No matter how strong a storefront you’ve got, the world of eCommerce gets more crowded and competitive every day. Your business needs a way to stand out from the pack.
There’s no silver bullet to becoming an eCommerce titan. But from the tech powering your store to the digital campaigns that promote it, there’s plenty you can do to win over customers and pull ahead of your competition.
Start with these five tips to lay the foundations for sustainable, effective eCommerce growth.
Leverage your data
We can’t stress this enough: your eCommerce strategy needs to be fuelled by data.
Information from your store should inform every part of your eCommerce planning and marketing — and will set you up to put our four other recommendations into place.
Here’s the good news. It’s a safe bet that your store has robust tools (or plugins) for tracking just about every data and conversion point you can think of. Is a particular CTA outperforming expectations? Is your bounce rate particularly high on one part of your site? If it’s part of your business, odds are good that the platform powering your storefront can track it.
That means when it comes to your data collection, you need to work smarter, not harder. As great as granular data is, it’s easy (and unproductive) to get bogged down by data-driven analysis paralysis if you try to track every little aspect of your business. And if you’re spending more time collecting and organizing your data than you are putting it into practice, it’s time to refocus.
Start by deciding what data affects your business goals. Identify specific KPIs that you want to track before you start collecting data — or launch any campaigns — and be consistent about how you measure them.
Just as importantly, once you understand the data that matters to your plans, don’t waste hours every week pulling it. Building automations and live reports to generate the data you need lets you focus on analysis and strategy — rather than the busywork.
How do you figure out which data you should pay attention to?
Establish your strategic priorities early
This goes back to those KPIs. When you’re building a plan for growth, you need to establish clear, specific goals early. Pick the audience you want to reach, the positioning you want to take (what’s the USP that sets you apart from your competitors?), and what a successful campaign looks like for your business. If you’re just starting, that might mean awareness-focused goals or building your email list. Later, you may get more sales-focused. Whatever your priorities, they should be guiding your plans, not reacting to them.
After all, it’s harder and less effective to pivot midway through site upgrades or a media campaign — not to mention costly. Try to decide on these priorities upfront if you can.
Just as importantly, ensure you get everyone on the same page about these decisions. A strategic foundation only works if your team, partners, and stakeholders are on the same page. That means looping different people in based on the project. Still, new or mystery stakeholders who show up after the fact are a surefire way to derail your plans.
Pick the right eCommerce technology
From your storefront to your email marketing to your customer rewards and service, you need the right tools if you’re hoping to provide a compelling experience for your customers. Even the best mechanic can’t fix your car with their bare hands — and you shouldn’t expect your business to thrive online without the right tech stack to support it.
Whatever functionality you tackle first, a universal priority is picking applications and plugins that properly integrate with your storefront. No matter which platform you’re on — Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, etc. — there should be options available that seamlessly work with your store. That’s true of your CRM, email marketing, payment system, rewards, etc. The easier it is to pass data back and forth between your tools, the more successful you’ll be in the long run.
Of course, your store may also have some built-in tech that’s been doing the job well enough. This is when you have to balance your available tech budget with the potential ROI of an upgrade. Take email marketing. If your store’s built on Shopify, you already have access to some basic options, like cart abandonment emails with the ability to customize, add product links, and include some basic incentives. But as you get to know your customers better, you may want more tools.
It’s important to do your research when making this upgrade. Mailchimp is obviously a reliable staple — but if you’re on Shopify, the toolset available through Klaviyo integrates natively and provides extensive options for customization and automation (even including SMS marketing in your customer email flows).
Remember, choosing quality applications is important, but always look for solutions that fit your eCommerce ecosystem and needs.
Understand your buyer journey
Do you know what steps your customers take between first encountering your business and making a purchase? What about after you’ve made the first sale? You should.
The Customer Journey is a core concept when it comes to eCommerce marketing and growth. It means understanding how your customers move from awareness to conversion to purchase — and then to brand loyalty and advocacy. Do most customers first encounter your brand on social media? Do first-time buyers tend to take the plunge during a sale, or after you’ve blogged about a product?
Understanding the specifics of what’s working and where there’s friction will help focus your strategy.
Here’s the thing. Most businesses will have acquisition plans in place to attract and convert those new customers. But it’s just as important to understand how they interact with your business after a purchase — and what will bring them back for another.
Have a plan in place for remarketing and retaining customers
No matter how big or small your eCommerce business is, we know that retaining existing customers is easier — and more efficient — than winning over new ones. But you can’t take for granted that customers will stick around after a sale. You need a plan in place to keep them around.
Email marketing is one great way to do that. Whatever application you’re using to manage your email lists (see our third tip), you should have some sense of your customers’ journey after a purchase. Then, you can start providing extra incentives for them to stick around.
Don’t spam their inboxes with junk, but offer them value in exchange for signing up to your mailing list and returning to your business. Extra discounts, early access to sales, and smart content that responds to what they’ve bought with other products & ideas they might appreciate. This is a great chance to use those custom email flows in Klaviyo, as an example.
You’re nurturing those customers to show that your business’s value goes beyond its core offerings. Delight them with unexpected value, and you’ll build brand loyalty — and maybe even turn those customers into advocates for your business. Make sure you have a plan (and the tools) for user reviews and UGC. If your customers are happy enough to rave about your business, you need to give them a place to do that.
Don’t forget remarketing campaigns to capture people who bounced before buying or customers who might be interested in other products, services, or discounts. This lets you reduce abandonment and find efficient opportunities to upsell.
eCommerce success isn’t built in a day
Wherever you start, remember that your eCommerce growth isn’t going to explode overnight.
It doesn’t hurt to hope for instant wins, but a sound strategy takes time and commitment to building your business. If we could leave you a final tip, it would be this: remember to keep the lines of communication open when it comes to your strategy. Checking in early and often with stakeholders and the teams executing your plan will help things go off without a hitch.
Of course, if you’re looking for more insights, you can always check in with the experts from Major Tom at our Mercury Blog where we regularly dive into web development, digital marketing, eCommerce strategy, and more.