Learn What Makes E-commerce Businesses Successful
Different e-commerce businesses face different challenges. That is why quick-fix advice for success in e-commerce can only scratch the surface. However, successful e-commerce businesses tend to have some common characteristics. I have distilled these characteristics into a list of top tips on how you can run a successful e-commerce business. Which ones of these do you already possess?
Differentiate Your Business
Why should a customer visit you? Do you sell exclusive merchandise? Do you offer the lowest price? Does your customer service set you apart?
Answers to these "soul searching" business questions will lead you to develop your USP. Every business needs to differentiate itself. As an e-commerce business, you cannot hope to sell everything to everybody.
You could try to prove me wrong by pointing out Amazon.com. It sells everything, from books to fresh shrimp! Sure, if you are an Amazon.com, go for it. But short of that, make sure that your business stands for something specific in the minds of consumers.
One way to differentiate your business is to solve at least one problem that customers face -- especially a problem that no one else is solving.
Get Your Technology Right
With the kind of robust e-commerce software and hosting available these days, there is no excuse for e-commerce websites that don't work. But getting the technology right is not just about having a bug-free website. It is also about using technology to achieve business ends.
For example, there was a time when several e-commerce businesses set up a blog on their website. Today, many of those blogs seem like neglected graveyards. Similarly, I have come across more than one e-commerce business that treats SEO (Search Engine Optimization) as the solution to all its problems. Surely that is a case of the tail wagging the dog.
Don't Make Customers Run Around in Circles
Common sense dictates that a business should make purchase convenient. Surprisingly, some e-commerce websites complicate the purchase. Instead of simplifying the process, they make a first-time visitor:
- fill up a registration form
- click a link in an email
- go through a series of mouse clicks, even after they have added goods to the shopping cart; all along clicking "No" to the up-sells that are being thrown at them.
Even the most successful e-commerce businesses find that 20 to 30% of their customers abandon their shopping carts before paying up. These numbers are much worse for e-commerce businesses that are not customer friendly. The message is loud and clear: many customers refuse to run around in circles.
Secure Your Supply Chain
Order fulfillment takes place behind the scenes. But its consequences are felt by customers. Incorrect, damaged, delayed, or missing merchandise can ensure that the customer never returns to you.
Supply chain management as a discipline predates e-commerce. Consequently, reliable service providers are available for several aspects of sourcing and fulfillment. All e-commerce businesses outsource some part of their supply chain. But outsourcing must be a strategic choice and not an abnegation of responsibility.
Even the most impressive website design, and shopping cart conversion strategies, will amount to nothing if your supply chain is substandard.
Be Cost Effective
As gross margins reduce to single-digits, e-commerce businesses are selling more but reducing profits. This is not sustainable. All e-commerce businesses are tempted to cut prices. E-commerce has seen price wars that led to the demise of several players.
Some businesses choose to price high, while others offer deep discounts. But when it comes to cost management, there cannot be divergent views. Only e-commerce businesses with effective cost control processes will survive.