6 Steps to Establish a Profitable eCommerce Store

A shopping cart and other eCommerce symbolsKey Takeaways

  • The right website design improves customer usability and makes it easy to buy.
  • Exceptional customer service increases customer loyalty.• Buying incentives and flexible return policies boost sales.
  • Data analytics help businesses improve online sales.


eCommerce websites
offer businesses tremendous perks, not the least of which is selling to anyone, anywhere without paying a premium for retail space. They’re also wildly successful: by 2023, U.S. retail eCommerce sales are expected to hit $740 billion.

But because customers can’t see, touch, try on or test your products as they would in a brick-and-mortar store, your eCommerce site has to be as good as it can be to remain competitive and profitable. Here are six ways that you can put your online store on the pathway to profitability. 

Step 1: Build User Confidence Through Design

KISS Your Website’s Usability
“Keep it simple, stupid”: simple systems work better than complex ones, especially with eCommerce sites. Your primary goal is to make it as frictionless as possible for someone to shop and buy, so think through your customers’ buying journey. The fewer clicks it takes to complete a purchase, the better.

Make It Easy to Use From Any Device
Effortless browsing and buying are aided by an intuitive navigational structure and an appealing web design that builds user confidence and trust in your brand. Structure your site so customers can easily find what they are looking for, compare items and make a payment. This means you’ll want to optimize your site for speed and for use with any device. A mobile-responsive site is imperative.

Make It Shine
A well-designed homepage that consistently reflects your brand makes a good first impression. Choose a font that’s easy to read and use contrasting colors that ensure text is visible. Invest in high-quality, professional photographs that highlight the strengths of your products. Include photographs from different angles so shoppers can feel as though they are holding and exploring the products for themselves. To really stand out, consider using video.

Communicate Your Products’ Features and Benefits
Think about how your products will help your customers and improve their lives. When you know who your customers are and what they want and need, then you can communicate information about your products with the right amount of detail. Share the benefits of products in a way that speaks directly to your unique customers so they can have all the information they need to make a decision.

Checkout Should Be a Breeze
Make your call to action button, such as “buy” or “add to cart,” bright and prominent. The button should stand alone and be visible when you first open the product page. You should also accept many payment options, so it’s easier for your customers to make a purchase without laboriously typing in pages of personal information. 

Step 2: Boost Business Through eCommerce Marketing

Turn One-Off Customers Into Repeat Customers
Email marketing is a powerful, cost-effective tool to retain customers and encourage repeat business. When designing your own email series, be strategic about your timing and tactics, so you don’t bombard or annoy your customers.

Here are three common email series that you can use to retain customers:

  • Abandoned cart emails. Sending an email about the product that the customer left in their cart can be enough of a nudge to turn an abandoned cart into a completed purchase. Remind customers of the products that they left in their cart, highlight their features and benefits to address any potential objections and perhaps even offer incentives, such as discounts on future purchases, to prompt a purchase. 
  • Welcome emails. For new email subscribers, a welcome email is a great way to introduce your brand, link to your social media channels and connect with users. Consider offering “just for you” discounts: you’ll get higher click-through and conversion rates if you personalize your messages. 
  • New customer emails. When someone makes a purchase, immediately send an email thanking them for their purchase, setting expectations for the product’s arrival and advising them of your return policy. This is also a good time to encourage an upsell by introducing related products. After the product has arrived, send another email to let the customer know their order is complete and explain how they can address any deficiencies or issues. You can also send another email asking for a product review.

 

Harness Social Media
Use social media to build trust and credibility in your brand. Not only should you post information and offers using your product photos, but you can also try boosting engagement with live videos for product demonstrations or Q&A sessions. Lastly, monitor online for customer feedback and promptly handle any complaints. 

Step 3: Boost Conversions Through Credibility

Use Social Proof to Your Advantage
Social proof in the form of customer testimonials, product reviews and user photos builds trust and encourages new customers to purchase. Include social proof on your product pages so customers discover how the products have helped others. Also, consider using influencer marketing: consumers trust other individuals more than they trust brands.

Craft a Useful, Optimized About Us Page
This is where your brand comes to life. Showcase your brand, its story and its values. Your about us page is the perfect place to differentiate your brand so you stand out from competitors. Include optimal keywords for eCommerce search engine optimization (SEO) based on thorough brand research.

Partner With Other Brands
Leverage the credibility of other brands by partnering or collaborating together so both brands can reach new audiences and create bigger impressions with special promotions.

Install or Upgrade the SSL Certificate
When people shop online, they need to be sure they are shopping with a credible and safe site. They need reassurance that the site is secure and their data will be kept private. This isn’t a “nice to have” feature on a website; it’s a “must-have,” given that browsers today demand SSL security. You can never be too safe. If your eCommerce store comes with a domain-validated SSL certificate, consider upgrading to an extended validation SSL. This will display a green bar and give other visual cues within customers’ browsers demonstrating the security of the transaction. Also, prominently display your SSL Trust Seal on your site. 

Step 4: Boost Sales Through Customer Service

Use Chatbots
For many businesses, offering on-demand live chat with customer service is too costly. Chatbots lower costs while enhancing customer service with artificial intelligence. If you use a chatbot, be sure that customers can also reach a human being during open hours by providing contact information on your website.

Consider Packaging as Part of Your Customer Service

A miniature shopping cart

Customers expect their items to arrive safely and securely. Ensure that your packaging is sufficiently robust for rough-and-tumble shipping. Bonus points if your packaging is thoughtfully designed and personalized; customers will remember these unexpected delights and may even advertise for you with unboxing videos. 

Step 5: Boost Sales Through Offers, Incentives and Policies

Competitive Offers and Free Shipping Keep You in the Game
Evaluate your pricing regularly to keep your products competitive in the market. There are many pricing strategies to consider. One effective approach is the free shipping model, where you either include shipping costs in the retail price or absorb the cost of shipping.

Be Generous With Return and Refund Policies
Potential buyers want to know that they can get their money back if a product is not what they expected, especially in the eCommerce world. Offering sufficient return windows and not charging restocking fees are solid business strategies that will pay off in the long term. To take it to the next level, offer free return shipping. 

Step 6: Replicate Success Through Tracking and Analytics

eCommerce offers a distinct advantage over brick-and-mortar stores: online stores allow business owners to study their performance data and tweak their approaches granularly. You can track visitors’ decision-making processes and pinpoint where they need an extra incentive to purchase. You can also follow up with them through digital marketing or learn how to improve your site using analytics. When you use data to familiarize yourself with your prospective customer, it enables you to replicate your successes and increase your profitability in a way that traditional retailers cannot.

Building an eCommerce site is hard work, but it is rewarding as well. While these tips should place you squarely on the path to profitability, the eCommerce experts at Network Solutions are ready to lend a hand if you need more help.

Products mentioned in this blog post include:
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Image Credits

Images 1-2: Shutterstock