There are so many websites offering tips for eCommerce success. Most are written by people that have only ever operated in one, small part of the overall eCommerce landscape. They might have been a fulfilment house, a courier company, a retailer and internet marketing ‘guru’. But few companies can and actually do offer advice to customers based on many decades of experience from people that have managed the sales for the national carrier, actually run eCommerce stores, managed internet marketing strategies for large online retailers, developed complex eCommerce systems, working in the packing departments for web businesses and actually owned very successful business in the wider ecosystem. Thankfully we have those skills within Cloud Fulfilment and they have given some of actionable insights to help you succeed online.
1. If you have to follow the crowd, be streets ahead
The internet is littered with failed businesses formerly run by people that saw others have success and thought they’d ‘have a piece of that’. If you’re going to take on an established business then you’ve got to be much, much resourceful and desirable than the incumbent.
For us there are plenty of other eCommerce order fulfilment businesses. Many do a good job. But we don’t want to be a ‘good’ company. We strive to be a great company – a company that sets the standards for others to follow. Anyone can buy a warehouse and set up a website selling space. Very few have the passion and ability to leverage our contacts and relationships with the likes of Arvato-Bertelsmann to offer an industry-leading service. Very few have the track-record of working with the carriers to offer eye-wateringly low courier prices. And very few have our technical know-how to ensure that technology is there to serve your needs and to make your working life staggeringly untroubled.
Great companies make lives simpler and more fulfilling. Google makes it easier to find the information you are looking for. Facebook allows you to simply stream your life to your friends and receive their feedback. Twitter makes it easy to find and communicate with people with similar or opposing views. Amazon allows you to easily purchase millions of products – mostly with next day delivery. Apple produces enjoyable and streamlined communications and entertainment devices. Could any newly-established business compete with those companies? Have a think about whether you could you compete in a newly created market such as the Tile App or revolutionise the toy market? Do you have an business idea that hasn’t been exploited yet. There may be a reason why, but could you pivot what you’re doing to tap into that concept?
2) Realise that sometimes is all in the marketing
If you’re someone that wants to set up a home-based business you might have a redundancy cheque and want to strike up on your own. In most circumstances that cheque won’t cover you for the product development costs of a revolutionary new product. Perhaps it’ll cover you just to get some gifts stock and allow you to set up a website, or perhaps enough product to set up a chocolate shop as one of our team has. The point is that you have to start somewhere. Despite contradicting the above point, you will go on a journey and you will modify what you do. Your company in two years’ time will be massively different from the one you start with. That change will be driven by marketing successes in certain niches.
When you do offer products that can be purchased elsewhere you will need to work very hard on your social media, SEO, paid advertising and customer service – how you attract and retain customers can be your differentiator, even if your products aren’t.
3) Analyse everything, but not too much
Sometimes your gut-feeling can set you on profitable journeys. Certainly analyse your sales data, look at your Google Analytics reports, and speak to customers. But sometimes the best insights are gained by sitting in a quiet room and mulling over how things are going. Think about what small ‘nudges‘ you can make to get incremental improvements. Think about the 4 Hour Work Week and what part of your daily routine you can outsource. Of course we’ll say the management of the pick, pack and ship process.
Numbers are important, but ways of working are more important.
4) Show passion and expertise
People are more inclined to purchase from companies that are passionate about their products and market. Zappos are passionate about customer service. First Tunnels are passionate about helping gardeners grow better produce. Foiled Cupcakes sell heaps of the cakes, whilst not evening having an ecommerce store mainly by showing passion on Twitter. Mint.com grew massively by sharing insightful content on their website.
The ability to show passion and expertise isn’t a trait exclusive to large brands. You can grow to 17,000 followers on Twitter and have a loyal followership by showing you care passionately about your industry and your customers. That can set you apart from any size of marketing budget.
5) Don’t give up
How many times do you search for information and come across websites with information that seemingly hasn’t been updated in years. Would you be less-inclined to buy from them compared to a slightly more expensive website with up-to-date and relevant information and products? Somebody once said that the last 5% of what you do can often be the difference between success and failure. Getting traction in online retail is so incredibly hard for companies with modest means.
Keep going. Tweak, amend, pivot, but don’t give up.
6) The numbers have to add up
You can’t loss-lead for market share forever. There comes a time when your business has to become self-sufficient. How long can you realistically wait until the business has positive cash-flow? Being brutal with your costs is key. You can call it ‘boot-strapping’ if you like. You will need to take a view on where your largest costs lie. Even the small costs such as unnecessary subscriptions add up. Don’t waste money.
Always seek more cost-effective suppliers and raw materials. Don’t scrimp on quality, but don’t be lazy and pay more than you need.
For retailers one of the most financially draining costs is that of fulfilment. If you can use a ‘pay as you go’ service that allows you to pay less when you have less stock then certainly look closely at those options.
7) Find a balance between speed of delivery and cost
There are a couple of couriers that will save you £1 per order when compared to City Link, DHL or TNT. But how happy will your customers be waiting 3 or 4 days more? How much would you pay for your customers to evangelise your company? How much is it worth to you that your products will get to your customers more quickly than your competitors?
8) Set yourself goals
One of the worst things you can do is bumbling along thinking ‘at least it covers my bills’. Most businesses have great potential for growth. With a bit more work wouldn’t you be happier if you could double the site’s profits. Set yourself tough but achievable goals. If you don’t reach them then ask yourself why and work out a strategy as to how you can achieve them.
9) Where do you spend your time
Often the path of least resistance is often the path of less profit. Is your time best spent searching for new products to retail or growing your customer base? Establish how much your time costs and ask yourself if it’s worth your while packing orders and replying to customers. Can any of that process be outsourced? Can any of that time be handed over to other members of your team?
10) eCommerce System and compromises
Your eCommerce platform perhaps is the most crucial aspect. You can spend days weighing up pro’s and con’s. The essential tip here is to have a list of requirements speak to self-serve solutions such as Shopify, Magento, Big Commerce, Volusion, Jigoshop or Groovy Cart. Take a view on how long you would like any solution to last and how it may integrate with fulfilment solutions. Whichever platform you choose you will wish, at times, that you chose a different one. Unless you’ve got the budget to build a bespoke or have developers to tweak current ones, then you’ll have regrets. Work with what you’ve got until you can cut your cloth according to your means.