4 Ways to Rapidly Grow Your Ecommerce Business
It’s no secret the ecommerce opportunity is large – online sales grew faster in 2016 than the previous three years. But with big sales come big demands and customers have come to expect simple, one-click shopping with speedy shipping options. Providing the “Amazon experience” on your own is costly, time-consuming and can hold you back from giving your business the attention it needs to grow. It doesn’t have to be that way. A variety of new, accessible tech tools can help automate routine internal process and tedious administrative work. Here are the top four aspects of your ecommerce business you can streamline — with the help of technology — to save time and increase your bottom line.
1) Invest in a scalable ecommerce software
Shopping anything and everything online is the new norm (the Web made up almost 42% of all growth in the U.S. retail market last year). As a blossoming business, you can’t afford to fall behind and miss out on such a lucrative opportunity.
To put it simply, selling online requires a website — one that can display your inventory, collect orders, accept payments and provide a place for your customers to interact with your brand. Ecommerce software makes this easy, especially if you don’t have development experience. Luckily, choosing the right one has never been easier. Whether you already have some skin in the ecommerce game or are looking to take your brick and mortar offerings online, try a platform like Shopify or Squarespace.
Squarespace provides powerful tools that can help you build out a modern, attractive online storefront from scratch. If this is your first step into the ecommerce space, Squarespace is a versatile and inexpensive option for those just getting started selling their products online.
Those with higher volume should consider Shopify, which costs more but will allow you to build a more feature-laden online shop. If you already have an online presence, you can simply plug your existing URL to build out a fresh, customized storefront based on Shopify’s vast library of templates. With a few more mouse clicks you can easily set up payment processes, add new product listings, display return and exchange policies, and establish state taxes and shipping rates. Best of all, Shopify seamlessly integrates with your brick and mortar store, so you can manage all of your inventory and process payments with consistency using the same platform.
2) Utilize a cloud-based CRM to track and act on sales leads
Sales are the lifeblood of any business. Unfortunately for many aspiring entrepreneurs, generating leads and turning them into sales is a major challenge.
Finding a reliable customer relationship management (CRM) system can make a huge difference in organizing your efforts so you get the most out of your limited time and resources. CRM software helps keep track of all interactions with customers and leads so that you can reach out to them in a personalized way that resonates every time. Every business has different needs, so research which product best fits your company in terms of budget and required features. (Do you need CRM to nurture leads? To deliver better customer support?)
In general, there are a number of paid and free CRM systems to choose from — popular options include Zoho CRM, Insightly and Salesforce. Zoho CRM and Insightly are excellent free software options that don’t skimp on capability and are highly scalable as your business grows. Salesforce, on the other hand, is typically associated with larger businesses and enterprises — but also offers a small business option that is affordable and provides access to the product’s core set of robust tools and resources.
3) Automate email marketing and track social media conversations to build brand loyalty
In today’s digital landscape, there are an endless number of completely free ways to get your business message out there. If you haven’t dipped your toe in the water on email or social media marketing yet, it’s time to jump in.
Email marketing has the highest return on investment than any other digital marketing strategies, and with products like MailChimp it’s easier than ever to set up an automated email campaign. MailChimp offers a free account for up to 2,000 contacts with no cap on the number of messages you send. The service comes with a wide variety of templates you can use to craft your message — along with options to import contacts, track campaign performance and auto-respond to your most (or least) engaged customers.
Social media is another digital marketing technique that smart companies are embracing as a catalyst for brand growth. Every small business owner should take advantage of tools to automate social media posts and monitor conversations. Simple platforms like Hootsuite allow you to schedule important posts ahead of time and identify when your brand is mentioned, so you can spend less time posting company updates and more time jumping in on actual conversations with customers and prospects. Hootsuite’s easy-to-use interface can also scale with your brand as your social media presence grows.
4) Outsource your shipping and fulfillment needs
Once you’re actually making sales at a regular cadence, one of the most difficult challenges of running an ecommerce shop is fulfilling those orders. Buying special boxes, comparing carrier rates, printing shipping labels and actually packaging products can eat up hours of your day (not to mention saddle you with unexpected costs) that you should be using to grow your business. If you’ve been handling fulfillment for your ecommerce store all on your own, I’m sure this boxing nightmare sounds familiar.
All that added work and expense is enough to shutter even a thriving online shop, but it doesn’t has to be that way. An app called Shyp (full disclosure: I am the founder and CEO) is aiming to make fulfillment easy for ecommerce businesses and marketplace sellers alike. With Shyp, you have a number of easy-to-use options that can blend seamlessly into your workflow. No more self-packaging boxes or printing dozens of shipping labels — just supply the products and order information and Shyp will handle the rest. And the service is already integrated into e-commerce tools like eBay and Shopify, which makes fulfilling orders on those platforms straightforward and easy.
Utilizing tech tools to automate some of the drudgery won’t eliminate all of the challenges associated with running an ecommerce shop. But it will ease the burden by taking care of the of the heavy lifting, freeing you up so you can focus on what really matters — connecting with your customers, delivering a superior product and growing your business.