while they shop, they are infinitely more likely to click “Add to Cart.”
See Your Business Through the Eyes of Your Customer
This drives back to the honest critique that your business began with. We must consistently disengage our strategies from our personal thoughts and belief systems and categorically define the experiences of our customers so that we can identify problem areas that need improvement or new opportunities that can facilitate growth. eCommerce is no stranger to the “customer is always right.” Perhaps even more so than in person sales, if you do not cater to their needs and requests, an online customer will simply click away without a second thought.
9. Establish an Open Dialogue with Your Customers.
How do you chat with your customers? Apart from social media conversations, how do you capture their honest opinions, interests and needs? Do you ask past customers for reviews and transparently showcase all user ratings for everyone to see? Consider developing a loyalty program that incentivizes purchases and social media sharing. Get your customers intimately involved by encouraging user generated content. Don’t hide your contact information. Give them a voice and a direct line to you!
10. Mind Your P’s and Q’s in the Shopping Experience.
Certain courtesies go a long way with online buyers. Constantly evaluate your user experience by shopping on your own site. Gauge how effective your search function is, how many clicks are required to drill down to items of interest. Personalize your buyer’s experience, giving them options to receive individualized notifications for “out of stock” items they love. Avoid high shipping fees and promise top notch delivery while allowing them to buy without having to go through a formal registration process. Consider all of the tiny annoyances that prompt you to walk away and carefully remove each obstacle, replacing it with thoughtful courtesies and easy processes that acknowledge your interest and attentive desire to serve them with excellence.
Emulate the Agile and Flexible Business Owner
Long-term eCommerce success is dependant upon business owners who are constantly willing to evaluate and evolve. Technology moves at the speed of life these days. Those shop owners who fail to stay informed will miss the critical adjustments their customers are demanding in the virtual marketplace.
11. Report and Research. Know Your Business.
Similar to how you’ll constantly test your user experience in your eCommerce shop, you need to regularly research and report on your site’s activity. Become intimately aware of your data, always seeking to optimize your sales funnel. Implement analytics and other research metrics that will allow you to track and measure your growth (and your shortcomings), providing crucial opportunities to improve and optimize your eCommerce presentation, marketing strategies and ultimately, your bottom line. Your eCommerce site is not a “set it and forget it” professional move. It requires your constant attention and thorough investigation of what’s working well and what needs to change.
12. Stay Informed.
Following and anticipating trends in your marketplace can be the keystone to hopping out in front of the competition and capturing new business (and keeping loyal customers). Make time to stay up to date on all things eCommerce by following those influencers that regularly report on the insights and updates that can impact your business. Not sure who to follow? Take a look at any of the following and add them to your “must follow” list.
- Richard Lazazzera from Shopify
- Ryan BeMiller from Shopping Signals
- Austin Brawner from ECommerce Influence
- Ian Cleary from Razor Social
- Rand Fishkin from Moz
- Kim Garst from Boom Social
- Kevan Lee from Buffer
Be the Tortoise, Not the Hare
Remember, slow and steady wins the race. The agile business owner is thoughtful, strategic and flexible - not rash, rushed or flighty. Your eCommerce site can serve as a powerful arm for your business, expanding your brand and ultimately, your bottom line. By embracing a service over sales approach, keeping your customer experience in the forefront of your marketing strategies, technological updates and product presentation, you are sure to develop an online buyer experience that welcomes your customers back time and time again.
eCommerce allows you to do what you do best, deliver a product or service directly to your customer on their terms - where they are, when they’re ready. Make sure to deliver on that promise, and pass them the silver platter instead of the to go box, and they’ll always come back for seconds.