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Phillip Moorman

What’s missing in your business?

E-commerce has taken off in the last few years, but as with any business model, it has its own difficulties and issues.

Successful e-commerce businesses tend to have a few characteristics in common, and these characteristics set them up for unique opportunities that their less-prepared brethren may miss out on. Are you ready to pounce on opportunity when it comes up? If you’re not, it may be because you’re missing out on one of these key traits.

So just what are the traits of a successful e-commerce business?

1) Customer Focus

This is always first. It has a trickle-down effect on everything else.

Every company that stays successful is focused on giving the customer something that fits their needs—whether those be physical, mental, social, or anything else. E-commerce is no different.

One of the most successful e-commerce businesses of the last several years is Dollar Shave Club.

They were distinguished early by their willingness to listen to their customers—when one of their products turned out to be a dud, they refunded all 64,000 people that had bought it, whether they asked for it or not, and then created a new and improved version to send out. They staked their claim on talking with regular Joes, not just pre-selected focus groups or investors.

That’s the kind of customer focus that gets attention, and the reason Dollar Shave Club grew so rapidly and got bought out by Unilever. They found a unique niche, and they capitalized on it by distinguishing themselves from their competitors. And it was as simple as listening.

2) Audience Research

Successful e-commerce businesses stay ahead of the curve on their audience. They know where their customers spend their time and what they like, what sort of lifestyle they live and what sort of lifestyle they aspire to. They track trends.

Staying up-to-date on your audience is a constant concern. Periodic surveys are useful for this, depending on the size of the market. Personal conversation is another avenue that can help.

That’s actually the reason Sourcify started—our founder Nathan Resnick found out through conversations with many of his peers and business partners that there was a niche that wasn’t being filled. We still strive to stay tapped in with them to make sure we’re addressing their needs.

More than ever, you need to understand exactly who it is you’re marketing to. With more in-depth advertising algorithms, any data you can get on who your customers are stands a good chance of being useful in your next digital advertising campaign.

3) Business Sense

This is a no-brainer, but business sense matters just as much in e-commerce as it does in regular business.

One of the most effective ways to apply this is through periodic reviews. Quarterly business reviews have been a staple for ages, and there’s a reason for that. They’re a great time to look back at what worked and didn’t work, and then take that knowledge and apply it moving forward.

These are essential for e-commerce businesses too—but don’t just stop there. The incredibly rapid pace of change on the Internet means you have to be on top of current trends in your business and have the data at your fingertips at all times.

The best e-commerce firms still have periodic reviews, but they combine that with the agility to make changes when it becomes obvious that they’re needed. Stay flexible.

4) Reliable Shipping

Amazon is obviously the standard-bearer for e-commerce logistics, with their blazing fast distribution network. But e-commerce companies are successful without that super speed too. How?

It turns out that reliability and cost are more important than speed for most customers.

Sure, you’ll get some people who want it NOW, and some who don’t really care when it gets there. But the most important factor in shipping speed is this: do you do what you say you’re going to do?

Your business will live and die by your reputation, and if you stake your reputation on consistently delivering what your customer needs (and rapidly fixing it when you can’t), you’re setting yourself up on a foundation of success.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to optimize delivery speeds with central fulfillment locations or multiple distribution centers. But it does mean you should spend more time focusing on fulfilling your promises and optimizing your costs, and less stressing about shaving a little delivery time off.

5) Smooth Checkouts

You could be killing off sales without even knowing it, and it’s easy to fix. If you’re seeing a lot of abandoned carts and a high bounce rate from your checkout, it might be because your checkout process is bad.

Look at some of the pioneers in this space, and how simple and effective their checkouts are. Bonobos has long been a go-to example of success, and their checkout process is a masterpiece of minimal design. They minimize friction that can cause abandoned carts and make sure they have a way to contact users who leave their carts behind.

The best e-commerce companies strip all the unnecessary trappings out of the checkout process, leaving only what’s necessary. Optimize this and you’ll be on your way to joining them in success.

6) Quality User Experience

This ties in directly to the point about checkout experience—your website has to inspire trust, or nobody’s going to give you payment information. Good design and content can go a long way towards establishing that trust.

If your design is amateurish and there are typos or awkward phrasing in your copy, you’ll turn people off immediately. Some of this is “permission to play” stuff, but think about it a little deeper too: is your experience tailored to your audience? Does your design appeal to the people you’re trying to sell to? What about your content? Is your design optimized for mobile?

Slow-loading, confusing websites do not make for successful e-commerce.

The most successful get this right. Make sure you’re one of them.

7) Tailored SEO

Here’s a statistic that will probably either scare or excite you: over 50% of searches are likely to be voice-based by 2020.

That means you really need to be dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s when it comes to long-tail search terms. The explosion of voice search means that if you’re not one of the top results—or THE top result—you’re going to be left behind.

Smart e-commerce firms have already prioritized SEO. 93% of all online experiences start with a search engine, after all. There are plenty of case studies out there that support the importance of good SEO. Join the ranks of successful e-commerce businesses and prioritize it if you’re not already—capitalize on the high buying intent audiences that Google can send your way.

You Can Succeed In E-Commerce, Too

All of these tips are just a starting point for your business.

Some of them you may already have implemented. But if you haven’t, join the successful pioneers who’ve gone ahead—there’s plenty more business to go around.

Be the best you can be and take your business to new heights in 2018 with these 7 traits of successful e-commerce businesses.

The future of sourcing starts here

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