E-commerce is no longer a new, revolutionary trend. It is fast becoming a fact of life. In fact, global online sales reached $3 trillion in 2018.
This means that the share of online sales in total retail sales is now a whopping 15%. While the more saturated markets like the United States grew at a more reasonable pace of 15.3%, younger e-commerce nations like India forged ahead with growth of 17%.
In today’s day and age, if you have an offline business that doesn’t have an online channel yet, chances are you’re considering setting it up.
You may even be considering starting a pure-play online business. It’s obvious that more and more people across the globe are preferring to shop online; whether it’s for electronics, clothes, or even groceries.
It’s but natural to consider setting up an e-commerce store for your business.
On the other hand, there are millions of websites out there. How do you ensure that your website stands out from the crowd?
Is it even worth building a website or is it better to just piggyback on major e-commerce platforms like Amazon?
In this article, we’ll go through what is e-commerce all about, what are the benefits of e-commerce and what are the best marketing strategies while setting up an online sales channel.
Of course, most people have all kinds of expectations when they start their e-commerce journey. Let’s discuss the top myths around e-commerce and what the reality looks like.
Expectation: E-commerce will automatically double or triple my sales
Some people believe that once they set up their website/put their products on Amazon, they can sit back and relax.
People will automatically discover their products and sales will skyrocket. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Reality: The benefits of e-commerce come over a long period of time and after a prolonged effort
The truth of the matter is that there are 110,000 e-commerce companies out there that generate revenue of some scale. This doesn’t even include the smaller e-commerce players.
So if you need to stand out in a crowded market. You have to be willing to put in the effort. This starts right from the website design and development stage and goes down to SEO(Search Engine Optimization), online advertising, promotions, referrals, and effective audience targeting.
Organic traffic doesn’t come for at least 7-8 months and even then it will only come if you’ve been putting in the work in terms of SEO.
Be prepared for a long journey where you will have to find several growth hacks before you have a successful, sustainable online business.
Setting up an online business is just as difficult as setting up an offline one. In fact, given the low barriers to entry, it’s probably harder.
Expectation: My product is on Amazon; I don’t need to set up my own website
Most people feel that once their product is on a major e-commerce platform like Amazon, Alibaba, or Flipkart, they don’t need to invest time and energy in setting up their own website.
While that may be a good short-term approach, a more long-term strategy should include building your own brand presence online.
Reality: Brands that don’t invest in an independent online presence tend to suffer in the long run
Having your product on a widely used e-commerce platform like Amazon is a great strategy to hit the ground running. You’ll immediately get access to millions of users, many of whom will be searching for a product like yours on a daily basis.
However, once you have access to a large set of loyal customers, it’s a good idea to start building your own platform.
This is because, as you scale, you will need more customization and analytics which an e-commerce marketplace won’t be able to provide.
Plus, as long as you’re using a third-party platform, you will be subject to their whims. You never know when a sudden policy change has a massive impact on your earnings.
If you’re backed by your own platform, you’ll be much less dependent on a third-party solution.
Expectation: Social media is enough for an effective marketing campaign
Since we’re inundated with brands on Facebook and Instagram, we start believing a good social media campaign is all an effective marketing strategy needs.
Reality: The best marketing strategies incorporate a wide variety of tactics
The truth is unless you have a long-term, comprehensive plan for your marketing, you won’t be able to see a significant bump in your sales. You need to start by looking at the two sources of traffic - organic and paid.
For organic traffic, you will need to get started on things like SEO-optimized web content, social media posts, SEO-friendly blogs, email marketing and other attractive content formats.
These activities will show sustainable results over the long term. To get an immediate bump in sales, you will have to invest in online advertising.
While social media advertising is definitely a great way to reach out to your audience, other options like search engine marketing (SEM) might work even better.
The exact marketing mix that will work for you depends on the kind of product and your target audience.
Expectation: The platform I choose for my website is not important
Many people, especially if they’re not programmers themselves, don’t know the difference between the various e-commerce platforms and whether it even matters.
Reality: You have to choose the right e-commerce platform based on your requirements
You can choose between two kinds of platforms depending on what your needs are. The first is a commercial e-commerce website builder. This makes it easy to set up the website.
Shopify is a great example. You should choose this kind of website if you value ease-of-use and don’t plan on scaling up or customizing the platform too much.
If you’re planning to scale up in future and add more customized features as you go along, a self-hosted, open-source website is a better option.
Expectation: Most customers aren’t looking for an omnichannel experience
Many people who have a physical store and cater to a largely local customer base feel there isn’t much value in adding an online channel.
Reality: Customers are increasingly driven towards an omnichannel shopping experience
Most experts agree that the future of retail is the omnichannel shopping experience. Customers are looking for a complete shopping experience that combines the benefits of both online shopping and offline stores.
If you already have a physical store that caters to a local customer base, you can leverage this.
For instance, you can have the option of a few hours delivery for nearby customers who’d rather order online.
Another advantage is that you can have a “pick up in store” service for locals who place their order online at their convenience and then just stop by to pick up their order.
You can also undertake cross-promotion by advertising deals on your website for customers who visit the store and vice-versa.
People either tend to believe there is no need for an e-commerce strategy or they believe that once they build their presence online, sales will follow.
Neither of these is true. At the end of the day, setting up an e-commerce presence is a lot harder than it looks.
At the same time, in today’s business environment it’s more of a necessity than a luxury. With the right experts and sustained effort, it can open up a whole new horizon.
The first step towards creating a successful e-commerce venture is understanding your target audience really well. You then need to build a website and incorporate a marketing strategy that caters perfectly to this audience.
What is your take on the e-commerce world? Are there any realities you would like to share with us and our readers?