At the moment, there’s no better business to be in than E-Commerce. Starting up can be fast, relatively painless, and not all that expensive comparatively speaking. It’s definitely easier than establishing a brick-and-mortar location, which is why many entrepreneurs have started their businesses online, and many retail businesses with physical footprints have reduced their number of locations and transformed their business model into an E-Commerce offering as well. Especially this past year.
But having a glamorous website, a niche product, and a comprehensive business plan doesn’t always guarantee success. In fact, most E-Commerce stores struggle to stay afloat and are subject to market conditions, supply chain issues, distribution delays, and other unforeseen problems. In fact, over 80%+ of E-Commerce businesses fail. It’s not because they didn’t want it bad enough, or didn’t invest enough, or lacked strategy. There’s no definitive answer to why anyone fails, and there’s no shortage of resources out there that explain the common mistakes, but it all boils down to not mastering the basics.
You need to make it easy to find your store, make it effortless to search, shop, and check out, and most importantly, you need a dependable way to keep track of inventory and get it into the hands of your customers as quickly as possible. Those are the keys to success, and we’ll help you get there.
Make Your Website User-Friendly
No matter how thorough your business plan is, or how revolutionary your product can be, if you can’t offer your customers a hassle-free shopping experience on your website, you won’t get anywhere. These are some things you should address to ensure success.
User Experience (UX)
The user experience should be the first priority on your long list of things to do because it can make or break you. If your website is poorly designed, sluggish, or confusing, customers will leave. As many as 44% of shoppers will tell their friends about a bad experience online, so you need to get this right.
The first step is to make sure that your page is optimized for speed. The ideal website load time is 2-5 seconds. Up to 40% of customers will abandon a site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
This also goes for mobile as well. One key factor in consumers walking away from buying from a retailer online is their mobile sites. There is a lot riding on how quickly the mobile page loads and allows a potential shopper to find what they’re looking for and check out. Considering that close to 64% of shoppers in SEA use their smartphones and tablets for their online shopping trips exclusively, this will cause a lot of churns if you’re frustrating the people you want to attract. If your site isn’t responsive across desktop, mobile, and tablet, customers will look somewhere else.
That said, your site navigation should be easy. As much as you’d like a gorgeous site with videos, rich media, and comprehensive text to entice the shopper and explain your USP, a simple layout that makes it clear what you sell, with easy navigation is best. If customers can move around intuitively, use your product search field to find specific products (there are several good plugins for Shopify, Magento, and Woo Commerce), and have an easy checkout with multiple ways to pay, then you’ll encourage repeat customers. This will do wonders for your search rankings, which will help you get discovered more quickly.
In E-Commerce, transparency builds trust. This means that customers should be able to find your email address and phone number easily on the site, as well as finding a “Contact Us” page. This assures customers that you’re a real business, with a legitimate product. Having these visible, however, comes with a caveat; these communication channels need to have you, or someone on your team at the other end.
As many as 45% of E-Commerce customers will abandon an online transaction if their questions and concerns aren’t addressed quickly enough. You should have self-service content, a detailed FAQs page, offer some measure of live support and incentivize product reviews. All these will go a long way to building trust and bringing in those repeat customers.
When it comes to checking out, there shouldn’t be any surprises in the form of hidden fees. Be transparent about your shipping costs, any taxes or fees, and any customs fees or tariffs that may be accrued if you’re shipping across borders. This is a key time to mention if there are any concerns about shipping (delivery times, unexpected delays, etc…) to forewarn your customers about their product’s journey.
The same goes for your returns policy. Over 63% of customers check a vendor’s policy before proceeding with their purchase. 48% of that same group admitted that they’d spend more time online if return policies were friendlier – aka a generous time window, free return shipping, and help to find a replacement. The easier to make this part for potential customers, the more likely you’ll be able to turn them into regular customers.
Your Visual Identity
It’s also best to invest heavily in your images and overall aesthetic. If you have a range of products, you should show them off with the best photography possible, with multiple angles, to show potential customers all facets of the things they’re interested in purchasing. This should also be paired with concise and informative descriptions, so the customer knows exactly what they’re buying. There’s nothing worse than trying to see a potential purchase up close, only to find that the image is too blurry, out of focus, or can’t be zoomed in on. Nor can you find a list of the item’s features or a comprehensive description of the product.
This is your shop front; the digital equivalent of walking into a high-end store and seeing how clean and well-presented the items are. Paying attention to the customer journey and user experience will make it easier for people to click the “Add to Cart” button.
Keep an Eye on Your Competition
Research is key to the success of your E-Commerce store. Once you know what it is you’re going to sell, look at your competitors and see what they’re doing and what they’re not. Unless you have something completely unheard of as a product, you’re not alone in the marketplace. And if it’s something that you want to sell a lot of, then you need to be sure there’s a need for it in the marketplace, and see if someone is already fulfilling that need.
Then go out and do it better.
Research the other players in the marketplace and pay attention to what makes them tick. For example:
- What’s their business model?
- Are they selling multiple items or just one product?
- Are they just on their own dot.com domain, or are they on storefront and shop platforms?
- What social media channels are they using?
- Who’s their target market?
- How are they pricing their products?
- How are they pushing sales – paid media, paid social, SEO, emails, etc…)?
- How engaged and loyal is their audience?
These questions will help you to build out your own plans and strategies to make your business successful.
Drive Traffic to Your E-Commerce Store
There’s nothing that can derail a business, no matter what it is, as quickly as having no shoppers. This past year has demonstrated that. In the E-Commerce context, your website traffic is your flow of shoppers into and out of your store. If you want to sell, you need to generate traffic, or else no one will know you exist.
This means investing in marketing channels. Take a look at the different avenues of digital marketing and how they fit in with your objectives and business model. In a perfect world, you’d be able to rely on basic unpaid media, social media, and hope that you can rank well with organic search, but that’s not the real world. These, especially SEO, take time to get traction; the time you don’t really want to waste. To truly get the word out there, you’ll need to invest in your marketing collateral.
By all means, we’re not suggesting that you forgo SEO. In fact, there are plenty of things you can do to optimize your website, such as using keywords, optimizing your best-performing pages, and so on. These activities are vital, and not something you should ignore. But it does take a lot of ongoing work and monitoring to really reap the benefits.
A faster way would be through paid advertising, such as a pay-per-click campaign with product listing ads. This means that you only pay for people who click through to your site. This way, you’re showing your inventory and the relative cost to potential customers, before paying for the click. This means that those customers are more qualified to buy as they’ve already seen the product and the price, and decided to visit your E-Commerce store.
Once you have that in place, you should also look into content marketing. This is a more powerful way to share your products via paid social media advertising and blogging.
Also, it doesn’t hurt to introduce new products that you can promote via your marketing channels and blog about, to keep people interested and link back to your store.
Customer Acquisition and Conversion
A key metric to pay attention to within your marketing and overall business plan is your Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), which is the cost of convincing someone to buy your product. The past few years have seen the CAC on paid marketing channels for E-Commerce continuously rising. It’s a high cost to acquire customers from paid channels, so it’s essential to manage conversion and retention to get your ROI on Marketing.
Make sure you understand where your non-converting customers drop off in the order journey. And invest time to understand retention: What makes your customers come back, what are they happy about, and what are points of friction that lead to customer churn? It costs less to retain your customers than it does to find new ones. Having these analytics on hand can help you later on when you’re ready to scale up your E-Commerce business.
Ideally, you want to optimize your conversion funnel all the way to, and including, your checkout process and work on removing any disturbance that could cost you a sale at the last minute.
Move Your E-Commerce Business to Multi-Channel
It’s prudent to have your very own E-Commerce website to call your own. But, you should also think bigger – a shop platform.
To the average shopper, large shopping platforms like Amazon and Alibaba have the E-Commerce market cornered as the place to find it all. But what they don’t know is that a good chunk of what they see is offered by millions of third-party sellers, such as yourself, who are using the sites like a shopping mall, renting a space on the site for their online enterprise. While there is an advantage to partner with Amazon, for example, to reach an international market and rely on their fulfillment services, it comes with a large catch – you don’t own anything. You have no control over the experience, nor do you own your customer relationships, due to Amazon’s selling policies. Thankfully, they’re not the only game in town if you want to spread your wings.
Many independent sellers have moved to a multichannel strategy, independent of Amazon, that allows them to easily market and distribute their products. This means that you’d still have your own dot.com site, but would also rely on other storefront and shop platforms such as Shopify, Shopee, or Lazada, to name a few. These marketplaces offer transactional infrastructure and access to customer acquisition channels while allowing a retailer to outsource some of the more complex and expensive back-office tasks.
They’re also a helpful resource for scaling up when you’re ready. Any of these platforms can offer advice and technical support for how to retool your existing store for your upcoming growth, as well as utilize their resources. For example, with Shopify Plus, it’s become easy to establish and run localized stores for multiple countries from one platform.
The only downside to moving from one channel to several, however, is keeping track of what inventory is sitting in each shop’s warehouse. To manage that, success lies in asking for help.
Get Someone to Manage Your Inventory and Fulfillment
It’s one thing to invest in your E-Commerce business, have a beautiful and responsive website, create awareness, and sell your product, but if you can’t manage to keep track of what’s in your warehouse, sort out what’s available on which channel, be able to figure out when you need to re-stock, or how you’re going to fulfill orders, and get your products into the hands of customers in a timely manner, then it’s all for nothing.
Inventory management is one of the most crucial parts of any product-focused business. In today’s E-Commerce landscape, the costs of not doing this well are catastrophic. If you have too much inventory, then you’re just tying up cash and needlessly paying for storage to hold onto things that aren’t moving quickly enough. On the other hand, not having enough inventory leads to delayed deliveries, frequent out-of-stock products, and scores of unhappy customers, which leads to a bad reputation and poor reviews, and losing out on sales.
A quality and well-managed inventory management system is a must for any E-Commerce retailer. It gives you real-time information about which products are doing better than others, where each product is (if you have multiple channels, warehouses, and fulfillment centers you’re relying on). Visibility into your stock turn and sell-through, your out-of-stock SKU’s, and any non-moving products is key to your success. Customers who visit your site only to find items out of stock will lose faith and trust in you and will stop visiting. Repeat business is contingent on ensuring the best possible customer experience.
Then there’s the fulfillment piece. We’ve got a starting guide to logistics, fulfillment and operations that can offer you an in-depth look at the world of fulfillment but suffice to say, there’s a lot to know, and you’re not expected to know it all. That’s why the right fulfillment partner can help you:
- Figure out your shipping strategy
- What your shipping costs will look like
- The best way to price your shipping (83% of E-Commerce customers use free shipping as the final deciding factor when shopping)
- The best delivery service (private courier vs. postal)
As well as assist with the above inventory advice via:
- Order & Inventory Management.
- Demand/Supply Planning.
- Back Office Workflow Automation.
- Order, Inventory & Sales Analytics.
LOCAD is that fulfillment partner.
LOCAD is The Key to Your Success
There are a lot of things to take care of and implement when you’re trying to ensure the success of your E-Commerce business. While you’re working out the front-end details of everything outlined above, let us worry about everything else. LOCAD offers a flexible supply chain as a service platform for multi-channel fulfillment, on-demand warehousing, and distribution. Our product is a holistic and simple technology platform to manage the backend infrastructure of your E-Commerce.
LOCAD has years of experience, working with shop platforms, E-Commerce entrepreneurs, and Enterprise level clients. We have dynamic and scalable technology solutions to put your product into the hands of your customers as easily and as quickly as possible. As a major shipper, Locad has contracted rates with many courier companies that can lead to significant cost savings vs the rates you pay in the branch or online directly with the courier. Savings on shipping costs can be a major factor to consider a fulfillment partner.
Locad offers a powerful solution that enables you to:
- Have an integration with all of your sales channels ranging from your website to marketplaces and shop platforms such as Lazada, Woo, and Shopify.
- Sell across multiple channels from one consolidated inventory pool, via our free software, with real-time visibility between your sales channels and supply chain.
- With LOCAD’s Control Tower dashboard you are always up to date about your inventory, stock movements, analytics, and KPIs so you can easily filter products that need reordering or do not move.
- Ensure that your orders have a high fulfillment rate and are sent out on time, helping your seller quality score on your marketplaces and facilitating future sales.
- Run a distributed fulfillment network to bring your stock closer to customers. By shortening the last mile we can provide you with a lower shipping cost and faster delivery.
- Make it easier to expand your business with on-demand fulfillment capacity and easy international expansion.
Our services come with no hidden or surprise costs, and we offer flexible terms and variable fulfillment pricing. We don’t believe in locking you into a commitment, because we know that products are subject to seasonality, forecasts can be incorrect, and delays happen. You can scale up and down whenever you need to. Our focus is on offering you affordable, timely, and efficient solutions, so you can focus on growing your business.