After one of the most chaotic years in recent memory, e-commerce business owners are ready to hit the ground running.
While the pandemic isn’t over just yet, there’s evidence that real economic recovery will begin sometime this year. Businesses wanting to take advantage of closer-to-normal consumer demand will need to get ready.
Using a combination of market knowledge, tried-and-true business strategies and experimentation, any e-commerce startup can drive more sales and attract new customers this year.
1. Collect Data and Respond Fast
As an e-commerce business owner, you have access to a huge amount of information — like data from ad campaigns and site analytics. This data is essential if you want to respond to changing customer preferences and meet new needs as quickly as possible.
According to McKinsey, nearly half of the top-performing companies collect and analyze customer data at least weekly. About 16% of all companies only break down that information once a month.
For example, mobile commerce will likely continue to be a major driver of sales for e-commerce startups. If you find that most of your customers visit your site through a phone or similar mobile device, you should optimize your storefront for mobile browsing to boost their experience.
You may also find that most of your customers are omnichannel and interact with your business using various methods before buying. Ensuring consistency provides a smoother shopping experience and helps customers move from research to purchase.
Other data can help you respond quickly to changing customer preferences or better forecast how demand will evolve over the rest of the year.
2. Make CX a Top Priority
Customers have a massive range of choices on the internet. If they don’t like one brand, they can just as easily find another to shop with. This means successful businesses usually do more than offer high-quality products. They also provide a shopping experience that delights customers — or, at the very least, one with less friction and better benefits than the competition.
Customer experience (CX) is the total interaction a customer has with your brand, both good and bad. These experiences begin the first time they encounter your company and continue as they browse your storefront, make a purchase, and communicate with you or your customer service team.
Good customer experience encourages people to stick around. Research from PwC has found that 86% of customers are willing to pay more to shop with a company that offers them good experiences. Bad customer experience, on the other hand, pushes people in the opposite direction.
Making CX a top priority means considering how customers will interact with your brand at every step in their buyer’s journey. Good CX can look like an easy-to-navigate website, personalized email blasts or streamlined customer service processes that solve issues as quickly as possible.
Advanced tech can help here, but it is by no means necessary. For example, AI-powered customer service chatbots can take some pressure off yourself or your customer service team, but they require a significant technical and financial investment.
In many cases, working toward good CX with the resources you have will be enough to make a significant difference.
3. Take Every Opportunity to Build Your Brand
Branding is what encourages customers to keep coming back. It helps potential clients know what your company is all about at a glance, even before they’ve had time to read about your business or investigate the products you offer.
In most cases, branding is a long-term investment — but even small brand-building moves can pay off sooner than you’d expect.
For example, do you want to use packages with custom designs that include your logo? Preparing a digital dieline file will help you work with a manufacturing company to create a practical branded packaging strategy. Even if you don’t want to commit to this just yet, preparation now can prove beneficial when you decide to get started.
Similarly, if you’re looking for a rebrand or want to nail down certain parts of your image, creating new branding documents now may help. Consistency in the colors you use, the tone you strike and your graphics use can help you build a strong image throughout this year.
4. Be Ready to Experiment
Owners of e-commerce businesses are typically used to failing fast — rapidly testing out new strategies, then keeping what works and losing what doesn’t. This will be especially true later this year.
As customer demand returns to normal, consumer preferences may not return to their pre-pandemic state. Instead, new habits may emerge due to the pandemic’s impact, growing consumer confidence and a falling unemployment rate.
Surveys suggest that customers will continue to take advantage of services like contactless delivery and curbside pickup, even once it’s safe to return to stores. It also seems likely that similar changes to online shopping habits may persist — with consumers depending more on e-commerce for goods they previously purchased in-store.
This means businesses may need to find new ways of doing things — so experimentation will be necessary.
Failure and recovery, learning from mistakes and trying ambitious, untested approaches are likely to be part of the process. Preparing for experimentation may be a good idea for startups that want to offer the best products and provide top-notch service.
Good Planning Can Help Your E-Commerce Startup Grow
This year will be full of challenges and opportunities for e-commerce businesses. Those who can take advantage of the data they collect, prioritize CX, and brand themselves well will likely drive new sales and grow their companies.
About the Author
Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. Eleanor was the creative director and occasional blog writer at a prominent digital marketing agency before becoming her own boss in 2018. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and dog, Bear.