The news media likes to run with positive headlines when it comes to new businesses. Recently, the Telegraph ran a story on two women over the age of 50 who had made a killing by selling on eBay. Their turnover was £1.2 million and growing by the month. It was a success story, for sure. But that’s what made it newsworthy. What the news doesn’t show are all the companies that didn’t make it and why.
Having said that, the e-commerce industry isn’t going through a period of rapid decline, like the news industry. It’s seen some promising growth. Between 2010 and 2013, the online shopping industry grew from $167 billion to $263. By last year, the figure stood at well over $347 billion. What’s more, there’s still an enormous amount of headroom in the market, especially in the US. Currently, total US retail sales are valued at more than $3.19 trillion. That means that the online retail market has only just broken through 10 percent of the total market.
All of this should be welcome news for retailers who rely on the internet as a platform. The growth trend is pointing in the right direction. And, if there is a plateau, it’s a long way off. Currently, the market is projected to grow by an astonishing 41 percent between now and 2018. By 2018, e-commerce will be worth more than $491 billion to the US economy.
So what can online retailers do to capitalize on this monumental opportunity? Let’s find out.
1. Go Mobile
The way that consumers shop online has changed significantly over the last few years. In the past, shoppers had to go to their main computers, wait for them to load up and then search for what they wanted. But many are shirking these traditional platforms. It’s just a lot more convenient to browse the internet from the comfort of your own sofa.
According to Bill Siwicki of Goldman Sachs, tablets are going to be important in the future. Consumers are going to switch, he says, over to mobile and the cloud. And that’s going to change the whole nature of online shopping. His company is predicting that worldwide mobile sales are going to grow from $200 to $600 by 2016.
2. Communicate With Customers In Their Native Language
They say that English is the language of business. And to a large extent, it is – when companies talk to each other. But when it comes to your customers, it’s best to communicate in their own language. There are two reasons for this. The first and most obvious is that customers need to understand what they’re reading on your site. The other reason is that it makes your site more appealing. With language options, you’re directly serving the needs of your customers, and your competitors may not.
Remember, you don’t need to get somebody to translate your site into a bunch of different languages. Most template e-commerce builders, like WordPress, have translation features built in.
3. Supercharge Your Delivery Options
Starting an e-commerce business might sound like a fun idea. And, as a concept, it all seems rather easy. However, as anybody who has worked in procurement will tell you, managing deliveries is anything but.
Ecommerce order fulfillment is one of the trickiest things for any new startup to get right. You need to pick products out of your inventory quickly and accurately. You need a great shipping partner to actually deliver the goods. And you need security and protection for your products as they’re being processed. All in all, it can add up to be a real headache.
Because of its complexity, many e-commerce businesses fall down on the delivery front. But fortunately for startups, going it alone is no longer the only option. Now they can outsource their procurement to firms that actually know what they’re doing. This, in turn, helps e-commerce businesses get on with the job of marketing their niche and growing their market.
4. Turn Your Company Into A Media Outlet
Content is king when it comes to online marketing. And many companies are now investigating their options. There’s now a definite trend towards companies starting up their own blogs and trying to get a conversation going. Companies are doing this because a desire for content is funneling people through to their sites. Often, the actual products that businesses sell aren’t particularly engaging or entertaining. But there’s almost always a wider, industry-related story, worth reporting. After all, most people start their businesses because they’re passionate about some issue. Sure, legal advice might not be the most interesting subject out there. But stories about legal injustice are certainly enough to get people engaged.
5. Crack Down On Cart Abandonment
Most e-commerce retailers collect in-depth information on how their sites are being used. One of the most vexing aspects of being an online retail business is cart abandonment. It is frustrating. And so knowing what’s driving it is essential. Many e-commerce sites now employ A/B split testing to see which aspects of the user experience are problematic. Ironing out problems on your site reduces the number of abandoned baskets and increases sales.
6. Donate Products For Review
Over the last five years, I’ve seen an explosion of product reviewers on sites like YouTube. These reviewers garner hundreds of thousands of views and subscribers. And they review everything from makeup to computer components. No matter what you sell, there will be a reviewer out there somewhere with a band of loyal followers.
These online critics are a great marketing opportunity. First off, they’re a captive audience already interested in your product. What’s more, by giving away products to reviewers, you’ll make a friend. They’ll often mention your shop and provide a sponsored link in the comments section below their videos. Don’t count on them reviewing the product favorably. But do count on them providing exposure for your brand.
7. Get Your Customers To Write Reviews
By far the biggest challenge for new retailers is earning the trust of online shoppers. The best way to gain trust is to build up a solid reputation. And in the online space, that means reviews – lots of reviews. Encourage your customers to post reviews about your service on independent review sites.