The low overhead of Internet real estate makes it the perfect place to have a business presence. However, some online stores seem to languish, while others thrive. What factors make one e-commerce store more successful than another?
Around 63 percent of Internet users around the world have purchased something online. The number grows every year, with predictions for 65.2 percent by 2021. Now is the time to look at your e-commerce site and mimic eight traits of the most successful online retailers.
1. Tell a Story
The most successful businesses don't only describe a product, but tell a story about their company and their products. In a Stanford University study, researchers found combining data with storytelling improved retention up to 70 percent.
Your brand story isn't like anyone else's, so sharing it sets you apart from the competition. People love a good story, so look for ways to tell stories about your brand, your founders and specific products. Use testimonials from your loyal customers and highlight the benefits of using your product or service.
Hinge is a dating app competing with tons of other dating platforms, but they share the story of a lonely young man trying to find a mate. He's tired of swiping right and notices all the other lonely people who resemble zombies. Their model is members-only, and the idea of making a real connection instead of something more shallow taps into the feelings of their target audience.
Takeaway: Think about the pain points of your target audience. Tell a story related to that pain point and explain how your product solves the problem.
2. Offer Fast Delivery
One of the reasons for Amazon's success is the logistics of delivery and how efficiently they get orders from the warehouse to the consumer. Amazon offers a membership-based program where those who buy into their Prime structure receive "free" two-day delivery on thousands of items.
One way of repeating this model is offering free two-day delivery with a minimum order, provided you have the elements in place to deliver quickly. Your shipping department should send the item out as fast as possible after receiving an order. Pay attention to your carrier service, too. How reliable are they? It might be worth spending a few extra dollars to ensure your item gets there fast.
Takeaway: People are impatient, and are often willing to pay more for an item if they can get free shipping as part of the bargain. If you can, find a way to streamline your shipping and handling process.
3. Offer Guidance
Ordering online presents challenges users may not face in a brick-and-mortar store. For example, if the user must choose a size, the sizing guide needs self-explanatory parameters.
Think about the challenges ordering through your site presents to the user, and address those challenges. Anything that makes the buying journey easier helps increase conversions.
Superior Hardwoods of Montana understands choosing a wood floor presents some challenges, including what type of wood to choose. They offer a complete guide that walks their users through each step of selecting a floor for their home.
Takeaway: Offer a buying guide to help users understand your product from a more intimate level.
4. Be Authentic
Some of the most successful retailers are upfront about their beliefs and what they stand for. Even when people disagree with them, they remain consistently honest about their values. Around 90 percent of marketers feel authenticity is one of the most critical aspects of influencer marketing.
Takeaway: Authenticity matters — from the policies you create to the way you stand behind your guarantees to the stories you tell within your content. The consumer must feel they can trust what you say and rely on you to be consistent, no matter which platform you're on.
5. Find a Unique Angle
People see and hear ads from the moment they wake up until they go to bed at night. There's so much noise and clamoring from companies that people tune out what everyone has to say. The only way to grab the attention of today's average person is through something unique. Tap into a need in the market or try an advertising campaign no one else has ever tried.
A couple of years ago, Maltesers released a series of ads featuring differently abled people telling humorous stories from their lives. They used the candy to illustrate elements of the story. Because few advertisers highlight disabled people, the ads stood out as something unique. They also tied the ads into the Paralympics.
Takeaway: Study the competition and see what types of marketing campaigns they're running online. Think about a unique aspect or angle for your product that makes it stand out.
6. Know Your Audience
E-commerce giants such as Walmart and Target understand their target audience and what they want from them. Walmart highlights their inexpensive products and allows consumers to save on shipping by picking up the item at their local stores. Target caters to brides and moms-to-be with their gift registries. Today's online retailers have the power of analytical data to decipher who their audience is.
Takeaway: Once you have a concept of where your audience resides and their general age and gender, you can piece together the type of product you sell and what information your audience most likely wants.
7. Make Checkout Simple
Have you ever visited a site and left in frustration because the checkout process was so convoluted? Walk through your own checkout step-by-step and note any areas that might create issues for your users. One of the things hugely successful e-commerce sites have in common is simple checkout procedures. Amazon is a good example because you can initiate "buy now" or "one-click" ordering for digital goods.
Domino's Pizza offers super-simple ordering and checkout. You can even sign up for an account and save your favorite order to expedite checkout in the future. You can also download their app, which allows you to order pizza with zero clicks by merely opening the app and letting the timer count down to place your order. On the website, you can order without registering, filling in a few necessary details or using saved payment information if you order frequently.
Takeaway: Make checkout as quick as easy as possible to reduce cart abandonment rates.
8. Improve Customer Service
Look at any of the top performing e-commerce sites, and you'll likely find they all have one thing in common — outstanding customer service. Customer service should be responsive, immediate and accessible.
Takeaway: Offer multiple ways for consumers to reach out, including email, phone and live chat. Develop a policy that puts the customer first. Respond on social media as well to help your brand image.
The Road to Success
Finding success in e-commerce doesn't involve a magic elixir, but requires attention to detail and studying the elements that make other businesses successful. Pay attention to the traits listed above, but also analyze what your competitors do right and make adjustments to your brand as needed.