Small businesses have much to gain in the vast online marketplace. In September 2016, online spending in the UK alone reached £931 million each week – 22% higher than the same month of 2015.
Without the need for bricks and mortar, sales assistants or expensive locations, new entrants can quickly carve out a decent market share. Yet with more and more e-commerce businesses starting up, the need to stand out from the competition remains as vital as ever.
So what should small online retailers be thinking about to stay ahead?
Given the digital nature of an e-commerce shop, there’s a wealth of data that can be mined and analysed to help refine, streamline and improve the customer journey. Looking at metrics such as the number of products viewed, the average time spent on any given page and – perhaps most crucially – the number of abandoned baskets can illuminate what’s working and what’s not.
However most e-commerce businesses miss a vital trick here – this data is rarely aligned with management accounts or any other financial indicators that illuminate profitability. Once you make this connection, the data can come to life and build an overall picture of the success of the business. Combining digital and financial data can help “smell what sells”, that your product offering is both popular and profitable.
Spoilt for choice, today’s online shoppers can be a cautious bunch, with 81% choosing to conduct thorough product research before buying. Facilitating this research can go a long way to securing sales.
It’s about providing detailed, genuinely useful information as quickly as possible. On average, consumers visit at least three online shops before making a purchase, so devising content that will swiftly answer questions can help dissuade them from moving on to a different site.
This can be done through spotlighting particular ranges or simply accompanying each product with factual descriptions. By wrapping the e-shop in informative content, retailers can support the research process and guide potential customers towards making a purchase with them.
Creating an appealing, user-friendly e-shop is only half the battle – products need to be found.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) can help. Helping to ensure each page of the website is fully optimised for search engines through strategic use of keywords, locations and meta data can give the site a boost on search engine results pages. On top of this, regularly updating your content and being active on social media all helps to make the search engines look favourably on the site.
Mobile optimisation is also key: 30 per cent of mobile users will abandon their purchases if the site is not optimised for mobile use. Given that 51 per cent of online purchases are now made on a mobile device, ensuring that websites are fully optimised for tablets and smartphones is integral to staying ahead of the competition.
Investing in the shopping features of certain search engines or social media networks can enable further exposure for the offering of an online shop and encourage consumers to visit and revisit your store.
Creating an experience
With no physical premises, some have argued that e-commerce businesses suffer from a lack of customer loyalty. While it’s true that there might not be a friendly face to welcome customers through the door, there’s no reason that an online retailer can’t create an enjoyable retail experience and build up a loyal brand following.
Social media can play a pivotal role in this. Creating a strong brand and an engaging tone of voice on social channels can help potential customers relate to the businesses. Replying swiftly to feedback – positive or negative – can also help replicate the personal, face-to-face service on offer in a physical shop.
Review sites are the holy grail of online selling. 88% of customers trust online reviews just as much as a personal recommendation and retailers could benefit from utilising this opportunity for free publicity. Ensuring that an e-shop is synchronised to all available review sites can strengthen any e-commerce business with the authoritative voice of customers who have had first-hand experience of the product.
Again linking this to data can help you learn even more and put more effort into those sites that win you the most valuable business.
The retail landscape has dramatically changed over the last decade and e-commerce lies at the centre of this shift. By employing intelligent strategies surrounding SEO, social media, web design and data, todays small e-commerce businesses might just become the Amazons and Not on the High Streets of the future.
To find out how KPMG Small Business Accounting could help free up your time so you can concentrate on business success, request a callback for a quote today.
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