A Simple Strategy to Scale Your eCommerce Business (And Prepping for the 2021 Holiday Season)
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, eCommerce sales grew by a staggering 31.73% in 2020 from the previous year. While global circumstances were a direct influence, online sales continued to grow another 9.1% by Q2 of 2021. A Statista study also reported that nearly 10% of surveyed buyers made an online purchase for the first time during this period.
While online shopping was already a growing business, it’s grown apparent over the past two years that digital sales are a vital component of a successful business strategy. Whether you’re new to the eCommerce world or looking to develop a lasting strategy, we’ve got you covered.
Below, we’re going to outline tips you can use as a simple strategy to scale your eCommerce business now and start prepping for the busy 2021 holiday season.
How to Scale Your eCommerce Business for the Holidays?
Growing a business is a bit different from scaling a business. When you grow your business, you invest in the resources, so the business grows in size, but you don’t necessarily make any profit.
On the flip side, when you scale a business, you boost revenue without adding any resources. The overheads remain the same in this case. For an eCommerce business, it’s crucial to find ways to increase sales and revenue.
Here are some innovative ways to scale your eCommerce business, especially during the Christmas and holiday season ahead, without spending a fortune on your resources.
1. Work on Your Brand Reputation and Social Proof
Your reputation whether it be through direct interactions or through word-of-mouth references accounts for a lot. This applies to eCommerce sales just as much as it does to brick-and-mortar businesses. Nearly every consumer (92%, to be exact) looks for some form of nonpaid and nonsponsored referral or recommendation before committing to a purchase.
Consumers are fairly self-aware of what types of products and services they are interested in buying. You can even begin to identify the intent to purchase from the types of keywords used to locate web pages through search results. At this point, your average person is merely looking for the support and validation they need to confirm that committing to the transaction is the correct choice. Whether or not they know the person recommending the brand seems to be irrelevant.
If you’re looking for a minimal to no-cost investment that can help you scale your eCommerce business, look into boosting your brand reputation online. This can be done through a variety of methods. You should begin by collecting and posting previous customer reviews and opinions throughout your website and eCommerce store. Having reviews listed on every product or service page about that particular item is effective in helping customers make a purchasing decision. They may not fully trust your self-advertising, but they’ll trust another buyer that has no stake in your business success.
Another method, one that we highly recommend, is to ensure that your business is listed on online directories. Directories are sites such as Yelp, Google My Business, and Bing Places. Local listings should be a part of any local business strategy, but they can help your eCommerce store as well by boosting your site’s SEO value.
Individuals surfing the web can discover businesses through these online directories by searching for specific keywords, products, or industries. Your listing shares your website, physical location (if you have one), contact details, hours, products, services, and much more. Search engines like Google will recognize this information and compare it to the information listed on your business website. As long as your directory profiles are up-to-date, optimized, and contain the same accurate information listed on your site, it can build trust and boost your SEO efforts. The better your SEO value, the higher ranked your eCommerce business will be in SERPs.
Stay on top of these reputation management tools and take action to respond to customer reviews both positive or negative. Interacting with customers indicates a proactive response from your business and demonstrates that you care about the buyer experience. Taking the time to understand and remedy issues expressed by customers can also help to influence these customers, or the directories, in removing negative reviews from your reputation. By cultivating a 5-star status for your store, more visitors will be inclined to become customers.
2. Analyze Your Inbound Marketing Strategies
Many marketing agencies make a fortune off of promising X amount of new traffic to your eCommerce store. However, what many business owners fail to realize is that web traffic by itself is simply a vanity metric. If you receive one hundred new visitors, but all of them quickly bounce away from your site, then the metric amounts to very little. While earning that traffic is part of the equation, your inbound marketing needs to lead to conversions.
The best way to gain a critical analysis of your website, the user experience, and the content you provide is to utilize free tools such as Google Analytics and Google Search Console. These will help you to quickly analyze and identify any existing issues with your website. While improving your site to be fast and responsive on all platforms is on the technical side, Analytics will allow you to test out a variety of content on your core business pages and product pages.
Ensure that the type of content on the page matches the intent of the user. For example, someone arriving at your home page or about page is generally looking to gain information and learn about your brand but is not at the stage yet where they’re committed to making a purchase. On the other hand, your product pages should supply key information about a product, but the viewer is much closer to adding an item to their cart and completing the transaction.
Google Analytics can also assist you in A/B testing any content that you share on a given page. This will allow you to freely experiment with alterations in headlines, call-to-actions, images, or video content, while naturally directing traffic to the better-performing version. This is key for scaling as it allows you to extract better results from the traffic you’re receiving without wasting more of your advertising budget.
Finally, any strong SEO strategy should also involve the addition of a blog on your website. While blogs are common on general, informational websites, eCommerce stores make the mistake of thinking that a blog doesn’t fit into their marketing plan. Blog articles further assist your customers in learning more about your industry, products, and services, and, ultimately, make your brand a trustworthy authority. At the same time, SEO-optimized blog content contributes to your keyword and overall search rankings, which effectively pulls more, better-qualified visitors to your eCommerce store.
Investing in SEO and content creation is one of the lowest-costing, most effective long-term marketing strategies for your business. Stay ahead of your eCommerce competitors by developing a strategy, continuously testing your content, and regularly updating your website with high-quality material.
3. Improve Customer Service with Live Chat Automation
A scaling, growing business equates to a higher volume of customers. A higher volume of customers means more questions, inquiries, and general issues that may arise. Because scaling involves growth with minimal additional costs or spending, you need solutions that can help you stem the inevitable tide of incoming customer service pressures.
That’s where smart automation enters the scene. Chatbots are no longer a new invention either, and a large share of initial interactions you have with businesses online are handled by automation. While not all customers will be ready to settle for a robot as opposed to humans, many businesses already found a place for automation within their customer service plan.
The top use cases reported by business owners for chatbots included providing quick answers to inquiries at 37% while resolving complaints, problems, or questions was around 35%. Your chatbot is able to instantly greet customers, identify the nature of the inquiry, and direct the individual to the right resources. Many basic interactions can be resolved with a response pulled from a content library based upon frequently asked questions. Even if the customer still requires human interaction, the chatbot effectively funnels out simple problems and quells the effects of customer churn.
However, while automation may help your task management, does it positively impact your customers? A study suggests that an overwhelming 84% of customers base their purchasing decisions on their takeaways with customer service. A great experience might sway their decision to buy from you, but a negative interaction will almost definitely push them away.
Be mindful of how you use chatbots and automation. While technology seems to be slowly taking over this department, many people still quickly reach frustration points when they don’t receive human interaction. Use the chatbot to identify issues and direct the user where they need to be. Ensure that your sales and support teams are well-trained and prepared to deal with issues and that they respond swiftly. Finally, ensure that you have enough personnel on your team to deal with the rise of customer issues as you begin to scale.
4. Apply to Become a Google Trusted Store
While there are a variety of sites that support your brand’s reputation with reviews, none might be more valuable than Google Customer Reviews. This is because customer reviews and testimonials can appear right beside the search result for these stores without needing to ever click on a link. Not all eCommerce stores receive this benefit, and you must apply to Google to see if you are eligible to receive this certification.
To do this, you will need to find the Google Merchant Programs located in the settings of Google Merchant Center. This is where you can find a variety of business shopping programs such as Shopping ads and Local inventory ads. Simply select “Enable,” and Google will provide you with a survey you will need to embed on your website.
Users will then have the option to participate in the survey when they visit your website. These questions will help Google learn what customers think about the service you provide and determine whether or not your operation is up to standards. The entire process can take up to three months, but you’ll be rewarded with a Google Customer Reviews badge that you can then post on your site as social proof.
From a marketing perspective, this badge serves a similar function to licenses or certifications granted by external organizations. Because the badge granter has no affiliation with or motivation to promote your brand, customers are more likely to trust the badge provider, and, in turn, your eCommerce store as a result. Compare this to an online store that has no badges, certifications, website security, and poor customer reviews.
If you are unsuccessful in obtaining your badge, you will then have an indication that aspects of your service must be improved. In either scenario, applying is completely free and the feedback you receive for your eCommerce store is invaluable.
5. Boost Your Reach with PPC Campaigns
While pay-per-click advertisements are not a zero-cost marketing solution, they do provide you with considerable control over your budget and what you spend per month. Facebook advertising generally provides the cheapest solutions, while granting a wide reach, but Google and Amazon shopping ads are also highly effective at targeting buyers that already plan to buy.
To get the most out of your PPC campaigns, you’ll need to ensure that you’re tracking shopping results in either Google Analytics or in the Facebook Ads center via the Pixel. This will notify you of where your buyers are coming from, what they’re buying, and your overall ROI for the ad spend.
Google also provides you with the ability to purchase ad extensions that create rich snippets for products or services within search engine results pages. These snippets provide you with additional opportunities to create intrigue and sell your goods. Competitor comparison extensions can allow your product result to appear next to your direct competition and highlight your superior prices or features with ease.
Finally, use the Ad Center on the platform you’re using to keep a close eye on what you’re paying per click for your chosen keywords. Google Ads can especially become quite competitive, leaving you bidding and paying far too much for premium advertising if you’re not careful. In these instances, it’s essential to work closely with your SEO experts and determine which keywords might provide an effective, alternative strategy. Longtail keywords especially are overlooked due to their low search volume but are effective at targeting consumers with strong buyer intent.
6. Boost Customer Retention with Customer Accounts & Rewards
Every quality eCommerce store features the option to checkout as a guest or login with an account. This serves several purposes, but a primary one is to encourage customers to commit to shopping with your brand.
This may initially seem counterintuitive as adding more steps between a buyer and a purchase generally lowers conversion rates. However, those that create accounts are more likely to convert than those shopping as guests. This means that the returning traffic you receive is of a higher quality than the unnamed traffic that might visit your store.
However, you never want to bar users from making a purchase from your store without an account as this just equates to a lost sale. Instead, consider prompting users to make an account after making a purchase. They’re likely to already feel strongly about their decision and you can take advantage of the opportunity by listing out the benefits your business provides with an account. You might consider offering member benefits such as free shopping over X dollars spent or guaranteed monthly discounts.
You can also provide a one-time signup coupon or offer as an incentive to get the account created. With the email in your store’s system, you’ll be able to maximize your marketing efforts and create targeted email campaigns that are unique to that buyer’s interests and needs. This is the best way for an eCommerce brand to get even more out of customer’s that already decided that they enjoy your store.
Making an account isn’t a guarantee that they will return, however. Work with your team to create solutions that actively reward your customers and make them feel positive about returning to and continuing to buy from your brand. This can include regular promotions for account owners and early-bird access to sales or new products. Some brands also offer a point reward system for every dollar spent that they can convert into discounts down the line.
7. Find Ways to Reduce Shipping Costs
A significant challenge that’s unique to eCommerce stores as opposed to brick-and-mortar is the logistics expenses. While physical locations still deal with shipments, your store is responsible for safely packing, transporting, and delivering every item to and from your warehouse. The problem is that shipping costs were already climbing and the state of the world in 2020-2021 has significantly compounded the problem. Reports indicate that these inflated costs are here to stay.
An effective way of dealing with this is to outsource your product distribution to a company that specializes in logistics. While you’ll still need to pay regular premiums for their services, they’ll likely be able to save you money in the long-term that you would be spending on supplies, the labor of packing yourself, and shipping costs.
The costs continue to climb when dealing with international shipping as a result of customs, additional taxes, and foreign regulations. What’s worse is that unless you’re an expert in international freight and shipping, mistakes can result in delays that not only hurt you financially but hurt your reputation with the customers that are waiting on their goods. Thankfully, these shipping providers understand your plight and generally offer special rates to businesses that provide an expected amount of business every month.
An alternative way to combat rising shipping costs is to work it into the price of the product. Customers that are seasoned in shopping online generally expect to pay a bit more for the convenience of having an item delivered to their home. With the right marketing, you can promise a quality product to your customers with the convenience of fast, reliable shipping. With the cost worked into the product instead of a hefty, added charge, your audience is likely to find this to be a great deal. Just be mindful to do your research and do not inflate costs to a point where you’re no longer competitive with your rivals.
8. Utilize Opportunities to Upsell and Cross-Sell
Your marketing strategy works and the customer is in the process of moving the item from their cart to a shipping package. Since the intent to spend is already there, there’s no better opportunity to encourage the buyer to add on just one more thing.
Salespeople have been utilizing strategies to upsell and cross-sell for an eternity and the strategy should be no different when it comes to your eCommerce store. Cross-selling is simply suggesting products that add to or enhance the item they’ve already selected. This is generally reserved for items that are of a similar price or cheaper than the item they want. It’s an easy psychological trick as if someone, for example, is already spending $20, then an additional $5 on the same credit charge is no real issue.
Alternatively, the upsell is a final opportunity to upgrade the customer’s original purchase to a more expensive model or variation. The same concept applies here in that the buyer has already overcome the struggle with the purchasing decision. Because they’re committed to spending a certain sum of money, it’s easier to justify spending a bit more on a product that’s superior, but similar to the one that they selected on their own.
The key to a strong upsell or cross-sell is to present the opportunity without being singly overly assertive with the customer. Simply adding an upgrade option and a brief description to a cart before payment is one example of a strategy that works without getting in the way of an otherwise clean checkout process. You take advantage of the chance to sell, while the customer still feels empowered to make their own decisions.
As with any sale, a strong value proposition will speak for itself. Do not overly rely on the additional sales, but welcome them and look for opportunities to improve these conversion rates whenever you can.
Conclusion – Start Scaling Your eCommerce Business Now to Be Ready for the Holidays!
Whether you’re prepared or not, online shopping is the way of the future. More shoppers than ever are making online purchases for the first time and the forecast shows no signs of this trend slowing. While it hasn’t entirely replaced the need for brick-and-mortar stores, online sales present a powerful, cost-effective way to scale your sales and reach customers all around the world.
However, eCommerce is a highly competitive world for this same reason. With this in mind, you need to give your store every advantage available to compete against not only smaller stores but against juggernaut distributors like Amazon. Start by building up your reputation online by listing yourself only as many directories as possible. Keep your details up to date and work with those who leave reviews to resolve issues and maintain a sterling reputation.
Take advantage of advertising platforms such as Facebook, Google, Amazon, and others to feature your products on web pages and search results at the budget that you set. The more intelligence you gather about your audience, the better you can refine your advertisements to target a variety of persons at different stages of the buyer’s journey. Platforms like Google can even award your eCommerce store with a trusted store brand so long as you provide excellent service that meets their standards.
Maximize the ROI gained from those that click your ads and visit your website by ensuring that you utilize SEO best practices at all times. Not only does this involve mapping out keywords for your web pages and creating dynamic sales content, but it also involves adding a regularly updated blog to your website. This blog can focus on the news, product updates, or serve as an educational resource for your customers to learn more about your industry. Frequent, high-quality content boosts your SEO, and, therefore, boosts your overall search rankings over time.
Finally, maximize the returns you get on the sales you are receiving by upgrading to a more efficient, cost-effective logistics process. Leave these processes to experts that can reduce costs and offer discounts to businesses like yours that deal in high volume. When customers are ready to purchase items for those partners to ship, take advantage of opportunities to upsell and cross-sell additional goods that can improve your results and assist with scaling.
With dedicated practice and the use of powerful analytics tools to test your strategies and content, your eCommerce store will inevitably scale and grant you the additional profits every business is looking for during the holidays and beyond.