Expert forecasts are projecting a growth of between eight and 12 percent for online retail in the form of e-commerce sites in 2017 alone. This is compared to the projected growth of only 3.7 to 4.2 percent for brick and mortar retail stores. This means the e-commerce sales will have grown up to three times higher than their more traditional cousins by the end of this year, completely changing the retail landscape for good.
As of today, statisticians estimate that there are over 100,000 e-commerce websites live today that generates a significant amount of revenue. There are countless more that are working hard in hopes of joining the ranks of these revenue-generating sites. If you are among the herd, the question is how do you break free and stand out in this terribly crowded market? In a nutshell, how do you succeed in running an online business? Let us count the ways.
Like every successful company, your e-commerce business needs a solid business model to thrive and flourish. This is, without a doubt, the be-all and end-all of your business’s success. This is why it is important to educate yourself on the ins and outs of your business from the get-go—that is to say, all of the critical operations that would get your business of the ground.
Truly, there is no task too menial and no unimportant aspects. Everything from doing an accurate inventory to managing taxes to effective marketing will be the components with which you build your business with and, ultimately, help you achieve your return on investment (ROI). Without a foundation that is solid and foolproof, you will find yourself having a hard time keeping afloat.
There is only one thing left that brick and mortar stores to have over e-commerce shops, and that is immediate access to products. Their biggest selling point is giving the customer the ability to walk out with the product that they just bought in real-time. Purchasing from an e-commerce store, on the other hand, puts the customer in a position where he/she is obliged to wait, which can be a rather painful exercise for some. This is where rapid shipping comes in. You need to be able to pare down that wait time to the absolute bare minimum, which means that you need to have a killer shipping process in place to ensure that the customer gets their products as soon as humanly positive. This will not only encourage repeat business but also guarantee that your shop receives rave reviews online and in social media.
As wonderful the convenience of e-commerce might be, it’s actually a double-edged sword. Just imagine the sheer number of options that customers have online. If you really want to stand out from all the other sites selling the same products are you are, you have to be willing to play ball and offer competitive pricing. The lowest possible prices will always win, and that is a rule of thumb that will remain unchanged throughout the ages. Outdoing the competition in this aspect will definitely up your patronage.
A great thing about e-commerce and the internet is the ability for you to engage with your customers so you always have a good idea of what they have in mind, which you can then use to your advantage. So get creative and encourage interaction. Post engaging content on your social media sites. Keep customers up to date on your promotions. Have contests and Q&A’s. The sky’s the limit! This is a great way to increase your customer base, as well.
Lastly and most importantly, the key to every great business is great customer service. Customers will always appreciate a great shopping experience, and there’s no better way to ensure this than by providing great customer service. So answer queries quickly and effectively. And by all means, be friendly! Customers are likely to talk about your service more than any other, so give them something good to talk about. Go the other way, and you can sure that you’ll be hearing about it, too, but not in a good way.
Indeed, with a booming e-commerce industry underway, there are plenty of opportunities to grab and exploit to your advantage. Keep your online presence strong and your e-commerce business stronger.