Select the Right Ecommerce Platform for your Retail Business – What Commercial Model Should I Follow?
Electronic commerce has revolutionized the retail industry.
Customer’s are getting smarter. The technological outburst has enabled customers to make intelligent decisions. The traditional brick and mortar business model may not be enough to persuade and convert the customers into brand advocates.
Now straight to question, Are you into the retail business and is planning to venture into the virtual world? If yes, then there are few prerequisites that you need to look into.
There is a misconception among newbie entrepreneurs that ecommerce is an easy venture. If you are one among those who believe in the GBF (Grow Big Fast) idea, then let me demystify the thought at the earliest. The increasing competition has welcomed immense challenges. The virtual space is crammed with digital entities that offer almost similar products and services.
Preparing for the long run? Better look into these factors that could influence your digital success. Well let me deduce those factors to two,
Your online store and the strategies that you use to commercialize it.
Did it ever cross your mind that all your commercial model is synergized around your online store? The platform that you opt will play an important role in determining the success of your online expedition.
Looks Matter – Personality of your Online Store
We millennials judge a lot based on its appearance. Looks definitely matters. If a brand fails to be consistent with what it provides then there is a high chance people end up pursuing it wrong. With a plethora of online stores created every day it is important that you establish and maintain a unique digital identity. An identity/ personality that resonates with the expectation of your target customers.
Let’s consider an example of a pre-owned luxury apparel store. After the introduction of eCommerce, the fashion industry has witnessed a steep climb in revenue. People find it more convenient to explore the opportunities available online and then make a purchase. As the revenue model for an online apparel store is different from that of a physical store, even the walk-ins find it more appealing to try it out in a physical store and then place an order of the same via online.
Following the same example, When you are planning to start an online fashion store (in this case a refurbished luxury apparel store) there are multiple factors that need to be addressed.
An Exuberant Design
First and foremost, look at the design of your eCommerce store. If you are planning to start your ecommerce venture with a pre-built platform provider (eg; Shopify, BigCommerce, Shopnix, Volusion, Weebly, etc) then make sure that you invest the right time to select the theme/ template that fits your need.
In case of a luxury apparel store, the target customers anticipate an exquisite experience. How do you expect a luxury lover to draw their credit card for USD 150 (say an average price for a pre owned luxury bag falls in that range) when the quality and experience of your online store is restricted. It’s that simple. Your website/ e-commerce store is your digital identity. Your storefront should be designed to inspire and accommodate the expectations of the passive surfer.
How your Store Design Could Extrapolate to a Nightmare
Often as part of your digital strategy, you may end up incentivising your target customers up front. Even before they have shown interest in your business. So the best opportunity for you to justify your investment is to make sure that the website will motivate the leads to engage and explore the options available. Higher the people explore your platform greater the chance for them to land on a spellbinding offer.
Customise your Online Store to Meet the Visitors Needs
Most entrepreneurs start with the idea of a speciality store and end up creating an online marketplace. The best example will be, that you planned to start an online boutique selling pre-owned luxury handbags for ladies and end by creating an online marketplace listing all kinds of products in the fashion industry. The challenge comes when people perceive it as a speciality store that sells luxury handbags and gets confused upon landing on the website.
The digital penetration has liberated us from a monopolistic market. Information about anything and everything is made available. The simplicity in starting an online business has compelled a lot of startups to go on the wild chase, offering more or less the same (even to an extend to emulate their competitor’s strategies). This leads to a surplus, the market seems to be flooded with a lot of similar products. You need to give your customers a reason to stay and engage with what you offer.
Your customers are looking for an instant solution. The average attention span of your customer is narrowed down to 10 – 20 sec (even lesser to my experience).
Too short a time span and too much to convey.
Keep in mind, it’s not that you will get a second chance to convince the customer (to the least not for free). Your online store needs to be optimised to meet the expectation of your customers.
For example; In the initial stage you decide to start an online boutique offering kids apparel. Later you recognized the demand and decided to convert your store to a full-fledged online apparel store catering to a wider audience. In such a case, when you offer multiple products you need to be sagacious in designing the online store. The virtual identity should be themed in such a way that it accommodates the demands and expectation of all customers. Don’t baffle the online visitor and make him click the red box on top of the browser.
If you curate your online store around a single theme (say a speciality store for kids) then it could bewilder the customer. The customer may be searching for men’s T-shirt and will get perplexed when he lands on a store that sells kids apparel. Make sure to structure and map the store front/ landing page. Don’t let you design compromise your revenue.
Customer Experience and Customer Satisfaction
In a fast-moving consumer world how you treat your customer matters. There is no excuse to compromising your customer experience. People don’t want to jump through multiple hoops and convert. They expect a simple process. As an eCommerce entrepreneur, you are obliged to provide the same. The best strategy is a customer centric strategy that delivers the best user experience and customer satisfaction.
How to Select the Right Ecommerce Platform
As an entrepreneur who plans to start an online venture, you will get multiple options. Whether to start with a pre-built platform provider or to hire a website developer and create a custom online store. Both these options come with their own pros and cons.
As a newbie entrepreneur, one strategic decision that you need to make is to weigh the options available. Once pinnacle decision will be where to invest and how to justify the investment.
Don’t leap in and select what comes your way. You need to make an informed decision.
Start by understanding the requirement. As a start try to answer these;
- What kind of an ecommerce store should I start?
- How many products do I plan to list in the initial stage?
- Is there a budget to hire and maintain a development team? etc.
With a handful of pre-built platforms out there you get the liberty to test and then decide which platform is the right fit for you. The cool part is that almost all the platform providers give you a 15 day trial period to test run their platform. You can use this time frame to understand the platform. Even compare the limitations and benefits the individual platform provides.
It’s a good strategy to identify the features individual platforms provide. At the same time never trade quality for an additional feature. Your platform is the base, a foundation upon which you will build your ecommerce entity.
Look for reviews and testimonials. Explore their social media and identify how people perceive the brand. Talk to the platform provider (support team) and understand their commitment in helping you set up a compelling virtual store.
Word of caution:- Analyze every option and then make a decision.
Is Drop-Shipping the Right Business Model
Drop shipping has opened and an amazing business opportunity for entrepreneurs. With this business model, you only need to invest the least possible. Woo Ya. In drop shipping, you don’t own or manage the inventory. Instead, you will enter into a contractual agreement with a wholesaler/ manufacturer/ dealer, etc and will start commercializing their product. Whenever a sale happens through your website you will notify the wholesaler/ dealer/ manufacturer, etc and they will fulfil the order.
Allow me to explain it with an example.
Tim starts an ecommerce website. Tim then reaches to Mike (who runs a startup in the pre owned apparel industry). Tim and Mike agree for drop shipping opportunity. Tim lists Mike’s product on his website. Janet (who was searching online for refurbished louis vuitton handbag) happens to notice Tim’s website. The offer seems intimidating that Janet places and order online. Tim receives the order request and forwards the same to Mike. Mike then makes sure that the order is fulfilled at the earliest possible.
During the process, Tim was able to earn a commission as the sale happened through his website. Mike is happy that he was able to sell a product. Janet got the handbag he was searching for, that too at a lucrative price.
Marketing Strategies to Promote your Online Store
It’s important that you have the right set of strategies to promote your eCommerce business. Marketing/ advertising plays an important role in determining the success of your online venture. To compete in a dynamic world you need to come up with radical ideas and innovative strategies that help position your brand among target customers.
Few ecommerce marketing strategies that you could look into
Social Media Marketing
Social media has become one the most favourite hotspot for online dwellers. Let’s narrow down the importance of social media to a single question. On an average how much time do you spend on social media every day?
What about a number? 135 minutes per day. Yes! Stats published on Statista.com suggests that the daily social media usage of global internet users amounts to this number. Social media has become a platform for brands to build a reputation among their target customers. This channel enables brands to interact, share and build a strong relationship with customers.
There are countless online stores that have used this channel to effectively position their brand proposition among the audience.
Over time the concept of social media has changed. It’s no longer a platform for brands to just broadcast their offers and services. Rather an effective channel to address people’s concerns and offer practical solutions.
As Google is one of the top search engines in the world it’s important that brands look into this opportunity. Google ads help drive instant traffic to your eCommerce store.
With Google Ads, you get an opportunity to drive a highly targeted audience to your online store. Through Google ads, you get multiple campaigns options
- Search Ads
- Product Listing Ads
- Retargeting and Dynamic Retargeting
Push marketing strategies are widely deployed by business entities to reach out to prospects and nurture them to paying customers. Few channels that are widely used for push marketing are;
Channels like emails when used intelligently could help increase your conversion that too with the least investment. Stats published by CampaignMonitor.com clearly indicates that email marketing could result in impressive results $44 for every $1 invested.
Influencer marketing is quite effective and it allows you to leverage the authority of an influencer. Think about this way, you are a hardcore fan of celebrity X, and celebrity X shares a post featuring a product. Imagine the kind of relevance/ domain authority it could attract.
It’s not that you should look into influencers who are recognized at a global scale. You can start small. If you could find a local celebrity (If you are selling apparels then it could be anyone in the fashion industry) then you could start from there. The local celebrity will be having a set of fan followers who closely follow his/her digital profiles and social accounts. Scouting the realm in search for novel fashion trends and ideas.
Parting Note:- With a steep climb in digital commerce its critical that you reflect a robust online presence. The strategies you frame and the decisions you make in selecting the right ecommerce platform provider along with your marketing strategies could determine the success of your online venture. Have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve. The best awaits you, don’t hesitate to take the opportunity.