By Sam Edwards
In 2015 and for years to come, the ecommerce economy is expected to continue its upward trajectory and rapid growth. As an entrepreneur, this opportunity for success and sustainability is exciting, promising and intriguing. Whether you’ve already been involved with the launch of an ecommerce business in the past or are looking to get involved with your first venture, now is the time to get your foot in the door. Indeed, from 2010 to 2013, total U.S. retail ecommerce sales increased from $167.3 billion to $263.3 billion. Last year, that number jumped up to $304.1 billion, and trends suggest 2015 will top off somewhere around $347.3 billion. For perspective, total estimated retail sales in the U.S. came in around $3.19 trillion for 2014. That means ecommerce sales made up approximately 9.5 percent of total U.S. sales — and that share is expected to grow.
However, those numbers pale in comparison to the predictions financial analysts and industry experts are suggesting for the next three years. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, sources say the total projected U.S. retail ecommerce sales will come in around $392.5, $440.4, and $491.5 billion, respectively. If those numbers hold true, that will be more than a 41 percent growth from this year to the end of 2018. While the ecommerce economy is poised for significant growth in the coming months and years, you can only expect to see results if you approach it in the right way. That means focusing on the following critical tips for ecommerce success.
- Don’t rush the launch.
One of the biggest mistakes unsuccessful ecommerce entrepreneurs make is forcing or rushing the launch of a website. You only get one shot at launching your website and you can’t mess this up. While it’s okay to purchase your domain name and throw up some sort of “Coming Soon” page, you should avoid the big reveal until you’ve laid some substantial ground work (SEO, content marketing, social media, paid advertising, etc.).
- Put the focus on the user.
It’s no secret that the biggest shortcoming of ecommerce businesses is the inability to let their customers touch, feel, smell, and see (firsthand) products before making a decision. While there’s currently no solution for solving this problem, you can compensate for this deficiency in other areas of the business. Some of the best tips include offering appropriate pricing, giving free shipping and making the checkout process easy with simplified shopping carts.
- Test absolutely everything.
Before, during and after you launch any ecommerce business, you should invest in testing and analytics. Think like the customer and figure out what’s working, what’s not, and the why behind those answers. Here’s a look at some of the best A/B testing tools.
- Work closely with social.
Any ecommerce entrepreneur that tells you he outsources social media or delegates it to other team members is crazy. Social media is the heartbeat of your business, as it gives you an uninterrupted glance into the lives of your customers. While it’s perfectly fine to have a social-media manager, it’s pertinent that you’re involved with it, too.
- Incorporate social elements.
Going along with the previous tip, it’s a great idea to include social elements on your ecommerce sites. Things like product reviews and testimonials follow buttons and even social login options all help the conversion funnel.
- Go mobile.
Bill Siwicki of Internet Retailer references Goldman Sachs, saying, “Tablets will play an increasingly important role as worldwide consumer spending via mobile jumps from $204 billion in 2014 to $626 billion in 2018…” If you aren’t building ecommerce businesses with mobile in mind, you may be irrelevant in three to five years.
- Stay on top of SEO.
As the ecommerce economy experiences rapid growth, more and more businesses will be entering this increasingly crowded space. That means it will be more important than ever to stay on top of SEO in order to stand out from the competition. Connecting with a skilled SEO will help you stay competitive in the long run.
- Collect information.
Unless you plan on launching a single site and stepping away (most entrepreneurs are tempted to keep trying), it’s critical that you collect customer information and build databases to aid future launches.
- Continue evolving.
Finally, never stop evolving. Technology, trends and customer tastes will change, and so must you if you want to succeed in such a variable market. With these nine tips, you can be well on your way to becoming a successful ecommerce-based entrepreneur.