Ecommerce may sound like a simple case of selling your usual product offering online, but the reality can present more complex challenges. Like any other marketing platform, ecommerce requires its own approach and dedicated strategy, which can then be weaved in to your broader targets across multiples platforms.
Towards a broader definition
Before launching into top tips for building an ecommerce strategy, it is helpful to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the term.
Literally an abbreviation of ‘electronic commerce’, a simple dictionary definition explains e-commerce as ‘business transactions conducted on the internet.’ SearchCIO elaborates on ‘transactions’ and includes ‘the buying and selling of goods and services or the transmitting of funds or data’ into its definition. Importantly, SearchCIO notes that this can take place at multiple levels rather than simply from brand to consumer, with ‘business-to-business, business-to-consumer, consumer-to-consumer or consumer-to-business’ all incorporated under the term ecommerce.
Technopedia also ventures that definitions of ecommerce should include more than the final sale that is usually associated with the term. It is suggested that everything from online marketing and advertising through to product delivery and secure online billing should be included in discussions of ecommerce if it is to facilitate the growth of online business.
3 tips for building your strategy
It is clear from even a cursory unpacking of ecommerce definitions that a singular outlook to building a strategy is misplaced. Rather, a holistic approach must be undertaken if marketers are to reap the full benefits that ecommerce can bring to their wider growth and development. To this end, here are 3 tips for building a holistic ecommerce strategy.
1. Mine big data
Defined as ‘the large volume of data – both structured and unstructured – that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis’, big data is quickly becoming a central component in any marketing strategy.
Ecommerce is no different, as co-founder of ThirdLove Heidi Zak told Forbes. Zak points out that ‘the amount of data that e-commerce companies collect is changing what we can do for customers. Increasingly, commercials and ads are targeted to our specific demographics.’
Speaking of her own experience in running an ecommerce offering, Zak notes that ‘at ThirdLove, our data affects how we develop products, create the customer journey, and ensure that our customers have a great experience. Everything revolves around that.’
2. Calculate your cost to serve
One of the biggest challenges facing brands with ecommerce offerings is the impact this has on budgets. Whether or not a bricks and mortar store already exists, the costs involved with storing large volumes of stock, servicing demand at short notice or even employing teams to provide your online service around the clock can make ecommerce an expensive business.
Calculating your cost to serve can be one way of better managing your ecommerce budget, which then enables you to redirect funds to areas ripe for growth. According to eConsultancy, ‘many brands are still trying to determine how much they are spending to keep their ecommerce operations running’ and struggle to come up with comparative figures to their in-store retail.
According to Supply Chain Dive, a news and analysis publication focused on the supply chain industry, competing with the likes of Amazon’s free two-day delivery has resulted in spiralling costs for many ecommerce brands. The article suggests that it is important to ensure that the shipping cost you put forward to the consumer accounts for both shipping and fulfilment, which it defines as ‘possessing the product and putting it in the box’ before it goes to a delivery company for shipping. This will allow you to better calculate the cost of serving your online orders and keep your profit margins stable.
3. Focus on conversion
A central challenge faced by many brands looking to build a strong ecommerce strategy is the question of conversion. The problem of Abandoned Basket Syndrome is a prevalent one that often leaves marketers scratching their heads about why a customer turned away from a sale at the last moment.
Ensuring that a focus on conversion is embedded in your ecommerce strategy can help to combat this problem and ensure that you are constantly focused on driving sales as opposed to just site traffic. For Shopify, although it is difficult to control conversion on third party sites like Amazon, on sites that you do own you should try numerous techniques and see which returns the best results.
Shopify suggests ‘making the search function easier to use, improving the value proposition, and increasing the visibility of features that prospective customers need to feel comfortable buying’ as key starting points. It is also important to remember that this is an ongoing process that requires planning from the start, but also constant reassessment and revaluation to keep your strategy on course.
Like any other marketing strategy, ecommerce requires forward-planning, budgeting and insights. By treating it both as a separate entity, but simultaneously as one which requires integration with your strategies across other platforms, you can begin to foster a positive approach to ecommerce going forward.