Youth is wasted on the young, a pop culture proverb says. Possibly, but it’s not wasted on ecommerce sales. If you aren’t in a niche sector tailored naturally to boomers or the elderly, pay attention. The market is now dominated by under-35ers.
Estimates hold that young consumers have driven the shift to online shopping, and this escalated following the year-plus long Covid pandemic shutdowns. Keeping in mind the importance of developing broad-based marketing strategies, it’s a good bet that targeting younger consumers will pay off big, for a variety of reasons.
First, and most obvious, they compose the lion’s share of online buyers. Second, they are influencers who are often called on by older relatives, coworkers, and others for ideas and knowledge of internet shopping.
Second, those young shoppers won’t be young forever. Cultivating and currying favor among them now will build loyalty – as long as you think carefully about how to tweak your marketing along the way.
Looking at expanding your reach to multiple social media platforms is an essential way to take advantage of the younger consumer base. They populate Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and other apps that are not the standard Facebook (which, almost comically, has become a domain for the older set). Linking your online store through platforms like Shopify is a great start, although a bit of manual labor might allow you to skip that intermediary. Facebook, for example, and its affiliate Instagram continually update features to accommodate online shopping.
Make them happy
What do young shoppers want and expect from online sellers? There are a multitude of answers to that, but common answers include optimized search functions, intuitive interfaces, fresh content, a minimum of unnecessary communications (they are a busy set!) and – wait for it – splashy graphics. Visuals go a long way if they aren’t gawdy and overwhelming.
Considering younger internet users were the first to embrace social media, remember that they still congregate there frequently, even if their preferred platform choices evolve. Many will follow friends who offer inspirational input.
And don’t count out teens, a demographic increasingly gaining access to capital. Their direct buying power is a boon to your business, so treat it accordingly. Research trends and preferences, as well as which sites successfully attract them (see this Good Housekeeping piece from 2020). Respect their price-point limitations without attempting to sell them junk. They will spend more on one good item than four cheaply-made items.
Despite assumptions to the contrary, teens and younger buyers don’t demand high levels of information and an excess of graphics. They should be attractive and educational, but also simplified to capture and keep attention.
Finally, make it clear that you understand their technological savvy. Prove you want to make their buying experience as seamless as possible, leaving open channels of communication initiated by them. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of gaining trust and comfort as a way of forming permanent seller/consumer relationships.
There’s no place like home. The infamous line out of an iconic film tugs on emotional heart strings, but its practicality is inescapable. Perhaps no time in modern history have so many people around the world been reacquainted with the importance of establishing a livable, enjoyable home space as they are now doing more than a year after a global pandemic halted both outside and inside public activities.
The transition from a frightening experience in early 2020, when exterior areas that once bustled with activity were practically ghost towns, to a new hope for reopening, has been gradual and welcomed. That said, few expected the various lockdown mandates to last this long. Coping has been a struggle, between setting up remote workspaces, keeping kids entertained between online learning, and just generally curbing options for pursuits such as shopping.
But something else happened along the way. Consumers increased the already growing rate of online shopping – not just for staples, but for infrastructural home goods aimed at turning a living space into a pleasant permanent shelter. This was an unanticipated boost for merchants peddling related items. And the news gets better: estimates say up to 40 percent of customers who rarely bought online are now seriously considering it as a way of life.
Whether it’s textiles, décor, furniture, hardware, or anything else in the home goods category, shoppers have found the silver lining in COVID-19’s dark cloud by skipping annoying trips around town, in search of the right item. Spending so much time indoors has drawn attention to the living experience people want to enjoy, and this is a golden opportunity for online retailers of home-centered merchandise.
Home goods retailer Bed Bath & Beyond, for example, reported a rare uptick in 2020 sales, despite four consecutive prior years of losses. Their digital sales increased 80 percent. That’s gargantuan, and inspiring.
Your online business may not be in the league of a BB&B or a Lowe’s, Target, or other big-time entities. But you have a product to offer, and if you pay attention to strategy, you may reap the benefits of this mass conversion to digital commerce in the home goods sector.
It’s critical to strike now, while the proverbial iron is hot. Large-scale job losses have spurred government unemployment spending, including decent-sized federal subsidies. Those are slated to end in August, but they already have been extended twice. What happens next is anyone’s guess. Your job today is to meet the needs of shoppers with capital.
The lesson here is to learn how to reach this new brand of consumer. Use the standard strategies of strong marketing, updated product inventory, catchy advertising, and fiscal health checkups to be sure your mechanics are in place. Tailor your advertising (and all communications) to those who have reevaluated the state of their home centers, and pitch with provocative language geared toward making permanent the current focus on home sweet home.
For inspiration and ideas on how to make your online store work for you, hit up Shopify. They’re always good for fresh, motivating content.
With the ever-growing trend of online purchasing, the ability to gauge your success and popularity becomes a critical venture. A vast sea of competition has always been one of your greatest challenges as an ecommerce vendor. Figuring out how to stand out among the rest, as much as possible, is a worthwhile goal to focus on in the short term.
There are established strategies for measuring customer experience attitudes. These generally fall into four categories: Customer Satisfaction Survey (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Effort Score (CES), and Customer Churn Rate. We’ll briefly explain each, but note that your operation may be too small to take on a full-scale task at the moment. If so, see the last paragraph for welcoming news.
While these formal, data-driven methods offer an accurate measure of success, they may be more than you can handle right now. But your efforts need not be that official. Don’t forget the power of personal contact. Your customers may be eager for a vendor who wants to know them. They might respond positively to an organic outreach with tailored questions and solicitations of how you can do better even in small ways. Never forget that the epic divide between brick-and-mortar, conventional retail and digital shopping is rooted in the human touch.
Trends come and go in the ever-evolving world of consumerism, making it extra essential to stay on top of developments if you hope to keep your online business relevant and thriving. Product mixes, technology, marketing – all of these create daily implications for managing an ecommerce biz. What isn’t so unpredictable is the vast, often under-tapped market most skip right over: business-to-business, or B2B selling.
Typically the narrative of a business that caters to fellow merchants rests on wholesalers, banking, payment processors, and other niche industries that have kept large and small businesses going for ages. Maybe it’s time to shift the thought process and see what opportunities might exist for attracting a customer base among other sellers who are not competitors.
Companies servicing online sellers represent a hefty $6 million-plus in annual transactions. It’s true: to be a fixture as a B2B provider, your service or product must be one of two things. First, it must be of high quality and in demand, and reflect updated technology or demand conditions. Second, it absolutely must feature competitive pricing.
Perhaps you can’t offer discounts deep enough to entice fellow retailers who might use your products to add to theirs. Then again, perhaps you can. That’s for you to decide.
The majority of B2B entities serving ecommerce merchants, obviously, are either big-time wholesalers or behind-the-scenes tech and financial firms. But as the scope and direction of internet-based purchasing morphs, nearly any online sellers can take advantage of their unique needs. The secret lies in research, reputation, marketing, and adaptation.
Do your homework
Once you figure out the types of other ecommerce companies you might best serve, go to work developing a promotional strategy by studying the needs of that seller, and its niche. If you are able to deliver products that will streamline their sales and service functions, there’s no reason to assume they will pass you by in favor of a big-time operation.
The most common element in product sales is, well, products. It’s surprisingly easy to leverage an existing relationship with your suppliers to set up a brokering arrangement that takes the acquisitions and supply chain responsibilities off of other vendors. If you’ve done your due diligence in regular research of your own product mix and niche, you should be more than familiar with the tailored demands of that industry. Put your knowledge to work with networking, and with a reworked attitude that focuses not just on what you sell, but on how you can help wholesalers or other retailers make their operations more efficient.
The best part? You won’t need to abandon your core business model and product mix. That B2C function may smoothly co-exist alongside a B2B sideshow. In fact, maintaining a robust site devoted to selling will impress potential businesses considering your services.
It should go without saying that before even considering branching out to a B2B model, be 100 percent sure that your site is slick, engaging, and easy to navigate. The more knowledgeable and reputable you are within your niche, the easier it will be to make pitches to others in a similar position to sell.
Put away your airline mileage card and skip the scheduling resets to be out of the office, because one of the big events attracting retailers every year is set to unfold over a computer screen. After a full year of scaled down sales, drastically altered strategies, and personal sacrifices, the National Retail Federation’s Retail Converge 2021 conference is still on, scheduled for June 21-25. The best part? You won’t need to leave home (or work) to attend.
The NRF bills itself as the “Voice of Retail.” Its annual Converge event offers networking, team building, trend information, and a host of useful ideas for making a new or existing retail business successful. Like most industry-based annual shindigs, it features a litany of great speakers from varying walks of life.
The best industry soirees take place in summer, so count on Converge to kickstart a busy sales season while focusing on tweaked strategies that adapt to the current state of consumerism. It’s increasingly happening online. With educational sessions, sponsor-led sessions, lunch-and-learn sessions, product demos, and interactive roundtables, few stones are left unturned.
Note that NRF’s 2021 marquee event is over, having attracted an impressive crowd. “Forward Together” provided inspirational material and guest speakers to whet the palate of all sellers. But they aren’t done, and the Converge event is a great way to discover how others in the retail biz are coping with this uncertain, chaotic time in history.
Get a feel for the timing and nature of each individual event on this page. It offers an easy-to-read schedule that will allow you to zero in on whatever intrigues you.
Are you feeling more connected to merchants operating in brick-and-mortar locations? You should. It seems as if each year that passes, the chasm between ecommerce and commerce-commerce shrinks. This is a telling moment in time, and a perfect opportunity for the two disparate entities find common ground.
The Converge conference is self-explanatory, as it draws a variety of merchants together to address issues related to commerce in general, including asset protection, supply chain, data privacy, marketing, corporate strategy, and leadership. It also incorporates ecommerce, digital, and mobile, to reflect the merging platforms on which merchants sell.
Tune in for motivational deliveries from Valerie Jarrett, a former senior adviser in the Obama administration, and Elizabeth Spaulding, president of Stitch Fix. Save time for the Speaker Spotlight address by the inimitable Diane von Furstenberg, an icon who has had to adapt to shifts in trends and regulatory influences over the decades. Other notable industry influencers are also slated to offer their expertise.
The Retail Converge conference may ignite a spark to cure the blues many are enduring after a year of uncertainty. Fees range from $395 for $595 for individuals, dependent on date of registration, and $250-$350 per person for retail team members (also contingent on timing). Register to participate here, and come prepared to experience invigoration.
The National Retail Federation’s mission statement includes the following language: “The (NRF) has represented retail for over a century. Every day, we passionately stand up for the people, policies and ideas that help retail thrive.”
Is a sustainable ecommerce business for you?
One week after Earth Day, much of its symbolism may be lost among the general public. But increasingly, consumers are listening to the growing wave of concern with respect to sustainability, climate control, and all red flags pointing to a devastating forecast for the planet’s well-being.
Whether or not you are personally committed to the cause, incorporating its elements into your business is not an unwise move. Following an unusual drop in interest in environmental conditions, Americans have expressed a sharp increase in concern for the planet’s health over the last decade. Many direct that concern beyond their personal habits and straight into purchasing decisions. This also holds for many European countries.
Meet their challenge in your ecommerce business by evaluating your operations from the ground up. Visible efforts range from sustainable packaging and shipping materials. Often resellers hone in on actual products that represent a respect for the environment. Beyond that, proactive messaging can express an honest concern even if an immediate switch to sustainability may be a fiscal nightmare in the short term.
The gradual move to online shopping, which accelerated in the pandemic year of 2020, made cardboard boxes a household staple. To many, that opened eyes and raised concerns.
Real life stories
High-profile shoe retailer TOMS went all in with a comprehensive focus on environmental advocacy reflected in its packaging (made of mostly recycled waste material and printed using soy ink). TOMS shoe products incorporate sustainable materials including natural hemp, organic cotton, and recycled polyester as an alternative. Other fashion and home-related sellers followed suit, realizing not only the PR benefits, but the ability to recruit excellent employees, and to minimize expenditures on graphic design that typically target high-end art with a range of vibrant colors. As it turns out, the fave shades of the day are brown and green.
Followed by a litany of fellow merchants, the TOMS approach demonstrates the power sellers still hold in making marketing decisions. Consumers who are on the fence about spending a bit more than planned may be convinced if a business has an honest and enduring commitment to sustainability. On the flip side, those not necessarily passionate about conservation are also not offended by green-friendly packaging. It’s a win on both counts.
So where do you start? First, you are the best judge of how much you can afford to devote to running an eco-friendly ecommerce business. Newcomers or low-margin stores may not realistically sustain sustainability, but words count. Formulate a message and make it clear in your marketing, on your page, and in personal messages to customers.
Adopting environmental-friendly business operations is a goal within reach to merchants with a solid customer base and decent revenue stream. If so moved, consider the following to begin putting your passion into practice:
It’s no secret that consumerism mirrors culture, and vice-versa. Proudly focusing on an honest desire to contribute toward a healthy planet will be more than just personally fulfilling. It will be a show of integrity that will at very least impress potential customers, and at most will earn a loyal base.
Even rookie ecommerce merchants are keenly aware of the concept of seasonal sales. Constant reminders urge readying for the Christmas holiday, with mentions popping up earlier and earlier each year. But successful retailers and wholesalers understand that there are four seasons to every year, and a customer base that has its eye on each one.
Inventory and acquisition strategies are set in stone for big box and prolific sellers. Smaller entities operating solely online enjoy more flexibility in adjusting their plans for accommodating demands. Whether you’re a drop-shipper, a base retailer, or a customizing artist, you should develop a solid annual plan for supplying customers with products to fit the season.
Seasons are relative to a particular industry, for the most part. If your product line is limited to ski supplies or apparel, for example, you know that off-season sales are important, but incorporating warm-weather goods is probably not a priority. That said, there are ways to harness the power of customer demands based on a close following; to offer products tailored to their beloved activity.
E-commerce hits on a dynamic set of options when considered a global entity. US-based sellers enjoy a large market due to its simple population figures, but what happens when you want to expand your horizons and sales, and ship internationally?
There are factors at play, and each should be explored. Besides shipping costs and difficulties in communications at times, a major element relates to trade customs and duties. Thankfully, there is a universal code assignment system to ease the pain of having to formulate your own procedure.
Classifying products goes to the heart of custom and duty requirements, or taxes paid to governments in the course of trade. Tracking the type of goods being imported and exported is a primary function of all governments, and not every category is equal. If you endeavor to spread your sales territory across borders, get up to speed on the concept of clarifying the type of sale you’re making, and stay within the compliance expectations of various purchasers to maintain good relations. Even though the importer (seller) is technically responsible for paying customs and duty fees, purposely mischaracterizing the goods category can land you and/or your buyer in hot water. At best, it may cost your buyer more in customs and duty fees.
Minimizing the carbon footprint is not just a concept for automakers and energy producers. For average individuals, it’s also not limited to conserving water, recycling, and buying energy-efficient light fixtures. Going green is a trending strategy among merchants, influencers, and anyone who spends a significant amount of time and energy creating online content.
Today’s consumers are savvy about eco-friendliness, and often they will expect it from those with whom they do business. That includes ecommerce entities, and the ways you can make that happen may surprise you.
Just as coal-based fuels, water, and quality soils are not infinite, the availability of digital resources are limited; they take a toll on bandwidth, compromise delivery speed, and overall are a commodity to conserve. If your customers—especially the younger set—reflect a general trend, they will be most comfortable patronizing green-centric companies. They want to know that your desire to fill their needs may also translate to saving their future.
How do you make that happen? There are a number of ways.
Using video content to sell goods on social media.
The ever-expanding reach of Facebook as a town square for social interactions brings with it a prime opportunity to capture consumers, building a formidable customer base. Ecommerce merchants are learning more about its utility as they go along, both through personal dalliances in the social media realm and the due diligence required to stay afloat as an online seller.
Whether or not you are enamored of video ads on Facebook and other platforms, be aware that others are. It’s a fast-growing strategy for branding, which turns into carving out a niche clientele and – well – selling to them. It’s that simple. It’s the Ecommerce 101 concept of conversions, or turning lookie-loos into staunch customers.
What isn’t quite as cut and dried is the creative elements of this growing technology. Those who lag behind in internet usage will naturally need some hand-holding to strike out with the latest in ad and marketing efforts. Luckily there is no shortage of help to be had, expedited by a quick Google search.
But the nuts and bolts of video presentation as a medium for advertising are not altogether different from using simple photography. You need your content to be fresh, compelling, and relevant to the type of audience likely to warm up to your inventory.