THE BLOG
01/24/2017 01:32 am ET | Updated Jan 24, 2017

How to sustain your Online Startup in 2017

With the widespread use of the internet, website development simplified to drag-and-drop actions and ecommerce industry growth projected at an astounding 8.7%; the promise of online selling has lured millions to launch their ecommerce businesses. In the US alone, total revenues capped at an impressive 322,171 million USD.

Despite its popularity, the ecommerce industry is always evolving. The strategies that got you this far won't be enough in 2017. Online businesses will need to match the pace if they wish to survive. This will be even trickier for startups that have only just started taking baby steps. However, amidst difficulty lies opportunity, because by merely channeling their resources in the right direction, owners of online startups can not only sustain their businesses, but can actually churn out profits.

Here is a list of actionable steps that ecommerce startups can take to ensure smooth sailing through 2017:

It is going to get personal:

With nearly 53% (1 billion) internet users making purchases online, the ecommerce industry will be attracting big and small brands alike. Growing competition makes customers difficult to attain, easy to lose and pickier than ever before.

So, what can you do to stand differentiated amidst this swarm of online businesses? Simple. Make the customer experience the best you can. Try to immerse every visitor in an empathetic, personalized and memorable shopping experience.

Personalization will enable you to develop a customized experience for every interested buyer. You can do so by first gaining an in-depth understanding of the needs, wants and desires of your target audience in addition to illuminating yourself pertaining to the manner in which they are interacting with your website.

Based on this information, you should tweak every step of the purchase process by simplifying it where required, improving it where necessary and gently nudging your users to make a purchase via personalized suggestions. Personalization can be attained by several means including:

  • Predictive recommendations
  • Personalized navigation
  • Third-party information
  • Subject line personalization
  • Database segmentation
  • Personalized content
  • Item-to-item collaborative filtering
  • Real-time offers
  • Dynamic remarketing

Predictive recommendations alone have been found to uplift order value by 40%. So, invest in a few, if not all, of these personalization techniques to establish an ongoing relationship with your buyers.

User experience = conversions:

The greatest challenge for ecommerce businesses is the conversion of visitors into customers. A tried and tested way to improve your conversion rate is to offer a pleasant and rewarding user experience.

In order to do so, start by focusing on your web design. Nearly 38% of internet users have been reported to leave a website because they found it to be unattractive.

Secondly, make sure your website does not take more than 3 seconds to load because 40% of users are known to abandon websites after this threshold. Fast loading time is also among the factors considered by Google while determining search rankings and can improve your online visibility.

Thirdly, simplify the shopping experience by making products and services easy to find, web pages clean, free from clutter and streamlining the checkout process.

Mobile is the new way forward:

If you don't have a mobile device-compatible website, you're already losing out on precious sales. Nearly 59% of overall ecommerce traffic comes from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

So, instead of reiterating the obvious need of going mobile, let's talk about how you should go about it. Though users of mobile devices constitute the majority of ecommerce traffic, they have surprisingly low conversion rates.

In 2016, mobile browsers contributed to only 38% of overall ecommerce revenue indicating that users have apprehensions while making purchases via mobile devices. Even if they find out about your product via their phones or tablets, they are likely to switch to a desktop in order to make a purchase.

This propensity to switch to a desktop is even higher in the case of high value items and can be attributed to security and privacy concerns while operating mobile devices. Therefore, when making your website mobile-compatible, be sure to invest in a winning UX so that your buyers don't hesitate while placing orders via mobile devices.

Make smart use of technology:

When it comes to availability of resources, there was never a better time to be in ecommerce. The market is swarming with freebies as well as paid tools that can easily automate repetitive tasks, leaving you free to focus on the more important things. However, instead of rushing off to pick a high ranking freebie option, take a moment to evaluate if they will resonate with your branding strategy.

For example, for an ecommerce startup offering high-value commodities, the use of a free email marketing service like the one provided by MailChimp would significantly help in reducing costs. The reason for this is that they display their logos on client websites, which undermines the financial strength of a business.

But what if you want to sell your expertise and knowledge? The online course building platform Kajabi, enables people and start-ups to monetize their staff and create authority by creating and marketing digital products such as tutorial videos and white papers.

Similar to MailChimp, Kajabi offers an "all in one" suite of digital marketing tools such as email marketing, landing pages and many more, all tailored at helping any business owner to enter the booming ecommerce world by selling his knowledge, and not a physical object.

Secure your customers:

A security breach is extremely detrimental when it comes to ecommerce businesses. It is, therefore, absolutely imperative that you take necessary measures to stave off cybercriminals. These measures include regular update of software and security systems on your work stations to ensure that your data stays protected from new vulnerabilities.

Be sure to update everything from third-party code to WordPress plugins. You will also need to set multiple security layers such as firewalls, security features pertaining to contact forms, user passwords and search queries.

Another thing to enhance security is to purge critical customer information such as CVV2 numbers, credit card information and expiration dates. You can choose to store only a small portion of such information at a distinct location in order to facilitate the processing of refunds.

Securing your online platform is just one part of the overall picture, you need to communicate the same to your customers, in order to see tangible results.

Therefore, boldly display your security certifications on your website and publish testimonials of satisfied customers on landing pages to reinforce your authenticity and credibility.

All hail the reign of content:

Yes, content shall continue to rule as king. Get cracking on a content strategy soon as it will enable you to drive traffic to your website, increase brand awareness and credibility, generate sales and provide value to your online community.

Whatever you do as part of your content strategy, be sure to amalgamate SEO techniques into it. 80% of all clicks made on Google's search results occur near the top 3 organic listings. This means that if you wish for your content to have any kind of impact you need to find ways to make it to the top of organic search results.

Moreover, drive sales, and leverage your brand as an influencer in your industry by making use of user-generated content. According to statistics, around 70% of consumers trust product reviews more than professionally crafted marketing content.

Explode with social media:

The ecommerce industry owes much of its success to social media powerhouses like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest. These platforms enable ecommerce businesses to overcome the concerns that arise from a lack of physical presence by establishing a loyal online following.

These platforms not only help in driving traffic but also increase product awareness as well as marketing hype. Catapult your social media following by placing social media sharing buttons on every page of your website, including product pages and blog posts.

Instead of solely focusing your financial capital on high quality imagery, try to incorporate as many GIFs, tutorial videos, product demo videos and promotional messages as you can on your website. Placing a video on landing pages leads to an 80% increase in conversion rates and this number is expected to increase in 2017.

Join the chat bot revolution:

One of the most exciting trends expected to soar in 2017 is the use of chat bots for real-time customer assistance. These chat bots will utilize predictive technology in order to anticipate buyer's needs and provide guidance during critical moments of the purchase process.

Embellish your offering:

In order to gain your customers' attention, it is important to stand differentiated from the rest. While you can't always offer a product or service that is completely distinct from your competitors, you can present your product in an utterly unique manner.

Offer captivating deals, conduct contests and give discounts but whatever you do, keep it time bound, in order to raise the perceived value of your products/ services. This is due to innate human psychology which causes people to be more averse to losing an opportunity or missing out on a product as opposed to simply acquiring it.

Focus on those abandoned carts:

Abandoned carts are a huge point of concern for ecommerce startups, therefore it is crucial that you focus on them. Abandoned carts represent people who were willing to purchase your products but somewhere during the buyer's journey, they left. This that you need to focus on. Statistics indicate high shipping costs and unexpected charges to be two of the leading reasons of cart abandonment, which result in nearly 44% of overall abandoned carts. Therefore, make use of data to try and identify exactly why your customers are getting put off from your service, because this may be why your future customers may leave midway.

Put together a winning customer service team:

Customer service standards can make or break your online business. Customers are fickle, and they will probably never return, even if you falter once. According to a survey, 4.8% customers exclaim that they consistently need customer service while making an online purchase.

Out of which, 31% say that they require immediate assistance and 40% say that they need support within five minutes. Therefore, expend time and energy into developing a winning customer services team that not only supports and enlightens your customers, but is capable of developing lasting relationships with them.

Conduct more CRO tests:

In order to retain their clientele, ecommerce businesses need to conduct regular conversion rate optimization (CRO) tests. This will help them find ways to convert more visitors into customers. Some useful CRO tests include:

  • Product page copy A/B test
  • Headline A/B test
  • Personalization vs. general homepage test
  • Simplified checkout vs. standard checkout test
  • Button color A/B test

2017 promises to be an exciting year for ecommerce businesses. Startups will need to buckle up and be prepared to not only adopt these trends, but also the countless more that are likely to surface during the course of the coming year. Continuous improvement is the name of the game, so no matter what you do, avoid falling into your comfort zone.

CONVERSATIONS