As the world and technology evolve, the internet becomes an increasingly competitive environment and, as a business owner, you need to find a way for your brand and your product to stand out, in other words, a successful ecommerce strategy.
Large businesses can already cash out from peak sales periods, such as Christmas season, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but how will small ecommerce business get their share of the internet sales pie? And even if you do have a large ecommerce operations, how are you looking into your future expansion?
Planning your online store ecommerce strategy might be your best shot while planning the future of your ecommerce business and how you will evolve at the same pace as technology and your customers’ needs.
From same day delivery to five stars customer experience, the experts foresee a great deal of change and trends for the future of ecommerce and the way we do business, all of which should be taken into consideration while developing an ecommerce website strategy in order to create effectiveness and relevance.
In this article, we will explore some basic steps to start planning your ecommerce strategy while considering the customer buying cycle, from targeting to retention.
3 key elements you need to know prior to planning your ecommerce strategy
In order to plan your ecommerce strategy and thrive on the implementation process, you will need to take into consideration the trends on technology and on the ecommerce business for the next 5 to 10 years.
Let’s look into ecommerce strategies from three different aspects: the attraction plan to increase your website’s traffic; the conversion plan to ensure the new traffic is completing their purchase; and the retention strategy to ensure your client keeps coming back to spend money on your store, and not at your competitor’s.
But first, let’s go back a few steps to the business basics and re-define your goals and KPI’s and find your targeted market in order to plan your ecommerce strategy accordingly.
1. Business basics
Your business goals are the key elements that will guide you through the upcoming steps of your ecommerce strategy. Knowing where you are and what you want to achieve is essential to build a relevant and effective ecommerce strategy. And in order to achieve your goals you need to constantly reassess your business and set up some milestones to be reached along the way.
To get there, you will need to get your mind back into the business basics and re-assess your SWOT analysis. In doing so you will be able to identify what is your currently business’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, as these are aspects of the business that are constantly changing. A good idea is to write down a generalized SWOT analysis and do an individual one to each area of your business - Administration, Ecommerce Operations and Marketing, for example.
This will help you having a clearer look into the performance of each area of your business, making it easier to know where you should be investing on - from talent investment to social media ads.
2. Setting ecommerce goals and KPI’s
Once you have reassessed your business, it is important that you set clear goals and Key Performance Indicators for your ecommerce business, and break them down into time-relevant milestones.
If you want to set real and achievable goals, you need to make them SMART, which is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. A Specific goal means that everyone on your team is able to understand what the goal is; it also needs to be clearly measurable from time to time; achievable and realistic taking into consideration the maturity of your business, the skills you have on your team and the current trends on e-commerce and on the economy; it also needs to be relevant for your business; and finally, it needs to be time-bound, which means that you need to set a deadline for re-assessing that goal and this deadline needs to be challenging and yet realistic.
Once again you can break your ecommerce goals into categories. For example, you can set Financial Goals, which are related to your P&L (Gross Revenue, Net Revenue, Cost per Visitor), you can set Acquisition Goals (Number of Return Visitors, Time Spent on Website, Customer Retention rate) and you can set Marketing Goals as well (Reach, Conversion Rate, Average Transaction Value).
3. Finding your niche
A small ecommerce business is better off investing on targeted audiences to their specific audience rather than using strategies that will reach a larger one. When advertising online following this rule, you will increase the probability of converting new traffic, that isn’t cheap to acquire, into buying customers. Understanding your micro-target audiences means finding the niche market in which you can penetrate with exclusive products and deals.
Once you know who your target market is, which you should probably be aware of from day one, you can start exploring the different personas and working with a micro targeted audience.
Knowing how each persona interacts with your website will allow you to personalize your service with a better outcome, such as ads to attract new traffic based on the personas you already know, or in-site ads of specific products or services, for example.
Defining your personas: say your target market are women between 22-37 years old, living in Sao Paulo, with an average income of USD 70,000, tech savvy and working on the creative industries. When you define a persona, you have a brief idea of their lifestyle, if whether they work freelance or part-time, when they access their social media and from which device, how do they occupy their free time, who are their online influencers, etc.
But how will you attract the targeted audience to your website? Now that you have assessed your business, defined your goals and understood your niche market, we will move into the three steps for a successful ecommerce strategy, including an attraction plan, a conversion plan and a retention plan.
Essential ecommerce strategies for your business
As most retail businesses, both online and bricks-and-mortar, there is a customer behavior flow to an ecommerce also known as buying cycle that consists in the Awareness, Research, Decision and Loyalty processes.
Moving forward we will divide the 8 suggested steps into three macro strategies: the attraction strategy (awareness), the conversion strategy (decision) and the retention strategy (loyalty) In order to organize your ecommerce plan.
As the number of US online shoppers is set to reach 230 million by 2021, you will need a strategy to make your ecommerce business guarantee its slice of this insanely increasing online shopping audience. In order to be successful you will draw an attraction strategy based on the personas you have already defined. But how will you make them notice you and access your website.
One way to attract more traffic into your website is by getting your website to rank on top of Google’s search, and to achieve that you need to create relevant content on your website and use the most diverse tools to have a “Google ranked” website on your niche. A good way to appear on relevant searches is through product reviews, like TripAdvisor and Amazon have been doing for a while. You basically get back converting traffic to write about your product on your website.
Relevant Content Production
We made sure to include the word ‘relevant’ here so you won’t mistake this for creating content to drive traffic through SEO. Nowadays it is important to produce your own relevant content in order to get your audience interested. This isn’t about them clicking on a google link, landing on your page and leaving.
It’s about trigging their interest on the things you’re talking about, and that leads to your product. And this includes your social media content too. It will not only help you with traffic attraction but also with the conversion and retention steps of your ecommerce strategy.
Social Media Presence
Different social media platforms will communicate with the different personas that interact with your business, and this is why you should invest your time in communicating your brand and products across as many channels as possible.
The customer that interacts with your brand on Snapchat may have different interests in your business than the ones that like your Instagram posts and share your Facebook updates.
And you can attract traffic from all these channels - and convert them too. Later, you can analyze which one gives better return for your business and then invest time and money on it, so long you don’t leave the others unattended, as social media presence and interaction calls for consistency.
In case it fits in your budget, you could consider hiring social media influencers in order to grow your website traffic. As you have already studied the existing personas on your niche market, you will be able to identify who are the Influencers that can talk you product up efficiently with the most brand aligned prospects to your website.
Prior to hiring a social influencer to advertise your product, make sure they are not only reaching your targeted traffic as they are transparent with them and with you, in regards to their numbers of reach and interaction, and the personal image that they carry.
But now that you have the traffic you wanted, how will you convert them into customers?
The decision stage of the buying cycle is where your business makes money and this is why you should pay close attention when developing your conversion strategy. Since you have already defined your niche market and its personas, at this point the chances are that your investment in conversion will have a higher successful rate.
Personalize your customer service
Some experts talk about customer service as being the key element to make the online experience as close to bricks-and-mortar as possible, and there are several tools to help you achieving that, such as Customer Chats and E-mail Marketing tools. The crucial aspect of a five star customer service is that your staff is well trained and that they have ownership over their job – that is providing customer satisfaction while pursuing communication excellence.
Personalize the navigation
Since your customer is already browsing your website, you can make use of tools that will personalize their experience and increase conversion. One example is to show specific products to specific customers based on what they have already clicked and showed to be interested on, tools like Unbxd and Searchspring will help you do that.
Now that you have already spent a great deal of money and time on trying to attract the right audience and converting them, you need to think of ways to retain these customers and keep them coming back to purchase on your store.
Creating a true omnichannel business means that your customer will not only constantly see your brand as they will see you with consistency and linearity. They will pick up your website on their mobile devices from where they left off when they were browsing from a desktop, which will also allow you to have a clearer idea of your purchasing customer’s behavior.
When a customer subscribes to your ecommerce website he starts to receive well curated boxes with a sortation of items on a monthly basis, which means that for each customer you acquire is a customer you are already retaining. Therefore a Subscription/boxed delivery model is a smart way to keep the cash flowing until your customer decides otherwise.
An ecommerce strategy can be as detailed and as generalist as you wish, but it is the key element to determine the success of your business and the achievement of your goals. While developing your own strategy make sure to keep an eye on ecommerce trends and how technology will evolve on the next 5-10 years to avoid your website to become irrelevant to your customers.