Let’s face facts; the days of entering a retail space and purchasing products with hard cash is gradually becoming a thing of the past.
After all, every single aspect of the traditional shopping experience is being challenged by social and technological trends, from the way in which customers research items to their preferred purchasing methods. Even back in 2014 retailers reported that contactless payments more than trebled, for example, while the Internet is now established as the most popular technique for researching products and comparing prices.
This change has also been underpinned by the drive of consumers to enjoy a more convenient lifestyle and an improved work-life balance, with experts recommending that we schedule our time wisely while enjoying eight-hours’ sleep on a nightly basis.
5 Fundamental tips for e-commerce start-ups
Each of these factors lend themselves to e-commerce, which is gradually becoming the key driver of retail revenues throughout the Western world. As if to reaffirm this, an estimated 70% of respondents in a recent UPS commerce study revealed that they now preferred shopping online, underling the viability of e-commerce venture and their potentially lucrative nature.
Success can never be guaranteed in any market or commercial space, however, even in one with as much potential as e-commerce. With this in mind, here are five fundamental tips for e-commerce start-ups that are determined to become successful: –
1. Never sacrifice website performance for Design
One of the key rules of e-commerce is that customers cannot touch your products, and you may be tempted to compensate for this by investing in a stylish and premium website design.
While design is important, however, it must never come at the expense of performance, as a plethora of slow-loading graphics and animations can drastically increase landing page loading times and create an entirely negative customer experience. Compuware claims that every two seconds of additional load time equates to an 8% abandonment rate, with faster and high-performance websites helping to increase conversions by as much as 74%.
In this respect, you need to focus on a simple but responsive design that optimises performance and reflects the underlying goal of the venture (which is usually to sell products in volume and build consumer loyalty). Paying attention to the simplicity of the checkout process is also key, as is your site’s ability to accept a myriad of payment options.
2. Design your e-commerce site with mobile in mind
When we talk about e-commerce, we must recognise that this marketplace is increasingly driven by smartphone and tablet transactions. The statistics suggest that mobile transactions already account for 30% of all e-commerce activity in the U.S, for example, with m-commerce also set to grow 300% faster than similar markets.
If nothing else, this underlines the importance of designing your e-commerce site with mobile in mind. It is also worth noticing that Google is continuing to updates its algorithms to improve the ranking of mobile-friendly websites, prioritising ease of use and the responsiveness of design.
These are two key areas for e-commerce start-ups to focus on, as they look to integrate navigation sidebars and quick-loading product pages to drive a positive mobile experience. You should also strive to use analytical CRM in a bid to recognise consumer behaviour and respond directly to this, creating an evolutionary design that even includes interactive elements that replicate corporeal shopping through a handheld device.
3. From Day One, aim to build a community around your e-commerce venture
The consistency of branding and company ethos throughout your e-commerce proposition is crucial, especially if you are to create a loyal and trusting customer base. This is hard to achieve if you chase variable and constantly shifting trends within the e-commerce space, so the key is to focus on tangible strategies that build trust, loyalty and recognition.
In this respect, it is crucial that you build a community around your e-commerce venture, and one that exists outside of individual products and ranges. There are several ways through which this can be achieved, starting with the integration of a blog into your e-commerce site and the publication of relevant, targeted and insightful content. This is the bedrock of thought leadership and the cultivation of meaningful relationships with customers, and this may prove crucial in a competitive e-commerce space.
Additionally, you can build a community by sharing narratives surrounding the design and manufacturing of your products, while also introducing the people who contribute to these processes. This adds a distinctly human element to your e-commerce brand, helping to distinguish it while it establishes itself against more recognisable rivals.
Tactics such as gamifaction offer another good idea, as this creates interaction between brands and customers while driving a fun consumer experience that others want to share in.
4. Focus on succeeding in a niche Market before looking to expand
Initially, you may be drawn to a large and popular market where demand is at its highest. The issue with this type of market is that it is usually crowded, however, while it will also include a large number of brands that already boast an established market share. To avoid becoming lost in a saturated market and operating a loss-making e-commerce venture, you must narrow your focus initially before looking to grow organically within your chosen segment.
One of the best examples of this was offered by Airnb, which is now one of the largest and most successful brands of its type in the world. Now a purveyor of home and international apartment rentals, it started out with the single-minded focus of offering customers space in private residential homes or shared accommodation outlets. This was part of a carefully planned strategy, which targeted a relatively untapped niche where the brand could establish itself before using this as a foundation to build and expand successfully.
So, start by identifying the unique value proposition offered by your e-commerce venture, before highlight new or immature markets that can offer the brand a relatively large market share. This will enable you to optimise profitability from the outset, while also allowing you to identify any glitches or areas of concern in a less-pressurised and competitive marketplace. Once you have begun to master your business model and the quality of service (or product) that you deliver, you can evolve organically and compete with more established rivals.
5. Manage your expectations (particularly in terms of Profitability)
While this is not necessarily a key strategic element, it is something to keep in mind when establishing a growth plan and underlying business model. Regardless of how you fund your venture or your key financial goals, you must have realistic expectations of when and how you are likely to secure a return on your investment.
If you become impatient in the quest to achieve a profit from your start-up e-commerce venture, there is a risk that you fall victim to short-term thinking and place the longevity of the business at risk. This can also cause you to set unrealistic goals in terms of when your venture will become profitable, creating unnecessary pressure on sales, distribution and the overall business model. By being conservative when setting profitability objectives and maintaining a patient outlook to achieving these, you are more likely to manage your expectations and ultimately build a successful, long-lasting brand.
Do you have any tips for e-commerce success that we may have missed? If so, please feel free to let us know in the comments box below!
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