The days leading up to the launch of an eCommerce store are often exploding with palpable excitement. The founder can’t wait to get their products out there as they envision a roaring start to operations. For most small eCommerce store owners though, this initial enthusiasm gradually gives way to confusion, frustration, and disappointment. While there might be some sales, the volume and value can fall way short of expectations. This reality can precipitate a disillusionment that causes the founder to close shop shortly thereafter.
If you think about it, small eCommerce stores face formidable odds. Irrespective of what they sell, they are likely to come up against behemoths like Amazon and Alibaba stocking the same thing. To make matters worse, they don’t have the deep pockets to drive an aggressive marketing campaign at scale.
Nevertheless, small eCommerce stores can grow and thrive. Remember even giants like Amazon have been unable to monopolize the eCommerce marketplace. For varied reasons, millions of customers will still opt to make their purchases at smaller stores. That means there’s something you can do to get your sales growth and return on investment (ROI) rising. Here’s a look at 5 ways you can improve your sales and ROI.
1. Sell to Existing Customers
Whenever small eCommerce store owners contemplate business growth, their thoughts will center on increasing the number of customers. Bringing in new customers is essential but can sometimes take focus away from the tremendous value stores can realize from addressing existing customers. Customer acquisition is fundamental but customer retention is more important.
Your existing customer is more likely to have higher-order value than new customers and is also more readily persuaded. Current customers are familiar with your brand and don’t have to endure a learning curve in navigating your store and making a purchase. They’ve already run through the purchase process before and have confirmed you sell products of acceptable quality. You’ll spend much fewer ad dollars in convincing an existing customer to buy a product than you would by wooing a new prospect.
Create incentives for future purchases by developing some form of customer loyalty scheme. Every purchase a customer makes would come with a commensurate gain in loyalty points. The customer can then redeem the points for promotions and discounts whether at your store or partner businesses.
2. Showcase Your Top Selling and Highest Margin Items
Not everyone who lands on your website will be certain about what they are looking for. Some may be browsing your store out of boredom while others have a hazy idea of the thing they want. The sheer diversity of your store’s products may be overwhelming and many prospects won’t have the time or patience to explore.
Your customer is king but a king isn’t omniscient—sometimes they need someone to guide them in the right direction. You can do that by having a ‘best seller’ section on your store’s homepage. Make the most of the bandwagon effect. There’s a perception that a popular product has repeatedly been tested by a wide range of customers most of whom have found it a good match for their needs. No one wants to be a guinea pig especially for a store that doesn’t have the reputation and long history of a giant established eCommerce business.
Ideally, your best selling products should also be the ones that give you the highest profit margin. That’s not always the case. You could, of course, place one of your low margin products under the best seller category. After all, no one will ever know, right? That may work but is a risky proposition and a danger to your reputation if the deception comes to light. It would be more prudent to include a ‘best recommended’ or ‘best value’ section right next to the ‘bestseller’ category. This would contain the highest ROI items.
That way, you’ll ride on the attention the best seller products draw to push your high margin items.
3. Show Your Site is Trustworthy
Ecommerce has been around for a while now. With soaring smartphone availability and Internet access, one would expect that by now, eCommerce sales should have surpassed brick and mortar store sales. That hasn’t happened. A major reason for this relative underperformance is that many people don’t trust the Internet enough to be willing to purchase anything online. It’s a double whammy for small eCommerce stores because they also don’t have the brand recognition that large stores do. You can do something about it though.
Incorporate markers that demonstrate trustworthiness and reliability. This can take various forms such as showing publications where your store has been mentioned (in good light), listing awards you’ve received, installing SSL, showing web security badges and listing the big-name partners you work with. It costs little to incorporate these signs but it will encourage more people to buy from you.
Nevertheless, do it in moderation—too many badges can make the store appear cluttered and chaotic. Also, liaise with your attorney just to be sure your use of other organizations’ names and brands won’t land you in legal trouble.
4. Prepare Promotions for the Holiday Season
Black Friday and Cyber Monday routinely transform the fate of otherwise struggling businesses from precarious to solidly profitable. Holidays are a time when people are looking to spend more than usual. Millions will shore up their savings year to have the money for the purchases they want. Large eCommerce stores spend months strategizing the holiday season promotions they’ll roll out to maximize their sales.
Unfortunately, small eCommerce stores are frequently caught flat-footed. They don’t invest resources or time into getting their business well-positioned for the looming flood of customers. If large businesses cannot afford to ignore the season, neither can small ones.
Preparation begins by thinking about the products you want to be included in your promotion. Next, use your email list to reach out to existing customers with a heads-up of what goodies are in store for them. By the time the big day arrives, the air should be pregnant with anticipation as customers anxiously keep an eye on the countdown. The impact of the holiday promotion could give your sales a momentum that lasts for months.
5. Accept Multiple Means of Payment
Your eCommerce store may target a particular market segment but that doesn’t mean your customers will all have the same preferences. One area you want to ensure diversity is in the methods they can use to pay. If you stick to accepting MasterCard and Visa cards only, you’ll lose out on revenue by alienating a large proportion of your potential customers.
Seek to accept as many payment options as is necessary. Not only should you allow cards from all of the world’s main card networks (Visa, MasterCard, UnionPay, American Express and Discover), make sure that includes both debit and credit cards. Beyond that, give customers the option of using other online payment platforms such as PayPal and Google Pay.
Keep an eye on evolving changes in the market. Mobile money is, for instance, a commonly used means of payment in some parts of the world so an eCommerce store serving such segments must include it if it wants to stay competitive.
There’s no shortcut to eCommerce success. While a minuscule minority will achieve spectacular almost-overnight success, for the majority of victors, it’s a long, difficult and gradual climb. These tips won’t necessarily lead to a surge in ROI in a matter of weeks. However, they can get your store’s ROI steadily moving along a positive trajectory. As a small business, that will usually be more than enough.
Will Schneider is the founder of insightQuote, a match-making service for B2B services, and writes informative posts about fulfillment services at FulfillmentCompanies.net. He is passionate about helping businesses find the right solutions to improve their operations. When not working, Will enjoys coaching youth basketball.