Doing business on the internet is decidedly a practical and profitable opportunity for business owners, both startups and established brick and mortars alike. Although an e-commerce business has much in common with a physical retail store, it’s not going to be as simple as ‘sit and wait’ for customers.
Growing your e-commerce business requires hard work, patience, and a little strategy. Here’s a look at 6 practical methods to help you kickstart e-commerce growth.
1. Work with affiliates
Consider working with an affiliate networks like CJ Affiliate, Clickbank, Amazon Associates; middlemen that work with affiliate marketers who sell products and service and businesses that create affiliate programs to boost sales.
Affiliate networks aim to market your website and gain commission on each customer they send your way. All affiliate payments are performance based, which means you only pay when the customer they send performs a desired action (i.e. completed purchase, sign-up form etc.)
Most affiliate networks also offer connections, along with mailing lists that can drive additional traffic to your site.
2. Revamp shipping strategies
Studies reveal that shipping and handling fees are the number one factor driving shopping cart abandonment. Once you figure out your average cost to ship a package, offering free shipping on a specific dollar value or flat rate shipping is a good way to boost online sales.
For example, you can offer free shipping on orders over $50. You can also offer express delivery for customers who want their items in 1-3 days. Meanwhile, a flat rate can work depending on the types of products you sell. Keep in mind, that free return shipping can also help build trust and confidence with valued customers.
3. Pick the best e-commerce platform
The e-commerce platform you use to host your online shop will impact operations. For example, if your platform doesn’t offer international shopping options, can’t handle additional skus, lacks regular software updates, or suffers from consistent technology glitches … it can bring about added stress and hinder your long-term business growth. When choosing e-commerce software, account for various features including scalability, security and usability.
4. Leverage email marketing
Email marketing is fast and cheap. In fact, increasing sales is a lot easier today because of email marketing. Using email to retain existing customers and gain new ones is a low-cost way to grow your e-commerce business.
“According to data from Marketing Sherpa, 91% of U.S. consumers like receiving emails from companies they already know. This means, that once you establish initial contact with a consumer, email marketing is probably your strongest bet to nurture them into a paying customer who buys from you over and over again.”
Email, unlike social media, is more private. This allows you to reach out to your customers in a more personalized and targeted way. And tracking the results of your email campaigns will help you establish what works and what does not.
5. Level up on customer service
Every business should strive to improve how they serve customers because customers that feel special will come back, repeatedly.
To do this you can include special gifts or freebies with each purchase (i.e. branded stickers, a special offer from a co-marketing partner, etc.). Prove your helpfulness by offering a live chat option on your website.
According to Kissmetrics, “An online chat system provides customers immediate access to help. Wait times are often much less than a call center, and customers can easily multi-task while waiting. Additionally, the pain of having to dial a 1-800 number and navigate through a maze of numeric options is non-existent.”
6. Attract your ideal customers
Of course, all of these efforts will not bear fruit if you aren’t attracting the right customers. Do your research. Know where your consumers like to hang out and creatively get their attention.
The reason why most marketing efforts fall flat is because they aren’t directed to people who have an interest or likelihood of purchase intent. If you market your e-commerce business in the wrong place or target the wrong demographic, you will end up wasting a lot of time and money.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Armela Escalona is a freelance writer and content marketer. Her work has been published in various blogs, magazines, and online new sites. She writes about business, startups, and technology. Connect with @ArmelaE on Twitter.