Creating and following an eCommerce strategy can be the difference between success and failure for your online business. In order to make sure that you're doing everything possible to increase your chances of success, it's essential to have a plan in place before you start selling.
This guide will walk you through the process of creating your eCommerce strategy and goes into best practices when choosing the right platform, setting up your payment system, and beyond.
By following these steps, you'll be well on your way to starting and running a successful online business.
Let’s get right into it.
Define your goals
The first step in creating an eCommerce strategy is to define your goals. What do you want to achieve with your online business? Are you looking to generate a full-time income, or are you just trying to supplement your current income?
Defining your goals will help you determine which strategies to focus on and which to ignore. For example, if your goal is to generate a full-time income from your online business by becoming a reseller, you'll need to focus on strategies that will help you drive traffic and convert prospects into customers.
On the other hand, if your goal is to supplement your current income, you might be able to get away with a less comprehensive approach.
Define your personal values
While your goals will help you determine which strategies to focus on, your personal values will help you determine how you want to achieve those goals.
Knowing what kind of business you want to run will help you make decisions down the road, and will make it easier to stick to your eCommerce strategy when things get tough.
Some examples of personal values that could influence your eCommerce strategy include:
- Quality: You might focus on selling high-quality products that will last a long time.
- Customer service: You might focus on providing excellent customer service to differentiate your business from your competitors.
- Innovation: You might focus on selling unique products that cannot be found anywhere else.
Research your competition and keywords
Knowing who you'll be competing against is essential to any business, and eCommerce is no different. Before you start putting together your eCommerce strategy, take some time to research your competition.
Being able to answer these questions can go a long way:
- What are they doing well?
- What could they be doing better?
- How can you differentiate your business from theirs?
If you want to really dig deep and understand your competition, one idea is to purchase their top competing products and services. As you do, don’t just look at the deliverables. Instead, focus on the customer journey you are taken through on your way to such purchases.
In researching your competition, you should also examine the keywords that potential customers will use to find businesses like theirs.
Consider these questions:
- What terms will they be searching for?
- What questions will they be asking?
- What are the most popular keywords in your industry as a whole?
- Which trending keywords should you be aware of?
By understanding the keywords that potential customers are using, you'll be able to create content and marketing materials that are more likely to reach them.
This research is fundamental if you focus on SEO as a means of driving traffic to your site. Especially if you want to do SEO yourself, rather than outsource it, knowing the ins and outs of your keywords will be key to success.
Build a prioritization timeline
After you've done your competition and keyword research, you should have a good idea of the strategies you want to focus on. The next step is to build a prioritization timeline that will help you implement those strategies effectively.
Start by creating a list of all the strategies you want to focus on, then prioritize them based on their importance to your business goals. For example, if you're looking to increase traffic to your website, you might want to focus on SEO and content marketing first. If you're looking to improve conversion rates, you might want to focus on CRO and email marketing.
Once you've prioritized your list of strategies, start creating a timeline for implementing them. This doesn't have to be an extensive or complicated process—a simple spreadsheet with columns for each design and rows for each month should suffice.
Using the right prioritization tools to ensure you follow the timeline you established, along with getting better productivity is also a great idea to consider.
Build your team
Now that you have your eCommerce strategy in place, it's time to start building your team. This includes finding the right people to help you run your business and support your customers.
Some of the key roles you'll need to fill include:
- Marketing: This person will create marketing materials such as website copy, email campaigns, and social media posts.
- Sales: This person will reach out to potential customers and sell them your products or services.
- Customer service: This person will provide excellent customer service and resolve any issues that customers may have.
If you're unsure how to find people for these roles, many online resources are available, such as UpWork and Indeed.
While having a full-fledged team is not necessary from the get-go, knowing who will be doing what roles as your eCommerce business scales is vital to start delegating tasks and building your company effectively.
Choose a platform and payment gateway
Now that you know who your team will consist of, it's time to choose a platform and payment gateway for your eCommerce business.
There are many options available, so take some time to research the different options and find the one that best suits your needs. Some things you should keep in mind include the following:
- Ease of use: You'll want an easy-to-use and navigate platform so that you can focus on running your business, not struggling with technical issues.
- Scalability: As your business grows, you'll need a platform that can scale with you. This includes features such as adding more products, accepting more payments, and handling more traffic.
- Security: With an eCommerce business, safety is of the utmost importance. You'll want to choose a platform with robust security features to protect your customers' data.
Reaching your eCommerce goals is much easier to do with the right platform.
From being able to customize the user experience and reach the desired e-commerce conversions, to make the payment process as smooth as possible, a good platform is a key to success.
Speaking of payments, once you've chosen a platform, you'll also need to select a payment gateway. This service will process your customers' payments and deposit the money into your account.
There are many different payment gateway options available, so again, take some time to research the various options and find the one that best suits your needs. Some things you should keep in mind include the following:
- Fees: Many payment gateway providers charge fees for their services. Be sure to compare the prices charged by different providers to find the most cost-effective option.
- Security: As with your eCommerce platform, you'll want to choose a payment gateway with robust security features to protect your customers' data.
- Compatibility: You'll want to ensure that the payment gateway you choose is compatible with the eCommerce platform.
Making sure your platform and payment gateway work well together is crucial for running a smooth and thriving eCommerce business. Some platforms also have their own built-in payment gateway, so be sure to research all your options before making a decision.
Create a product catalog
Your product catalog is central to your eCommerce strategy. This is where you'll list all of the products or services you're selling, along with important information such as pricing, descriptions, and photos.
A DAM (digital asset management strategy) can help you keep track of all your product photos and other digital assets in one place, making it easy to find what you need when you need it. A DAM strategy can make all the difference in having easy access to your product photography and other digital content.
You can also use a Product Information Management (PIM) system to help you keep track of your product data. A PIM system can help you manage your product information more effectively, making it easier to keep your product catalog up-to-date.
With integrations between a DAM and PIM being a key factor in eCommerce scalability, using both systems can be very beneficial for your business.
Diving a bit deeper into this topic, here are a few key areas to consider when it comes to your product catalog.
Your product descriptions are one of the essential elements of your product catalog. This is where you'll provide potential customers with information about your products or services.
Ensure your product descriptions are clear, concise, and free of grammar or spelling errors. You'll also want to use relevant keywords so that your products can be easily found by potential customers who are searching for them online.
Including high-quality photos of your products is crucial for selling online. Potential customers want to see what they're buying, so ensure your product photos are clear and accurate.
If you're selling physical products, consider hiring a professional photographer to take pictures of your products. If you're selling digital products, you can also make use of professional design services to create concept images of your products.
Your URL structure is vital for both SEO and usability. Ensure that your URLs are easy to read and understand and include relevant keywords. For example, if you're selling women's shoes, you might want to have the keyword "womens shoes" in the URL for your product page.
Focus on your customer relationships
Building long-term relationships with your customers are essential for any business, but it's vital for an eCommerce one.
There are a few key things to do to ensure this happens.
Your brand is what sets you apart from your competitors. It's what makes you recognizable and memorable to your customers.
Make sure your branding is consistent across all your marketing channels, including your website, social media, email marketing, and any other platforms you're using. Your branding should be instantly recognizable to anyone who sees it.
This is another area in which DAM can prove to be the main differentiator between success and failure. Solving the eCommerce digital asset management challenges is one of the main issues to overcome as your business grows and becomes more complex.
While knowing that challenges such as these are common and to be expected, having the plan to address them allows you to keep growing your business without interruption.
Offering excellent customer service is one of the best ways to build strong relationships with your customers. Make sure you're responsive to customer inquiries and complaints, and always go above and beyond to resolve any issues that may arise.
Loyalty programs are a great way to reward your best customers and encourage them to keep doing business with you. You can consider a few different loyalty programs, such as points-based programs or discounts for repeat customers.
Making your customers feel like they're more than just a number is crucial for building strong relationships. One way to do this is by personalizing your communications with them, whether it's through email marketing, social media, or even on your website.
You can also use data from your DAM system to personalize the products and content you show to each customer. For example, if you know that a customer has purchased a particular product in the past, you can show them related products that they might be interested in.
You'll need to use the proper sales channels to reach your target market. You can consider a few different types of sales channels, including online retailers, brick-and-mortar stores, and direct-to-consumer (D2C) channels.
Here’s a quick breakdown of each one of these:
- Online retailers: If you're selling physical products, you can list your products on online retailers such as Amazon or eBay. This is a great way to reach a large audience of potential customers.
- Brick-and-mortar stores: If you're selling physical products, you can also sell them through brick-and-mortar stores. This can be a great way to reach a local market.
- Direct-to-consumer (D2C) channels: If you're selling digital products, you can reach your customers directly through D2C channels such as your website or a mobile app.
Map out your content strategy
Being able to see the whole content strategy in front of you is essential for eCommerce businesses. Various tools can make this happen, ensuring that all of your content is organized correctly and accounted for.
Having a workflow in place also allows you to track your content's progress and ensure it's on schedule. This is especially important if you're working with a team of writers, editors, and designers.
You might want to look into and get to know what a Hubspot workflow is and how this can help with your content strategy is critical. Such a workflow might include the following steps:
By clearly understanding the steps involved in creating content, you can ensure that your content strategy is on track and that each piece of content is high-quality and effective.
With that in mind, here are some of the various types of content you can use to grow your eCommerce business strategically.
Product guides are a great way to show your potential customers what your products offer. By creating detailed and informative product guides, you can give your customers the information they need to make an informed decision about whether or not to purchase your product.
Blog posts can be used to provide valuable information to your target market. By creating helpful and informative blog posts, you can establish yourself as an expert in your industry and build trust with your potential customers.
Videos are a great way to engage with your potential customers and show them the human side of your business. By creating exciting and informative videos, you can capture the attention of your target market and build a relationship with them.
Customer reviews and testimonials
Customer reviews and testimonials are great at helping build trust with your potential customers. By featuring positive reviews and testimonials from satisfied customers, you can show your target market that your products and services are high-quality and trustworthy.
Market your store online and offline
The final step in creating a successful eCommerce strategy is to market your store both online and offline. Using a mix of such types of marketing will allow you to reach a wider audience of potential customers and increase your chances of making a sale.
One great way to successfully market your eCommerce business is with partnerships with the right influencers. By partnering with popular influencers in your industry, you can reach a larger audience of potential customers and promote your products and services to a broader group of people.
In addition, consider a SaaS eCommerce partnership and the benefits this can bring. SaaS providers can offer customers a discount on their products, leading to more sales. In return, you can promote the SaaS provider's products on your website and social media channels, which can help them reach a larger audience.
By partnering with other businesses in your industry, you can reach a larger audience of potential customers and grow your business more quickly.
Some other great ways to market your store both online and offline include:
- Hosting events and meetups
- Speaking at conferences and trade shows
- Getting involved in local community events
- Advertising in local newspapers and magazines
Track results and optimizes your strategy
The final step in creating a successful eCommerce strategy is to track your results and optimize your system based on your findings. By monitoring your sales, traffic, and conversion rates, you can identify what is working well and what needs to be improved.
By tracking your results, you can also identify which marketing channels generate the most sales and adjust your budget accordingly. For example, suppose you find that your social media campaign is driving a lot of traffic to your website but not resulting in many sales. In that case, you may consider redirecting your budget to another marketing channel, such as email marketing or search engine optimization.
The most important thing to remember when tracking your results is to be patient. It takes time to see results from any marketing campaign, so don't expect to see overnight success. Continue to track your results over time and make changes to your strategy as needed to maximize your sales.
The right eCommerce strategy can be a great way to grow your business, but only if you take the time to have a solid plan in place.
Following the tips outlined in this article, you can create a successful eCommerce strategy to help you reach your business goals.
Always remember to keep your audience in mind. Your eCommerce strategy should appeal to your target market and have their best interest at heart.
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AuthorHanson Cheng is the founder of Freedom to Ascend. He empowers online entrepreneurs and business owners to 10x their business and become financially independent. You can connect with him here.