How To Survive (And Thrive) 9 E-Commerce Challenges in 2018
Many E-commerce challenges are facing even the most prominent online retailers today.
I have taken an in-depth look at what customers are attracted to E-commerce by and shared my research.
In some, I agree with the general consensus, while with others I do not necessarily conform.
I base my conclusion on the exponential growth of the information highway and how it is affecting trade throughout the world.
How fast do you think the internet evolves?
I am talking about changes in information in general. The sheer amount of new articles, social media blogs, and posts.
Moreover, what of the new online stores appearing daily?
Do you believe the net grows in a stable and measurable way?
No, I do not think so either. A recent study has even forecast that the internet will out-evolve humanity!
Yet, most online businesses build a presence through the benefits of SEO, then sit back and do little else of note!
How can any company expect to compete by resting on their laurels?
The challenges for ECommerce success has never been more considerable.
It is projected that by the year 2020, E-commerce growth will account for almost 15% of the retail business.
That may not seem a lot right now, but look what it is already doing to retail stores who rely on foot-fall.
It is no wonder that even larger retail organisations end up in liquidation. Older, established high street stores are falling like flies due to the popularity of online shopping.
If you think that’s good for you because you only sell online, think again.
E-Commerce is growing so fast that even well-established companies cannot keep up.
Sooner or later, there’ll be so much competition the internet will prove unmanageable.
Unless you have a USP, online companies will be following suit.
It is not enough nowadays to have an online retail business, build a website, and try to promote it.
How would you know how well you are performing?
Your company could seem to be ticking over brilliantly; you are happy with your lot.
However, in reality, the industry you are in is growing faster than your business.
You are not keeping up with your competition, even though you thought you were!
Do you actually know what is a good conversion rate for your industry?
You can determine the conversion rate industry standard with analytics software benchmarks. This chart would otherwise be a good start.
Credit: Smart Insights
Once you have that, how do you know your best performance is good enough?
It is not a welcome thing to wake up one day and realise that it was not.
The most significant and most successful E-commerce companies do not leave anything to chance.
They are proactive about every facet of their organisation.
When a large company does not do it, the contrast could not be more evident.
Look at the high street stores closing down around us over the past couple of years, and you will see my point.
You can be sure they tried everything to survive.
However, online advertising and many marketing ploys were all too little, too late.
The bottom line is they didn’t keep their finger on the pulse.
They did not see the problem arising because they were an established brand.
All they could do was to invest more in digging their way out.
However, throwing money at a problem, all too often, is only a short-term remedy.
Without a long-term business strategy, you are spitting into the wind.
How Well Do You Know Your Own ECommerce Business?
An analogy that I have adopted as my own is that of a rollercoaster. Business is like a rollercoaster: It has its ups and downs.
The secret is knowing where you are on the rail.
When you look at yours, you may feel it is ratcheting its way up the track and going well.
However, in reality, it has long passed that and is rolling down the other side- at speed.
In other words, if you do not understand the position of your business, there’s a good chance you could be in freefall.
So What Do You Need To Do To Survive The Challenges Of E-Commerce?
Unfortunately, there’s no ‘one thing’ that can solve the issues faced by E-Commerce companies and online retailers today.
It revolves around a state of mind. A mindset where you create good business habits.
Habits that you need to adhere to throughout your business ownership.
You may already be doing some of the good practices our consultancy recommend.
If you are, that helps you to concentrate on the more pressing aspects of your Ecommerce challenges.
If you are not yet employing any of my suggestions, then our list will get you thinking.
Though it is numbered, no one suggestion is less or more important. Place them in any order you deem fits your situation.
1) Take a good look at your product or service.Do you think your business will stand the test of time? Are you in this for the ‘long haul,’ or does what you offer to have a limited ‘shelf life’? Try and obtain a professional opinion from a business advisor. An objective view is much more useful as they have no vested interest. Consider this especially if you are starting out, as you ought to study your market. What you thought of as a job for life might only last a year or two. Determine who is interested in what you offer and how well is your competition doing. This intelligence is fundamental to a company’s survival. The intelligence is obtained through market research. By studying your competitors and devising a logical market plan, you are already ahead. Software like ‘Google Trends’ indicates the interest in products or services searched for on the internet. You get to see historical searches for related items and make more informed decisions about your future sales tactics. Keep an eye on the big guns. One cynical aspect that nowadays we all should keep in mind is the giants of our industries. The more you make a dent in their sales, the more likely they are to do something about you. If you are affecting their bottom line, look out! Giant selling platforms will think nothing of running at a loss until you are out of business. It happens all over the world as they can afford to do it. Before you know it, you are bust through no fault of your own. Similarly, if your business booms due to a niche product that sells like hotcakes, the quicker you will find competition in that field. The giants of E-commerce employ specialist organisations searching online for fashionable trends within their industry. Who knows? You may be lucky and do so well that you are bought out for an attractive amount of money too! Thankfully, If your company does most things well, that is the most likely scenario. Think about your company as a whole. The way you sell and how you keep your customers are so crucial to your longevity. No matter how good an online retailer, you will eventually have competition. Study your competition and learn from them too. If you can beat the frontrunners in your market, you become the leader! Then, they all strive to beat you! Gearing your target audience for quality over quantity has a positive effect on Google’s ranking. Its algorithms are more able to qualify what your site is all about.
2) Look at your assetsBy ‘assets,’ I do not mean the tangible products or items belonging to the company. An asset could be your working colleagues or employees. Someone you might have taken for granted in the past may have a value to you that you have never considered. Is it possible through fear of change (or fear no-one else can do the job as well as you), that you cannot pass on responsibility? Ask yourself, Think of your business like a well-oiled machine. Every cog needs to be in place, or you need substitute cogs that fit well when things begin to go awry. Are you using your employees correctly? We live in a time where employment is much more difficult to find. Chances are, your employees are more dedicated to your business than you might appreciate. It pays to understand your workforce. Are they trained well? A well-managed company is not one that has significant issues when the proprietor is away. What are their strengths? When you peruse an employee’s CV, you are looking for that particular ‘something.’ Maybe they impressed on their interview or perhaps your company employs relatives? In any case, it is worth determining where their strengths lie. You may have a diamond in the rough! Could their attitude be misread by you? This could be a chicken and egg situation. Which came first- The poor attitude from your employee or the lack of recognition for a job they did well? There’s a pretty familiar saying in business amongst employees. “You cannot do enough for a good guv’nor-but you cannot do little enough for a bad one either!” Sometimes, devaluing employees is the catalyst for businesses underperforming or even going bust. You are paying for them to work for you. If there’s any way that they can enjoy their work more, you will be more productive in some form.
3) Don’t look to do everything yourselfDon’t spread yourself too thin. You will end up doing nothing to its full potential. It does not matter how intelligent you are or how thoroughly you research given subjects. Decide what side of digital marketing is most important for your online business. By all means, apply yourself to one subject at a time if you are convinced to have the free time and expertise. Otherwise, sooner or later you will need to bite the bullet. Time will force you to begin to trust experts who specialise in what you need for your online business. It is a false economy to think you can save money by cutting too many corners- common sense should prevail here. Look for experts with a proven track record and with excellent customer feedback. Decide on a budget and if unsure of the costs, look for typical prices within the industry for the work you need. Social media is a high search point for reviews of companies from whom you are considering assistance. Another good indication of their expertise is from reviews on their website from satisfied customers. The way they deal with your inquiry is a good barometer. The type of service offered, time frames and costs involved should be clarified early on.
4) Once you have established your online retail website, you need to attract traffic.Not any traffic; it has to be quality orientated and geared to your industry. A planned detailed strategy is essential for targeting your correct customer. Successful Ecommerce businesses do all they can to determine who are their best customers. Reputable ECommerce consultancy companies are adept at capturing and engaging a target audience. Through cultured SEO, email marketing, social media campaigns, PPC, and many other marketing ploys, customers are attracted to what makes you stand out. Gearing your target audience for quality over quantity has a positive effect on Google’s ranking. Its algorithms are more able to qualify what your site is all about.
5) What problems do your customers face?For some of you, relating to issues your customers face is a new concept. Strive for complete insight into what problems your customers face. This puts you head and shoulders over your competition. If you recognise their issues and relate to them, it shows them that you understand their needs. Otherwise, your site is no better than say leaving a product on a store shelf to be picked up in an ad hoc manner. A positive customer selling experience pays dividends. Introduce your service or product. Show how purchasing from you makes your customer’s life so much better. This is proven to increase your sales in the long term. Moreover, it should not stop there. When your sale is complete, that should not be the end of the story. After sales, reviews, feedback and customer experience all add to your brand perception and brand awareness. Never miss an opportunity for repeat business. This, after all, is your cheapest form of advertising.
6) Engage your target audienceOnce you have established who your customers are, you need a plan of action. You need a strategy for keeping them engaged and coming back for more. Customers are attracted to ECommerce by engagement. One method is to write authoritative articles and blogs that you know are of benefit to the reader. If you gauge this correctly, it will be evident by feedback and opinion from your customer. Building rapport with your target audience brings great satisfaction. The upside is it is a good indicator that you are doing something right. It is also nice now and again to give something without expecting anything in return. Take time to read and reply to all those who bother to write to you. This shows loyalty to your customers and that they are valued.
7) Be aware of the B2C ECommerce challenges faced todayB2C (or business to customer), is a term used for ECommerce online sales. This seemingly trivial acronym belies the importance of the practice of selling online. If you have an online store, B2C encompasses almost everything that’s imperative to sell successfully. Understanding how rapidly online selling is growing is key to marketing strategies. B2C plays a major role to that end. Here’s one statistic that you will find interesting according to recent research carried out by minewhat.com. 81% of shoppers conduct online research before making a considered purchase. If you turn that data on its head, you will see there is ample opportunity to impress your target sale. Optimising your shopping platform is so important that it cannot be guessed. Test your sales methods and campaigns thoroughly. The only way of doing this with any hope of success is tests and retests. While on the subject of researching sales data, pwc.com. Their ‘total retail survey’ gives you a real heads up on global online sales. Brand perception and awareness, customer experience, and your content effectiveness, all form part of the B2C embodiment.
8) B2B ECommerce challenges need attention tooMethods of selling via business to business differ somewhat from those of selling to retail customers. Your business client will already be aware of your services or product. If they are new to you but not to your industry, they will almost certainly be looking for how you differ from other potential sellers. One challenge associated with selling to organisations is that they are used to being contacted by companies marketing their wares. Your sales methods should highlight your value proposition. If you can deliver more quickly, sell more for less, or have selling exclusivity on a product, make a point of it. The context of your website matters much more with b2b sales than your content. In saying that, there needs to be enough information on your site to reach a comfortable sale. For further reading on b2b ECommerce challenges, there’s an interesting article from ‘the drum’
9) Make your work as organised as possibleIf you are selling products on the major sales platforms like Amazon, eBay, and Shopify, invest in quality management software. One of the most significant issues of online retailing is lack of structure. Marketing automation saves so much time and cuts down the human error. Prices vary for this sort of investment. Determine your budget and look for positive reviews and good user feedback. You cannot rely on free software to do the same type of work, and in any case, they are few and far between. Decide what parts of inventory management software are important for your line of work. Ensure these exist within your package as otherwise, you will never be satisfied with it. Take advantage of the free trials on offer. You do not want to be stuck with something on a contract that you do not like. Many software providers do not tie you down with long contracts in any case, but it pays to know who does.
ConclusionYou cannot hope for success- it comes from hard work. This is the life in which we live. There’s always an element of luck, but it is possible to minimise the bad stuff! Don’t go it alone unless you really can’t trust others. Know what makes your customer tick. Be aware of your challenges. Keep organised and always proactive. Get your mindset right for your business and watch it grow- and keep growing!
About the Author
Jim writes on topics related to E-Commerce and digital marketing. His work has been featured by Cognitive SEO, Neil Patel and a number of leading brands across the US and UK. He has over 17 years experience in helping Saas & E-commerce companies grow online.Jim Miller