After we focused on possible pitfalls (read here and here) that may have held you back in 2014, we will now focus on tips to make a good start in 2015. Consider this article as a checklist of things you should look at earlier or later this year.
1. Develop your niche
It has always been important in any business to stand out from the crowd. In ecommerce in 2015 this is even more true. Traditional retailers have strengthened their ecommerce activities and Amazon has further developed its position as the biggest ecommerce company. What is, therefore, even more important in 2015 than it was before is to develop your niche (check this page for inspiration to develop your niche). The only real other possibility is to grow really big to be able to compete with the giant companies out there and to compete on price (what I wouldn’t advise to try to do for 99% of starting ecommerce entrepreneurs without significant funding and industry-changing ideas).
2. Personalized offers
Ask yourself: what can I offer to my customers? Your customer data is worth a lot. Based on buying preferences in the past or browsing patterns you, as a small specialized shop know more about your customers than most of the competition and you are able to quickly respond to changes in the market. Find out how you can personalize offers.
3. Content Marketing
Ask yourself again: what can I offer to my customers? Now even more than in 2014, it is important to offer inspiring content in your online store. When using content marketing, you are not selling, you are educating and informing your customer. The concept of content marketing is that when you consistently deliver valuable information to the customer, s/he will reward you with their business and loyalty.
4. Use video
Images often tell more than a thousand words, video keeps your visitors engaged and keep them on your website. Video is easier to “consume” than text is and our societies are becoming increasingly visually-oriented. Video offers a lot of opportunity to tell a story about your brand and/or product and allows you to show it from multiple sides. If visitors spend more time on your website, they find out more about you, they will be more likely to remember you and are more likely to make a purchase. More time spent on a website also gives your website a higher ranking in Google. Video is easily shared by your customers and in this way it attracts new visitors. Lastly, Google is increasingly showing videos in their search results, which brings free traffic to your online store.
5. Go mobile
It is increasingly important to have a website that is easy to view (and order products from!) on mobile devices. Mobile ecommerce growth is larger than ecommerce growth as a whole and while 2014 may have been the year you “should” set up a mobile-friendly site, in 2015 this is becoming a “must”.
6. Declutter you website
(Ecommerce) websites have become increasingly complex over the last couple of years. If you have a look at the most successful online companies today, you will see they got rid of everything that may distract a visitor. Ask yourself for every single bit on your website whether it serves the purpose of informing the visitor of necessary information and whether it brings him/her closer to a purchase. It is much easier to make your website ready to be viewed from all devices, and to go mobile, when you got rid of the unnecessary stuff.
7. Improve your web pages
There is, however, some information that you really need to have. Apart from the great content, including video, you would be surprised to find out how many people actually read about us pages. They want to know from whom they are buying. Make sure this kind of pages are solid – find some tips here.
8. Turn shipping costs into your advantage
There are two trends today that you should use to your advantage. One, customers are expecting more and more in terms of shipping (they love free shipping and want to know when their order arrives). Two, postal companies deliver less and less letters, and they now earn most of their money with delivering parcels. Call up a couple of shipping companies and negotiate the best price. How to use shipping costs to your advantage? Give your customers a better deal than the competition on shipping and communicate the good deal. Best of all is to make shipping free (even if you need to make the product itself more expensive). Read here for more tips on shipping.
9. Create temporary scarcity
Experiment with showing the amount of stock still available right next to the order button. If you show that there are only 2 items left, this will create an incentive for the customer to buy now.
10. One step checkout
One of the reasons why people shop online is because it is easy and fast. If they need to supply a lot of information (checkout pages often run up to 6 pages), this will enormously increase the chances that they will leave you online store without making a purchase. Simplify your checkout and only ask the information you really need to give your conversion rate a boost. Check this page for more tips for your checkout.
11. Make your website fast(er)
Research shows that visitors are increasingly impatient with websites. Ideally your website should load, on all devices, within a second. If it takes longer, people are already leaving your online store without having even entered it. Check for more on loading speed this page.
12. Use reviews
I cannot emphasize this enough. People really read reviews and trust other customers. Therefore you should use an independent review company and collect reviews. Use these reviews to build trust. Reviews are also a great way to keep on refreshing the content on your website without putting in the effort yourself – a great extra advantage that is good for SEO (higher ranking in Google and other search engines)
13. Improve thank you page and ask for feedback
In the past I just thanked people for making a purchase in my online stores. Now, I, apart from thanking them for their business, ask them to provide feedback. Did they come across any errors during their visit to my site? Are there any areas we should improve the shopping experience? I just added a simple google docs form to the thank you page (how to do it? here). I get very valuable feedback that allows me to improve my online store. An added advantage is that by having already said what they didn’t like about the website, they are less likely to leave a bad review! I really recommend the combination of reviews and the possibility to directly provide feedback after purchase. href=”/starting-online-store/product-range/#range”
14. Offer your discount in euros/dollars, not in %
How you offer your discount really influences the customer. If you sell something for 28.50 EUR and now you sell it for 26 EUR, don’t say it is a 9% discount but say exactly how much your customer saved – 2.50 EUR! It sounds more impressive and the customer doesn’t need to do the calculating himself.
15. Use psychological pricing
Use psychological pricing. This includes the simple improvements 29.99 instead of 30. But psychological pricing goes much further. Imagine for example the following situation. You offer subscriptions and you really only sell two plans, say a “silver” plan for 10 EUR per month and a “gold” plan for 25 EUR per month. You want to sell more of the gold plans. One of the best ways to actually do that is to have a “platinum” plan for 70 EUR per month on offer as well. This will make the gold plan look like much better value than if you only had the silver and gold plans. This is, of course, just a fictional example. If you sell series of products that come with more or less features, you can use this principle. If you give a discount, also give the old price next to it.