E-commerce is one the fastest growing sectors in the world. And considering how simple it is to set-up your own online store, that’s no surprise at all.
But if you already run an online retail business, it can be tough to know how to move it to the next level.
If you’re struggling to know where to start, we hope this guide will help.
The next step for your retail business may be to diversify your product or service offering. By selling a wider range of products, you’ll reach a wider audience as well as reduce the possibility you’ll be affected by a sudden shift in consumer trends.
For example, imagine you specialise in selling a particular kind of shoe. What if that shoe ceases to be fashionable and sales take a plummet? If it’s just one style among many, the effect of this change will be greatly reduced.
However, you should be careful to stay true to your brand, and don’t compromise on quality. It might not make sense for you to branch out, and you might end up harming your brand’s image if you move in the wrong direction.
Conversio have written a guide on how you can strategically diversify your product offering that’s worth a look.
A big advantage of online retail is the opportunity to tailor the shopping experience to your customers. With clever use of data, you can give your customers almost exactly what they’re looking for, increasing the chances they’ll convert and spend some money.
For example, when it comes to returning customers, you can recommend items that are similar to ones they’ve bought in the past. Or give them the option of quickly reordering something they’ve bought before.
For visitors who haven’t yet bought from your store, you can build up a picture of what they’re interested in based on the pages of your site they visit. You can then customise the messaging on your site to focus on the things they’re likely to be interested in.
There are also some powerful tools which can work out what demographic a visitor to your site fits into, so you can customise the experience to suit them.
Most popular e-commerce platforms will have personalisation plug-ins, but you might need to pay for them. There are also plenty of third-party solutions available.
Here are some good examples:
One thing you must be mindful of when it comes to personalisation is data privacy. The latest data protection legislation, particularly GDPR, lays down strict regulations on what data you can store and how you can use it.
To be sure you’re not breaking the rules, consult a solicitor with expertise in data privacy law.
Test, test, test
You’re probably already pretty confident about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to your store. But it’s always worth keeping an open mind and looking to see if there’s a better way. When it comes to e-commerce, it’s relatively simple to test different approaches to see what works best.
A/B testing is the practice of testing one version (A) versus another (B) to see which one performs better. It works by randomly splitting your visitors into two buckets – bucket A sees one variation of your website and bucket B sees another.
You can then compare the results side-by-side to see which bucket is the winner.
For example, you could test two versions of your website – one where you include detailed information for each of your products (bucket A) and one where you provide only a short summary (bucket B).
Or one version where your ‘buy now’ button is orange, and another where it’s blue.
You might find that the customers who get sorted into bucket B convert at a higher rate than those in bucket A. Or that those in bucket A spend more money on average. Based on those results, you can make changes to your site.
You can also employ more complicated testing methodologies, such as A/B/C (and so on) testing or multivariate testing, where you test a number of different variations and see which combination of all of them performs best.
There are many great testing platforms out there, and some of them can be very expensive. But think of it as an investment – if by testing and improving you manage to increase sales by 10%, the tool you buy might end up paying for itself!
Here are some of the most popular testing platforms:
Each platform comes with detailed guides on how you can get started. Some of them may also come with account management, where you can get tips and pointers on what to test and how to analyse the results.
For your store to have reached the level it’s reached, you’ve no doubt been doing plenty of marketing to get the word out. But to get to the next level, you should think about re-marketing as well.
Remarketing is when you target advertising at people who’ve already interacted with your brand in some way. For example, perhaps they visited your site and left without buying anything. You could target them with an advert to try to win them back.
This is usually done by adding a piece of code to your website which places a cookie in your visitors’ browsers when they visit your site. That cookie can then help identify those visitors as being part of your remarketing audience.
Statistics show that people are more likely to click on remarketing ads than normal ads, because they already recognise the brand. They’re also likely to still be looking for whatever it was they were looking for when they came to your site in the first place!
Develop a mobile app
Depending on the popularity of your store, it might make sense to invest money in developing a mobile app for your customers. With a mobile app, you can create a more much more flexible and immersive shopping experience – with the added convenience for your customers that using an app brings.
If you have some experience with programming, you can have a go at creating the app yourself. But you’re probably better off hiring a freelance developer or even an agency to create it for you.
Be careful with this one, though – developing an app can be a significant investment in both time and money. You should try to be as sure as you can be that it’s a worthwhile thing to do before you start.
The last thing you want to do is spend thousands of pounds and many months on an app that no one ever downloads!
For inspiration, here’s a list of e-commerce mobile apps considered the best by Mofluid.com.
Launch a referral programme
Word of mouth is one of the most powerful forms of marketing. Do things well, and your customers will shout about how great you are from the rooftops. But you might sometimes need to incentivise them a little bit.
By launching a referral programme where you give discounts and incentives to your current customers in return for them spreading the word and bringing in more sales, you can massively expand your audience.
For example, you could offer your customers £1 off their next purchase for every new customer they bring in. Give your customers a unique link or coupon code to share, track any sales that come from them, and then reward them for their help.
Again, most e-commerce platforms have plugins that let you set-up a referral programme. There are some free options but the best are usually paid.
Just make sure you think carefully about your incentives. You don’t want to give so much away that it eats into any extra margin you’re making!
Sellbrite have some pointers on how to get started.
Become a thought leader
A great way of expanding the reach of your brand is to become a thought leader in your niche. We recently wrote a post about how you can become a thought leader and how it’s not as complicated as it sounds.
It’s essentially a type of content marketing where you demonstrate your expertise on a particular subject. Most commonly, this takes the form of blogging. But it can also include engaging in online communities like forums or on social media.
A good example of being a thought leader would be if you sold electronic gadgets – you could start blogging about technology. You could give your opinion on the latest trends and write how-to guides.
Becoming a thought leader isn’t something you can accomplish overnight – it’s something you’ll need to work at and maintain. But do it right, and the rewards could be limitless.