Ecommerce grows up
November 1st, 2013 — 9:51am
Gone are the days when you could set up a “side business” selling something online. Ecommerce has gotten more complex, and much more competitive. Moonlighting just will not cut it if you want to actually make sales. Here are some observations from the last decade of working with ecommerce websites. These are almost “minimum requirements” now if you want to be successful in ecommerce.
- The basics – sites must look good, and work well. Any glitches or missing features, and customers are gone to another site. Products must have several photos and great descriptions. If you cut-and-paste from your supplier’s website, good luck. Customer reviews are a nice bonus as well.
- Pricing – prices must be competitive, and here competition is cutthroat.
- Mobile – your site must work well on mobile devices. MUST.
- PCI Compliance – not all card issuers are enforcing this yet, but it can be a big headache. Still, it must be done.
- Advanced analytics – Etailers must collect and analyze every bit of data they can. This feeds into advertising campaigns, newsletters, content changes, etc. You must know your customer, and know what works (and what doesn’t) to make sales. The amount of data being tracked and analyzed by successful etailers is amazing. Many are starting to hire specific employees (or outside firms) to collect and analyze customer behavior and data.
- Personal Marketing – this means e-newsletters, targeted ads, social media, etc. Everything you can think of, and then some.
- Live Support – This means having live phone support and online chat available. Most of my successful clients have both, and close many of their sales via phone or chat. It’s expensive, but many customers expect those options to be available.
- Adwords – if you rely on search engine traffic for orders, you are a sitting duck. Any change to the search algorithms can wipe out your business. Literally. You need alternative traffic sources, and you need to track how those sources are working (see #5 above).
- Multiple Channels – I’m seeing many clients who sell through Amazon, eBay, craigslist, or wholesale, in addition to their main website. In many cases the website is not even the primary source of revenue.
- External Reviews – These include services like BizRate or CustomerLobby. Some customers need a trust factor, and these sites provide it.
To clarify, I don’t run any ecommerce sites myself, this is just what I see from working with ecommerce clients daily. The bar is being raised for ecommerce success. You may not have to do all these listed above, but you will have to do most of them, and do them well to succeed.
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