For many, the 9-to-5 grind has become a thing of the past. Many people are leaving their cubicle jobs to develop their own businesses, such as an ecommerce business. Having an ecommerce business is very desirable because it allows a business owner to use their time to develop their passions and hopefully grow a profitable business too. Ecommerce businesses are on the rise. Statista says that in the United States alone ecommerce sales should very well pass $600 billion by 2021! That is a good sign that ecommerce businesses are on the rise and that it’s a good time to start your own business. However, how do you start laying the foundation? Here are some secrets to ecommerce success that the experts aren’t telling you:
Develop a Pre-Launch Audience
Entrepreneur recommends building a pre-launch audience before setting up a store so that people know your store is coming and they can look out for it. A few ideas include running contests, creating social media accounts and thinking of other ways to get the word out and get others involved.
Far too many entrepreneurs make the mistake of setting up their store and only beginning their marketing after launch. The problem, however, is that digital marketing efforts often require a bit of time before they start delivering the desired sales results. In the meantime, you'll be paying web hosting fees and other expenses without the sales revenue to cover it.
Instead, you need to start your marketing early by building a pre-launch audience. We see this happen all the time with Kickstarter campaigns that collect funding and build buzz before the project is ready.
Even if you aren't creating a completely new or original product, you still need to spread the word. Social media contests, product giveaways and email list sign-ups can all help you build an audience so your store can make sales on opening day.
Have Incredible Product Descriptions
Product descriptions mean everything for an ecommerce site, and during your launch and after if they don’t sound excellent then it may affect your sales. That’s why Forbes recommends not only having killer descriptions but also having beautiful photos of the products as well.
No matter how beautiful your site is, or how popular your products, a crappy product description will choke your conversion rates.
Remember, your customers are shopping online so they can’t physically pick up your products and examine them. To envision how they’ll use them, they have to rely on the pictures as well as your product descriptions.
Regurgitated product specs from the manufacturer – or worse, competitors – don’t excite consumers or spark a sale.
“You should learn from your competitor, but never copy,” says Jack Ma, Co-founder of Alibaba, in an interview with The New York Times. “Copy and you die.”
Think about your target audience and your ideal customer – the person you want to buy your product. Consider how they use it and the solution it provides for them. Write compelling copy that connects with them on a personal and emotional level using benefit statements that highlight the value proposition.
Strong, people-centric product descriptions are guaranteed to lift conversions and bring you more sales. If you optimize them for the right keywords, they’re also more likely to appear in organic search, netting you more organic search traffic.
Slow Load Times Are No Good
Having a website that’s super slow is a pain, and it’s even a more significant pain for your customers. If you feel like your website is loading slow, figure out a solution before you start losing customers. Crazy Egg has some excellent pointers on how to make that happen.
No one likes a slow loading website. If your pages take forever to load, it’s probably affecting your overall revenue, not to mention annoying anyone who tries to navigate your site.
You can decrease load times by reducing file size (those graphics probably don’t need to be high resolution for the average user) and being careful about the external plugins you’re using on your site.
A good exercise is to run a decent-sized sample of your site’s URLs through a tool like Pingdom. If your pages take more than 3 seconds to load, make it a priority to improve their page load times.
Start with optimizing your images so that they become a smaller file size. Usually, that will take care of the majority of your slow loading pages. If you’re still having a hard time reducing page load times after that, consult your developer to see what can be done to the site’s backend to improve speed.
Simplify the Process
Small Business Trends says the easier the process is for customers, the more likely they’ll return or won’t abandon their shopping cart. Making sure your site loads quickly and only requires minimal information for customers will ensure the process go by without a hitch.
Another way of reducing abandoned shopping carts is by making the buying process as simple and quick as possible. If you force people to sign up for an account, give you all kinds of personal information and spend lots of time waiting for each page to load, they’re likely to just quit and try another store. So, you can simplify the process by only requiring information that’s absolutely essential and making sure that your site loads quickly.
Treat Your Business Like a Real One
Since your business is real, it needs to be set up as such! That’s why CEOWorld Magazine recommends tips like developing a business plan, tracking products, and more below:
When your e-commerce site is developed and optimized, you can register your business name and attend to other legal business requirements. This is important because you want to treat your e-commerce site like a real business.
One of the most significant catalysts for success in the online retail space is consistency. This means you need to approach it like a business that gets foot traffic, and not just a hobby.
Having a business plan, a projected growth outlook, tracking products, tweaking product descriptions, doing outreach, and more will make your e-commerce site a success. Sure, HQ is probably in your garage, but your mindset doesn’t need to be.
Think About Your Site Layout
Is your site layout looks polished and is easy to navigate, then customers will find it easy to add things to their cart and follow through with a purchase. Small Business Trends says you can accomplish this by making sure a design is clean and professional.
The overall layout of your site can also make a big difference in how customers perceive you, and thus whether or not they’re likely to actually buy from you. You can use your home page to call attention to the products you’re trying to push, or include other features that could entice customers. But overall, you need to make sure that the design is clean and professional looking.
Work Backwards From a Goal
So you’ve got several shop goals but are unsure where to start first. According to Shopify, if you work backward on your goal, you’re more likely to get everything done and more. Work ahead on your goals so that nothing catches you by surprise and you’ll be more likely to succeed in your ecommerce business.
In the nine month period leading up to the launch of Mint.com, Noah built a contact database with the top 25 most influential finance bloggers.
Having this allowed him to continually build relationships with them while he also worked on day-to-day marketing tasks, such as:
Sponsoring smaller blogs with passionate readers
Split testing landing page messaging to see which yielded the best result
Using referral marketing mechanics to tap into friend networks
Having nine months of lead time allowed Noah to introduce people with an audience to an unknown brand, explain the benefits, and leverage their contacts to build a pre-launch email list of 20,000 really excited people. And while Noah’s initial task was to have 100,000 users 6 months after Mint.com launched, the momentum from those initial efforts ended up securing Mint 1 million users in that same time frame.
For you, it’s important you determine how big that pre-launch list needs to be in order to have a “successful” launch. Avoid pulling an arbitrary number out of thin air, but instead use industry conversion rate benchmarks to reverse engineer the amount of people you need to launch to in order to have a profitable first day.
Don’t Mess up on Dropshipping
Dropshipping may be convenient, but sometimes things can happen that are out of your control. That’s why Entrepreneur says not to botch dropshipping because it can backfire if slow shipping times and low-quality products become an issue. There are other ways dropshipping can hurt an ecommerce business too:
Dropshipping — the process of having your product sent directly from the manufacturer to the consumer — has simplified sales for many ecommerce professionals. However, it isn't without its own potential pitfalls.
The most common issues I've seen with dropshipping include slow shipping times, no tracking numbers for your customers and low-quality products.
All of these can completely kill your reputation with your customers. Because of this, it is essential that you perform a quality check of your supplier's products before you begin dropshipping. This way you can have confidence that your products live up to your brand promise.
For shipping, select a quality fulfillment company that offers a trackable courier solution. This way, customers won't have to endure lengthy delays, and they'll always know when their order will arrive.
Building a successful ecommerce brand isn't always easy. I should know — I've seen my fair share of startups fail after their initial success. But, by incorporating this knowledge that I've gained from my past efforts, I've since been able to launch several successful stores and generate real, lasting revenue — so can you.