Let’s face it, when it comes to ecommerce, the year is almost over.
There are only two major online retail events left in 2014 – Black Friday and the Shopping Season, and I am sure you’ve been prepping up for them already.
And once they’re behind us, it’s all about 2015.
Just like many other online retailers, you’re probably already thinking of ways to improve and grow your ecommerce business in the year ahead.
This week I decided to share my ideas for achieving this.
The online retail market has been growing. According to comScore, ecommerce spending grew by 14% in 2013. At the same time, Emarketer predicted that in B2C alone it will grow by 20.1% this year. It may be too early to say if these predictions were true. It is, however, already evident that ecommerce market is on the rise.
First of all, the giants like Amazon and others have become omni-present in almost every niche and industry. This is largely due to the fact that they can offer lower prices, along with many other benefits small retailers can’t.
The cost of marketing and advertising has risen, too. SEO, typically the most popular (and cost effective) ecommerce marketing channel, is no longer as reliable as it used to be. In order to reach a wider audience, you need to switch to PPC and other forms of advertising. This, however, can add a significant cost to your operation.
Shipping continues to be expensive, while most customers demand at least some form of free shipping.
To make things even grimmer, customer loyalty is at its lowest. Many buyers abandon their favorite stores in lieu of a better deal they found somewhere else.
But does this mean that the days of small ecommerce stores are over? No-quite the contrary, in fact.
What it does mean is that in order to grow your business, you need to employ some new strategies to make it work.
Here are few suggestions.
To many, one of the greatest downsides of ecommerce is a lack of any connection with customers. People just visit your site and if they like what they see, they pull out their wallets. Once you ship goods to them, it’s over.
Today, the situation is quite different.
The way to grow your business today is by doing the opposite — developing personal relationships with customers.
Use phone and live chat to connect with your customers. Also, include social media in your marketing strategy, not only to bring more traffic but to build connections. Don’t forget to focus on your local audience!
One of the advantages of getting to know your customers is that you learn quite a lot about their needs and wants. You know what problems they have and understand how they expect to be helped.
And thus, you are able to bring in more relevant products.
In 2015, I believe you should focus more on making sure that every new product you start carrying is super relevant to your customers, and focus less on the number of products you carry.
This may mean skipping many mass market products. But unless you enjoy margins that allow you to compete with Walmart or Amazon, you are better off selling more niche products anyway.
Many online stores struggle with stock that just gathers dust on their shelves. This locks up not only physical space but also the funds invested in it.
These might be seasonal products, or older models of recently updated products or any other product that hasn’t sold in the last few weeks or months.
Consider closing out those products through special promotions, sales and other marketing vehicles.
Getting rid of aging stock, even though it may seem insignificant, will boost your cash-flow and free space and resources to buy newer stock that’s more likely to sell.
In 2015, raising brand awareness among target customers will mean everything. And I mean everything. It will be a year of fighting for attention with the giants and other smaller stores alike.
No strategy today works better for getting noticed than publishing useful and helpful content.
Make content marketing a cornerstone of your marketing strategy. Sure, many of those visitors will turn out to be cold leads at first.
But they will learn about your brand. And if you’re persistent enough, you might get a chance to convert them when they are actually ready to buy.
Email is already an extremely powerful sales channel. Conversion Academy reports that over 67% conversions at a checkout happen from email, beating direct traffic, the second most effective channel, by 97%!
I have written extensively about email here on Ecommerce Insiders. For more information, take a look at some of these posts:
2015 is going to be a challenging year for many ecommerce stores, that’s for sure. Even though the online retail market will continue to grow, many smaller stores will have to fight hard for clicks and conversions.
In my opinion, the best way to win is by getting closer to customers, through building personal relations, offering heavily targeted products, and utilizing content to make that relationship valuable to the customer.