OCT 3, 2017
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), retail sales will see a healthy growth in 2017. Retailers (excluding automobile sales, gas stations and restaurant sales) are projected to increase numbers from 2016 by 3.7% to 4.2%.
However, as impressive as this growth may be, it’s dwarfed by the projections for online retail. The NRF expects e-commerce to grow 8% to 12% in 2017, up to three times higher than the growth rate of the wider industry. This means that e-commerce sales will fall between $427 billion and $443 billion. Contrast that with brick-and-mortar retail, which will grow at a rate of just 2.8% this year — slower than the average growth rate of the overall retail industry.
Some statisticians estimate there are now approximately 110,000 e-commerce websites generating revenue of meaningful scale on the internet. More than 12% of the 100,000 highest-traffic websites are e-commerce. How will your business stand out in such a crowded market? How will you differentiate yourself from the herd? We’ve compiled a list of the five most fundamental elements of a successful e-commerce business. If you’re overwhelmed, start here.
1. Business sense: Every successful company starts and ends with solid business sense, and e-commerce is no different. If you’re looking to develop a high-volume business, you must educate yourself on the critical operations of business. From building optimal inventory, to managing taxes, to savvy marketing techniques and achieving steady ROI, the building blocks of business strategy will keep you afloat in a highly competitive space. Without a strong bottom line, you’ve got nothing.
2. Fast shipping: Brick-and-mortar retailers still offer some benefits for customers that e-commerce businesses simply can’t touch. Immediate access to the product is one of them. When a customer enters a store and purchases something, they get to carry it out of the store right away. When a customer purchases a product through your e-commerce site, they must wait. In our impatient world, this waiting can be painful. If you want to acquire and retain your customers, you’ll rival the e-commerce giants with the unimaginable speed of your shipping process. Believe me, this will pay off in your customer reviews and social media mentions.
3. Competitive pricing: When you’re setting your pricing, refer to the size of the e-commerce market. Imagine the sheer number of options your customer has to choose from while shopping for comparable products. If you want to stand out in this immensely crowded space, you must outdo your peers when it comes to price. Especially with first-time and new customers, this is often a make-or-break element to making the sale. It may seem obvious, but the lowest possible prices will win the day — every time.
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4. Engaging social media: Another benefit that customers enjoy while shopping at brick-and-mortar retailers is the engagement and experience involved in buying a product. When shopping online, the customer has only the engagement offered through your website and social media. This is why it’s critical to think outside the box and get creative when it comes to building engagement via your social channels. Customer contests, special campaigns, photo sharing, scavenger hunts and Q&A’s are just some of the ways you can relate directly to your customers and bond them to your brand.
5. Great customer service: Last but certainly not least, your e-commerce business must be supported by an exceptional staff of customer service associates. The customer service experience that you provide to your shoppers is one of the leading ways you’ll be remembered as a business. If customers’ questions are answered effectively, quickly and in a friendly manner, you’ll hear about it in social media posts and reviews, and you’ll see it in return visits. If your customers have a less-than-stellar customer service experience, you’ll hear about that, too.
There’s no question that e-commerce is a booming industry in the U.S. and around the world, and it’s growing faster than we ever thought possible. If your retail business doesn’t yet have a strong online presence complete with all five elements outlined above, it’s time to make some serious upgrades.