Top 10 Tips for eCommerce startups in 2021
The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation across every part of our lives, including when it comes to buying things. Customers have flocked online. Those companies without an online presence have had to develop one quickly.
This environment is tailor-made for an ecommerce start-up. Relatively low start-up costs, the ability to quickly access a wide marketplace and the ubiquitous nature of online shopping, means the ground is set fair. Nevertheless, this is a frantic and competitive marketplace. To succeed, you need to set a plan, target yourself in the right way and put it into action. Here are ten tips to maximise your chances of success.
- Get the website right
Your website is your shop front. Making a good first impression is just as important here as on the high street. However, many people don’t fully appreciate how little time you have to grab a visitor’s attention.
At times, it could be as little as five milliseconds – 0.05 seconds is how long it takes visitors to form impression according to recent data. In that time, they will have taken in the design, and whether they feel this is a business they can trust. From there you need to ensure the user journey is as seamless as possible, taking users through every stage of the buying funnel.
At every stage you want this process to be a smooth as possible. The fewer obstacles on this journey the more likely they are to make it to the end. In March 2020, around 88% of shopping carts were abandoned.
In many cases the reason may be a slow and frustrating buying process. The harder it is to get through the checkout, the more likely it is your customers will get second thoughts. Whatever the reason, an abandoned cart represents someone who decided to buy but then changed their mind. If this rate is high that represents a lot of lost revenue.
- Break out of your bubble
We’ve all heard about the echo chamber of social media. It applies to eCommerce too. We are naturally good at talking to people who look like us and think like us. For example, if you’re a young entrepreneur in the city, you might develop a product designed to appeal to other young city dwellers.
Everything you do, from your marketing to your sales strategy, may subconsciously be talking to these people. However, there is no reason to think other demographics might not also be interested in what you have to sell. Learn to think outside the bubble and understand different types of customers. How might they think? What would they want from your product and how can you reach them?
- Use social media to listen
There are plenty of articles suggesting using social media to market your product. That is highly important. It’s a free form of advertising and a good way to generate word of mouth.
However, what fewer people understand is that social media can be used for listening as well. Platforms such as Twitter are great at showing you what gets said when you’re out of your room. You can search for your company or product name to see what people are saying about it and you can also listen in on people are generally talking about in your chosen sector.
This can open up previously unseen opportunities and give you fresh ideas for ways in which you can market your business.
- Understand your investors
When it comes to fundraising, many start-ups are just looking to find someone with money who are willing to support them. They often fail to think about what that someone should be like. Before you meet with a potential investor it pays to understand their mindset, what they are looking for from the deal and what qualities they look for.
Many investors will come to a meeting with a set idea about whether they want to invest or not. Putting yourself in their shoes and understanding the deal from their perspective will dramatically improve your chances of success.
At the same time, it pays to be picky about your investors. If you’re talking to venture capital funds it’s a good idea to go for one which has a good network of series A investors and that have a mindset which is compatible to you.
Investors may often bring more to the table than money. If there goals and expectations differ from you, it could lead to problems down the line.
- Build the business you want
Every start up is a journey. You begin in one place, but you may well have a vision for what your company will be. Whatever your goal, it’s important to set up a realistic roadmap to get there.
Put each block in place and nail each step in the journey before you move on to the next. One of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make is attempting to scale before they are ready.
- Expanding overseas
A great advantage of ecommerce is that it’s easier to expand from one territory to another without the need of a physical location. However, this can be a delicate business. Every new country will be a new market, with its own characteristics. The competition will be different, customers may want different things and you may need to position your business in a different way.
It is extremely helpful to have boots on the ground – people in those countries with an understanding of the market who can help you build a presence. At the same time having the infrastructure in place to ensure you can meet the expectations of customers will be crucial to avoid coming to grief in this new market.
- Use social proof
As soon as possible get some social proof onto your website. This comes in the form of positive user reviews or case studies. According to a provider of ratings and reviews technology, Power Reviews, 97% of customers rely on reviews when making a buying decision.
It makes sense. There are plenty of companies offering online services out there and some are better than others. If they see plenty of reviews, they will feel much more comfortable using your services.
If possible you might also look at securing coverage on popular customer review sites such as TrustPilot. Assuming your reviews are good, you may include a link to one of these sites to reinforce a sense of trust with your customers.
- Go mobile
More and more customers are using mobile devices – phones or tablets – to buy things online. However, sites often work and display differently on mobile than on desktop computers. It’s worth investing in a secure, specialised mobile site or developing an app.
Not only will this help you engage more effectively with your customers, it may also protect your search rankings. Google has started to penalise those sites which are not optimised to appear on mobile. If you’re pushed down the search rankings your competitors will reap the benefits.
- Different buying options
Today’s online customer expects choice and convenience. They are used to being able to pay in whatever way they want and to receive goods promptly.
Include as many different ways to pay as possible to cater to different choices. Not having a customer’s preferred form of payment available is a common reason behind abandoned carts.
- Control your finances
This last point might apply to any business, but it’s extremely important nonetheless. The majority of start-ups fail within the first five years. Most of those which do will fail because they lost control of their finances. Short term cash flow shortages can cripple any business, especially one which is just finding its feet.
Good financial management using a high-quality tool will give you a clearer view of what’s going in, what’s going out, where you’re strong, where you’re weak and any challenges which may lie down the road. Cloud based platforms such as Xero make it easier than ever for start-ups to control their finances as they grow.
Speaking to an accountant that specialises in eCommerce accounting will help ensure that you are reporting the correct figures to HMRC and keeping on top of your bookkeeping.