Online sales of products and services are continuing their meteoric rise; they’re expected to hit $4.5 trillion by 2021 as more business is transacted online at the expense of traditional bricks and mortar outlets.
From companies like Amazon, responsible for over 40% of all online sales in the US, who founded their success online to companies with a physical ‘storefront’ operation offering an e-commerce presence, and to those switching entirely to online sales, it’s a huge marketplace
Consumers value online purchasing as it offers convenience, often lower prices than in-store and – assuming the e-commerce website is well designed – a purchasing experience as quick and easy as buying in a retail setting that uses efficient and powerful POS (Point of Sale) systems.
So while e-commerce is booming it’s by no means an easy ride; many e-commerce companies fail. Certain elements need to be in place for success. Below we look at 5 tips that could help an e-commerce business succeed.
1. Knowing the customer – providing what they want
It sounds obvious, but it’s vital to sell what is actually required. E-commerce entrepreneurs need to think like the customer and understand what really is in demand – not offer products and services they just think are needed.
Researching is vital and easily possible thanks to even basic online options:
- See what’s selling on sites like Amazon
- Check social media and forums frequented by people in the target market; what demands are there?
- Check out online articles and blogs on the subject
2. Focus your product offering
Even Amazon started with one focus; they sold books online before branching out into the multitude of products they sell today.
Similarly, it’s easier to narrow focus on one or a handful of related products rather than trying to please everyone in the marketplace. You run the risk of starting out with a rather vague identity through trying to be all things to all people.
Narrowing focus helps create a stronger brand (and that’s very important for an e-commerce business) and likely a stronger following.
A basic example is specializing in selling cases for just Samsung smartphones as opposed to trying to cater for all smartphones and tablets.
3. Build customer relationships through re-marketing
You may be attracting visitors from search engines or opting for a more targeted traffic strategy such as directing leads from social media such as Facebook ads, but engaging with them and building a relationship is key.
When capturing their email address, whether at the purchase phase or when they first arrive on your website (through a mailing list opt in for example), it’s important to keep in touch through email marketing.
Over time you can offer related products as you build a strong relationship. Don’t let them buy once and disappear forever.
4. A user friendly website
Visitors are notoriously impatient when it comes to visiting websites – especially when looking to buy.
If yours is difficult to navigate and has an awkward shopping cart and check out process, your visitor will likely give up and leave
Don’t hide information and wait until near the end of the transaction to reveal it. If you charge shipping then ensure it’s added in early – not just before the customer is poised to pay. Tolerance to this type of subterfuge is wearing very thin. If possible, make the price they see the price they pay
Also, be aware more people than ever use tablets and mobile phones to visit websites and do their online shopping so ensure your website is mobile-friendly. It’s also necessary so as to rank as highly as possible with the search engines.
5. Keep up to date and evolve
Such is the fast rate of growth online that trends change rapidly and opportunities come and go, so keep abreast of what’s happening in the e-commerce environment and in your particular marketplace.
Customer needs and tastes change and technology keeps developing and evolving, so ensure you take an overall view of the business you operate in.