Given the lower overhead requirements of starting an eCommerce business, changing consumer behaviour, and the ongoing digital revolution it’s unsurprising that we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of new eCommerce businesses.
In fact, in 2020 the eCommerce market grew by 18% in the UK making it the fourth largest market for eCommerce in the world.
However, the constant advances in technology and increased competition within a changing market have meant that eCommerce businesses have had to continuously evolve to keep up with new trends and standards.
It takes a lot to run an eCommerce business. Entrepreneurs have to be adaptable, flexible and efficient. So, how do these skills translate into the reality of running an online business and what are the important factors that will ensure eCommerce success?
1. An eCommerce business plan is key
Creating a business plan is an essential place to start, it sets the foundations for your business and will help to clarify effective strategies. It may seem obvious to start with planning, but this is so often overlooked in the development of businesses.
An effective eCommerce business plan will address the short-term and future expectations of your business venture and must address the methods and strategies for reaching important goals. The importance of such a plan should not be understated; they can help companies to maintain focus and as a result, achieve greater success.
An eCommerce plan will typically include detailed information and focus on growth, timelines and financial goals as well as potential roadblocks and contingency strategies. To create an effective business plan, here are some best practices to consider:
– “Reason for being” or Business case – What’s your pitch?
– Differentiating factors– What makes you different?
– A clearly defined target market – Who will you sell to?
– Thorough competitive analysis – Who is your competition?
– Underlying mission statement – What’s your end goal?
– Financial sustainability – How will you maintain profitability for the long-term?
2. Focus on SEO for your eCommerce website
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) refers to the process of improving your site’s visibility in search engines, with the focus mainly being Google. This means increasing both the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.
An effective SEO program will ensure the longevity of your eCommerce website and gather an organic audience that can be converted into customers. SEO tends to have the highest return on investment of any eCommerce marketing strategy; however, it can be quite complex and time-consuming and so many businesses will outsource their SEO.
Optimising your site is all about making sure that your website answer’s visitors questions and according to Big Commerce every SEO strategy should include:
Keyword research – understanding the search terms your target customers are using
Site architecture – ensuring the best, most relevant information is easy for customers to find and navigate
On-Page SEO – implementing and optimising your keyword strategy, utilising meta tags and content
Technical SEO – helping Google to more easily read (or crawl) your website and improve visibility
Content marketing – high-quality, optimised content is key to driving more organic traffic to your website
Link building – an important method of building authority of your website in Google’s eyes
Measurement – using tools to better understand your customer journey, and the impact of SEO tactics has on your rankings
The eCommerce platform your website is built on will have an impact on SEO and many will offer tools that can help you to optimise your website, so this in an important consideration when setting up your eCommerce store.
3. Market your website
Now you’ve got a great business plan, and an impressive eCommerce website it’s time to tell people about it. A good marketing strategy can be the difference between success and failure in today’s competitive market.
Developing an effective and successful campaign is often dependent on the initial market research conducted. It’s important to determine who to target, how to target them and the strategies that will ensure you achieve your business goals. Consider what communication channels your customers prefer to use and how you can implement them into your eCommerce site.
More modern marketing strategies focus on high conversion rates with effective and proven methods. The service you offer customers, such as payment solutions and delivery options are key to this, and so can be an effective tool in your marketing. Making sure your customers are aware of the options that are available is a great way to reduce cart abandonment, and this can easily be done through banner advertising, pop-ups or even in your product information.
4. Understand who your customers are and what they want
Knowing and understanding your customers is at the heart of every successful business. This kind of insight can be invaluable and will help you determine where to focus your time, invest money and identify opportunities for growth.
You can, in general, break market research down into four categories, which when done together can give you a much more comprehensive understanding of your customer:
– Primary customer research – is conducted directly with your customers, e.g., survey’s, interviews or focus groups
– Secondary customer research – is compiled by a third party, typically a data or market research company
– Quantitative – this is statistical data on your customers, e.g., demographics, interests or awareness of brands
– Qualitative – focuses on people’s thoughts and attitudes and tends to be more in-depth
Once you understand your customers better, consider if your website offers the speed, convenience, knowledgeable help and services they are looking for. These are all key to maintaining a strong relationship between the brand and the customer.
One of the most important elements for eCommerce retailers is convenience and making sure you offer multiple payment options is an important part of this. The usual payment options that are widely implemented include credit card and debit card payments, alongside PayPal, Apple/Google Pay and finance credit options. Research has shown that 44% of UK consumers will stop a purchase if their preferred payment method isn’t available, so this has to be a priority.
5. Don’t underestimate good customer service
Customer expectations have risen with the increase in standards catalysed by a rise in technological advancements. Implementing AI and chatbots into your customer support can increase self-service to reduce the need for staffing, meet customer expectations and stay ahead of your competitors.
However, although AI and technology have come a long way, customers often still prefer real human interaction. This can be implemented to your advantage using various strategies.
– Keeping an open telephone line or offering a call back service
– Allowing real-time chat boxes
– Ensuring customers know where to turn to if a problem occurs
Having an easily navigational site is another factor in the context of customer service. Businesses should aim to save as much time as possible for their customers by making their different services easily accessible and visible. This will ensure customers identify the brand with a good reputation for efficiency.
As well as focusing on good customer service, it’s important to also ensure you eliminate poor customer service. Bad employee attitudes, unfriendly services, a lack of trust between the company and the customer are key reasons that customers have given for choosing not to purchase from a brand.
Above all of this, the key is to keep evolving. When it comes to eCommerce, the landscape is always changing as technology advances, consumer behaviour shifts and trends evolve and so you have to be ready to adapt with this.