Eight Must-Know Tips for Starting a Successful eCommerce Business
Whether you’ve worked in eCommerce before or are thinking of trying your hand for the first time, it’s not hard to see why you’d be interested in starting your own online business. eCommerce is an industry that shows incredible promise when it comes to concepts like growth, sustainability, and excitement.
According to Statista, now is the ideal time to break into the industry. From 2010 to 2013 alone, the total number of eCommerce sales in the U.S. skyrocketed from $167.3 billion to an astonishing $263.3 billion. Those numbers have only continued to rise in the years since. Who wouldn’t want to get in on numbers like those?
Getting Started in the Right Direction
Though recent research supports the vast potential for success in the eCommerce sector, you can only expect to see the kind of results you’re hoping for if you approach the process from the proper angle. If you’re just getting started, it’s important to create a solid foundation. The following tips can help you make sure you’re headed in the right direction.
1. Don’t rush the initial launch.
Many eCommerce entrepreneurs make the mistake of rushing the initial launch of their new business or website without laying enough of the groundwork first. As a result, they wind up missing their one shot at a flawless, hitch-free big reveal.
Before you launch, you should have a solid strategy in place as far as a business model, inventory management, shipping methods, SEO, your social media presence, your content marketing strategy, paid advertising, and so forth. Your site should be fully functional and navigable as well. Until you have those basics taken care of, you can set up a “coming soon” page for people to check out with information about your future store.
2. Make sure your approach is customer-focused.
While eCommerce leads to many conveniences for business owners and consumers alike, there is one main drawback. Customers do not have the opportunity to interact with a product before purchasing.
Successful eCommerce business owners compensate for this in other ways. For example, you will want to make sure your customers’ shopping experience on your site is user-focused. Show your products in detail through high-quality images and videos, and consider adding the ability for customers to leave reviews in order to give shoppers confidence in your products.
3. Test everything thoroughly. Then test it again.
The last thing you want is to discover that your interface isn’t working after you’ve already launched your website. Check and double-check absolutely everything first. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and spend some time onsite browsing and accessing different functions.
Go through the checkout process. Add and remove items from the shopping cart. Attempt to fill out any forms you might have available. You don’t want to leave any hiccups behind that might frustrate a curious new customer into thinking twice about shopping with you.
4. Make sure you’re using the right social media.
Your business’s social media presence will be critical when it comes to building a voice for your brand. Social media also gives a modern business owner a glimpse into the everyday lives of their customers that is relatively uninterrupted. For those reasons, you’ll want to make sure you’re involved right from the get-go.
Not sure which channels to be active on? In the beginning, you can create a business profile for the platforms you think your target audience would be most likely to frequent. Then, as you become more active on these sites and engage with other users (by following, tagging, favoriting, etc), you can start to dig into your social analytics and determine which sites are worth investing more time in.
5. Make sure there’s a social element to your site.
Speaking of social media, you’ll want to make sure your eCommerce site is set up in such a way that it invites visitors to interact with it.
You customers want to feel heard. They need to know that the businesses they’re giving their money to care what they think of the products and services.
Provide a way for customers to review your products or submit testimonials either through a third-party review application or even through your Facebook page. If your store includes a company blog, make sure visitors can comment on the posts. Elements like follow buttons and social login options are also good ideas.
6. Prioritize mobile friendliness.
According to Goldman Sachs, the number of eCommerce sales coming in via mobile hit a whopping $204 billion in 2014, and it’s only expected to continue climbing.
Mobile friendliness isn’t just a good idea when it comes to your eCommerce site. It’s an absolute must if you’re serious about succeeding. Without a mobile friendly store, shoppers who come in through social media, Google Search, email, and more through a mobile device will become frustrated by the user experience and bounce from your site without making a purchase.
7. Focus enough energy on SEO.
The more the eCommerce industry continues to grow, the more businesses you can expect to move into a space that’s becoming more crowded by the day. Without having a strategy for SEO, you can’t count on standing apart from the competition.
As touched on above, make sure you have a solid SEO strategy and timeline in place before you launch. Not sure how to go about it yourself? Consider outsourcing some of the legwork or bringing a professional on board to take care of SEO in-house.
8. Put tracking and analytics in place ahead of time.
Your business will grow and evolve over time. You’ll launch new campaigns and put new marketing strategies into effect. However, if you don’t collect enough information, you’ll never truly know what’s working, what’s not, and where you should go next.
Make sure you have a solid data-gathering plan in place right from the beginning. You can even automate it to take some of the guesswork out of the equation. This way you’ll always know all you need to know about your customers, your web traffic, and lots more.
Last, but definitely not least, understand that your eCommerce website will change and evolve as you move forward with it. New technologies will come out, trends will emerge, and the tastes of your customers will change. Be ready to tweak the way you do things in order to stay relevant and keep serving the changing needs of your target demographic.
Moving Ahead with Focus and Purpose
Of course, launching a successful eCommerce website is one thing. Keeping a brand new business running smoothly is another. Keep the following tips in mind to ensure your continued business success as you move forward into the future.
Establish mutually beneficial relationships. Always keep your eyes open for opportunities to partner with other businesses and brands. Not only does aligning your fledgling brand with more established entities help you build your reputation, but you’ll be able to build on that brand’s influence and clout in the industry as well.
Use targeted landing pages to boost traffic. Generating organic traffic is important for eCommerce store owners and it is equally important to generate targeted traffic as well. Targeted traffic and high conversion rates go hand in hand. This is the case whether you’re selling subscriptions, services, physical products, or even digital merchandise.
Set up secure landing pages that lead visitors on a journey down the conversion funnel. Use social media and other tools to drive traffic to these pages.
Tap into niche markets. The more you can help your eCommerce business stand apart from the competition, the better. Avoid going too broad when it comes to your overall focus. The broader you go, the higher the chances that there are already a million other stores out there doing the same thing.
Look for ways to specialize tap into niche markets to the tune of powerful results. Yes, the total number of customers that might occupy that market will be lower overall, but you stand a better chance of building a truly loyal customer following. Plus, the more focused you are, the better you’ll be able to become at what you do.
Don’t rely too heavily on PPC. Make PPC a part of your advertising approach, but don’t base your entire strategy on it. Instead, make sure you’re focusing enough of your resources and energy on raising awareness in regards to your brand and bolstering your numbers when it comes to organic leads instead, especially while your site is still new.
Develop a solid content strategy. When it comes to driving lots of good quality organic leads, content is still king. This is just as much the case when you’re in eCommerce as it is if you’re starting a standalone blog or another type of website. Yes, establishing and perpetuating a steady stream of truly high-quality content takes time, money, and effort, but it’s worth it.
A company blog is a great place to start. Use it to announce new products, share industry news, and talk about topics relevant to your target demographic. Share the posts via your social media circuits. Then work on hooking up with other websites and publications.
Your bottom line will thank you for it!
Make sure all your product listings are optimized. Successful eCommerce business owners are careful to make sure every “I” is dotted and every “T” crossed. That means making proper optimization a top priority on every possible level.
Good content production doesn’t start and stop with your company blog and landing pages. Unique, keyword-rich meta descriptions, descriptive original product listings, and dynamic sales copy are all incredibly important as well.
Keep your social media efforts active. According to Shopify, 2014 saw the number of eCommerce orders originating on social media increase by an astonishing 202%. A large part of the equation there is the fact that consumers value the opinions of their peers and take them into careful consideration when deciding which products and services to use.
That said, it pays to invest plenty of time, effort, and creativity in your social media campaign. Make sure you build solid presences across all the major platforms, including but not limited to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Embrace the concept of A/B testing. Never underestimate how useful split tests can be when it comes to making a success out of your eCommerce business. It’s an excellent way to really get a handle on whether or not landing pages, retargeting ads, and so much more are generating the desired results.
What’s more, it’s never been easier to split test. Modern resources, software, and technology have made the process as simple as dragging and dropping various elements into place. That’s how easy it is to really see which ideas point to conversions and which ones fall short.
Embrace automation as well. Speaking of technology, it’s never been easier to automate certain aspects of your business processes. Automation can free up a fortune in time, money, and manpower, leaving you free to focus those resources elsewhere. It makes short work of ROI tracking, social data management, demographic analysis, trigger email management, customer segmentation, and more (with which we can help you get started.)
The learning process never stops when it comes to business management. This is the case no matter how experienced you become. Never be afraid to keep exploring new concepts, making mistakes, and learning from the entire process. These are important parts of achieving and maintaining long-term success.