2019 is booming with online retail businesses and young entrepreneurs wanting to seize the opportunity.
Have you been thinking about it too? Take the time to carefully research the topic, surround yourself with the right people, and properly gauge the cost. To succeed, you will need to know how to deal with:
- Fierce competition,
- Ever-changing marketing strategies,
- Customers always in search of the best prices and the best services (you can’t blame them!).
What you really want is a profitable venture, not just to break even.
You know, if it was as easy as having a sharp website and a couple of cool products (even if at a good price), everybody would be doing it!
In my experience, online stores that sell too little or close up shop just haven’t exploited enough strategies to make it work.
It turns out selling online is a lot of work, trial and error, reassessments, and a lot of wooing.
Here are a few basic tips to help you maximize your sales and your turnover.
It is possible to succeed in e-commerce, but you have to get off to a good start!
1. Make sure your website is flawless
Poorly designed websites drive me nuts, personally. There’s nothing worse than a website that is difficult to navigate.
To make sure your customers stay on your website, it is crucial to be as clear and easy to navigate as possible!
Each product page must be well documented with all important information easily accessible (shipping costs, delivery, availability, etc.).
The homepage must constantly be updated with new products, current promotions, or noteworthy news.
Make sure payment methods are varied and user-friendly. What a shame it would be to lose a customer because of a failed payment. How about offering prices in the customer’s currency? No doubt he’ll be that much more inclined to buy something.
Don’t hesitate to consult with a business specialized in online payment methods to make sure this crucial aspect of your business is properly set up.
2. Make sure to be as visible as possible
Work on your indexing to optimize your ranking in search engine results.
Needless to say, be as visible as possible on social media (more on this below).
Work on your website design to make sure it’s an absolute eye-catcher!
Be present on as many platforms as possible, and don’t hesitate to sell on marketplaces such as eBay or Etsy. You will benefit from the multiple services they offer and their great visibility.
Lastly, the best advice I could give you would be to be very aware of your main competitors in order to differentiate, not imitate. Learn from their design, services, prices, promotions, shipping policies and costs, etc. and see how you can improve on it.
3. Make sure you know your target customer AND build loyalty
If you want to build customer loyalty, you first need to understand who your customers are. Don’t develop your marketing strategy based solely on your personal preferences. You may not be the best representation of your typical customer.
Get to know your customers. How? Ask them for their opinion. Yes, customers love it when we ask for their feedback or show interest in their preferences. Use social media to get in contact with them. Conduct surveys and offer rewards to those who participate.
You’ll never increase your conversion rate (the percentage of website visitors who buy something on your website) if you don’t have a clear portrait of your target customer. That is the basis of marketing!
Once you’ve clearly defined who your customers are, take the time to think of the best ways to connect with them. What works for women in their fifties who buy clothes won’t work with youths in their twenties looking for skateboards, right?
Also, use newsletters to regularly stay in touch with your customers, offering specials, promoting new products, or any noteworthy news.
Of course, make sure your customer service is impeccable! Whoever your customers are, they must feel valued and feel that their issues are taken seriously. If not, they will go somewhere else.
If you are new to e-commerce, I recommend offering a ‘satisfaction guaranteed or money back’ policy, something that will truly reassure your customers and generate sales. Don’t worry, if your product is good, people won’t return it without reason, and if there is an issue and you respect your promise, your reputation will only improve.
Lastly, reward loyalty with awesome discounts so that your customers feel truly special! After a purchase, send them a thank-you email and offer them a reduction on their next purchase, for example!
4. Make sure the buying process is optimal
Analyse the behavior of your visitors to understand how to optimize the buying process. When do they quit the buying process, and why?
Next, think of ways to make them stay until they finally purchase something. Figure out what makes them hesitate and address these issues.
Don’t be afraid to make periodic split-tests or A/B tests. What are those? Create many different versions of your selling pages, and test them to see which version generates the most sales and keep that one!
To get this done, you could use tools such as Optimizely that will suggest different designs for your web pages. Make no mistake, just because you find your website nice doesn’t mean that it is; it has to attract customers!
You could also make a similar test with your newsletters. Try different methods in order to find the most effective one.
Lastly, archive everything: visitors, subscribers, sales, email open rates. Build a spreadsheet and every week add the stats in such a way that you can see where areas to improve on.
5. Make sure to offer bonuses!
Everybody loves surprises! Guess why Kinder eggs and Happy Meals are so popular with kids? You know what I mean, the thrill of discovering what the surprise is!
Offer a little incentive that will allow you to sell a little more or to move more stock, such as: 10% off when you buy $100 or more, BOGO deals, etc.
Find ways to differentiate from your competitors!
It could also be virtual products, such as a surprise video, a personalized advice or selection guide, etc. Let them know it’s free, it will be sure to catch the attention of the customer.
Another simple technique to increase the value of the cart is to offer free shipping on a minimum purchase. It really works!
6. Make sure to organize contests
Though a contest will not directly increase your sales, it will however attract new potential customers and collect new email addresses.
Be mindful however of local contest regulations before running the contests. Same goes for social media: Facebook for example could block you should you not respect its rules with regards to contests.
Lastly, think carefully of the prize so as to attract your target customers, not just people looking for freebies.
7. Make sure to advertise on Facebook
Publicity on social media is effective. Don’t hesitate to pay for ad campaigns on Facebook. The value here is that you can target very specifically who you want Facebook to show your ads to.
Using your Facebook followers, determine who your typical customer is, and compare it to the profile of your actual customers to see if both profiles line up. If not, you may want to target a new customer type of Facebook that will be more in line with your actual customers.
Whatever the case, Facebook is great, but don’t count solely on it. It’s a tool, it isn’t the be-all-end-all.
8. Make sure to build partnerships and expand your offering
Get in contact with influencers in your field. This is a growing trend, on Instagram in particular; bloggers test products and talk about them on their blogs and social media accounts… And it works.
Start with influencers that are accessible, who won’t charge you an arm and a leg to advertise your products. Forget Kim Kardashian! Some bloggers are quite content with free products and a bit of visibility in exchange for an endorsement.
You can always pursue partnerships with other sellers. Basically, you sell your products on a website different than yours in exchange for a commission, and vice versa. Of course, avoid sellers who have the same type of offering as yours, but sellers you have the same target customers where your products are complementary to theirs.
Lastly, expand your own offering. You have your basic product(s). Think of what else you could offer that would be attractive to your customers. For example, if you sell ties and bowties, expand your offering gradually: socks, pins, suspenders, hats, etc. You see? Your customer will come to you for a tie and will be drawn in by other accessories to complete his look.
Similarly, create sandwich pages. When a customer clicks to buy a product, send him to an intermediate page on which you can offer another inexpensive product to go with his purchase.
9. Make sure to use videos
Videos really work wonders. Assemble photos with music. Show how a person would use your product. In other words, make the product live and feel accessible in the minds of your customers.
Ideally, your videos should be of good quality, so invest in good equipment for shooting and recording. Good news is, nowadays there is a wide array of software available to create decent videos at low cost.
10. Make sure to create a buzz
There are so many ways to achieve this!
Offer specials of short duration: one day, three days maximum. Think of Black Friday: the craze around this event is only due to the fact that people are afraid of missing out on THE deal.
Create the need, the buzz. Advertise your promotion a few days in advance and talk about it on social media and in your newsletters.
Making ‘package deal’ offers is another way of liquidating overstock. Choose 3 or 4 products in your overstock and create a combo with an aggressive price, such as a 3 for 1 offer. Indicate it’s only for a limited time, so that people feel it’s a rare opportunity.
If people feel supply is scarce, they will be intrigued: you can mention there’s only 20 on hand, or that only the 20 first customers will enjoy 20% off, etc. A few weeks later, do it again with another product. Those who will have missed out the first time around will be on the look-out.
11. Make sure to be an active blogger
Retail sites with a blog generate more traffic, thus more potential customers. Therefore, you need to publish quality content and promote it. It isn’t just a matter of word count or keywords; what you write must be relevant!
Take advantage of your blog to give advice to your customers, but don’t write articles just to sell.
Give practical, product-related tips, but broaden the topics to include more than just your website and products.
Most of all, make yourself known. People tend to buy more from someone or a team in which they trust. Put yourself on stage, tell stories about your daily life, at work or elsewhere.
If you are working on a new project, let people know, your followers will love it! Link it to your social media.
Why not get involved in a cause in connection with your sector of activity and talk about it. On top of being helpful (which should be the primary purpose after all), people will see you as down to earth, a quality your customers will appreciate.
12. Make sure to gather testimonials
If possible, try to obtain the testimony of a known person. That is worth a ton. If you’ve succeeded in connecting with influencers, ask them for a testimonial to add to your site. If they published a video with your product, share it, share it, share it!
Contact your regular customers and offer them a gift in exchange for a written testimony and a quality photo at the very least.
Put your customers first, people will see you as more approachable and you will attract other customers. If you sell internationally, indicate where your customers are; that will give you more credibility.
In short, if you are thinking of getting into e-commerce, be aware that you must be proactive in order to attract customers!
Be present, differentiate yourself, and be accessible. Invest in customer service and do everything you can to stay in contact with your customers.
Your website may be the best one out there, but if you don’t have a basic marketing plan to start, you won’t sell a thing.
If you’re already doing all of the above, read this other article to push it even further!