In 2017, less will be more. But maybe not in the way that you imagine.
We tend to always think in terms of “more,” which means that if we want to grow our business and generate “more” sales, we need to do be doing much more work.
In many cases though, this mindset leads to clutter and inefficiency. Along with this, it’s also important to be reminded of our constraints and accept that it’s likely impossible to greatly increase your marketing budget for 2017 unless you take on debt or raised external finance.
We all have budgets and limitations for our time, energy and money. The question should thus not be about finding more of those things, but perhaps it should be about optimising what we do with what we have.
I am not the first person to say that it’s important to work smarter; not necessarily harder. It is however that mantra that I’d like to preach today. 🙂
This is something that we have implemented in our own business, Conversio, and we’re always trying to find ways in which we can be more present in our lives (and not just be working all the time). It is also so important to us that we have designed our software to help our Ecommerce stores sell more, yet do less.
With this article, I will explore 5 ways in which Ecommerce stores can set themselves up for great success in 2017 without having to break the bank or invent another day in their work weeks.
1. Consolidate and cull unnecessary software costs
Apps are all the rage and it's especially quick and easy to install yet-another-app on your store. This possibly means that you have apps whose functionality overlaps, which means there is a duplication of cost. You also might not really need all of the apps you are using and paying for right now.
To kickstart your business in 2017, review all of the software and apps you’re using right now. Here’s a few considerations when reviewing those:
- Do I have apps that overlap in functionality? Can I eliminate one of them and save that monthly cost?
- Is it possible to use a multifunctional app instead? The benefit of these are that you can generally find cost savings and that you only log into one app, instead of dozens of apps.
- Do I have apps where I don’t have a clear ROI or which perhaps don’t contribute to my core business strategies or tactics? (Tip: Every app should have an ROI of sorts; whether it’s saving you time, saving you money or generating more money. Try your best to quantify this and then eliminate the apps with an inappropriate ROI.)
The primary aim here is to save some money in your business. Saving on unnecessary costs means you can either re-invest that cash into other areas of your business or you can pocket it as profit.
But there’s another byproduct to this: simplification. When we use apps that don’t support our core strategies or that don’t deliver an appropriate ROI, it has a real tangible cost on our attention. It becomes yet-another-thing which you need to remember to check on, yet it probably isn’t worth the hassle. Try cutting this out of your business; you might just be surprised how liberating this will be.
2. Balance automation and moments of delight
For many small businesses, budgets and cash flows – while always tight – aren’t the biggest constraints; time is the primary constraint that limits your sales success.
We have seen incredible technological advancements in recent years that have enabled us to use computers to take care of critical processes within our businesses.
Marketing automation is probably one of the most mature categories where technology can automate a process with little human involvement. On top of that, we’re increasingly able to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to help improve these processes in ways that we – as mere mortals – probably couldn’t.
Any kind of automation is a real time-saver, which is thus a major win in most small businesses. But automation can also be easily spotted and when automated interactions become the bulk of the types of interactions you’re having with your customers, it could feel a little impersonal and robotic.
The way to balance that is to create moments of surprise and delight along the way.
The easiest way is to be really personal and engaging whenever you reply to customer emails. Another way could be to include a handwritten note when you package and ship an order. Or perhaps you can send periodic newsletters to your customers that give them a behind-the-scenes look into the business.
Find the things that can’t scale and can’t be automated, because these are the interactions were you can connect with your customers in a way that automation can never do.
3. Get serious about your data
In the digital age, we generate so much data about so many different things. And online retailers are in a great position to really use that data to their advantage. Yet so few retailers manage to get actionable insights from their data.
I generally understand why this is the case as well: just because we’re tracking all of the data, doesn’t mean we know how to use it. I often find myself looking at huge sets of data (that are seemingly valuable) and then I’m almost paralyzed trying to understand how I can improve anything in my business using this data.
There are, however, a couple of easy wins for stores to get more insights from their data and make decisions based on those:
- Install and use only one analytics platform. As soon as you’re using multiple platforms, you’ll find that the data is reported and represented in different ways, which is just confusing. You also want to commit to learning that one platform really well and understand how they report your data.
- With a similar mindset, pick one metric that you want to focus on in 2017. If you need more traffic to your website, then pick unique visitors as your metric. Or if you suspect that your conversion rate is low, then focus on converting the traffic you already have. If both of those metrics seem okay to you, you could also focus on increasing Average Order Value, Customer Lifetime Value or the rate at which your customers are making repeat purchases
- In your marketing, customer segmentation is an easy win and something that could really supercharge your business in 2017. There are many marketing apps out there that will do some basic segmentation for you automatically and this is a great place to start quickly and easily. You can probably get 80% of the benefit of segmentation by just using these defaults.
4. If there's one trend on which you should jump, it's mobile
We're always skeptical of trends, which tends to attract sheep-like behaviour. It also tends to quickly saturate a market, which makes it difficult to sustainably follow that trend.
If there is one growing trend that's not going away soon, it's mobile. Since 2014, Shopify has reported that more than half of all traffic to Shopify stores was from mobile devices.
Yet many Ecommerce websites still do not provide great browsing and shopping experiences.
The first step to improving your own store is to ensure that your website is at least using a responsive design that makes browsing on a mobile device possible and pleasant. This should really be the minimum. To take it a step further, you can try to optimise the whole browsing and shopping experience on your website for mobile. Think about how you can just make it easier for your customers to make a purchase when they’re on a mobile device.
Another win will be implementing mobile payment methods like Apple Pay. The benefit of this is that your customer doesn’t have to leave your website or fetch their wallet; they can just make a purchase, because their identity and payment details are already securely stored on their smartphone.
Also be on the lookout for new shopping functionality on Instagram when it eventually launches to the public. Instagram recently launched their beta with a select few retailers and it looks like it will quickly become a fantastic new sales channel for online retailers.
5. Explore more via omnichannel selling
We just mentioned the new Instagram shopping functionality which will hopefully launch in 2017. But there’s already other channels which you can tap into today.
Beyond your own store (which is only one island in a whole universe of stores), there lies a world of opportunity. The key goal here is to try tap into channels, which means that a wider audience gets to know your store.
Many stores already sell some of their products on marketplaces like Amazon, Ebay and Etsy to supplement their own sales. For 2017, explore some of the newer sales channels like Facebook or Pinterest; both which now support more native shopping experiences within those platforms.
And if you’re really adventurous, go old school and consider opening up a physical presence (bricks and mortar, yes) too. Big retailers like Warby Parker and Bonobos are complementing their digital strategies with their physical stores. Could you perhaps set up a stand at a local market or fair over weekends? Perhaps you can open a pop-up shop somewhere for a month or two? Or you could go all-in, sign a lease and open a proper store.
Whether the channel is an online marketplace or platform, or whether it’s a physical presence of sorts, the goal is to leverage those channels to ultimately build your brand and drive more traffic to your website. You can perhaps find a new customer by selling on Pinterest. After that first purchase, you can keep in touch with the customer and their subsequent purchases will be from your website. You have, however, gained a customer from a channel that you wouldn’t have if you didn’t sell in that channel.
Finding success in easy wins and balance
Every tactic that I proposed above has an element of balance with the ultimate aim of finding quick or easy wins that opens space elsewhere.
That space can be in form of your budget, where you can then apply the additional funds elsewhere in your business. Or perhaps it’s a case of saving some time and having the opportunity of taking on a new activity in your business. Maybe you could even use that extra time and space to pick up a hobby and use your business to empower you in other areas of your life.
I hope that 2017 is the year that you can debunk the myth that the only way to build a more successful business is to be doing more all the time. Starting with these 5 tactics should set you on your way to a successful 2017 of doing less, but still selling more.