Starting an online business today is child’s play. Anyone with a laptop and an internet connection can start an e-commerce business with minimal investment.
Here are a few fun facts about the e-commerce industry for you to devour:
- The worldwide e-commerce sales reached $2.3 trillion in 2017. This revenue is predicted to double and reach more than $4.88 trillion in 2021. (Source)
- The U.S retail e-commerce sales for Q3 2018 was $130.9 billion. (Source)
- Millennials aged between 18-34 years spend nearly $2000 each year on online shopping. (Source)
Rest assured, whatever your trade is, your customers are online. Unfortunately, as much as the e-commerce industry is booming, so is the competition. Every traditional brick and mortar business, big or small, is starting to appreciate the importance of having a website and selling their products or services online. The ease of building a decent e-commerce website and inventory management has led to a massive upsurge in the number of online businesses.
Not to mention how e-commerce giants like Amazon are dominating the market. By mid-2018, Amazon was already responsible for approximately 50 percent of the e-commerce sales in the U.S and 5 percent of all combined offline and online sales. This so-called ‘Amazon Effect’ means it is a monumental task to create an online business that sustains.
If you think about it, the sustainability of any business boils down to branding. How do you transform your ordinary, unremarkable business into a memorable brand with a devoted customer base? Well, there are four basic elements you need to focus on.
As a consumer, would you make a purchase from a website with an awful design? Probably not. In fact, 94% of all internet users wouldn’t trust a website with poor design.
So, you must keep your website up-to-date with the latest design standards. Many ingredients constitute a great website design, including, but not limited to:
- A minimalistic yet gorgeous UI: Modern design standards tend to lay emphasis on the beauty in simplicity. Less is more, and these designs prove it.
- An intuitive user experience: Frustrating website navigation can seriously hurt your conversion rates. Your website should be so easy-to-use that the most non-tech savvy of users can navigate it without thinking.
- Mobile-friendliness (responsive): Mobile e-commerce sales accounted for 34.5% of total e-commerce sales in 2017, and that number is growing fast. What’s more, recent Google research showed that 73% of consumers will switch from a poorly designed mobile site to an alternative mobile site that makes purchasing easier. So if you haven’t already, it is high time you make your e-commerce website fully responsive.
- Easy checkout process: There is nothing worse than a customer to-be abandoning their shopping cart just before taking the plunge. The average cart abandonment rate is well over 70% and it’s rising each year. So, do your customers (and your revenue) a favour and streamline your checkout process to make it easier for them to take the plunge. There’s a reason why Amazon boasts the “Buy now with 1-Click” button.
- Fast site load speed: Don’t keep your users waiting, because they won’t. They will buy from your competitor’s storefront instead. Optimise your website’s code to make it run as fast as possible. For the best possible mobile shopping experience, AMP it up.
- And more.
An impressive design is at the heart of a successful e-commerce business. If you get it wrong, everything else is just a waste of time. So, revisit your website and ensure it is following today’s best practices.
B2B or B2C ― customers will always appreciate getting special attention from you. They don’t like to be cast into a ‘general’ category and treated as just another customer.
Research backs up this desire for personalisation, revealing that 31% of surveyed consumers prefer their shopping experience was far more personalised than it currently is. They are willing to give away their data to receive it, too. Salesforce surveyed more than 7000 consumers and found that 57% of consumers are willing to share personal data in exchange for personalised offers or discounts.
Collecting personal information such as name, email address, and job title when getting visitors to sign up for your newsletter or offering a free e-book in exchange for such information is certainly a good idea.
To personalise effectively using the information collected, segment customers into buyer personas and into groups based on the information collected and create detailed buyer personas to understand exactly who your target audience is.
Here is a detailed guide to e-commerce personalisation that talks about every step, from data collection and audience segmentation to on-site product recommendations.
Educate your prospects through content marketing. If you consistently put out valuable content that resonates with your target customers, they’ll trust your business as a thought leader.
Mind you, content marketing has evolved immensely and is not limited to blogging anymore. Nowadays, every other business has a blog. Most of them regurgitate the same information over and over again, adding little-to-no value to their readers lives. Don’t do that.
Moreover, apart from coming up with fresh, informative, and binge-worthy content, you’ll need to go beyond the written word in order to stand out as an authoritative brand. In this era of millennials, more than 65% of internet consumers prefer visual content than reading huge chunks of text. So, along with blogging, you ought to create easy-to-digest, shareable infographics that facilitate learning in a more appealing fashion.
Did you know that YouTube has over a billion users? This equates to almost one-third of all people on the Internet. While over a billion hours of video content is being watched daily on YouTube.
Clearly, video is the most preferred form of content and consequently, you must set aside a budget for creating video content for YouTube. If you’re into B2B e-commerce, re-upload the same videos to LinkedIn and Twitter. On the other hand, if you’re into B2C e-commerce, re-upload the same videos to Facebook and Instagram. Doing so will boost your brand’s visibility and authority over different social channels, which leads us to the next crucial element.
Any power brand has one thing in absolute abundance ― social proof. Why does Shopify come to mind when you think about starting an e-commerce store? Because you’re tired of hearing how good it is from your peers and strangers on the social web. It is a revered brand attested by millions.
Before they part with their hard-earned money, people want proof that what you’re offering is genuine, tried and true. And no amount of advertising can ever beat an honest-to-god customer testimonial, letting a prospective customer know that they made a similar purchase and they are satisfied with it.
Social proof can take several forms:
- Customer reviews/testimonials
- Case studies
- Celebrity/Influencer endorsements
- Third-party certifications/badges
- Media mentions
- Number of times the product was bought
- Social share count
- And so on.
The path to becoming a truly cherished, power brand is paved with customer success stories and tons of social proof.
Over to You
None of the four aforementioned strategies can be pulled off overnight. It’ll take months (or even years) of hard work and commitment before you start seeing remarkable results.
The ultimate goal of this ‘transformation’ is to achieve a level of brand awareness where you’ll need minimal investment in marketing and paid promotions to sustain your business. Word of mouth would do most of that hard work for you.
By Kevin Naidu