How to find success with your eCommerce store
During Christmas 2020 we saw the percentage of internet sales as a part of total sales rise to a staggering nearly 38% in the UK. By contrast, for Christmas 2019 this figure sat at less than 22%. I'm sure we all know that the global pandemic had a massive role to play in this meteoric rise in online shopping, but it's also shifted peoples behaviour hugely and started a trend which has boosted, and continues to boost the opportunities available to online retailers like never before.
Internet sales for Christmas 2021 was a little more subdued at just over 30%, but considering that before the pandemic we were seeing a rise of about 1.4% year on year, and taking into account the huge rise in the cost of living at the moment, and you can see that the increased popularity of online shopping is here to stay.
It's important to understand however, that the huge opportunities available are there for everyone, and that means there is also going to be strong competition. Even in 2019 eCommerce was already hugely competitive, but with the growth of internet sales from 2020 onwards, and with so many new stores launching all the time, customers have the widest choice ever when buying online.
So how do you succeed in a very crowded market where customer expectations are high, to harness the huge potential for the growth of your eCommerce store?
When a customer visits a store, they want to see a site that looks good, is fast, and has great usability - so it communicates to them very quickly if it's the kind of place thay want to buy from. After that they'll consider other things like product price and delivery time. There are a lot of elements to consider, and each needs to be addressed to make sure that within a very short space of time, the customer knows your store is going to meet their needs completely.
Each element you need may sound simple on the surface, but to get them all working well together, and create the best customer experience requires significant expertise across many different disciplines. Every successful eCommerce store has seen significant investment, both in time and money, across each different store element that need to be right in order to achieve success. The most important point to make here is that no one person can have sufficient expertise across all of these areas, and that's why running a successful eCommerce store is not something that can be done solo.
A quality team to operate and maintain your store is fundamental to it's success, and the without it you're not going to meet customer expectations, or be competitive. Your store should be something that is always evolving and improving to make sure you both keep up with, or even better exceed, customer expectations, as well as stay up to date with changes in technology.
So who do you need to keep everything running smoothly?
Your sales and customer team
Your sales and customer team will typically deal most directly with customers, answering questions and queries, and handling incoming orders. They will also have interaction with other businesses you deal with like suppliers of stock and shipping fufillment.
Often, the store owner and the manager are one and the same, but if you have other business requirements you need to fulfill which tend to pull you away from managing your store, then you will probably want to hire an eCommerce manager. Their goal is to ensure the smooth operation of the store with responsibility to oversee areas like:
- The direction of store development and design
- Marketing and advertising
- Content and copy creation
- Stock management
- Order fullfillment
- Liasing with third parties like shipping companies
Each of the areas they oversee will have someone with expertise and experience looking after them who will then update the manager on progress for that particular part of the stores operation.
People buy from people, not machines, so having a friendly, accessible, real life person handling customer enquiries is key to a great, personalised customer experience. Depending on the number of orders you typically fulfill you might want to have one or more people covering pre-sales, and the same for after sales. After sales can sometimes be sidelined by businesses, but for many people if they need after sales support, that interaction is what they really remember about the company far more than pre-sales. If any problem is resolved quickly and efficiently with no fuss for the customer, then you will probably find that customer will come back and buy from you again. If the opposite is true, it's unlikely that customer will ever buy from you again, and may even take things further by leaving a negative review.
A key point to remember is that you can't please everybody all of the time, but having great customer service representatives can get pretty close.
Customers expect orders to be processed and shipped quickly, so having dedicated people managing orders that come in is an essential element of customer satisfaction. Even if you have a fantastic website and great customer service, if orders takes a couple of days to be fulfilled, and then have slow shipping on top, customers aren't going to be keen to buy again. So make sure you're monitoring for incoming orders closely and processing them rapidly.
Your design team
Your design team define everything about how your store looks, and how customers interact with it. Good design and usability creates the first impression users have about your store and ultimately if they are likely to buy from you or not. If the look and usability of your store is poor, it's nearly impossible to make up for that in other areas.
The graphic designer creates everything about the look of your brand, including your logo, and ensures consistent branding across all online and offline media. Their design work defines how effectively your brand is communicated to your customers, so they should understand your target market, and be able to create a look in line with customer expectations.
After the initial design work for your store is done they should still be heavily involved, and will handle any changes and updates to the look of your store, and also be involved in marketing and advertising efforts to ensure consistent branding throughout.
UX design can be overlooked, but it's an extremely important component of your store. The UX designer will work heavily with the graphic designer, and good UX design means that your customers will find your store easy and intuitive to navigate, with the important functional elements being most prominent. They will understand what you are trying to achieve when a customer visits your store, and what the primary actions are that you want that customer to take.
UX design should allow the customer to quickly and effectively navigate your store, while presenting key functional elements you want the customer to use prominently.
Your content and technical team
Now we get onto the people on your team who are directly responsible for the smooth running of your store, and the effectiveness of it's content.
A copy editor should be responsible for all of the text which appears on your store, and will review, create and rewrite text to remove errors, improve readability, and make sure the language is right for your target audience.
The text on your store plays a huge role in how your product is communicated to your customers, and if the customer doesn't get presented with text that tells them you can fulfill their requirements, they aren't likely to spent long on your store. But if the wording effectively communicates with your customer, and presents an enticing brand to them, the likelyhood of buying is much improved.
If you are hoping to build any level of organic traffic to your store (which you should be), search engine optimisation is a vital area to address. Historically SEO was much simpler, and you could use straightforward techniques accessible to anyone in order to rank well in search engines. Today this is certainly not the case, and it's instead a highly complex, wide area of expertise in itself. Ranking well in search engines depends on a great many things, but ultimately you should be achieving one thing - giving people the information they are looking for. Search engine optimisation and writing copy should really walk hand in hand, so these two people or teams are very closely linked.
Your developer plays a key role in driving change and updates to your store. While they'll typically follow direction rather than define it, their input and feedback on the viability of adding features and functionality will be instrumental in defining how the store progresses with changes in both functionality and design.
A developer will typically work on a store continually under the eCommerce managers direction to ensure technology aspects are up to date, both from a functionality and security perspective. Also as many areas of store functionality have depenencies on the underlying server technology, they will also often liase with your hosting provider to make sure everything about the software the server is running is up to date and functioning correctly.
Your marketing and advertising team
Marketing and advertising is an essential component of creating brand awareness. People want to see a personal side, and this allows potential customers to learn about and interact with your brand and the people who represent it.
Social media is the way you're going to connect with your audience in the most personal and effective way to raise brand awareness. Getting social media marketing right is a complex area, but it's essentially just giving your customers the content they want - if you are, they'll engage and learn about your brand.
Creating the right sort of content that both engages the audience, and raises brand awareness takes time, effort and careful analysis of how past content has performed. It's not a straightforward balance to achieve but when you get there your content will be engaging while also promoting your brand.
The most directly effective way to reach your target audience is through paid advertising. While a strong social presence can yield huge benefits long term, it does take time to build. By comparison paid advertising gives near-instant results while the campaign is running. So there are definite benefits to leveraging paid advertising in the right way, and it can yield impressive results for a store that has the right look, content and usability in place.
Successfully running an eCommerce store involves many moving parts, and is something that should always be evolving and changing to keep pace with customer expectations and marketplace demands. Make sure you have the right team around you to make your eCommerce ventures a success, and if you are in the market for a quality UK based developer for your store you can find one in a few minutes, with a couple of clicks, right here.
Thanks for reading!