The e-commerce scene has been on a rapid, upward growth for a few years, and this is not expected to decline. If you are an entrepreneur, this provides an important pathway for you to improve the revenue flow and sustainability of your business.
If you already have an e-commerce site running, or are looking to establish one in the near future, this is the time to take full advantage of the opportunities at your disposal. According to research, total retail sales through e-commerce increased by nearly $100 B, from $167.3 B in 2010 to $263.3 B in 2013. This further increased to a whopping $304.1 B in 2014, and trends suggest that 2015 will be registered at least $347.3 B or higher.
To date, e-commerce contributes around 9.5% of the total sales made in the US, and this number is still growing. Financial analysts predict that over the next three years, from 2016-2018, total retail sales in e-commerce will amount to $392.5 B, $440.4 B and $491.5 B respectively. Should these pan out as expected; the industry will have registered a growth of 41% by 2018’s end.
Even though the industry as a whole is expected to grow so massively, these figures will only hold true for those who approach their e-commerce prudently. This means that focus must be maintained on improving the e-commerce experience and reach of your site by following some critical steps. These are given below.
1: Take your time before the launch
It’s not bad to secure a domain name and put up a ‘Coming Soon’ banner page of some kind, but hold off on making the real launch until you have done some valuable work in terms of SEO checks and optimization, social media linking, content marketing, paid search advertising, among others.
2: Focus on user experience
Many e-commerce sites fail because they are unable to adequately satisfy their users’ sensory desires before they can make a decision about their products. E-commerce is always disadvantaged in this way; bricks-and-mortar stores allow users to sate their sensory curiosity by feeling, smelling, seeing and even tasting/testing products before purchase.
While there’s little you can do about that, you can compensate for its absence through other incentives like more affordable pricing, easier checkout processes, free shipping for certain distances from the business and streamlined shopping carts.
3: Test everything
Invest in comprehensive testing and analytics prior to, during and after the launch of your e-commerce site. You have to think like a customer – experience the site the way a customer would and find out what’s working or not, what can be improved and why things are the way they are. You can use free and premium tools for A/B testing, available online.
4: Collaborate with your social team
If you’re an entrepreneur with an e-commerce site and you have delegated it to another team member or outsourced it to someone else, you’re missing out. The life-breath of the business is in your social media; you gain raw footage into your customers’ lives and get to experience them in a tamer environment. This can provide valuable insights to help improve your products, services and/or marketing strategy.
It’s alright to have a social media specialist/team, but you must remain actively involved to know what customers are saying to and about the business.
5: Link to your social profiles
Closely related to the above, include links and widgets for your different social media profiles within your e-commerce website. You should also have clearly visible testimonial and user review sections that can help the user along the buying process. These can be powered by social media logins for easy sharing to customers’ profiles right from your website.
6: Mobile, mobile, mobile
Mobile devices are playing a more significant role in online consumer spending with each passing year. Predictions by Goldman Sachs show that mobile spending will increase to $626 B in 2018 from last year’s $204 B.
If you haven’t constructed your e-commerce site with your mobile audience at the forefront of your mind, you’re likely to become completely irrelevant within the next three or so years. Google has already rolled out its mobile friendly algorithm, meaning that you cannot get far on organic search ranking without being mobile-friendly.
7: Keep up with your SEO
In response to the growing opportunities presented by e-commerce, more enterprises will join the bandwagon to take advantage of opportunities. This means that you need to have a robust SEO check system in place, as well as advanced optimization techniques to stay a step ahead of growing competition.
It is in your best interest to be connected to experienced SEO professionals for greater success over the longer term.
8: Information gathering and analysis
Unless you intend to launch one e-commerce site and step away from the game (this is not the strategy of most entrepreneurs), it’s important to have an information-gathering system in place and a systematic database to store the data. This will help inform future strategies and launches for greater success.
9: Never stop growing and changing
The economy is always changing, as are consumer habits and approaches. With these changes, together with further advances in technology, there will be inherent growth and shifts in buying trends, demand patterns and consumer tastes. In order to succeed, you will have to evolve to fit what the market demands.
Conduct time-based market and consumer researches to identify current and future trends and to remain one step ahead of the competition. Go where you know the market is going before your competitors to gain first-mover advantage in very competitive niches.
These nine steps will put you on the path to successful e-commerce entrepreneurship in 2015 and beyond.
Michael Bentos is an experienced digital marketer and part of the team atParadoxSEO.com – the powerful platform that makes SEO simple. He has conducted SEO checks and offer consultancy on the same for many multinational companies worldwide. You can connect him vialinked-in.