As of the end of 2017, ecommerce shopping made up $2.3 trillion in global sales. The percentage of retail spend that happens online is expected to grow by a steady 15% every year.
Yet many ecommerce businesses do still fail. So what gives? With a market that huge, why do so few ecommerce stores find success?
Ecommerce businesses fail for all kinds of reasons, but those that succeed have a few important things in common. It takes more than just setting up a store and shipping product to grow and sustainably scale a business. You need a firm understanding of what makes the ecommerce industry and its customers tick. Everything else your store needs should flow from that knowledge.
Now, let’s talk about what that “everything else” entails.
1. A Brand Differentiator
If we had to point to one factor that drives the ecommerce industry’s sky high failure rate, it would be competition. With all that money flowing online, everyone’s itching for a piece of the pie. Consumers can find some products that are identical across hundreds of ecommerce stores.
How do you get them to choose you?
Too many online stores try to remedy this by competing on price and price alone. It’s a race to the bottom. And if that doesn’t sound like a recipe for business success, that’s because it isn’t. To be successful, your ecommerce business needs a differentiator that isn’t price—something unique to your store that you can do better than your competitors.
Consumers buy from online stores that set themselves apart from the crowd. How can you do that? You need to provide one of more of these:
- A better product: Faster, easier to use, customized…a better product will always set your business a notch above the rest.
- Powerful brand values and mission: Customers are also willing to spend more with businesses whose values align with their own. Being transparent and dedicated to causes you care about can help you win those customers over.
- Better customer experience: As many as 86% of consumers are willing to spend more for a better experience. Providing a seamless online shopping experience and friendly, empathetic service can be a huge boon for your business — without slashing revenue.
2. Top Notch Customer Experience and Service
Speaking of customer experience, it’s more than a competitive advantage in today’s ecommerce marketplace — it’s a necessity. In ecommerce, smaller stores and brands compete more directly with large brands and marketplaces (like Amazon and Walmart.) Personal, empathetic customer experience and service is your best tool for outshining names like that.
A lot can get lost in translation if you aren’t a seasoned marketer or customer support professional.
What does that really mean, though? We talk about customer experience all the time, but a lot can get lost in translation if you aren’t a seasoned marketer or customer support professional.
When we talk about providing top notch customer experience in ecommerce, here’s what we mean.
Online Stores Designed for the Customer
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.
In ecommerce, you’re asking customers to open their wallets before they ever touch or see the product in person. You’re also asking customers to hand over sensitive personal and payment data. Those are both big asks — especially in today’s era of high-profile data breaches and sketchy internet actors.
If customers can’t trust you, you don’t have a sustainable ecommerce business.
If customers can’t trust you, you don’t have a sustainable ecommerce business. Period.
Without the luxury of in-person shopping and the opportunity to naturally build relationships with customers, how can you win their trust?
- Detailed product content: As much as 88% of online shoppers say detailed product content is extremely important to them. Seventy-eight percent want to see product images and 69% look for product reviews. Providing all of the above and more can help your customers get a clear picture of what they’re really buying—so they feel better about hitting “Proceed to checkout.”
- Easy return process: Overly restrictive or inconvenient return policies cause 80% of shoppers to bolt. The product content above will help you limit how many orders actually end up being returned, so you can offer a customer-friendly return policy without worrying about it eating up your orders.
- Transparency above all: No matter the lengths you go to to earn customer trust, a lack of transparency can send them running for the hills. Whether it’s your mission and brand values, your return policy or the condition of your products, be open and honest with your customers — no matter what.
3. A Killer Marketing Strategy
One of the biggest mistakes ecommerce business owners make is believing launch day is where the hard work ends. On the internet, it’s easy for a new or small online store to get lost in the shuffle. That’s why a killer marketing strategy is the only way to build up your store, spread the word and win customers.
On the internet, it’s easy for a new or small online store to get lost in the shuffle.
We could wax poetic about ecommerce marketing for a few hours — and your marketing strategy is entirely unique to your business and its customers — so we won’t go into too much detail on specific marketing tactics or goals. Here are two things every business’ marketing strategy needs:
- A deep understanding of your target market: What are your customers interested in? How do they talk about your product? How does it impact their lives? Where do they hang out (both online and off)? Before you sit down and build a marketing strategy, you need concrete answers to all of these questions and more.
- A plan for standing out from the crowd: You know from the first section above that your business needs a way to differentiate itself — your marketing strategy needs to emphasize that. All of your marketing tactics should center around setting your business apart from the competition so you occupy a distinct place in customers’ minds.
Finding Success in Ecommerce
Ecommerce stores fail for all kinds of reasons. But by focusing on the 3 elements above, you can put your business in the best position to see success. Set your business apart from the din of competition and offer a radically good experience for customers and you’ll be well on your way to building a thriving online store.