Without a doubt, it’s a visual world. Sight is arguably the most profound sensory marker human beings enjoy, and much of our everyday activity revolves around visualization.
Double that for consumer choice. Making purchases online practically mandates a photo, even when the product is something generic and technological, and aesthetics are irrelevant. We all want to see what we’re getting.
Expand that to the psychology of consumerism. The best way to sell is to understand that for many people, you’re selling more than just a product. When the customer engages in a desire to acquire what you’re selling, they are shaping a narrative to work that product into their lives. They are personalizing the experience.
That’s where quality photography sneaks in. When possible, avoiding using only a manufacturer’s illustration as you provide visual illustrations. Obviously, high-volume resellers may have no choice, and that is perfectly fine. But if you’re building a niche business and your products are specialized, presenting an enticing visual image will connect buyers with them as part of the natural adherence to sensory perception.
Let’s face it, the idea of starting an ecommerce business is to sell, not to take back. But achieving ultimate customer satisfaction demands a fair and equitable way to appease clients if their purchase doesn’t fit their expectations, or worse, if it’s defective.
It’s not enough to have an informal, barely mentioned caveat referring to returns. Customers want to know upfront how you will respond to their decision to return what you’ve sold them. If you don’t have a clear, articulate, and accessible return policy available for them to read prior to purchase, you’re asking for trouble.
Keep in mind that whatever is a reasonable way for your business to handle returns, it’s essential to conduct research using figures and anecdotes from other vendors before writing up a policy.
It may sound like a sad reality; a necessary evil. But think of this: Your clear, fair return policy may actually keep a customer base and, better yet, drive sales.
Unfortunately, the escalating cost of shipping with all carriers is a critical factor. If you can’t afford to return items that are structurally sound but just not what the customer likes, you will have to spell that out in plain language. It could deter some business, but as long as the buyer understands at the outset that the purchase is permanent, you’re off the hook.
Uncle Sam puts the fear of God into just about everyone who receives income or revenues. When the Tax Man cometh, it’s not to be taken lightly.
Businesses are wise to prepare before launching when it comes to how to treat taxes on federal, state, and local levels. As you’re starting or upgrading an ecommerce venture, the pressure to focus on marketing and aesthetics is intense. But do yourself a favor and make sure your financial ducks are in a row.
If you can’t yet hire a professional accountant, pay attention to these basics of doing business. You will be liable for taxes on profits you make at the end of each business year. Typically, the formula for determining taxable revenues is this:
The government will collect taxes on your profits only, so make sure they are calculated accurately. Depending on the corporate structure you have chosen, you will experience asset protection and a separation of personal and business assets and liabilities. This is where an accountant becomes essential. You may be shortchanging yourself by overpaying taxes, and the IRS will not graciously correct your errors if it doesn’t benefit them.
It’s no surprise that ecommerce now represents the future of consumer buying. As computer use has become more widespread, and as large virtual retailers such as Amazon have paved a path, the natural result would be a proliferation of acquiring goods and services online. The explosive growth is so profound that economists have forecast worldwide sales revenues of $4.5 trillion in 2021 from online shopping – a hike of more than 240 percent over a 7-year period.
With opportunities like that down the horizon, the number of individuals and entities looking to enter the ecommerce sector will be equally grand. And while the playing field may not be level, there are ways to capitalize an ecommerce business from the ground up. Despite an obvious concern over a glutted market and competition, the number one factor causing ecommerce startups to fail is funding. Second to that is a lack of a tangible market.
Understanding scale, competition, risk, and creditworthiness, potential and new ecommerce merchants should conduct in-depth research on how to conjure up enough funding to launch a startup or pour more fuel on a fledgling business that hasn’t quite taken off.
The usual methods of financing a new or newer business are still there, although instability in world and domestic markets due to multiple factors in 2021 may temper those opportunities. Banks are still underwriting small business loans through government programs, and if you have success in that area, it’s a great option. But criteria have tightened because of constraints imposed during the global pandemic, making liquidity an issue.
Unique to 2020 (and now 2021) is the rush to provide stimulus relief funding that will salvage businesses after the Covid-19 pandemic threw a monkey wrench into the economy. A massive package from the spring of 2020 dispensed billions of dollars in grants and loans backed by or given directly from the Treasury and state governments. Despite widespread fraud, the next stimulus bill making its way through Congress will also offer funding help. Here are some details on how to apply.
Also in this category are venture capital investors targeted to ecommerce firms, and even ecommerce grants. Some examples of grant programs and other funding sources may be found here.
Private financing is a great deal—if you can get it. Typically an existing relationship with a banker is a prerequisite, but not always. Explore your options, beginning with connections you currently have.
The Year ‘Viral’ Gained New Meaning
Rounding the corner into the second year of a near-complete disruption in every facet of life, the COVID-19 virus is still on pace to wreak havoc. Nary an element of public and private interests has been shaken to the core, with forced quarantines and stay-at-home orders, business closures, pared down access to essential services, and education interruptions.
The good news is a recent release of long-awaited vaccines that experts say will begin to slow the spread in a significant way. The not-so-good news seems to reflect resistance among a substantive number of skeptics who, for one reason or another, may not partake.
Overall, we are heading in a good direction. And if you are engaged in online commerce, you should feel relieved to discover that the uptick in ecommerce business that began last year is likely to continue. Some smaller entities experienced a noticeable increase in sales, while major retailers and top brands grew exponentially. Market analysts believe the ecommerce industry is the most prolific beneficiary of the COVID-19 debacle, with penetration rates exploding from their current level of 15 percent to 25 percent by 2025.
This did not happen in a vacuum. As consumer habits and preferences have evolved over time, many have enjoyed the convenience of digital shopping. Not only has online commerce become more and more popular, but using a device to find and purchase goods has become one of the most popular activities conducted online. Ecommerce sales are projected to grow from $1.3 trillion in 2014 to $4.5 trillion in 2021. This increase can only be considered revolutionary.
As COVID-19 turned the world upside down, consumers resorted to social media to make connections in a socially-distanced environment. However, social media also serves as a strong platform for retailers to build trust with customers---and it has a significantly strong influence on buying decisions.
71% Users More Likely to Purchase from Social ReferralsWe all know the power of social proof, but the stats show exactly where the strongest influence comes from with social users.
For example, 71% of people are more likely to buy a product that’s based on social media referrals. This includes seeing ads from retailers or even from influences.
Influencer marketing is recognized as one of the most powerful ways to market products. This is especially the case for Twitter, as studies show that 50% of users made purchases directly because an influencer referred the product.
What Social Platforms Bring the Most Product Sales?Keep in mind that not all social platforms will yield the same results. You must consider the demographic and where your ideal customer most likely spends their time online. This is part of the bigger strategy of choosing the correct social platform for promotion.
Many product-based brands can find selling success on the following platforms:
Depending on your perspective, 2020 may be the most disastrous year to be in business, or it may be the best year ever to have launched an ecommerce store. Analysts include cyber-selling as one of countless sectors disrupted immeasurably by one of the worst global pandemics in world history—and certainly in the United States.
While life and health represent the primary collateral damage of Covid-19, it’s harder to escape the tie-in between economics and well-being. As states began to implement closures of non-essential businesses, economic figures from the stock markets to GDP reflected a devastating side effect. A fascinating byproduct of that was a shifting of commerce from in-person to home-based, creating the kind of climate making ecommerce businesses naturally flourish.
And they have. Coinciding with a general transition to convenient online shopping, the Novel Coronavirus looks to be a windfall for the most prolific digital seller–Amazon–with niche entities following on their heels. For its share, Amazon’s net revenues by in the second quarter of 2020 soared to a dizzying $89.1 billion. With the holiday shopping season approaching, that number could double for the third and fourth quarters.
As goes Amazon, so goes the rest of digital commerce. Second-quarter retail e-commerce sales in the U.S. climbed by almost a third from the previous quarter, to just over $211 billion.
If becoming a digital store felt overwhelming, what we’re about to discuss may make you sweat. Don’t. It’s an up-and-coming topic developing in the changing world of ecommerce merchandising. It addresses how to collect on what you sell, and how to make it easier for your customers to buy.
Dubbed “BNPL” for short, the concept of Buy Now; Pay Later offers payment plans for goods–something that was once only a reality for big retailers offered through proprietary credit cards, or by accepting bank cards. That’s still a way to go, but what if you could ease the pain of customers who really want what you have, but are constrained by a temporary financial shortfall?
In the era of a global pandemic, creative financing has taken on various forms; experts believe the shutdowns have advanced ecommerce developments by up to five years. As shopping online has exploded, strategic agreements with underwriters mean even small businesses can entice buyers with offers to pay in installments.
Flexible payment methods are attractive to nearly 60 percent of consumers who purchase online. Those numbers might incentivize your decision to explore the possibilities. Though not without limitations, it’s at very least a marketing tactic that accommodates tough times.
Offering payment flexibility requires a direct integration through your point-of-sale system, and that initial step is big. Some players providing this service include Affirm, Afterpay, Klarna, and Quadpay. PayPal, perhaps the most prolific online payment platform, announced in August that it would begin a launch.
One study analyzed data of BNPL programs over a three-month period, reviewing almost a half-million transactions across more than 300 retailers. They included the above five platforms. Here’s what they found:
It’s not every day you read a blog post that promotes other blog posts. In the growing sector of ecommerce, the novelty factor is still in play, and merchants can use all the help they can get. Trading ideas may be a boon for both parties, as small fish rely on big fish, and big fish discover trending new product lines, marketing strategies, and fresh ideas from the relative minnows.
Some of the best and most useful ecommerce-related blogs both sharpen the focus of online selling and invite an expansion of old ideas. They recount what works and what’s been more duplicitous or unwieldy. They draw readers out of a place of isolation faced by many who move from in-person operations to digital selling.
Here are some of our favorite blogs that explore comprehensive facets of online merchandising, in no particular order:
Ecommerce Nation Blog
Geared to a global audience, this site delivers news, tips, interviews with industry movers and shakers, and an assortment of creative topics.
Greeted by a sweet little basenji, your first experience with Nosto’s current post goes beyond the dog-eat-dog world and ferrets out the reimbursement element of commerce. Though nearly a year old, its most interesting entry addresses multi-currency as a solution to cross-border selling. Finance-related concerns rarely age, and on Nosto you’ll find a menu of useful topics laid out in a nice interface.
True to its name, ECF dazzles with an array of news and information relevant to both small and big businesses. From advice on customer loyalty programs to personal wellness for the ecommerce merchant, and from unconventional email campaign strategies to cathartic humor, this site makes it fun to devote your energy to online selling.
Don’t be fooled by a title – Big Commerce is just as useful for the little guy. With a bevy of tips from veteran online merchants, this blog offers incentives for experimenting with both proprietary and unconventional ways to conduct business from start to finish. Its clean layout is easy to navigate; its content is inspiring enough to peruse for extended periods of time. Many like sites add tips on the best ecommerce business ideas, but BigCommerce follows through with numerous examples sourced from outside their domain.
Volusion’s blog, “The Ecommerce Authority,” is a veritable treasure chest of information and tips. With Black Friday around the corner, its multiple posts related to holiday sales makes it a worthy read. Add pieces on personal merchant stories, web page optimization, rating payment platforms, and running SEO tests, and you have a blog source you will want to bookmark.
Confused as you may be by the litany of jingo surrounding Everything Internet, there’s a term you will want to embrace: Inbound Marketing.
The “inbound” modifier sets forth an important distinction between the conventional idea of marketing employed by businesses for decades. It refers to a trending 21st Century concept of capturing both the lifestyle factor and the online engagement of customers and potential customers. “Outbound marketing” involves pop-up ads, direct-sales emailing, and anything produced as a proactive attempt to sell your brand or product.
With the proliferation of information made possible by online commerce, and the evolving comfort level of humans warming up to an increasing amount of time spent online, marketing strategies in current times demand more creative adaptations. Inbound marketing seeks to make your brand part of a consumer’s life, avoiding the tendency to disrupt their focus with unsolicited communications.
Analysts call this “interruptive marketing,” citing dismal results as consumers already inundated with an overflow of stimuli are more inclined to seek out their own personalized content that will lead to buying decisions. The advent of mass interruptive advertising and marketing has led to a greater demand for technology that blocks such content, and that demand has been mostly fulfilled.
Currently about one-quarter of web crawling prospective clients employ ad-blocking software. This is a disaster for any business still clinging to proactive, interruptive advertising. Worse, the traditional display ad on digital media shows a click-through rate of less than 1 percent among those who do not block ads.