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How to succeed as a retailer online

Why are some online businesses wildly successful while others barely generate revenue? Have you really thought about what your customers are looking for?

Beyond the great designs and aesthetics, more often than not, online shoppers just want to find the product they’re looking for and move on quickly but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t carefully curate the perfect online store.

eCommerce customers tend to err on the side of "less is more." The more selling you can do in the photographs and short, concise descriptions, the less cluttered your site needs to be with paragraphs.

I suggest telling a story. Whether this is through the products themselves, or customer testimonials, humanizing your company has a big impact. But, don’t get caught up with storytelling as the products should speak for themselves, and adding a little life to your offerings will resonate with shoppers.

First things first, you need to know your shoppers and that comes from determining your niche and target market. By understanding your customer’s buying patterns and lifestyle, you will be able to target them more accurately through ads and know which kinds of ads are more attractive to them. Knowing your target market will also make it easier for you to come up with marketing campaigns that will effectively promote your shop and products.

It’s important to note that you should not be thinking for your customers, but like your customers. If you look through your website from the eyes of your customer, you will gain perspective, opening you to different insights that will grow your business.

The next step is familiarizing yourself with the different aspects of online retail. You want to make sure that you have done your research on how online shops work, how to keep your prices competitive, how to provide ease of experience for your customers, how customers are going to pay for your products, and how to get people to buy from you. Companies that are doing this right utilize dozens of online efficiency tools and automated applications that streamline daily and tedious tasks, allowing more time for activities that will grow the business instead of just keeping it running. Additionally, your payment processing method is crucial. Your customer needs to feel safe and secure while also not taking too long to check out.

When it comes to product selection, you will want to make sure you find the cheapest way to get as much variety of products as possible to see what works and what has the potential to move up the value chain. Then through knowing this, you can optimize marketing plans and activities for conversion.

Having an effective marketing strategy is key but so is focusing on your data. By focusing on a few key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics such as conversion rate, cost per sale, and revenue per sale for your advertising materials, you will learn where you should be spending your money. You will also know your return on investment on your marketing activities, allowing you to repurpose any funds to areas of marketing that are more worth your time and money.

Additionally, building a strong organic presence will help drive organic traffic to your website and products so you don't always have to pay Facebook and Google marketing dollars. This requires a strong and consistent content strategy aligned with your products and of course, your customers.

Be willing to test different versions of content and advertising and measure specific KPIs. Be willing to adapt and change your website and product offering to match customer needs. It is easier to tap into existing demand compared to building demand which generally takes a lot of marketing dollars.

Never stop testing, learning, and adapting. You want to constantly check on your customer’s behavior and habits. Talk to them and understand if what you are doing is working or not, and always follow-up. The faster you can test and learn the better off you will be as there will be fewer adjustments to make instead of long costly changes.

You can also provide a feedback system so that buyers can provide honest feedback about a sale, giving you the opportunity to improve or see what works and doesn’t work. You want your customers and potential new customers to feel confident when dealing with you and your company as this will only lead to more customers and sales.

Last but not least, what most online retail shops forget to do is gain people’s trust. Your reputation is everything. It won’t be easy for you to reach and find customers if your company and website are not credible. Make it easy for your customers to reach you - provide a direct business address or phone number.

Don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth. Testimonies of previous customers are essential as they attest to your legitimacy and customer service value. Utilize your network to spread the word about your products and use the networks of those around you.

While there are many other items that can help you become a better online retailer, in my opinion, these are some of the important items based on my eight years of retailing products online.


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