The past decade has seen e-commerce occupy a greater role in our everyday lives. As startups continue to explore options outside the brick-and-mortar way of doing business, web channels are increasingly used to sell everything from music to groceries to various oddities. It’s easy to see why: if you’re never more than a click away from your customers, you maximize your potential to reach them no matter where they are or what they might be doing. However, even though the medium is virtual, the effort that goes into a thriving e-commerce website is most definitely real. Starting a successful online business is no easy feat, but it’s well worth it so long as you think strategically. If you’re looking for ways to take your online store to the next level, consider the tips and videos below.
- Hire the right developer
Some tech-savvy entrepreneurs simply build their online store themselves, but not everyone has the time or skill set required for such an undertaking. In many cases, you might have to hire a web developer. Your developer is someone who will not only build but might also maintain and innovate your e-commerce site, so try to make sure they’re the right fit for the job. First, if you’ll be working with them over a longer period, consider focusing on their personal characteristics and whether they’ll fit in with your organizational culture. Innate qualities like curiosity can go a long way toward bolstering an individual’s on-the-job performance. Once you’ve narrowed the pool of applicants, then you can try vetting their tech skills, with emphasis on their prior developer experience and preferred software. For more information on what questions to ask potential developers, check out these suggestions.
- Use web analytics strategically
Web analytics are crucial to understanding and improving your online performance. In short, analytics allow for the collection of data in such a way that supports fact-based decision-making. Through web analytics, it’s possible to gather data about your online store to answer the following questions: How many unique and return visitors does your site have? How did these people arrive at your site? What keywords do they use? What is your bounce rate? By answering these questions, you gain the ability to both challenge and validate the assumptions you made about your customers’ buying habits when you mapped out your business model, allowing you to tweak your store’s execution strategy. As the webinar below will show, Google Analytics is a powerful tool that can help you to get the most out of your e-commerce site.
- Integrate social media
You might want to consider making social media a major method of promoting your online store. In order to successfully bring customers to your store using social media, it helps to first set your objectives. Try figuring out your key goals (e.g. increase sales) and strategically laying out the tactics you’ll be using to achieve these goals. Second, consider blogging as a way to promote your store. By sharing relevant content that SEO will pick up, you can increase your chances of drawing in customers. Third, it helps to choose your channels wisely. You may only have the time and resources for a couple of platforms, so you might want to stick with Facebook and Twitter, or perhaps you have some supporting video content, in which case YouTube could be the way to go. Fourth, try using metrics. How many followers do you have? How many clicks is your content getting? How many people are being directed to your store from your blog? Coordinating your social media with your analytics can help you figure out which tactics are working. Finally, do your best to keep at it. It’s easy to burn out on social media, but consistent content is the key to building a community. If you continue tweaking your approach and pushing more content out there, you increase your chances of finding your market.
- Go mobile
It’s great to reach customers in their living room—but you might want to also consider reaching them when they’re on the go as well, in which case it can be effective to make your e-commerce strategy mobile-friendly. When overseeing the creation of your online store, try to make sure your web developer knows the ins and outs of responsive design, which will allow you to reach customers through their mobile devices. Since customers generally don’t have as much time to spend on mobile sites, consider keeping your layout as simple as possible and using on-site search to help users find the content they need. It can also help to put more emphasis on images than text and to minimize the amount of data users will need to input. By making your site mobile-friendly, you can lower your bounce rate and increase your chances of making a sale.
For more information on e-commerce, consider checking out next week’s blog post: Adopting digital technology, part 3 of 5: Using technology for financial transactions. You can also check out this piece from Inc. Magazine, this article from the Guardian and this resource list from MaRS Discovery District.