Many have this misconception that the internet is a friendly territory for those who want to engage in enterprising activities since it is cheaper to create an online shop and it does not require a lot of overhead expenditure. However, the reality is more complicated than that. While it may be easy to put up a store, establishing an online presence is a different story. The job does not start with the conceptualization of the business and end with the launching of the online shop.
Around 90 percent of eCommerce startups fail within 120 days. This should not be seen as a reason to not consider starting an eCommerce business, though. This dismal success rate mostly only applies to those that fail to carefully plan their ventures. Those that succeed do so because they follow crucial steps in laying a formidable foundation toward a profitable business.
Discussed below are important steps in guiding an eCommerce business to thrive with an emphasis on the marketing, funding, relationship building, supply chain management, and contingency planning aspects.
Develop a Foolproof Sales and Marketing Strategy
A profitable eCommerce business should always have an excellent sales and marketing strategy. It is not enough to have a good product. When it comes to doing business online, it is equally important to know how to do effective marketing, especially when the competition is virtually everyone else online offering the same products or services.
The Institute of Entrepreneurship Development offers some good insights on coming up with an excellent marketing strategy in the digital and online age. These can be summed up as follows:
- Understand the concept of digital marketing strategy properly to put it to good use. It is not just about using digital tools, platforms, and methods. More importantly, it is about using the digital ecosystem optimally to achieve the best results.
- Choose the right digital marketing type and strategy for your business niche. Not all digital marketing solutions work for all kinds of businesses. Do extensive research and solicit the insights of those in the know.
- Address the specific needs and problems of your target customers. Avoid throwing everything you can throw to check for whatever sticks. This is not only very costly but also unlikely to yield the desired outcomes. Undertake studies on what your potential customers need and want.
- Offer something unique and highlight it. You don't necessarily have to introduce something revolutionary and totally unique. You just need to make sure customers can distinguish it from others to leave a lasting impression and make your business easy to identify and return to.
- Plan your marketing strategy meticulously. Choose the best content management system, publishing channels, and marketing tools to use.
- Determine your current position in the industry you want to be part of. In order to set realistic targets and improve, you need to know your current standing. This will also be the starting point for the series of business evaluation points you have to conduct in the future.
- Establish a marketing campaign schedule to organize courses of action and have a reference in keeping track of accomplishments. Also, set key performance indicators.
- Lastly, evaluate campaign outcomes. If the results are in line with the targets, continue with the current plan. Otherwise, analyze the possible issues and implement the necessary adjustments.
A good sales promotion strategy boosts your eCommerce brand. Effective marketing campaigns help build better relationships with customers, not irritate or leave a bad impression on them. It manifests respect to customers and does not obstruct their online shopping experiences. It entails customer value optimization without being too aggressive in the use of social media posts, email marketing, and notifications.
Go All Out and Seek More Funding to Execute Plans Properly
A study by MarketingSignals shows that the top reasons why eCommerce startups fail are as follows: poor online marketing, lack of online search visibility, little to zero marketing efforts, lack of cash or liquidity, price and cost issues, getting outcompeted, inability to compete with retail giants, poor customer service, lack of team efficiency and competence, and product mistiming.
All of these reasons entail the need for adequate funding. Marketing campaigns and SEO campaigns for better online visibility cost some amount. Also, it is virtually impossible to compete with more established market players without shelling out some cash. Liquidity is also important to continue sustaining business operations and train employees to work more efficiently and provide satisfactory customer service.
The sourcing of investments or funds for business operations has been made easier with the availability of crowdsourcing through platforms like Indiegogo, GoFundMe, and SeedInvest Technology. The relatively new Start Engine is also a good way to generate starting capital with the help of a dedicated team that provides valuable advice and insights on succeeding as an eCommerce entity.
To succeed, it is advisable not to be tepid in moving towards success. Come up with good plans, and make sure to execute these plans properly with the right people and sufficient funding.
Do Not Be Afraid to Expand
No business that became profitable willfully stagnated. It is not a sound business plan to plateau upon reaching a certain revenue level. Becoming successful with growing revenues always presents the opportunity and challenge to expand. Refusing to grow is not a path successful entrepreneurs take.
If a business does not have enough of the funds for expansion, there are many options to take. Crowdfunding is something many businesses already tried and found success with. There are also entities or platforms that provide loans, investments, or funding for specific purposes.
8fig, for example, helps businesses fund their expansion by providing capital injections based on growth plans that are designed with the help of artificial intelligence to find the best paths to level up the profitability of an eCommerce operation. eCommerce businesses that sell on Amazon, eBay, Shopify, Walmart, and other platforms can take advantage of 8fig’s dynamic funding to pursue specific actions that make them scale up their operations.
With the wider reach of the internet, the new technologies that support more convenient and safer online shopping, and the availability of technical and financial support, there are no reasons for eCommerce businesses to hesitate in expanding their operations or exploring a related niche to grow and level up their profits.
Engage Customers Continuously
Because of the abundance of options online, it is not easy to hold the attention of customers, let alone their loyalty. eCommerce businesses must be aware of this reality, and do something to make sure they attract the attention of potential customers, turn existing customers into frequenters or clients, and ensure continued patronage.
None of these is possible without actively engaging customers. It is advisable to use various customer engagement solutions such as regular blogs and contests. The use of website visitor engagement plugins such as hit counters, maps, pop-ups, and multimedia sliders also helps.
The collection of site visitor engagement plugins from POWR are good options to try. These include plugins for presenting impactful menus for restaurants, music players, graphs, discount notifications, sales countdowns, and custom order and event registration forms. They help keep customer attention and point them to things they may want to do on the site.
Foster Good Relationships With Manufacturers or Suppliers
The importance of relationships with manufacturers is often neglected or downplayed. For many, they are just other businesses that need to please their customers (the stores buying from them). However, modern commerce has shown how it is crucial to maintain good seller-manufacturer relations.
This relationship is necessary because manufacturers serve other sellers, which could be your direct competitors. Manufacturers can offer generous discounts and other benefits to sellers that are on good terms with them. They also play a critical role in the timeliness of deliveries, quality of goods, and access to the most recent products.
Entrepreneurship expert Bob Reiss suggests that it is okay to be a demanding customer (to your manufacturer or supplier), but you have to ensure a good relationship by always paying on time, providing adequate lead times, personalizing the relationship, and sharing relevant information.
There may be times when your cash flow will restrict your ability to pay on time, so it greatly helps to have a good relationship with your supplier to continue the regular flow of goods and enjoy possible preferential treatment among other sellers.
Image: Huff Industrial Marketing
Ensure Effective Supply Chain Management
Another very important factor in eCommerce success is supply chain management. Many eCommerce stores nowadays do not have the products they sell in stock on the day they are ordered. They resort to selling items they have yet to obtain to minimize storage/warehousing costs and be competitive. This practice can become problematic, as it may result in delays in delivering orders without effective supply chain management.
Based on data from Invesp, 96 percent of customers equate "fast delivery" to "same-day delivery." Also, 80 percent of shoppers want same-day shipping, while 25 percent of shoppers say that they will likely abandon a cart online if there is no option for same-day shipping.
Customers can be very demanding with the movement of the products. And they can afford to do so because they have many options when it comes to online stores. eCommerce shops need to be mindful of this reality, lest they want to see their customers fleeing.
Essentially, an eCommerce store should have a steady flow of the items being sold in relation to the demand. It is important to always meet customer expectations. If items are shown as available, they should be available and delivered within the indicated delivery timeline. For products regularly bought by clients or repeat customers, going out-of-stock is not an option.
Develop a Contingency Plan To Manage Risks
Lastly, it is important to have a plan to address risks.These risks include cyber-attacks, technical issues such as server problems and software bugs, and fraud. The costs of cybercrime are rising to extremely alarming levels. Similarly, the losses incurred because of business disruptions have increased. It is utter inexpediency to ignore these risks.
Here’s a guide to coming up with a good contingency plan.
- Identify critical business functions - These are the functions that should be protected with maxim effort and resource allocations. Also, there has to be a systematic way to quickly restore them after an attack or disaster. Examples of these are the website/online store, web server, payment mechanisms, communication systems, and the underlying mechanism for the supply chain management.
- Create a risk assessment and management team for business continuity - There has to be a dedicated team of experienced experts to handle contingencies and ensure the prompt restoration of business functions.
- Reserve a portion of your operating systems - Contingency planning and response requires resource allocation. It is impossible to prepare for, respond to, and mitigate untoward incidents without sufficient funding and the right people assigned for the job.
Cyber attacks, accidents, disasters, and other events that disrupt business operations mean heavy losses to an eCommerce operation. They easily reduce profits and even possibly wipe out profits and turn financial statements red. As such, it is essential to have good contingency planning as part of the framework of operating a profitable eCommerce business.
Running an eCommerce business has many advantages, but it also comes with its own set of drawbacks that should be addressed effectively. There is a lot of planning to do to make sure that the business achieves and maintains profitability. At the same time, it is essential to properly execute plans and pay attention to other critical aspects, particularly the customer and supplier relationships.