Different ecommerce businesses face different challenges. That is why quick-fix advice for success in ecommerce can only scratch the surface. However, successful ecommerce businesses tend to have some common characteristics. I have distilled these characteristics into a list of top 5 tips on how you can run a successful ecommerce business.
1. Differentiate Your BusinessWhy should a customer visit you? Do you sell exclusive merchandise? Do you offer the lowest price? Does your customer service set you apart?
Answers to these "soul searching" business questions will lead you to develop your USP. Every business needs to differentiate itself. As an ecommerce business, you cannot hope to sell everything to everybody.
You could try to prove me wrong by pointing out Amazon.com. It sells everything, from books to fresh shrimp! Sure, if you are an Amazon.com, go for it. But short of that, make sure that your business stands for something specific in the minds of consumers.
One way to differentiate your business is to solve at least one problem that customers face -- especially a problem that no one else is solving.
2. Get Your Technology RightWith the kind of robust ecommerce software and hosting available these days, there is no excuse for ecommerce websites that don't work. But getting technology right is not just about having a bug-free website. It is also about using technology to achieve business ends.
For example, there was a time when several ecommerce businesses set up a blog on their website. Today, many of those blogs seem like neglected graveyards. Similarly, I have come across more than one ecommerce business that treats SEO (Search Engine Optimization) as the solution to all its problems. Surely that is a case of the tail wagging the dog.
3. Don't Make Customers Run Around in CirclesCommon sense dictates that a business should make purchase convenient. Surprisingly, some ecommerce websites complicate the purchase. Instead of simplifying the process, they make a first-time visitor:
- fill up a registration form
- click a link in an email
- go through a series of mouse clicks, even after they have added goods to the shopping cart; all along clicking "No" to the up-sells that are being thrown at them.
4. Secure Your Supply ChainOrder fulfillment takes place behind the scenes. But its consequences are felt by customers. Incorrect, damaged, delayed, or missing merchandise can ensure that the customer never returns to you.
Supply chain management as a discipline predates ecommerce. Consequently, reliable service providers are available for several aspects of sourcing and fulfillment. All ecommerce businesses outsource some part of their supply chain. But outsourcing must be a strategic choice and not an abnegation of responsibility.
Even the most impressive website design, and shopping cart conversion strategies, will amount to nothing if your supply chain is substandard.
5. Be Cost EffectiveAs gross margins reduce to single-digits, ecommerce businesses are selling more but reducing profits. This is not sustainable. All ecommerce businesses are tempted to cut prices. Ecommerce has seen price wars that led to the demise of several players.
Some businesses choose to price high, while others offer deep discounts. But when it comes to cost management, there cannot be divergent views. Only ecommerce businesses with effective cost control processes will survive.