The world of ecommerce and selling online has come a very long way in the past few years, and there's more competition than ever. Chloë Thomas of eCommerce MasterPlan offers eight essential tips to help you sell more online
1. Establish your ecommerce strategy
Just like any business venture, to sell online well you need to work out what your strategy is and stick to it. This includes your ecommerce business structure - are you online only (just selling via the website) or do you also have a physical store?
You'll also need to decide on the product range you're going to stock - are you a specialist in one thing (like trampolines) or do you sell a wide range of goods tailored to your customers' requirements?
2. Think "cross-device", not "mobile"
Consumers don't think of surfing the net on their mobile as being any different than surfing on their tablet, desktop or laptop. So you can't afford to, either. Make sure you're providing the right customer experience across every platform (including your bricks and mortar shop if you have one).
3. Choose the right ecommerce software
There are so many different website options you can choose from - it's important to pick the right one for your business. Most businesses are best off starting with a simple off the shelf option like Shopify or WooCommerce. These are powerful ecommerce systems which will do everything you need quickly and easily, so you can focus on your marketing.
4. Take pride in customer service
The common factor of all the successful businesses I've interviewed on my podcast is that they are committed to providing their customers with great service. That doesn't just mean having nice people on the phone; it's about putting the needs of the customer in everything your business does - from the products, to the website, to the delivery.
5. Create a great delivery experience
If you get your delivery strategy right you'll increase the conversion rate of your website and encourage more repeat purchases. Your delivery strategy covers everything from the price you charge and the services you offer, through to what arrives in the parcel and how the packaging looks.
It's really important to invest some money and thought in getting this right for your customers. After all, delivery is consistently the number one reason people don't buy from a website.
6. Market to get the first purchase and the repeat purchase
To be successful you want to take people from not knowing about you to visiting your ecommerce website, then enquiring, to ordering for the first time, and then get them to buy again and again. Many ecommerce businesses only focus on the first order and forget all about getting the second order - which is crazy because it's easier.
You'll find different marketing methods suit each of the stages of this journey, so you'll have to test and analyse and change your plans accordingly.
7. Build a trusted brand
Today's online shoppers are pretty savvy. Just as you wouldn't buy food out of a run-down, dirty old van, an online shopper won't buy from a website or a business that they don't trust. You need to work hard to build the trust of your customers; it's hard to gain, but easy to lose.
Trust needs to be built into every interaction the customer has with your business - include customer testimonials and reviews on your site, deliver on your promises and make sure all the information on the site is accurate.
8. Keep optimising
This is my personal motto. Nothing you ever do in your business will be finished; in some ways everything is permanently in test mode. So you have to have a policy of constant optimisation - find the area that is working the least well, and make it better. Once that's done, find the next area you need to focus on and repeat.
Chloë has been working in e-commerce since 2003, learning how to increase orders, up customer retention, and manage customer service well, in businesses from the high street to start ups.