According to SingStat's Monthly Retail Sales and Food & Beverage Service Indices report released in October 2015, retail sales excluding motor vehicles is up only 1.3% year-on-year. In addition to stagnant demand, retailers are facing keen competition, with Straits Times recently reporting that once-successful fashion brand M)phosis has shut all its retail stores in Singapore.
On the other hand, the instant global exposure of an e-commerce storefront means that any business has the potential to become a sensational success in quick time following in the footsteps of giants such as Amazon, Zappos and Alibaba.com as well as regional powerhouses like Zalora and Lazada.
However, just being on the internet does not automatically ensure success; it is just the first step in a series of well-planned and well-executed actions that bring these e-commerce brands to where they are today.
Here are 10 must-dos for your e-commerce operations to bring you closer to your first million dollars in e-commerce sales.
1. Invest in a good website
Without a physical storefront, the website is your main touchpoint with customers. Make sure it delivers both a good shopping and transaction experience that will keep your customers coming back for more.
Clean design and layout, ease of navigation, useful tips and product information and speedy accessibility are just some of the factors that go into making your website stand out from the competition.
In e-commerce, failing to make a good first impression can be fatal.
2. Go mobile
More and more people are accessing the internet everyday via mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets as opposed to desktops and laptops.
75% of Singaporeans use the internet on mobile phones to compare products and seek out deals. 64% of mobile users will look elsewhere if the site they visit is not mobile-optimised. Your site could be turning away customers to your competitors right now without knowing it.
Being mobile-optimised or mobile friendly also has positive impact to your search engine rankings. In April this year, Google has announced that moving forward, a site’s mobile optimisation and friendliness will be a factor in determining how well it ranks on Google search results.
3. Make it easy for customers to pay you
Many online retailers make the mistake of optimising the shopping experience, but not the transaction experience, often leaving the last step of a checkout process - payment - as an afterthought.
45% of all shopping cart abandonments are related to payment during the checkout process. In other words, if you fail to make payment an effortless process during checkout on your site, you risk losing almost half of your potential sales.
Provide the adequate payment methods relevant to the paying preference and behaviour of your target customers. Eliminate unnecessary steps and avoid asking customers for unimportant information during the payment process to increase the chance of the customer completing the transaction and making the sale.
4. Find a need, fill the need
Without a physical limitation, it can at times be tempting to go the way of established online marketplaces such as Ebay, Lazada, Rakuten etc and sell everything under the sun on your e-commerce storefront. Don’t.
Unless you have the resources and financial muscle to go toe-to-toe with the above-mentioned online marketplaces, the most effective way to carve a name for your online business is to focus on a niche market and serve it really, really well.
Some of the most famous and talked-about online brands made their name by selling only a particular type of products. Even the great Amazon started its business selling just books.
5. Offer free delivery/shipping
Unless you are selling a service or digital good, at the end of the day, an order made on your website has to be physically delivered to the customer. Savvy online buyers know that delivery/shipping fees add to the total cost of purchase and would be wary and hesitant to buy if such additional charges are not indicated clearly.
Be one step ahead of your opponents. Beat your competition by making it simple and straightforward for your customers with a free delivery/shipping promise.
The cost you bear to offer free delivery/shipping is really just another kind of advertising to attract more customers to you.
6. Offer superior customer support
Again, because there is no physical interaction with the customer, it is critical that you offer the best possible customer support.
Nobody understands this better than Amazon. One of its policies is that every staff member is required to serve at customer care desk at least once in a year, and this policy cuts across all personnel within the organisation from the CEO and founder to interns.
Offer a range of channels for the customer to communicate with you, such as email, live chat and internet calling among others. Always be prompt to respond to customer enquiries and concerns so that they feel comfortable parting their dollars with you.
7. Social media marketing
We now live in a world where friends and family members spend more time communicating with one another on social media platforms rather than face-to-face. Given the pervasiveness of Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and Twitter to name a few of the biggest social media channels, social media is one of the best ways to get the word on your product or service out to your target customers.
Social media allows you to engage and interact with your customers directly and often instantaneously, discussing about your products, address their concerns and questions, as well as offering free advice and tips. Such activities go a long way in creating a strong bond and following with your customers, increasing affinity and loyalty to your brand.
8. Take quality photos of your products
If your products don’t look good, they are not going to sell. It’s as simple as that.
Conventional retailers know this to be a cardinal truth. Hence the millions of dollars retailers poured into visual merchandising and storefront display year in and year out, just so that their products can be presented in the best possible light.
It is more true for an e-commerce business; your product visual is more often than not the only reference that your customers use to make a judgement on whether to consider your product.
Invest the time and resources to put into place a process for taking high-resolution, beautiful product photos whenever you have new products, so that you can always update your e-commerce storefront with great looking images to attract potential buyers.
9. Encourage product reviews
Online shoppers love to see what other customers have to say about a product before making a purchase decision. The best examples of reviews in action can be found on airline and hotel booking sites.
It goes without saying that more positive reviews is instrumental in getting high sales. Even with negative reviews, it presents an opportunity for you to respond truthfully about your product and how you will improve it in future, thereby enhancing the authenticity and customer-centric focus of your business.
In addition, search engines such as Google love customer reviews. More reviews will help improve your search engine rankings in the long run.
10. Sell to existing customers
All marketers know that it is much easier and cost a lot less to maintain and sell to existing customers than acquire new ones.
It is easy to keep the relationship with existing customers warm through automated systems such as email marketing, referral campaigns and loyalty reward or membership programmes to name a few.
With smart use of your e-commerce platform and available customer data, you can create with little effort a whole ecosystem of continuous engagement with your customers so that they always come back for more.
Several of Stridec's clients such as SkyWatches and ProCanadaDrugs.com have already put the above must-dos into actions, and well surpassed their first million in e-commerce sales. By following in our clients' tried-and-tested footsteps, your e-commerce business journey can also become highly profitable and rewarding.