Businesses have been shaken to the core by the dreaded coronavirus. Even though it’s creating unprecedented challenges, we will get through this. What will things look like when we do?
A recent issue of the Economist surmises that “we will face a new business climate, and the crisis will amplify three trends”. One of these trends is a “quicker adoption of technology”, including e-commerce. Buying behavior is going to be fundamentally changed because people are becoming accustomed to, and comfortable with, purchasing online.
Businesses that already have an e-commerce presence will have to commit to improving it because of increased expectations and competition. Businesses that don’t have an e-commerce presence will have to seriously consider developing one. Regardless of whether you are currently in the e-commerce game or just thinking about it, there are things you absolutely must do to make it successful.
E-Commerce Must Do’s
- Building an e-commerce capability is a significant undertaking – it’s not simply building a website. You need to approach it like a business process/software development initiative. It requires cross-functional collaboration, proper specifications and project plans, systems integration, and technical and marketing skillsets. It’s hard work and complex and must be well-thought-out and managed. Think in terms of one year from project start to full-blown e-commerce launch.
- Integrating the e-commerce platform with operational and marketing systems is critical to driving profitability – sites must be integrated with ERP systems, customer loyalty applications, analytical tools, marketing automation platforms, payment gateways, customer portals, etc. A fully integrated e-commerce ecosystem is a must for minimizing costs associated with processing and delivering orders. Seamless workflows and data exchanges are required to maximize the customer experience.
- E-commerce sites must be optimized for search engines. Prospects must be able to find you when they are searching online for what you sell. Your e-commerce platform must also be optimized for conversion. This is not a traditional sales model. The site has to be your best salesperson.
- Product hierarchies and relationships must be very well-thought-out and implemented because they have a direct impact on the user experience and conversion rates, integrations with back-end systems, and search engine rankings. A recent article in Search Engine Journal titled “Twenty Reasons Why E-Commerce Sites Need Unique Product Descriptions” explains the significance of proper product structures.
- To drive the volume of traffic to your site that will generate meaningful results, you must aggressively use online communication tactics such as online advertising, email, promotions, and social and influencer marketing. If you build it, they might not necessarily come. You need to create awareness and give prospective buyers compelling reasons to visit your site.
- Your e-commerce presence must absolutely be optimized for mobile devices. Most search and site browsing today occurs on mobile, and search engines base their results first and foremost on how well sites render on these devices.
- Digging into performance analytics is absolutely essential to long-term success. You should not be flying blind, especially when real-time data about user behavior and search engine rankings are readily available. You must continually leverage this insight to improve site visibility and the customer experience in order to maximize results over time. You must also constantly monitor your e-commerce ecosystem for performance and up-time. Sites that are sluggish or unreliable will clearly have a negative impact on sales.
- If you do not have the internal expertise to execute on an e-commerce project, then get outside help. Make sure whoever you hire has e-commerce, workflow automation, software development, systems integration, project management, and digital marketing capabilities. Most “web developers” don’t possess these skills – avoid hiring a company to help you develop and implement your e-commerce strategy solely because they build websites.
These are just a few of the things that need to be considered when developing and managing an e-commerce platform. These are by no means simple projects; they have to be well planned, resourced, and executed if you want them to be successful.
With the right level of commitment and expertise, e-commerce can have a significant impact on your bottom line in this age of the digital consumer.
Core Online Marketing is an outsourced online marketing agency for small and mid-sized businesses. Contact us to accelerate your online marketing activities!