Running your ecommerce business can be a grind. You need to replenish products, drive more traffic to your store, create new promotions, respond to customers, develop your employees, and so forth.
In "Reviewing Your Ecommerce Business at Year End," my article from last month, I addressed how owners can objectively evaluate their business's performance.
For 2013, be sure to prepare a budget and cash flow projection so that you can invest when opportunities arise. Beyond that, in this article, I'll introduce 13 tips that will help your business stay successful in the coming year.
Reflect on these tips. For most every ecommerce business I encounter, there is room for improvement in these areas. If you execute on these tips, you will deliver an excellent customer experience, run a more efficient business, and ultimately growing your top and bottom lines.
13 Tips for Ecommerce Success in 2013
1. Set your vision, goals, and strategy. Know where you are going and how you are going to get there. Invest the time to identify your business goals, strategies, and tactics.
2. Establish a business model. Understand how you are going to make money, how the various parts of your business work together, your resource requirements, and what your risks are. Identify the areas that need more investment.
3. Understand your customer. Know your customers and what your value proposition is. Why do they come to your store and ultimately buy from you and not your competitors? Are they loyal or simply bargain hunting?
4. Sell products consumers want to buy. Once you understand your customers, be sure to sell products that meet their needs. Watch for upcoming trends. But remember that once a product is a best seller, you’ve probably already missed that trend.
5. Buy low, sell high. This old adage is truer than ever for online retailers. Competition is fierce. You have little control over what price the market will bear. But you do have some control over how much you pay for your inventory. Negotiate, find several sources, buy as close to the manufacturer as possible, and consider private-label generic products.
6. Get found. Invest in search engine optimization, advertising, blogging, social media, and other marketing activities to drive qualified traffic to your online store. Never assume you have all the traffic you need. Be sure to diversify your traffic sources as much as possible.
7. Offer a superior customer experience. Ensure that your website, content, merchandising, landing pages, promotions, shopping cart, checkout, and customer service support your sales goals.
8. Personalize your interactions. Try to personalize every customer interaction. This can be as simple as a first name in every email promotion. Strive to deliver a unique shopping experience within the capabilities of your ecommerce platform.
9. Deliver the goods. Ship your products in a timely fashion. Meet the expectations of your customers. Follow-up with confirmations. Ask for feedback. A sure way to lose a customer and get a bad review is to oversell and under deliver.
10. Build relationships and community. Try to convert a one-time buyer into a repeat customer. Encourage community through social media, events, or other online activities. Participate in conversations wherever your target customers are.
11. Stay fresh. Refresh your content, post seasonal messaging and offers, provide timely insights, and provide incentives for return visitors to your stores. Consider seasonal themes around your store to give it a fresh look.
12. Experiment. Always look for ways to improve. Try new initiatives. Don’t be afraid to fail.
13. Think mobile. Mobile websites and apps are where consumers will shop in the future. Go mobile now. Most smartphone owners already use those devices to shop online. That number will only increase.
Revisit these tips throughout the year. Empower key staff members to oversee projects that review performance against specific goals. For every one of those tips, you can set measurable goals and use them to monitor execution and performance. Start with one or two and see how things work out.