Andrew Forbes of Forbes magazine said, “Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business.” Your web design, your logo, your color palette and your copy tone all represent the very heart of your brand. Guard these attributes like a hawk and be finicky about keeping them consistent across everything from social media posts to product descriptions. Consistency creates trust and trust creates loyal customers.
There are two big questions here. And you need to be able to answer ‘yes’ to both of them.
1) Do you know how your customer prefers to buy your products or services?
2) Does your e-commerce process reflect the way your customer buys?
A good customer journey is the path to more business and more revenue.
No matter how strong your web presence, people need to feel that there are real flesh-and-blood humans behind it. Jump into the conversation with your customers – answer inquiries, make suggestions, solve problems. Look to give them a positive experience at every touch point. Or as Dani Atkins, founder of hot new Australian swimwear brand Kulani Kinis puts it, “I hold the customer at the heart of the business because without the customer there is no business.”
A good email list is worth its weight in gold. As marketing strategist David Newman points out, "Email has an ability many channels don’t: creating valuable, personal touches – at scale.” According to Shopify, the secret to building your list is all about “getting permission and providing value.” To get permission: “Think about what incentives or high-quality content you can create in order to drive sign-ups.” And to add value: “Focus on sending your subscribers a balanced mix of more high-quality content with occasional sales and promotional messages mixed in.”
Businesses are built on word of mouth, click, tweet and post these days. Use social media to create a community around your brand. Actively engage with your audience – listen to them, respond to them, surprise and delight them, and, most importantly, allow them to be part of the conversation around your brand. Your followers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter could turn out to be your best salespeople.
A survey by Avira, the security software company, found that 30% of consumers are worried when they buy online. Make sure you have SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certification that’s visible on your checkout page. That 's' in 'https' is a very reassuring letter.
Your customers can’t touch and inspect online items (yet!). So make sure you’re engaging their other senses to the max. Use high-quality images. Give them inside, outside and 360 views of your products. Use copy that’s vivid, detailed and descriptive. Good experiences sell.
'People who bought this also liked …' is a tried-and-trusted cross-selling technique. However, upselling can be even more effective. In fact, according to econsultancy, showing consumers a similar but more expensive item is 20 times more likely to drive a sale.
'If you build a site, they will come' is not a workable e-commerce strategy. You have to get out there and be proactive. The eCommerce Training Academy advises businesses to “effectively leverage search engine optimization, pay-per-click, email, social, display ads, retargeting, mobile, shopping engines and affiliates to help drive qualified traffic to their online store. They must be visible where their audience is paying attention.”
If you’re going to claim something like 'Easy Returns', make sure you can deliver on it. If your customer, who wants to return an item, finds out that 'Easy Returns' means paying the full return shipping costs and driving miles to the nearest drop-off point, they will not hesitate to tell everyone they know how bad your service is. Claims like 'Low prices' and 'Guaranteed next day delivery' aren’t just snappy pieces of clickbait, they’re promises your customers will hold you to.
Yes, it’s great to have a deep, robust website with lots of captivating content. However, you don’t want all that stuff to get in the way of people actually buying your products. Your customer should never be more than 3 or 4 clicks away from your checkout.
Most e-commerce businesses are seasonal by nature, with regular ups and downs, spikes and dips. Comparing busy months with quieter months can paint a misleadingly depressing picture of your progress. Lifehack has some sensible advice on this: “Set aside a statistically accurate interval and compare your metrics. Compare July to July, winter to winter or year to year if you want an accurate report.”
Kunal Kapoor of pre-loved designer fashion business The Luxury Closet has some sound advice, based on bitter experience, about making your e-commerce site future-proof: “When you’re building it, think a year, two years down the line – think of the scale. We started with a Wordpress website and it was completely not scalable. Everything we had done from 2013 to 2015, we threw away and started again."
The old saying is true: you can’t please all the people all the time. We all accept that the odd negative review is a fact of life. If your site is filled with 100%, 5-star glowing testimonials, your business risks looking untrustworthy.
If people come to your website and all they see are out-of-date blogs, recommendations and testimonials, it won’t inspire confidence. Your site is the home of your business – keep it fresh.
Some companies believe that “new business is everyone’s business.” Which is all very true and admirable. But the fact of the matter is, giving people the specific responsibility for driving e-commerce sales will always give you a greater chance of success.
Remember that the titan of e-commerce, Amazon, took eight years to record its first yearly profit. We’re not suggesting it will take that long for your business to get into the black. But there are definitely lessons about patience, persistence and playing the long game to be learned from the Jeff Bezos journey.
These three words seem to sum up a lot of what we’ve talked about in our 20 e-commerce Dos and Don’ts:
Focus: Maintain a laser-like focus on providing a great service for your customers at all times.
Persistence: Don’t think short term. If you plan on being in business for the long haul, there’s more chance you will be.
Passion: Be passionate about your brand and make sure you communicate that passion to your customers.