12 Tips for Increasing the Efficiency and Functionality of Your Ecommerce Business
ECommerce will be the fastest-growing industry in the world this year and is expected to grow by over a trillion dollars by 2025. However efficiently you think your eCommerce business runs, you can always make it even leaner and stronger to compete more effectively and anticipate those inevitable kinks in the road ahead.
In this guide to increasing efficiency and functionality you will discover:
- How important is eCommerce?
- What is eCommerce marketing – and why do I need it?
- 12 eCommerce business tips for increasing efficiency and functionality
- Frequently asked questions about eCommerce efficiency
How important is eCommerce?
Ecommerce has given small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs) a chance to grow into bigger companies by selling to customers from all around the world. Those customers have high expectations from online businesses, challenging them to steadily improve the quality of their eCommerce businesses.
Each part of an eCommerce operation – ranging from customer-facing operations on the front end to fulfillment and inventory management on the back end – can be upgraded to improve efficiency and expand functionality. Improvements include online personalization, mobile optimization, and intelligent commerce to engage with customers, alongside enhancements throughout the internal supply chain.
What is eCommerce marketing – and why do I need it?
Ecommerce marketing is the art of using promotional tactics to steer customers to your online store, converting that traffic into paying customers and building purchasers into loyal customers with follow-ups and aftercare.
An omnichannel eCommerce marketing strategy uses marketing tactics on and offline to create a consistent brand experience – from social media channels to brick-and-mortar and print advertising.
Ecommerce marketing spans all digital marketing platforms including:
- Search engines
- Social media
- Email marketing
- On your website
- Owned media such as blogs
- Non-owned online publications and podcasts
- Offline marketing: print media, billboards, point-of-sale, and so on
In short, a sound marketing strategy will help you:
- Drive traffic to your website
- Ensure you hit your target audience
- Convert visitors to your website into paying customers
- Build brand awareness
- Drive customer loyalty
- Increase online sales.
12 eCommerce business tips for increasing efficiency and functionality.
1. Personalization is key
Personalization is key to standing out amid a glut of consumer choices. Fortunately, personalization is possible for even the smallest eCommerce businesses, including emerging brands whose goals include customer loyalty along with brand awareness and greater market share.
Personalization not only includes the content that customers see when they visit an eCommerce site, but also promotional efforts such as customized e-mail marketing campaigns. Ecommerce businesses can tailor their messaging to connect with customers and create loyalty based on:
- Past shopping habits
- Geographic region
- Browsing history
- Date of birth
- Average order size
However, it's important to let customers know how their personal data is being used to give them greater assurances of privacy. Many people are willing to share personal information, but they want to see tangible benefits like discounts and other special offers.
2. Focus on mobile
Mobile-first initiatives are currently undergoing a massive shift with changes in technology. While responsive design is the current industry standard, there are many forward-looking advancements that will soon become commonplace.
Progressive web apps (PWAs) use regular internet technology but deliver an app-like experience in a mobile or desktop web browser and have become more popular among eCommerce sites. PWAs are easier to maintain than mobile apps, making them more accessible to SMEs that don't have the financial resources and manpower for IT development. Oftentimes, SMEs can't justify the effort to build a mobile app that's difficult to find in crowded app stores.
However, shoppers now expect app-like experiences that include the following:
- Modern mobile interfaces
- App-like navigation and functions
- Features such as push notifications.
- PWAs provide all these features and can be easily updated without requiring customers to download the latest upgrade
See more about optimizing mobile here
3. Adopt more AI
Intelligent commerce relies on the latest artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies to improve website functionality. More eCommerce businesses are making their websites more dynamic with these innovations.
Marketers and merchandisers can collect troves of data about their customers, but the next step is putting that information to work with intelligence commerce that's more responsive than past digital technologies.
These innovations have become more accessible to SMEs, giving them a stronger footing on which to compete with bigger rivals. Supplementing data-driven eCommerce initiatives with AI is becoming an important way to satisfy the need for the personalization of eCommerce experiences.
4. Improve your online checkout
Retailers can have amazing eCommerce sites with the latest features to engage shoppers, only to see those efforts wasted with an abandoned shopping cart. To cut down on abandonment rates, which are estimated to be as high as 80%, eCommerce sites need to harness as much data as possible to figure out when shoppers don't follow through with a purchase.
For example, a shopping session on an eCommerce store that ends abruptly may indicate a customer was distracted by something else, was surprised by high prices, or was virtually window-shopping. Ecommerce sites can use that information to determine whether they should send a reminder email that includes discounts or other promotions to close the sale.
Customers who routinely drop off during checkout may indicate that the process is creating too much friction and needs to be redesigned.
5. Integrate your back-end
A key part of improving front-end operations is connecting them with back-end support, giving customers greater visibility into product inventories online. That helps to manage their expectations and increases the likelihood they'll be satisfied with a final purchase. Improved customer satisfaction helps to cut down on product returns that are costly to restock.
Better inventory visibility lets shoppers at physical stores check the availability of items, helping them to decide whether to visit another store location or to order products for delivery. Greater transparency also helps eCommerce businesses determine which warehouses can provide the quickest and least expensive distribution.
Ultimately, a lack of visibility and access to inventory typically results in inflated shipping and logistics costs – and possibly the loss of a sale.
6. Leverage social media channels
Consider launching a Facebook store, integrating with Instagram, and upselling through user-generated content. Which platform works best for you and will reach most likely customers' eyes? Combining or tweaking strategies for different platforms may cost you extra effort but may well be worth it and won't leave you playing catch-up if your chosen platform suddenly becomes unpopular or disappears altogether.
Incorporating social media channels into your website is a good idea. You can engage with Instagram viewers by showing behind-the-scenes content or strategically hashtagging to capture the wayward attention of potential customers. Many social media sites are marketplaces in their own right now too.
Read more about social media driving traffic to your site here.
7. Don't forget about email
It can feel addicting to chase down social media likes, but email remains a key challenge for lead generation. Email remains an intimate interaction. People are still more private about messages sent to their personal inboxes. And email gives you the space to expand on your product or provide longer-form content that can’t fit into a social media post.
Actively promote email capture points across your website, blog any other media to maximize your subscriber base. Use automation to trigger recovery emails encouraging customers who've left items in their basket to revisit the site. Automated emails allow you to send super-relevant and timely messages seamlessly and garner you higher click rates.
8. Spruce up your content marketing
If you're not blogging already you should be, but content marketing is about video, podcasts, seminars, user guides and in-depth product specs, depending on where in the marketing funnel you are, and the platform it will sit on.
Consider content as a free giveaway to shoppers, a tool to create brand awareness and position your business as a problem solver. It's a good idea to think about your potential customers as a community within which you can be a leading voice and helpful expert.
You could always encourage user interaction for customer-created content, perhaps in exchange for an incentive. User-generated content builds a higher level of trust among potential customers and maintains authenticity and authority.
9. Upsell and cross-sell
Easier than attracting a new customer, upselling and cross-selling often occurs at the point of purchase. Someone on the verge of buying a new pen might also buy some refills or may be swayed by the sight of a slightly better, more expensive model. It's important to ensure your upsell products are closely linked to the original purchase and not too much of an expensive add-on to avoid irritating potential customers, who may leave the purchase completely if they feel they are being pestered.
10. Test, test, test
The best way to improve conversion rates is to test repeatedly to quash complacency. Even when you seem to be doing well, tweak your eCommerce site to experiment and look out for logjams down the road. Keep a close eye on analytics and leverage the data to make smart choices. Should that button be there? Can we make it a different color? Is that photograph converting viewers or can we choose a better one?
11. Know your customers better
Put yourself in the shoes of your customers. What are their pain points? What do they find difficult to navigate on your website? How old are they, where are they based and how are they finding you – Facebook, Twitter, that guest blog you wrote? And if you are finding it difficult to see things from their point of view – ask them. Follow up at every stage of the purchase journey and offer incentives for them to give you more detail on their purchasing patterns and why they relate to your brand.
12. Thinking ahead
These tips for improving the efficiency and functionality of eCommerce operations reflect some of the most common areas for advancement and future progress. It's important to take a holistic approach toward eCommerce, considering how front-end operations can work more seamlessly with back-end functions to boost customer satisfaction and longer-term loyalty.
SMEs that demonstrate their willingness to exceed the expectations of customers by personalizing their interactions, delivering a mobile-first experience, and adopting intelligent commerce solutions will stand out in a crowded marketplace. Improving online checkouts and making inventories more transparent to customers boosts the likelihood that customers will keep coming back.
Frequently asked questions about eCommerce efficiency
Why is eCommerce so efficient?
Ecommerce is cost-effective because it requires no third party to sell your products. Transactions take less time and so your business can handle more of them. When it comes to advertising and getting your products in front of potential customers, eCommerce is much cheaper, penetrates further, and is more personalized than physical models of selling. Your website is on 24 hours per day and is open to anyone in the world with a smartphone or computer – an ever-increasing number of people.
Why is my eCommerce site not selling?
The most common reason for not converting prospects is that you are not driving the right traffic. A million people might click on your site, but what if they're the wrong type of person? Re-establish who your target audience is and revisit your long-tail keywords. Ensure your pages are optimized for SEO, that customer navigation and checkout are simplified, and that those all-important call to action (CTA) buttons are easy to find.
What are the eCommerce success factors?
Ecommerce needs constant refinement, so use A/B testing to determine what ways to attract and convert prospective customers work best. Without a physical storefront, customers are relying on clear, concise but high-quality information to decide without seeing your offering in the flesh. Success depends on top levels of engagement, and this will require hard work promoting your product on social media, building backlinks, and having a great user experience on your website.