New businesses always face challenges, and unfortunately, there is no quick-fix if something goes wrong. However, successful companies tend to have similar characteristics. These common denominators often can help businesses succeed. While starting a new company online everyone needs some help along the way, which is why we have a free webinar training that allows new business owners to learn what steps they should take to succeed. In particular, in this article we’ll provide some characteristics that many ecommerce businesses use to make a profit, starting with how essential it is to have a narrow focus.
Narrow your focus
You might at first think that selling a variety of products online is a smart thing, but unfortunately, sometimes more is not the right approach for a new business. Small Business Trends recommends narrowing your focus so that you can specialize in just a few products. Capture a niche market and secure a loyal customer base.
While you may think you have a great idea, be careful not to launch an eCommerce venture that’s too broad.
“I’ve got news for you, the chances are there are hundreds of other people that are thinking the same thing and are already doing it,” says entrepreneur Sean Ogle.
While your overall idea may be good, you’ll strengthen your position if you can find a way to specialize it further and capture a true niche market. The total number of customers in that market might be significantly less, but the potential for carving out a loyal following is much higher.
Ogle uses the example of selling tablet cases and exclusively targeting Kindle Fire users instead of trying to encompass iPads, Galaxies, and Kindles.
It’s hard to know how to figure how what will set your business apart, which is why Shopify recommends doing a competitive analysis to learn more about your competition. Here are the instructions they recommend following to complete an analysis and in the process get a better look at your competition.
You’ve found your product, evaluated the potential, and sourced your supplier. You’re now ready to write your business plan, but before you get into that, you'll need to thoroughly research your competition so you know what you’re up against and how you can differentiate your business.
A competitive analysis is the analysis of your competitors and how your business compares. By evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of your competition, you can begin to formulate how to give your company an advantage.
Your competitive analysis can vary widely depending on what you’re trying to learn about your competitors. You might do a competitive analysis around a specific aspect of your competitors’ business—like their website, for example—or you might do a high-level look at their marketing approach as a whole.
There are a lot of different ways you can structure a competitive analysis, so let’s look at the types of information that are frequently seen within this kind of research.
If you’re doing a high-level competitive analysis, there are a few major elements you’ll want to be sure to include around competitors’ market positioning, such as:
Who their target customers are
What their main differentiator or unique value-add is for their business and products
Key features/benefits they highlight in sales materials
Price points for products, even across different marketplaces
How they approach shipping
If they’ve received any funding or venture capital
These sections will help you get a zoomed out look at what separates these businesses from each other and how they’re working to differentiate themselves from the competition within the niche.
Focus on the customer
Of course, no ecommerce site is going to succeed without focusing on your customer. Entrepreneur recommends offering appealing incentives to reel customers in.
It’s no secret that the biggest shortcoming of ecommerce businesses is the inability to let their customers touch, feel, smell, and see (firsthand) products before making a decision. While there’s currently no solution for solving this problem, you can compensate for this deficiency in other areas of the business. Some of the best tips include offering appropriate pricing, giving free shipping and making the checkout process easy with simplified shopping carts.
Business.com argues that unless an online website is stellar, it won’t get very far. Focus on creating a fantastic website and the customers' experience should be very positive and hopefully convert to sales.
Something else I learned on my journey into successful e-commerce was to focus on your website more than the products you are selling. The products are already created and ready for sale; what you need to do, as a budding e-commerce titan, is provide an awesome online window into the world of what it is you specialize in as a digital retailer. If your site looks bad, few people will trust you and want to buy from you.
In support of Business.com’s advice, Volusion names off a few other ways you can improve your ecommerce website, starting with easy navigation.
Clunky, slow and confusing websites and online stores aren’t the norm in 2018. After all, website builders and ecommerce platforms go a long way in starting your store off on the right foot. Creating an online store that’s designed to make customers’ lives easier still takes some deliberate effort, though.
Seamless, easy navigation: Above all, it should be quick and effortless for customers to find what they’re looking for on your store. That means creating product categories and tiers that make sense to your target market and making things like shipping information and your return policy easy to find.
Frictionless checkout process: Nearly 30% of U.S. consumers have abandoned an online shopping cart because the checkout process was too long or complicated. That’s a big chunk of abandoned carts that you can avoid by eliminating unnecessary elements and clearly indicating a customer’s progress in your checkout flow.
Consistent, multichannel experience: Multichannels shoppers spend as much as 3 times more than their single-channel friends. If your store isn’t designed for ease and consistency across channels, you risk frustrating customers and losing out on sales.
Set up the right technology
Keep your online business up and running by utilizing reliable technology. The Balance Small Business says that selecting the best technology goes a long way when it comes to a company’s success.
With the kind of robust e-commerce software and hosting available these days, there is no excuse for e-commerce websites that don't work. But getting the technology right is not just about having a bug-free website. It is also about using technology to achieve business ends.
For example, there was a time when several e-commerce businesses set up a blog on their website. Today, many of those blogs seem like neglected graveyards. Similarly, I have come across more than one e-commerce business that treats SEO (Search Engine Optimization) as the solution to all its problems. Surely that is a case of the tail wagging the dog.
Forbes recommends making it easy for a customer to check out because let's face it if something is taking too long they may abandon their cart. Think about it — wouldn’t you if everything was too slow and stalling out? Make checking out as fast and seamless as possible.
Brick-and-mortar retailers still offer some benefits for customers that e-commerce businesses simply can’t touch. Immediate access to the product is one of them. When a customer enters a store and purchases something, they get to carry it out of the store right away. When a customer purchases a product through your e-commerce site, they must wait. In our impatient world, this waiting can be painful. If you want to acquire and retain your customers, you’ll rival the e-commerce giants with the unimaginable speed of your shipping process. Believe me, this will pay off in your customer reviews and social media mentions.
Get social on social media
Companies hugely benefit from social media, which is why Entrepreneur recommends staying active. Learn about your customers’ likes and dislikes to determine what you should keep and change.
Any ecommerce entrepreneur that tells you he outsources social media or delegates it to other team members is crazy. Social media is the heartbeat of your business, as it gives you an uninterrupted glance into the lives of your customers. While it’s perfectly fine to have a social-media manager, it’s pertinent that you’re involved with it, too.
Small Business Trends also reveals that taking advantage of social media has very positive results! In fact, many ecommerce sites sales may jump more than 200% if they’re active on social media.
According to Shopify, in 2014 eCommerce orders spawned from social networking sites increased by an incredible 202 percent. A large part of this is attributable to the fact that people value the opinions of their peers and are automatically more interested in something if a friend references or shares a link.
In order to use this to your advantage, try to invest heavily in social media, both by incorporating elements into product listings and setting up a heavy social media presence on such sites as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
We hope your ecommerce business will be wildly successful; we’d love to support you as you begin your online store. Join us during our free webinar training and learn how to turn your online ecommerce site into a successful powerhouse.