The days of everyone buying the items they need from a brick-and-mortar shop just down the street are long gone. Instead, ecommerce has continued to grow into an impressive juggernaut, experiencing 24.8 percent worldwide growth in 2017, with Amazon alone recording a net revenue of $177.87 billion.
Despite this growth and the massive opportunity it represents for ecommerce entrepreneurs, many who enter this space make costly mistakes that keep them from building a profitable business.
As an expert in ecommerce with over 12 years of experience in this niche, I’ve learned firsthand that the success of your store depends on much more than having a quality product and a nice-looking website. Those basics are essential — but every other ecommerce store will be doing the exact same thing.
With that in mind, here are some of the ecommerce essentials I’ve learned over the years that can make all the difference for your store:
1. Build A Pre-Launch Audience.
Far too many entrepreneurs make the mistake of setting up their store and only beginning their marketing after launch. The problem, however, is that digital marketing efforts often require a bit of time before they start delivering the desired sales results. In the meantime, you’ll be paying web hosting fees and other expenses without the sales revenue to cover it.
Instead, you need to start your marketing early by building a pre-launch audience. We see this happen all the time with Kickstarter campaigns that collect funding and build buzz before the project is ready.
Even if you aren’t creating a completely new or original product, you still need to spread the word. Social media contests, product giveaways and email list sign-ups can all help you build an audience so your store can make sales on opening day.
2. Focus on The Customer Lifetime Value.
Converting customers is hard. In fact, most estimates put the average conversion rate around 1 to 3 percent. Because of this, you need to make every sale count. You won’t be in business long if your average customer only spends a few dollars.
To succeed in this area, you need to focus on the customer lifetime value (CLV), rather than just the initial sale. Naturally, this requires that you deliver a quality customer experience for that initial sale. But, it also means you need to do some follow-up.
One of the best ways to do this is through email marketing. A quality email campaign allows you to follow up with customers about their initial purchase, while also reaching out for holidays and other special shopping seasons. Increasing your CLV will lower your cost per conversion and help you generate lasting sales results.
3. Leverage The Power Of Remarketing.
Most ecommerce professionals invest a fair amount of their budget into marketing, with the goal of getting new customers to visit their site and make a purchase.
But, what about the people you’ve already convinced? If you aren’t targeting them through remarketing campaigns, you could be missing out on a significant profit.
Repeat customers aren’t only more likely to buy from you again in the future — they also tend to spend more money. Studies have found that repeat customers have a 60 to 70 percent chance of making another purchase in the future — numbers that far outperform ecommerce’s typical conversion rate.
Make sure your Facebook and AdWords campaign specifically target those who have already visited your site to ensure a stronger marketing ROI.
4. Let Your Customers Do The Talking.
Building a strong brand identity is an absolute must because it allows you to form an emotional connection with your target audience. When you’re able to cultivate strong relationships with your most passionate customers, you can then leverage their enthusiasm to spread word of mouth for your store.
As studies have consistently found, few marketing methods are more trusted or effective.
The thing is, your customers won’t always do this word of mouth marketing on their own. You often need to provide some extra motivation. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your top customers with personalized messages asking for a testimonial, or simply to get their input on your products and services.
Use social media contests to build enthusiasm and spread the word.
The more you do to personalize these interactions, the more likely your customers are to become true “brand ambassadors” who drive new business to your store.
5. If You Choose To Do Dropshipping, Don’t Botch It.
Dropshipping — the process of having your product sent directly from the manufacturer to the consumer — has simplified sales for many ecommerce professionals. However, it isn’t without its own potential pitfalls.
The most common issues I’ve seen with dropshipping include slow shipping times, no tracking numbers for your customers and low-quality products.
All of these can completely kill your reputation with your customers. Because of this, it is essential that you perform a quality check of your supplier’s products before you begin dropshipping. This way you can have confidence that your products live up to your brand promise.
For shipping, select a quality fulfillment company that offers a trackable courier solution. This way, customers won’t have to endure lengthy delays, and they’ll always know when their order will arrive.
Building a successful ecommerce brand isn’t always easy. I should know — I’ve seen my fair share of startups fail after their initial success. But, by incorporating this knowledge that I’ve gained from my past efforts, I’ve since been able to launch several successful stores and generate real, lasting revenue — so can you.
This story originally appeared in Entrepreneur. Image courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.