Most ecommerce business owners start up their venture based on a personal interest – a product they care passionately about, whether that’s art prints, organic cosmetics, bespoke baby garments or gourmet coffee. Unfortunately, what begins as a labor of love can quickly become disheartening for some online merchants, as they grow aware of the sheer effort and time required to make a profit in an increasingly competitive marketplace. To reach the widest potential audience, online sellers need to expand their offering into as many areas as possible – in short, they need to be omnichannel. Here’s how to grow your ecommerce business to maximize sales.
As an ecommerce entrepreneur, your main hub and focus should be your own online store. It’s not enough to rely on online marketplaces – the sign of a professional seller who takes their business seriously is a bespoke website. This is your personal space online, a place where you can go to town implementing your own branding and showing customers who you are and what your business is all about. With an online store, you have complete control over presentation and profits – with no fees or percentages siphoned off to the ecommerce giants.
Nowadays it’s increasingly easy to set up a professional online store, without ever coming across a single line of code. A hosted cloud platform will provide inbuilt optimization and support, along with guidance in areas such as SEO and customer service. Be sure to build your website with your customers in mind – keep it straightforward, easy to navigate and distraction-free.
Have you ever stopped to think about what associations your name has on the web? Possibly not. Whether you work for a company, run your own business or work independently, there’s never been a more important time to brand your personal name on the web. As the owner of an online outlet, this is crucial if you want to gain the trust of your customers and potential investors.
What happens when you Google your name, or that of your company? This is a good place to start. Perhaps there’s an image of you, years ago, drunk at a Christmas party? Unless you sell Christmas drinking game kits, this is not an image you want associated with you or your brand. Take control of what your potential visitors can see in SERPs by doing some damage control and ensure that your name is one that people want to do business with.
While having your own home on the internet is vital, it’s also wise to explore the opportunities presented by online marketplaces like Amazon, eBay and Etsy. These ecommerce powerhouses attract huge audiences that you are highly unlikely to generate on your own.
With an online marketplace, the marketing side of things is taken care of for you – though your own brand identify can be markedly underrepresented. Your initial costs of setting up on an online marketplace are small, with fees only paid on sales – usually. It’s also fairly straightforward to get going: you simply set up a seller profile, add products and you’re on your way to reaching a huge global audience. Using an online marketplace like Amazon, you have the option to get your order Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) too, which can save valuable time and storage space.
Success in any form of sales is strongly linked with your customer relationships. Using social media, it’s now easier than ever to get to know your customers. Use it to see what your target audience thinks of you (and your competitors) and to build relationships with new and existing prospects. The key to social media success is to know your target demographic well, present your products in a way that appeals to their desired lifestyle, and then actively engage – be social. Don’t simply post a barrage of product listings.
There are of course many different social networks to choose from, and the ones you choose to focus on depends on where your audience tends to spend their time online. It’s important to do your research and find out which sites your potential customers are using. Be aware that in order to be seen on social media, at least initially, you may need to allocate some budget to social advertising.
Pop-up shops have become increasingly popular of late, as they give merchants a much more affordable and flexible alternative to setting up a permanent brick-and-mortar store. Due to their temporary nature, the rent is considerably cheaper and you are not tied to being there every day, as you would be with a standard long-term rental agreement.
Pop-up shops work particularly well alongside online stores, and are great places to advertise and generate buzz. Suddenly, there is a new and interesting place that stands out from the usual stores people walk past every day. Running a pop-up shop is a great way to experiment and find out what sells and what doesn’t. It also gives an insight into the type of people who will likely form your core audience. Be sure to have cards on hand so that if people like what they see, they can find you online later.
Analytics are powerful. They hold the answers to what’s working on your site and what isn’t. A good analytics solution is a must for online store owners, offering an overall view as well as the ability to analyze specifics, such as how customers are behaving on your site.
The work involved in running a successful online store doesn’t stop once the site is up and running – it should be a continual work-in-progress. What are your customers buying most? Are they often abandoning their shopping cart at the last minute? Is it easy to find products and filter them? Make your website work harder for your customers so they don’t have to, and the results will speak for themselves.
As with so many things, there is no shortcut to success in ecommerce. It takes a lot of care and persistence, along with a strong awareness of customer trends and online shopping behaviour. As a multichannel ecommerce merchant, your aim should be to offer a consistently good experience across all channels. Don’t forget to incorporate mobile experience as part of your overall strategy, if you want to remain competitive.
Are you planning on building your ecommerce empire across multiple channels? Which channels will you explore? Let us know in the comments below.