We live in a world that relies extensively on digital communication and technology for most interactions, whether commercial or not. Every day, millions of Americans browse their favorite online platforms to catch up with friends, work, and, of course, to shop. As such, eCommerce has also been an iconic symbol of digital evolution. However, far from being the success you’d expect, the majority of online retail shops fail in less than a year. According to several sources, 9 out of 10 eCommerce startups shut down within 120 days of operation.
Lack of online visibility is one of the key factors for failure. However, search engine optimization and search engine marketing can rapidly tackle this issue to provide a business with an indexed, findable, and appealing presence in search engines. Is SEO the sole issue that online retailers face? The answer is no. Their full marketing strategy is to blame for the failure. Many don’t manage to establish a suitable online presence that can sustain the competition of giants such as Amazon or other global retail brands. Gareth Hoyle, managing director at Marketingsignals.com, highlights the need for a bulletproof online marketing strategy that meets their market objectives and audience needs. With 37% of eCommerce businesses failing as a result of poor online marketing strategy, business owners need to focus on the following issues in priority:
#1. Payment obstacles
You need to make it as easy as possible for your customers to pay at the end of their visits. Many potential visitors abandon their baskets when the payment steps become too complicated or involved. Ideally, customers want to be able to pay in the most practical way for them. In other words, eCommerce businesses need to offer a variety of options that are relevant to their customer base. Paypal and credit card payments are some of the most commonly used methods. However, more and more customers are relying on Google Checkouts or Apple Pay to make swift payments on their favorite online retail shops. Additionally, the increase in cryptocurrency transactions is challenging eCommerce to adapt and embrace the new payment method.
#2. Poor audience research
A good product that doesn’t target the right audience is a waste of time and money. Unfortunately, audience and market research tends to be too easily overlooked by eCommerce startups. More often than not, new businesses assume that their products will naturally find its audience. But there is no time for experimenting when you’re competing against already established companies. Botched-up market research can lead to the following marketing problems:
- Inability to reach out to the ‘right’ audience
- Using communication channels that are unfamiliar to your audience group
- Creating an unsuitable communication message or voice
- Bad market timing
- Lack of effective audience segmentation
- Uncompetitive pricing model
- Inability to meet the latest trends and expectations
#3. Failure to communicate your brand vision
While products can be part of your differentiation strategy, they may not be sufficient to establish your brand identity. Indeed, not every online retailer sells unique products. Even if you create your own range of products, you should ensure your online presence reflects on your brand vision. Many new businesses hit a wall when it comes to defining and representing their brand vision. Expert marketing agency, Makro Agency, specializes in capturing the brand personality and message of each of their clients using effective digital marketing channels. Creating a homogeneous branding book that remains consistent across all platforms – website, social media, etc. – is a challenge in its own right. A professional branding strategy can ensure each customer understands in a glance the brand values and identity. Thus, conveying the right branding message includes a lot more than adding your logo to the site.
#4. Ineffective remarketing
More and more customers browse through an eCommerce shop without buying anything during their first visit. However, it doesn’t mean they will never buy. Your customers need a little convincing. It’s precisely what remarketing strategies can do. Remarketing is, in essence, the process of retargeting users who know your site and brand but haven’t yet committed to purchasing. As your remarketing audience already knows your brand, you need to create dedicated content that can convert their hesitation into a conversion. Consequently, remarketing ads need to be smart about their content choice. Providing generic product images isn’t going to appeal to your audience. Relevant content can be a game-changer, such as showing your audience images of the products they’ve looked at on the site.
#5. Forgetful baskets
How long would you say it takes to make a decision? Ecommerce shoppers can be quick to convert in a matter of seconds or need several days or weeks before finalizing their purchase. Why the difference, you ask. There are different types of shoppers. Some already know what they need and have done the preliminary research work. They’re ready to convert. Others are perusing and placing items in their baskets to come back and check at a later time. If your basket options can’t remember items for more than a few hours, customers are likely to take their business elsewhere. Ideally, the basket should keep all products for at least a week. While this will mean updating stock availability when someone else buys the same item, it also gives potential customers the time to consider their purchase.
#6. Lack of social media engagement
Social media channels support two-way communication. To put it simply, it is a platform where every user, whether they are a business or a buyer, can create unique content. While customers and brand lovers turn to their favorite social media platforms to find out more about the latest items and offers, they also expect the brand to listen to their voices. A brand such as H&M has created the #hmxme hashtag on Instagram, which enables buyers to showcase their H&M outfits. Photos are also visible on the H&M app and website. This approach serves many purposes. From the brand’s perspective, it’s the opportunity to get additional content for free. But it also helps the brand connect to the audience and display a variety of styles and ideas. Shoppers benefit from the social approval from the brand, feeling, hence, valued as customers.
#7. No app
Is a website enough to go big as an eCommerce business?
In 2020, a website is not going to break the online retail market. When more and more customers shop from their smartphones, your eCommerce needs a mobile app to survive. Almost 8 in 10 smartphone users prefer to use a mobile app rather than a mobile browser. They prefer the convenience of a platform that is easy to navigate and access. Additionally, an app allows businesses to send regular notifications to keep their customers engaged. Web-only users will need to change programs to consult the information in an email newsletter.
#8. Single currency approach
Global eCommerce businesses need to be able to adapt to their international audience. We mentioned earlier the need for payment platform diversity to include different requirements and payment preferences. Users also expect to be able to tell the cost of their purchase easily. Being able to change currencies on the app or the website can tackle many issues faced by international shoppers. A buyer in Spain, for instance, will expect to see the price displayed in €. A price set in $ would not be meaningful. Additionally, international buyers also want to know how much they will have to pay in shipping and customs costs before committing to purchase.
#9. No VIP program
VIP customers are crucial to the success of your eCommerce business. Loyalty programs can help to retain existing customers. When you know that loyal and returning customers are likely to spend 67% more than new customers, according to BigCommerce, it becomes crucial to make them feel special and valued. There is a wide variety of loyalty programs available, from point-based incentives to paid VIP memberships. Each approach has its values and advantages, depending on your online retail strategy. For instance, online retailers with price-sensitive customers will need to reward customers generously for their purchases without expecting high membership payments.
#10. Complex return process
Broken items. Clothes that don’t fit. Products whose color is different from the picture. Products that arrived too late.
Regardless of the reasons, your customers may not want to keep their items. However, if you make it difficult for them to return the unwanted object and receive a timely refund, you expose yourself to a costly backlash. People prefer to take their business elsewhere when the return process doesn’t meet their expectations. Therefore, it’s essential to consider your return period – 14 days, 30 days, 100 days? –, as well as the best solution to save time and cost on returns. Customers who paid for delivery are unwilling to pay again to return an item that didn’t meet their expectations, for instance.
Online retailers need to put themselves in the shoes of their shoppers. Appealing to an online audience doesn’t happen overnight. However, your eCommerce business will struggle to attract and retain customers during the first 120 days of its existence without a sustainable digital marketing strategy.