Think carefully, the thought of a well-oiled online store that prints money while you sleep sounds great, does not it? It is not an impossible task and it requires some upfront analysis and work, but it can be done.
E-commerce business seems to be eating up the retail world right now. On the other hand, the digital world is an exciting place to be, with business owners starting their very own digital brands and competing in the digital marketplace. Most brick and mortar stores have been forced into creating an online presence.
But it is not always easy to hit it big online. You have to know what some of the trade secrets are if you want to make it to the top. There are many common reasons for the e-commerce struggle, and stores in different industries will face different hardships.
For starters, people are not judging your business initiatives or products on their own merits. Customers simply want what they want when they want it. And sometimes, their expectations can be pretty high. Especially for online businesses.
As many as 80% of American shoppers say that shipping price and speed are very or extremely influential in determining where they shop. That is why you should offer fast and free shipping when you can, like apparel brand Shongolulu, which offers free shipping on orders that are $30 or more.
When customers do not have to pay for shipping, they will be more likely to pull the trigger on a purchase that they cannot touch, feel, or try out because there is less risk involved.
Whether you are still in the planning stages of starting an e-commerce store or want to evaluate why sales are slowing, you can use the features below as a checklist.
1. The right product
A lot of market research is required before you decide which products/services to list on your e-commerce store. Selling what your target market wants to buy is always easier than selling what you want the market to buy.
The hottest products are those that already have a hungry audience, with relatively limited competition. When you have the right products on your site, meaning that you have verified that there is a real demand for them.
Keep in mind that your inventory handling can have an impact on your operating costs and your cash flow. There are some costs associated with high inventory and low sales, and low inventory and high sales. You will want to try to strike a happy medium so you’re not wasting money.
2. A strong branding strategy
To set yourself apart in a marketplace dominated by giants like Amazon and eBay, spend some time on your branding. Branding includes basics like your store’s name and logo and extends to your customer service philosophy. Think about what sets you apart from the competition. What do you want your customers to remember you for?
If you are selling on a few different platforms, like your own site, Amazon, eBay, or others, remember that it is vital to keep branding materials consistent across platforms.
3. A fully-optimized website
If your site is already set up, it is time to optimize it for sales. The best e-commerce websites feature easy navigation, readable texts, clear product images, easy to load the cart, simple checkout process, compatibility across multiple devices, and fast loading times.
The key feature here is to approach website optimization as something you are always testing and refining, from the organization of your homepage to your product pages and descriptions to the colors of the call-to-action buttons on your site. The customer’s journey through your site should be as frictionless as possible. Do not make it hard for people to find what they are looking for and make it as easy as possible to make a purchase.
Beyond your site itself, make sure you understand the SEO or search engine optimization basics, so you are setting yourself up to be discoverable in Google search.
4. Easy signup/sign in and the path to payment
On the topic of reducing friction on your site, avoid lengthy registration forms. Get their name, email address, and payment information just the essentials. You will want their email address so you can reach out to them if they abandon their cart before they complete their transaction.
One way to make it super easy for customers to complete the purchase is to integrate sign-in options like Facebook or Google. Also, look at your payment options. Do you offer PayPal? What about Venmo? Can your customers securely save their credit card information on your site so they do not have to physically pull out their credit card and type in their number for every transaction? Do everything you can to lower barriers between intent to buy and a completed purchase.
5. A referral or affiliate program
As long as there is some profit attached to the product or service you are selling on your website, sharing these profits with affiliates in exchange for more sales is never a bad option.
The biggest e-commerce store, Amazon pays affiliates anywhere between 4.5 – 8% commission on sales, so you can decide what percentage of your earn
6. Understanding Your Analytics and Making Meaningful Improvements
In order to continue to improve your site, you need to understand how to analyze and act on the data presented by your analytics software.
First, select an analytics package and get it installed. Google Analytics is a popular selection, given it is robust for the price tag (free package).
Train yourself on what to look for in the analytics and review the data periodically (at least once per week). If you cannot do it, hire somebody who can. Check your analytics after you have implemented key changes.
7. A Stable, Well Performing, Fast Website
Website performance is paramount and directly correlated to profitability in e-commerce sites. If a site is buggy, slow, or has frequent downtime, your visitors may not satisfy with the quality of your website to the quality of your product or service offering. For example, a slow site means poor service or poor quality products. We also happen to live in a world of instant gratification and when a site is slow, visitors will be quick to abandon you and go somewhere else.
Many of the characteristics above are achievable with a modest effort. Do not forget to boost overall engagement rates. Get active on social media, create a blog with valuable content or product updates, or run some paid ads online. Create a “forum” or “community” section on your website where users can come together or host some events to draw out a crowd for a good time.
Promote your event beforehand (and during) to create interest. Be sure to center the event on your brand and your products.