Unprovoked eCommerce Tips
By Iain Calvert
Since 2003 this is what I’ve found works in eCommerce. It’s the advice I wish someone had given me to accelerate my learning.
It gets updated every time I post on Linkedin (twice a week).
1. You Don't Have To Be Big To Make Money
Not all big shiny well-known eCommerce businesses are profitable. Far from it in many cases.
Jason Andrew gets it. Watch this straight-talking review of Casper Mattresses business in the US. Hint, not even close to turning a profit.
2.Sell Products People Are Already Searching For Is A Good Place To Start
Starting out and not sure what to sell, or thinking about selling a new range of products? Use Google Trends (free) to see if anyone is actually searching for that type of product and if the demand is increasing or decreasing.
For example, if you were deciding on selling either water bottles or dog treadmills (I imagine a common choice for many 😉 I’d go with water bottles based on Google Trends.
3.Stories Sell Products Not Facts
Did you know 29% of stats are made up? In fact, I just made that up!
Stop trying to sell your product with stats and numbers. “Our dog treadmills will make your dog 51% healthier”.
No one believes or remembers them.
Instead, tell a story of how someone like them had an issue and your product solved it.
“Dave hadn’t walked Dingo the dog in days. A new project at work had meant long hours. Then he bought a Dog Treadmill and Dingo started walking himself at home. Dingo even got a Fitbit for his birthday and would send Dave his step count when he was working late.”
Even the best-crafted story wouldn’t sell Dog Treadmills, but if you want to learn the art of selling by storytelling. A must-read book on this is Seth Godin’s “All Marketers Are Liars”.
4. Best Podcast For eCommerce Business Owners
One of the best sources of genuine insight for eCommerce business owners I’ve found is the eCommerce Fuel podcast.
It’s aimed at eCommerce business owners with revenue in excess of $1m. Although it is US-based, the insights from real store owners are useful and actionable, rather than “best practice” for Australian and UK business owners.
5. Average eCommerce Conversion Rate
There is no “average” eCommerce conversion rate. I’ve seen successful stores convert at 0.5% and others at 12%.
6. Each Country Is Different, Very Different When It Come To eCommerce
This tip comes from Japan. Each country has unique nuances that customers expect and are easily overlooked if you don’t understand the culture you’re selling to. For example here in Japan it’s very common to offer payment at convenience stores like 7 Eleven, which is known as “Konbini” payments, as credit cards aren’t used online as much as in the UK and Australia.
7. How To Organise A Meeting Time With An International eCommerce Team
Most eCommerce business owners will be working with people in multiple times zones. Manufacturers overseas, team working remotely etc. It’s a pain to figure out the best time to organise a call across multiple time zones, especially with countries that do or don’t have daylight savings.
I couldn’t live without an app called Time Buddy. It finds the best time across multiple time zones. First three time zones are free and you can easily change them.
8. Email Marketing Works For Businesses With Repeat Customers
Email marketing for stores with repeat customers is one of the most profitable ways to promote your eCommerce store. It amazes me how many people think it’s a spammy way of marketing, but with most things, it’s how you do it and the results can be really good.
There are many email marketing tools available to you an eCommerce businesses owner. These are the best two I have used.
9. Sales Increase Revenue But Can Decrease Profits And Make Your Brand Look Cheap
Only advertising your sale, or offering a discount pop up straight away might give you better short term results, like higher conversion rate and better return on ad spend, but you’re telling customers you’re a discount brand, which will reduce your gross profit in the long run. Unless your plan is to be a discount retailer, once you’re known as one, it sticks and customers expect it. Yes discount to clear stock from time to time, but don’t make it your go-to strategy.
10. Changing eCommerce Platforms Can Cause Big Drops In Visitors If Not Handled Correctly
If you change your website platform, say from WooCommerce to Shopify. You need to know what an SEO Migration is. If you don’t, expect a large drop in SEO traffic and sales if you don’t. You’ve been warned!
11. Dropping Shipping Isn't A Sustainable Business Model
Dropshipping seems like an easy way to start selling online and a handful of people do well at it (then sell a course on how to do it!). However, it significantly delays the delivery time, ends up having very low margins and can be very hit or miss. You’re better off finding a product that sells then invest in buying the stock so you can ship quickly, make bigger margins and build a more sustainable business you control.