No matter what niche you are in, setting up a successful ecommerce store requires both planning and a lot of smart work. If you take into account that customers now have around a gazillion of online stores to turn to for their shopping spree, you can understand why you have to develop both a short term and a long term strategy. From figuring out exactly what you have to sell to choosing the right platform for you (this comparison might be of use here), you have to take into account almost everything. The following experts answered these two important questions:
- In your opinion, what's the one and most important thing any store owner should focus on right after they launch the website?
- What's the worst mistake that would set a new online shop on the wrong path?
PART I: In your opinion, what's the one and most important thing any store owner should focus on after they launch the website?
Ryan BeMiller, @shopsignals
Ideally, a new online store owner was already focused on generating traffic before they launched their website. But either way, that's goal number one after a site is launched. Websites, especially ecommerce websites, need traffic to survive – and this post focuses on 10 tips you can use to boost your traffic. And not just any traffic. They need targeted traffic.
Here's what I would recommend website owners do to start driving targeted traffic to their new online store.
Determine which category of products is likely to generate the most interest and sales. This focuses your efforts and makes you more likely to execute, while also optimizing your budget and time.
Develop a Search Engine Marketing strategy (both organic and paid) that is focused around this one product category.
For organic search, do your keyword research around this category's core topics, and begin creating content that potential customers will find useful.Once you create content, promote it! Reach out to contacts and influencers and ask them to share your work. This provides social proof and links. Google likes that kind of stuff.
For paid search, do your keyword research around this category's core topics, then create search PPC campaigns that drive customers to targeted content pages that contain a call to action (purchase). Create product listing campaigns that drive customers to specific product detail pages.
After you master the above process for one category, you can rinse and repeat for the next category.
Once you've got a steady, predictable stream of traffic coming in, you can begin focusing on improving user experience and conversions, and even more importantly, capturing emails to build and nurture an email list.
You may have heard lots of good things about Facebook ads, but I recommend not focusing on Facebook paid traffic at first. Facebook is great for driving traffic to generate leads, which you can turn into customers over time. But search engine paid traffic is generally further down the purchase intent funnel and will yield better results for ecommerce sites.
An expert in inbound marketing, Ryan uses his knowledge to run Shopping Signals, a website that provides helpful advice for the ecommerce niche.
Ian Cleary, @iancleary
The number one thing they should focus on is optimization of their sales funnels. By tracking and measuring everything and making consistent improvements, they can make more money. Too much time and money are spent on driving traffic and not enough on conversion – check our 5 ways to increase your conversion post. Every single day talk about numbers!
A very familiar face, Ian Cleary is the founder and CEO of Razor Social and an award winning tech blogger. Basically, he's your go-to source for anything social media related.
Jeffrey Eisenberg, JeffreyGroks
See Your Business Like Your Customers Do
Customers will arrive at your business with a bigger picture view than we have from the seat at our desk.
They don’t always want us to “solve” their problem or save them money; although these may be their stated goals. Truly, not every problem is in search of a solution and cheap certainly doesn’t guarantee success.
From where we sit, inside a business, it looks different. Yet, when we are customers we know that the intrinsic value of a brand interaction is the delight we feel from this interaction, and not merely satisfaction. Delight is defined as extreme satisfaction, it thrills us.
So the view from our desk or conference room isn’t the customer’s perspective. The customer doesn’t care what department we’re in, what channel we’re responsible for or even sadly, how hard we try. Customers simply don’t care where you sit! They only care about their experience with your brand. Focusing on what customers truly want will boost sales. Nothing works better than that.
Jeffrey Eisenberg is the CEO of Buyer Legends. His reputation was built by closely working with companies like like HP, Google, GE Healthcare, Overstock, NBC Universal, Orvis and Edmunds. He focuses mainly on optimization of revenue conversion rates for engagements, leads, subscriptions, and sales.
Rand Fishkin, @randfish
Test your site with your customers, potential customers, and their influencers. Make sure that what you've designed is easy and pleasurable to use. Watch people complete tasks on the site and see whether it's a simple, frustration-free process. Be sure to test desktop, laptop, tablet, and mobile. UX influences everything else – SEO, loyalty, conversion rate, sharing, etc. – and is the most important thing you need to get right with a new site.
Zach Heller, @zheller
In my opinion, the first thing that a store owner should focus on after launching a website is monitoring activity on it. Set up Google Analytics, which is quick and easy, and keep track of what's happening. The more you know about who is visiting your website, how they're getting there, and what they are doing when they get there – all things Google Analytics can show you – the better you will be able to improve the website as you go.
Author of ‘Fundamentals of Email Marketing' and ‘Branding for Bloggers', Zach Heller uses his many years of experience in branding, digital response, and marketing communications to deliver researched posts on his blog, Zach Heller Marketing.
Kristi Hines, @kristihines
Assuming the store owner optimized the website for search while setting it up, the first thing they should focus on after launching it is the promotion. In particular, making sure it has a social media profile or page on the top networks with a link to the store and reaching out to your email list to let them know it is live. Then start looking for places where people who buy those products hang out (social groups, Quora, forums, etc.) to promote the store to a relevant customer base.
Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, ghostwriter, and copywriter that knows how to craft high-quality and practical content. Check her blog, Kristi Hines, to get frequent updates on her work.
Tara Johnson, @cpc_tara
One of the biggest decisions first time retailers make is choosing which ecommerce platform to pair up with. Having a solid understanding of what platform is best suited for their business will ultimately shape the success of the company.
To help retailers in this process we compared 25 of the most well-known ecommerce platforms and shopping carts based on pricing, functionality, user-experience, and overall value. These individual platform reviews will help guide retailers to their best option(s).
For more tips on choosing the best platform for your business check out: Ecommerce Platform Comparison Guide and be sure to visit CPC Strategy's Blog for more helpful articles on how to successfully launch your retail business.
Retail Lead Reporter for CPC Strategy, Tara Johnson is a frequent voice on their blog, updating readers on the latest news from the ecommerce and retail industry.
Larry Kim, @larrykim
After launching a site, I would immediately focus on driving traffic to that new site using Pay Per Click (PPC) marketing on Google AdWords and Facebook Ads. Remember to turn on Google Analytics and conversion tracking so you can figure out what ad campaigns are actually working.
Richard Lazazzera, @richardabls
The number one, most important thing a new merchant needs to focus on is finding product/market fit. Channels like Facebook, Google Adwords and Instagram can all be goldmines for customer acquisition, however, you really need to make sure you are targeting the right buyer persona or you'll just be burning cash.
So how do you find your product/market fit?
Austen Allred wrote an excellent post on how he sold $4,000 in neckties through Instagram in two weeks. In it he gives one of the best examples of his thought process to find the right buyers for his product. It's a must read. Check out the section titled ‘Thought Process'.
Once you find that product/market fit, you need to figure out which marketing channels allow you to most effectively hit that buyer persona. Where do they hang out and which apps and social networks do they use most? Some critical thought can help you narrow it down to a few channels, but your true answer will come from experimenting. Finally, once you find a channel that works, focus on that channel and keep testing and optimizing.
Do you like the articles posted on the Shopify blog? Well, Richard Lazazzera is Content Strategist there and he's done a terrific job. He also owns A Better Lemonade Stand, an ecommerce blog with helpful and up-to-date content.
Neil Patel, @neilpatel
Make sure you have great products and a friendly user experience. You shouldn’t worry about marketing your website before you launch it. Sure, it doesn’t hurt, but you should spend all of your time creating the best product and experience as that typically will make a business win in the long run.
Crazy Egg, Hello Bar and KISSmetrics are all co-founded by Neil Patel so he knows a thing or two about online marketing. Now he focuses most of his attention on his website Neil Patel that's updated weekly with brilliant content.
Rebekah Radice, @RebekahRadice
Let's face it, launching a new site is exciting, but it's also a lot of work. From the setup to the promotion, this new step is a commitment of time and energy. To make it easier on you, I've put together a few quick ways social media can support you in spreading the word about your new e-commerce site.
Create a simple word-of-mouth campaign that you'll share across multiple social networks. Design 2-3 visually appealing graphics to share on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google Plus. Highlight your product, specific ways it stands out above the rest, and how it solves the problem of potential buyers.
Now let your connections know about your exciting news by sharing how they can support you. Tell them the “why” behind your business and the story surrounding your product or service.
People want to get to know you and gain a better understanding into what you're all about. Let social media help you do this!
Rebekah Radice is a social media strategist, digital marketing specialist and renown speaker. Haven't check her blog? Do so now, her posts provide a lot of tips and tricks to boost your social media presence.
David Rosenfeld, @ICdotCom
Sure, store owners should focus on optimizing their product page. The following tips are ideal.
Once you've got visitors to your page, here are some questions you should be asking.
It's really all about putting yourself in the position of the customer. Note: In answering this questions, I've presumed that the customer is selling some sort of product/tangible good.
Some Questions to think about:
Do I think this (is) a real and good company – the kind I want to do business with, give my billing info to, etc.? Keep in mind, this is not because you tell them you are a real company, but more the impression you give with your site.
Do I think they have what I need?
Do I think they will deliver what I need reliably?
Do I think they will deliver on time?
Is delivery/shipping free or inexpensive?
If I have a problem, do I think it will be easy to deal with them to resolve my issue?
Can I easily return something? Is it free?
Do I think they have good/the best/reasonable pricing for the product or service I am seeking?
Are they going to spam me if I give them my information?
Does it seem that this site is secure? Will they treat my information securely?
If clothing: Will this fit me?
Will I like it?
Do I need it?
What do others have to say about this product or service?
Can I try it out without committing?
Do I need to do this now? This, as with many of these questions, may be thought about differently for different web sites. This may or may not be on your home page, but it may be in messaging throughout the sales process.
Andrew Shotland, @LocalSeoGuide
If they are a locally-focused business, the first thing they should do, even before they launch their website, is to make sure their business listings information – business name, address, phone number, hours, etc. – is accurate on their Google My Business page, their Apple Maps Connect profile, on the other top local search sites, and on the major local business data aggregators such as Neustar Localeze, InfoGroup, Acxiom and Factual. These are well-established services where potential customers will be looking for your business and a key method for getting found well before anyone even makes it to your fabulous new website.
Andrew Shotland is the founder of Local SEO Guide where he mixes SEO knowledge and humor, managing to make this twisted and hard to grip field more pleasant.
Ramsay Taplin, @BlogTyrant
Any blog or website that is selling a product to its readers needs to get really good at split testing in a scientific and deliberate way. How do you know whether your site design is as good as it could be? What if that checkout process could get 10% more sales by simply changing the “BUY” button from red to green? All of these things can be determined by A/B testing and A/B testing only – check our “Top 10 Best Landing Page Creation and A/B Test Tools” post if you don't know what tools to use. Without this type of analysis you are just guessing and probably leaving lots of money on the table.
Owner and Founder of Blog Tyrant, Ramsay Taplin has a somewhat different approach – he blogged anonymous for a while – and his posts, though lengthy and very detailed, force you to scroll until you've reached the end of each post.
Andrew Youderian, @youderian
The #1 thing a new store owner should do after launching is to talk and/or connect with as many of their customers as possible. Even if you have an idea of who you're selling to and who your ideal customer is, you're likely wrong. So connecting with them to find out who they are and why they're buying from you will help you figure out how to best position yourself and your products for success in the future.
Andrew Youderian is an ecommerce entrepreneur, blogger & podcaster at Ecommerce Fuel – which he founded – and a smart guy, considering he quit his day job to start an ecommerce venture which lead him on this path.
Aaron Wall, @AaronWall
If you build it, in most cases they won't come. They already have Amazon, eBay, etc. And with Google's Panda update, many smaller independent ecommerce sites got slaughtered because they have a high page count, duplicate content, along with limited link equity and limited brand awareness. So to really to draw an audience, you need a story or content or feature or product which is unavailable elsewhere & you need to be rather aggressive with push marketing to build awareness for it.
Aaron Wall is the founder of SEO Book and has a ton of SEO knwoledge under his belt. He took a blog that offered SEO advice and transformed it into a hugely popular SEO memberships favored by thousands of people.
PART II: What's the worst mistake that would set a new online shop on the wrong path?
Paul Boag, @BoagWorld
I think the biggest danger is to focus on the financials over everything else. Yes, an online shop needs to make money, but the minute you start thinking of users as cash cows is the moment you are doomed. In today's marketplace customer service is a key differentiator and those ecommerce businesses that excel are those that put customer service first.
Paul Boag is an independent user experience consultant, speaker & author of Digital Adaptation, present in the online world since 1993. On Boag World he shares everything UX related so check him out to ensure you deliver the right experience to your visitors.
Linda Bustos, @GetElastic
There are many mistakes, but for a new business, not properly preparing your website for search engine optimization can become a real headache to “fix” later on. Ensure you're choosing the right naming conventions for your URL structure, avoiding duplicate content by writing your own unique descriptions with NOINDEX meta tags for manufacturer descriptions and boilerplate text, ensure product reviews are indexable, use a single URL structure for mobile-friendly sites (vs. m.dot mirrors), ensure you're handling pagination in the best way, etc.
New websites need to build a reputation with search engines and often rely heavily on search to drive new customer acquisition. Maximizing the SEO opportunity is essential for startup ecommerce sites.
Linda Bustos is Director of Ecommerce Research for Get Elastic, a hugely popular ecommerce blog updated with the latest news and strategies to help store owners perfect their approach.
Kunle Campbell, @KunleTCampbell
I will answer the question the other way round – how successful ecommerce ventures forge their way on the right path:
It boils down to perfecting their product/market fit. Successful ecommerce businesses outline their value proposition in detail by understanding the market(s) they intend to serve and how their product(s) actually satisfies this market.
From a ‘product’ standpoint, retail is about delivering a product(s) to a market slightly more than the cost the product(s) was acquired.
Your product(s) in essence has to satisfy a strong market demand or it will face stifled growth.
Even when there is a strong market demand, chances are that the market is already crowded with competition and so your differentiation in your value proposition will make a key success factor.
Think about a business that wants to sell socks online.
Here is a recipe for failure:
They base their entire strategy on the fact that there were 60,500 searches for the keyword ‘socks' alone on Google last month and so it must be a great market.
Suppliers are sourced and the store is launched with 5,000 different styles.
Now… what next? CPC on AdWords is $1.12 with over 200 million results for the term “socks”.
AdWords is highly competitive and not profitable so they wind it down as a channel.
Other channels are tried with little success: SEO will take years to set in and social traffic does not convert as often as they would like (sales are slow).
Another way to go about it might be:
Understanding the size of the market through keyword research, social trends and financial data from potential competitors.
Selecting a niche within the socks vertical and then understanding that niche’s specific pain.
Lets say you hypothetically select ‘socks for working people’ OR even ‘socks of sports'.
Next, carry out a survey and understand why ‘socks for working people’ is a deep enough pain that needs addressing and how it can be addressed.
Because you are thinking not only about the Life Time Value of customers – but also the pain of your customers, you decide to go for a ‘socks for work subscription business’ or ‘socks for sports subscription business’.
Validate your idea on a simple landing page, with early adopters using AdWords and/or social media to drive in traffic.
With feedback from your seed customers, you know that your product offering is addressing a real pain.
The media/press and bloggers really like the idea and so you get enough coverage to acquire your first 200 subscribers at the launch of the business.
2X Media is run by Kunle Campbell, a brilliant ecommerce marketing expert and business advisor. Just like in this article, his content is always on point so make sure you check him out.
Steve Chou, @MyWifeQuit
A lot of brand new entrepreneurs start their businesses with preconceived notions of what they want to sell without doing any research. As a result, they carry products that either don't have enough demand or too much competition. The right way to start an online store is to validate your products before you place a bulk order. Don't depend on guesswork.
Steve Chou is an online entrepreneur, ecommerce expert and half of the creative team from My Wife Quit Her Job. He has a very successful online store and teaches others how to do the same.
Chris Goward, @ChrisGoward
Launching a new online shop without implementing an ongoing testing strategy is the biggest mistake first-time online store owners can make. You are not your customer and are in danger if you guess how they will behave on your website. Companies need to understand the importance of A/B testing, if you are not testing you are not maximizing your revenue.
Founder & CEO of Wider Funnel, Chris Goward focuses on the conversion part and his clients' results speak for themselves. Since 2007, Chris has been a speaker for more than 100 events where he shared his conversion strategies so you would better keep an eye on him and read his conversion optimization book called ‘You Should Test That!.
Shep Hyken, @Hyken
Online retailers need to create customer confidence. That means they can’t hide behind a website. The best online shops make it easy to connect with a live human being – check our must know 10 live chat apps post. Don’t make it hard to find contact info. A phone number should be on every page of the website. And when the customer calls, it must be an easy, frictionless experience; no long waits, knowledgeable support people, etc.
Shep Hyken is a genius when it comes to customer service and experience. He's also a notable business speaker and NYT bestselling author for his Amazement Revolution book. Check his blog for customer related content as well as the latest updates.
John Jantsch, @DuctTape
A horrible mistake is trying to do too many things at once, and not having a clear focus and audience. It's important that new businesses master one skill or line of business before spreading themselves too thin. Along those same lines, it's important to define your brand up front so that you present a professional and consistent front. People need to know up front who you are and what it is that you do, or they will move on the next, more clear and simple option.
John Jantsch is a speaker, author and brilliant marketing consultant. He also founded Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network, an independent marketing consultants network that uses their strategy and programs.
Jeff Sauer, @Jeffalytics
The worst mistake you can make when creating an online shop is having no differentiation of product. Trying to compete by selling common/commodity products online is a losing battle for all but the most cutthroat of business owners. No amount of marketing can save you from having bad or boring products, so start by creating something unique and expanding from there – our 50 Best Online Shops post features stores that went the extra mile.
Jeff Sauer is the founder of Jeffalytics and a Digital Marketing Consultant. Want to learn more awesome SEO and PPC strategies from him? Then check Analytics Course and PPC Course to get a better grip of what online advertising means.
Bill Slawski, @Bill_Slawski
Understanding who your audience is, who purchases your products and goods, who decides what they might want to view on a site, is essential. Are they buying for themselves or as gifts for others, or both? Are they parents, or gift purchasers? Who makes that decision? It is important to know.
Bottom line, don't rush into it, regardless what your hunch tells you. Yes, you will have a lot of bumps and unexpected setbacks but this will happen regardless of how many countless hours you spent perfecting your SEO strategy, your social media approach or the user experience design. Take advantage of all the free knowledge found in the online medium and just as Chris Goward, Rand Fishkin, Richard Lazazzera and Ramsay Taplin say, make sure you test absolutely everything. There's no strategy that works for everyone so find the right one for you. Also, check our 50 Ecommerce Experts You Need To Follow And Their Very Best Advice article to find other cool blogs that will help you in your ecommerce venture.
header image courtesy of Nick Slater