The future of online shopping is very bright indeed. It’s believed that global ecommerce sales will exceed $2 trillion in 2017. Of the some 20 million online stores that are now considered to be actively selling products and services worldwide, it’s believed there are only a paltry 650,000 that make more than a thousand bucks a year.
Depending on your outlook, maybe those few who do make money are lucky. That’s very unlikely though. The smarter bet is that far too many people started their site in the hopes of a passive money making venture, then soon realized there was a lot of actual thought and work that goes into maintaining a successful online storefront.
Our friends at OrbitLift shares the following 5 plus modern tactics to start scaling your online store right now – so you don’t get stuck on the bottom of this booming retail industry:
1. Web design must be paramount
Most of you aren’t selling doll houses made from Popsicle sticks to a very niche audience who’re hungry for such a unique product. If you are, you can have the most dreadful looking website imaginable and still generate sales.
The reality is that most online consumers make an instant decision about how trustworthy your brand is. A great site design for an ecommerce platform will involve a snappy modern design, minimal text, full size images, and stupid-simple intuitive design and navigation features.
Look at the examples provided in this top 20 list of best ecommerce store designs. From Reebok to Sony, none of the examples provided looks neither dated nor cluttered.
It’s a given the top dogs all spend millions on their site’s design, but with options like using configurable platforms like WordPress and Magento, or ready-made solutions like Shopify and Wix, no serious online store owner has a viable excuse for making visitors suffer a poor design.
2. Cater to countries where ecommerce is booming
Much of ecommerce is directed to North American consumers. This is a huge mistake if you sell products or services and are looking to scale up to the next level.
Consider that the U.S. currently boasts 7.7% of its total retail sales coming from online sales, with those figures jumping to approximately 8.8% by the end of 2017 (original source):
- The U.K. currently attributes 15.6% of total retail sales coming from online purchases, and is expected to jump to 16.9% by the end of the year.
- China’s numbers are high too, sitting at 13.8% of total retail sales coming from ecommerce, set to hike up to 15.5% by end of year.
- Norway, Finland, and South Korea come in at 11.5, 10.8, and 10.5 percent respectively, with numbers in those countries expected to jump by a half percentage point or more by the end of 2017.
These countries are hungry for products and retailers in their geographic areas can’t always satisfy those shopping needs. Geo Target your store to users all over the world, especially in booming areas, and don’t neglect marketing to these areas via Adwords campaigns, blogging, social, and similar.
3. Set up a partner’s page to establish credibility
There’s no way any small ecomm store owner is going to scale without establishing a reputation with consumers. When a customer drops into your storefront and looks around, the second thing they’ll do after identifying items they’re interested in, will be to look for proof that you’re legitimate and worth doing business with.
A Partner Page accomplishes just that. We’ve all seen these, but they’re still rare. Those pages where the retailer shows who they’ve done business with, who they’ve contributed money to, and who they’ve worked with on sustainability initiatives, etc. As an example, take a look at the clean layout and clear information provided on Coca Cola’s partner page.
You may not have organizations like WWF or the Bill and Melinda Gate’s Foundation to boast, but get creative. If you’re a local business, include the local vendors and charities you work with. You could also use a featured on page instead, linking to media where your brand has been featured.
4. Offer real online and offline support
Most of the stores from the acai berry era have long since adapted or died. You can’t offer products or services for sale without prompt online service like email support and pop-up IM windows, and an actual “toll free” phone number people can call to ask questions and get product support.
There are many budget-minded ways to go about offering blazing fast support. And, it does have to be blazing fast – like 5 minute responses – or a waiting customer will find a vendor that takes their business more seriously.
You can have brick-and-mortar or office staff working on the response team, hire a full-service customer service support company, or set up a team of outsourcers working off a standard script answering emails or IM chats.
Speed and answering all questions accurately and quickly are most important. Each of these initiatives have to be monitored and regularly audited to identify FAQs and improve first time resolution metrics.
5. Flexible payment processing
It goes without saying that you need to offer any and all popular payment options you can to customers. As far as gateways go, PayPal is just fine. Payments are secure and customers know this, and since they’ve been offering guest sign in options for a few years now, there’s no modern worries about alienating people who don’t have/want an account.
Running your checkout through Shopify is also a great way to establish trust and offer an array of payment options to customers.
Things get more complicated, yet potentially less costly if you look toward setting up your own payment gateway, if you qualify. But credit woes and lack of adequate sales can stifle small online business owners from establishing their own gateway.
Other quick tips for scaling your online business include:
- Offer and honor money back guarantees: The first time you ‘welch’ out on a promise, word will get out and sales will suffer.
- Get connected: A great social media presence can make all the difference to a fledgling store looking to expand their online brand.
- Blog regularly: Whether once a day or once a week, blogging elevates your brand in the search engines and gets consumers interested in, and talking about your products.
- Include honest product reviews onsite: Allow customers to review the products they buy right on your site, follow up with them via email after they purchase and allow them to leave honest reviews. Only delete reviews that include profanity or abusive text.
- SEO: Search engine optimization should top any list of tips for expanding your brand. This topic has been done to death and can’t be ignored if you’re looking to scale this year.
Competition is indeed fierce, if you feel you’re currently stuck in a sea of 24 million online stores. However, if you remember that only a small percentage (650,000) are making more than a few bucks per year, it should be obvious that there’s plenty of room in the online retail space for you and your products.
It all comes down to commitment and your ability to implement the tactics listed on this page.