With the Internet changing the ways in which we buy and sell over the last 20 years, one would think that by now every business, no matter the size, is leaning heavily on eCommerce to maximize its sales potential. Surprisingly, this is not the case. Many businesses have yet to create an online presence, let alone an online sales capability. A recent article highlights this, pointing out that while 51% of Americans prefer to shop online, almost half of all small businesses don't even have their own website! Why is that?
Many small business owners say they can't afford the expense of building an online presence and eCommerce strategy. But effective marketers know there are many ways to market online on a limited budget.
Others say that they are frustrated because they can't find the secret sauce to attract enough customers. Even though they build an appealing website complete with eCommerce functionality, they can't scale traffic fast enough to compete with others in their industry. Consequently they don't support or improve their site, or worse, end up shutting it down.
5 Ways to Increase Online Sales
There are a few simple steps that will guarantee an increase in your online sales, and keep you from becoming just another failed eCommerce statistic. Those steps include:
- Implementing the right SEO and content marketing strategy
- Developing an easy-to-use website
- Better management of your inventory
- Using Artificial Intelligence to learn more about customers and personalize their experience
- Buying Facebook ads
To learn more about these steps, read this blog post.
Experts in the online field are in agreement. Rich Brooks, author of The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing, affirms the importance of the right SEO strategy, a website that converts, and the huge opportunity of social media advertising. Neil Patel, a fellow Internet marketing guru, says the number-one online marketing tactic for a company, assuming it's already online, is to analyze its SEO situation and tighten it up. Gavan Thorpe, CEO of Internet services company, Boostability, sums up with, "More exposure means more traffic, and increased visibility is the pathway to profit."
Any successful Internet company will tell you that a solid Search Engine Optimization strategy is a game changer. But most will also tell you that SEO is a bit complex and that it takes some time to understand the ever-changing nature of search engines, and implement the right strategy. That's why outside companies are being hired by businesses to help them with their digital sales and marketing strategies. Without SEO, your customers won't find you. And if they don't find you, they can't buy from you.
Here's a sobering fact: Eight out of ten ecommerce ventures fail within 24 months of going live. And it's no surprise to read the number-one reason why they fail--lack of adequate traffic. Nothing will kill a business faster than having too few customers.
Create Online Capabilities from Scratch
If you need to have complete control over your company's online strategy, you may need to create a platform from the ground up. "We had to rethink (and re-create) every aspect of our new marketplace platform because there was nothing already existing that we could start with," says Sam Sinai, CEO of SupplyHub, a new B2B marketplace for industrial manufacturers and distributors. "With Amazon Business breathing down the necks of businesses in the lighting, electrical and office supply industries, we saw the need to invest heavily and quickly, which has required a serious commitment on our part."
Once you attract customers to your site, giving them what they want will help keep them from bolting in a matter of seconds. Your website has to be easy to navigate. The buying process must be seamless. And to keep your customers happy and buying more products, you have to find ways to personalize their experience. "We found that we had to test SupplyHub with thousands of users," remembers Sinai. "That led to a substantial number of enhancements before we were ready to launch." The solution has been a win/win for SupplyHub, as well as industrial distributors wanting to more effectively compete with Amazon Business. And now Sinai and team are entertaining funding options they wouldn't have had without controlling their own online destiny.
This approach follows the Airbnb and Uber marketplace models, but it's not for everyone. It would be far faster and less expensive for your company to simply draft off of others' hard work and investment, which leads to our next example.
Growth Hack: Build Your Business On Top of an Established Foundation
Digitizing your go-to-market strategy can be a daunting task. There are some successful eCommerce businesses that have nailed all these techniques by finding ways to short cut the otherwise resource-intensive process of building a site from scratch. Instead of creating their own platform they have capitalized on existing ones.
Brian Page, a successful business marketer, realized that he didn't have to create it all himself. Instead, he is drafting off of others who have already spent a lot of money building a platform. Using Airbnb's online marketplace, Page and numerous other entrepreneurs have been able to create their own short-term rental businesses. Through proven online marketing strategies, Page not only immediately started making money renting out other people's properties on Airbnb (generating $116,000 in six months), he has also begun teaching others how to do the same. "If I had to create a similar online platform myself," Page says, "I would still be years away from making money."
So you can either build it organically, or growth hack someone else's platform. Sure, growing an online business from scratch is not easy, but you can either build the right traffic to an engaging site, or you can growth hack one someone's already built. Simple put, if you're not online today, you're simply not in the game.