More Money, Less Hassle: Tips for an Easier Life in Ecommerce
If you are a would-be entrepreneur, an existing business owner, or even a stay-at-home parent, selling online gives the potential to be a success without the headaches associated with traditional retail. A colleague of mine even suggests you can make money with your feet up!
In many ways my colleague is correct, the core mechanics of any business: the marketing, providing answers to questions consumers ask, selling, taking payment and even delivery can all be automated if you are online. The good news is if something can happen online, then it can happen without your intervention.
Nice and niche
The first tip for an easier life is to decide what to sell and the ideal is to find a niche — an area that is in a small market and very specialist. Competition kills margins, so if there are going to be new entrants (and there will be if you are in a good sized market) you will find it hard to succeed without lots of hard work.
Customer service without the headache
There is a universal truth in business, customer service costs money, both in providing it, as well as getting it wrong. Online businesses have a massive advantage here, and you can get customers to serve themselves by making your site as easy as possible to use and navigate.
Getting a site’s navigation right and conforming to standard web protocols really plays dividends.
It’s often difficult to evaluate when you are so close to a business, so a neat idea is to ask a friend. Someone who is sufficiently remote from your operation to be able to give objective feedback. Ask questions that force them to visit your site to seek answers, or set them tasks; you can learn so much by simply observing how they engage with the pages.
Or try a tool called ClickTale that will give you a graphical ‘heat map’ showing how someone moves around your site.
Information really is power so remember to make your product descriptions and images as detailed as possible. This will not only make your life easier as it cuts down on the costly and time consuming activity of answering customer queries, but I would argue that it helps conversion. When people are informed they are much more likely to purchase.
I recently spoke to a merchant who spent hours analysing his best sellers and literally days planning cross-promotional activity based on these results. To be fair he had some success with his strategy, but by moving to an ecommerce platform that could automatically display best sellers and ‘also bought’ lines, his labours were completely automated.
Again, if you use pay-per-click advertising there are a number of tools that can streamline this exercise. A great example of this is the Google Adwords Editor, a tool that allows you to download and bulk manage your campaigns. Having used it in the past I can absolutely vouch for the time this application has saved me.
Another neat trick is to set up a number of rules for customer follow up. If you use email marketing there are services that can bulk email your customers based on a number of criteria, such as anyone that hasn’t bought for a period of time, or those who are your best customers. Anything that can be put into “set and forget” mode is likely to be a real time saver.
Receiving stunning service is often a deal maker for many people. I always remember the sites that go above and beyond for me and I tend to be very loyal. The good news is appearances can be deceptive; going the extra mile for the customer doesn’t have to be an all-consuming task. For example, use the automatic acknowledgement email feature on your ecommerce software to confirm an order and give a tracking number. And encourage comments with the automated follow ups available by using an independent customer feedback service like Feefo.
Great service takes time and energy, but once it’s established within your business it’s a real time saver. Creating a culture where customer service prevails means you’ll have less surprises and happy customers will cost you less.
I am forever being bombarded with spam emails and tweets promising me massive returns for little effort, but in reality these businesses simply don’t exist. However creating a successful business in a defendable niche can, if you choose wisely and act smartly, be achieved with relatively little effort. By using the power of the web and technology to do the heavy lifting for you doesn’t just make your life easier, it makes complete sense.