The Secrets Behind Running an Ecommerce Business
Wednesday October 7th, 2020
You’ll find dozens of competing schools of thought when it comes to the ‘secrets’ of eCommerce success. Many are based on clear, easily understandable principles that should apply to running any type of business, online or physical.
Others, meanwhile, sound more like a vague exercise in hit-and-hope digital alchemy. For those new to eCommerce and seeking advice on starting out, it can all be a little overwhelming. Reading around, you’ll quickly notice that basic, fundamental facts about running an online business are often incredibly thin on the ground.
That being the case, let’s start out with a couple of those:
1. Any eCommerce business needs one thing above all else – customers.
Notice we didn’t even say more customers (although, in most cases, that will also be true). No, we’re starting with the absolute basics here; the fundamental building blocks of any online profit-making enterprise. To begin with, you just need some customers. ‘More’ comes later, all being well.
2. A coherent e-commerce strategy gives you a better chance of attracting customers.
The direction you choose to take your online business in is up to you – but make sure everything you do is focused in a direction. Carefully considering, planning and strategising each move you make is the single best way to give yourself a head start, and to keep pushing things forward during early growth.
The dos & don’ts of eCommerce
People running SMEs online tend to have no problem remembering that funds are strictly finite. In fact, you’re probably acutely aware of it more or less 24/7.
However, it’s just as important to remember that your time and energy are equally finite. Any eCommerce plan that’s only half-baked will end up wasting at least one – and most likely all three – of these precious resources. Since they’re ultimately the lifeblood of any online business, that’s not something you want to be doing.
Again, it’s difficult to overstate the benefits of a solid eCommerce strategy in 2020. With that in mind, below we’ve listed a few top strategic tips for starting and growing a new business online.
DO understand who you’ll be selling to in advance.
This sounds incredibly basic, but a lot of eCommerce business owners are too broad in their initial appraisal of their target customer. In other words, they’re not targeting specifically enough. This often results in an overestimation of potential market size, which in turn leads to wasting resources on the wrong types of outreach in the wrong places.
Key questions to ask yourself before starting out include:
Who’s going to want to pay for this product/service?
Why should they want to pay me for it, as opposed to anyone else?
Am I making important assumptions based solely on my own views/feelings?
Who will my main competitors be, and how did they get their first customers?
How will I measure initial success, and where will I gather vital early feedback?
DON’T leave it until launch to start building an audience
If you only start your marketing push in earnest once everything’s up and running, you’ve completely skipped an increasingly important phase of the project. Ecommerce, understandably, tends to rely heavily on digital outreach, and that almost always takes some time to percolate. You won’t see any ROI on your initial marketing outlay right away – but once you’ve launched, you’re already absorbing daily running costs.
DO figure out where tomorrow’s customers are today…
Refer back to the specific customers you’re targeting, and try to figure out where on the internet they are right now. Not just ‘who else are they buying from?’ (although this is obviously very important) – we’re all spending increasing amounts of time online every day, regardless of whether or not we’re actively shopping.
Ultimately, you’re trying to get a rival’s customer to come to you instead: ask yourself what path they might’ve taken to arrive at a competitor’s door, and could you perhaps be meeting them a little earlier along it?
…but DON’T neglect existing customers while chasing new ones.
Almost all eCommerce strategies quite rightly put great focus on growth and attracting new clients. That’s a very valuable piece of the puzzle at any stage, launch or otherwise – but long-term, it’s equally vital to look after those you’ve already brought in.
Word-of-mouth marketing can sound distinctly old-fashioned in today’s world of digitised performance metrics and laser-targeted PR drives, but it remains an incredibly powerful tool for any business to leverage.
Not only are returning customers proven to spend more confidently than new ones, they also have the potential – in eCommerce more than any other area of business – to become hugely powerful brand ambassadors for you.
DO maximise the key benefits of eCommerce for customers…
Always be aware of the reasons why somebody would choose to buy online, rather than from the high street.
Understand that those reasons may not be nearly as straightforward as you think, and look beyond the idea of sheer convenience as the sole driver. Engagement is massively influential in all aspects of selling online – it’s where many new customer relationships begin for eCommerce brands (on the high street, potential buyers are often already at the consideration stage).
So engage: create a clear brand voice and personality, tell a story, build a rapport with your audience before they find themselves needing to buy. Above all, support your selling activity with quality non-selling content, using the dozens of online channels and platforms at your disposal to reach precisely the people you’re most interested in.
…but DON’T underestimate the downsides of buying online
As an eCommerce business, one of the most important things you can do for your buyers is to put yourself on their side of the transaction. We don’t just mean in terms of providing great customer service – that should be a given.
You need to be acutely sensitised to every facet of the online shopping experience, from beginning to end.
Once you’ve got a customer browsing your web store, friction of any kind becomes your worst enemy.
Upselling is important, but it shouldn’t be intrusive. Security is vital, but it mustn’t feel like a barrier. You need to be hitting the optimal balance of convenience and confidence for your users, which often boils down to using the right software.
Here are some quick tips
Build a web store that’s quick and intuitive to navigate
Make sure everything works seamlessly on mobile too
Understand your users’ search habits – make it easy to find things, even if that means limiting inventory (you’d have to in a brick-and-mortar business, after all)
Smooth out any choke points that could lead to frustration, particularly around checkout – it’s a leading cause of basket abandonment. (Do they really need to create an account before they can pay you?)
Successful eCommerce websites
At Duologi, we spend the majority of our time helping hundreds of eCommerce companies like yours to establish themselves and grow sustainably. We’re an established team of money specialists, tech experts and digital marketing buffs, and we believe passionately in bringing fresh ideas and solutions to online businesses of all sizes.
Key to our philosophy is the idea that a buyer’s journey needs to be as seamless as possible, from consideration to checkout. We specialise in streamlining the e-commerce payment process with flexible retail finance options, fully supported by a bespoke targeted marketing and smart backend software. Find out how it works and how it could work for you.