So, you’ve decided to start a new business. You’ve heard about how people are setting up websites, pressing a few buttons on a software tool, and making thousands of dollars per month from home. Sounds like a dream, right?
Well, it is. Wake up!
The truth is, you aren’t going to become rich overnight in online business. Even if you do, without the proper foundation, you’ll just be a flash in the pan while the companies who are building succeed over time.
Every business has to grow naturally, but if you do things right, you CAN succeed as an online shop. Even if you’re not trying to be the new Jeff Bezos, you can still use the same tricks and strategies that made Amazon one of the largest companies in the world.
Ready to learn how you can achieve extra income online? Here are 10 things you can do to build a successful online business the right way.
12 Ways to Succeed in Online Business
1. Effective Marketing Campaigns
Marketing is a constant balancing act. Depending on your industry, your target audience, marketing budget, and a hundred other factors, the ideal marketing strategy for you will vary. However, one thing is for certain – marketing can make or break your business.
Just about every top-100 online store has a robust and comprehensive marketing campaign that includes commercials, banner ads, email newsletters, pay-per-click (PPC) ads, and an emphasis on search engine optimization (SEO). But, while covering every potential marketing avenue can work when you have millions of dollars to throw at advertising, our small businesses need to pick and choose where we invest our valuable marketing budget. Before you become a top shop in your industry, it is critical to maximize return on investment (ROI), not just sales and traffic.
SEO is always a good investment because it takes time to organically reach the top of search results. But, once you reach the top of the search engines, the investment is well worth the amount of traffic it will drive. The top 5 positions in a Google search receive 70% of the clicks, with each position after first losing out on major traffic. The sooner you implement SEO, the sooner you’ll unlock more traffic.
Targeted advertisement also plays a crucial role in the success of top-100 companies, especially those in specific industries. For example, through player endorsements and league endorsements, Nike reaches their ideal fanbase (sports fans and athletes).
Your business can do the same targeted advertising by partnering with social media influencers in your niche, which can yield up to a 11:1 ROI in some cases. Just don’t aim for celebrities – spending more doesn’t always mean the best return!
Or, you can use PPC ads on sites like Facebook or Google to capture relevant customers at the top of the funnel. Targeted ads can be a more expensive option, but if done correctly, they can lead to one of the highest conversion rates. Just be careful not to allocate too much money to PPC ads – they can get expensive quickly!
2. Collaborate with Social Media Influencers
Influencer marketing is a newer, but highly effective form of marketing that large businesses are using to reach their target audience with ease. By working directly with a social media influencer, businesses can leverage the personal relationship that they have with their followers. By doing so, a business can gain direct access to an intimate connection with consumers, which can prove to be a high-converting form of advertising.
While you likely don’t have the marketing budget to sponsor LeBron James like Nike does, if you know your audience well, you can still benefit from influencer marketing. Start by doing some research into influencers within your industry, looking for accounts with active followers and a personality that matches your brand. Then, reach out and ask about considering a partnership for sponsored ads. This way, you can take advantage of the trust the audience has in your influencer and be sure that your ads are getting in front of the right people.
3. Build a Social Media Following
Social media is one of the greatest marketing tools and assets that a company has. With more than 3 billion people on social media, there is no better way for an online shop to reach its maximum potential than to leverage social media marketing.
Through giveaways, advertisements, and other methods of promotion, you can raise your fans or followers across various platforms. With each new member that they reach, there is the potential for them to share to multiple people who continue the trend until it reaches exponential growth. Best of all – if you create valuable content that is shareable, social media users will share it for FREE!
Large corporations have entire teams devoted to social media, managing analytics, interacting with followers, and creating advertisements that can be shared across the platform. While you don’t need to maintain these extreme levels of dedication, replying to customers quickly and creating useful advertisements can be a great way to grow. When done correctly, a strong social media presence can become a major marketing point for a company. For example, Wendy’s Twitter is infamous for viral tweets to customers (and competitors) that have made the profile a social media impact to strive for. Their brand is plastered on everyone’s homepage for FREE because of viral retweets, and all they had to do was “roast” a few fellow Tweeters, breaking the corporate social media account’s “status quo”.
4. Engaging Web Design
After your marketing gets visitors to your website, the rest of the selling process relies on how well your online store can sell itself. Your site is your single greatest digital asset, acting as your virtual storefront, your in-store advertising medium, your customer service department, and more.
It goes without saying that if you want a truly successful online shop that can grow and scale as your business does, now is not the time to try your hand at web design. There are a LOT of factors that go into a successful eCommerce website (more on that later), but when it comes to keeping people from bouncing to a competitor, the design of your site is paramount.
Conversion rate optimization plays a major role in the success of the top online shops. From the second you land on the homepage or landing page, they are trying to direct your attention to certain aspects of the page. Calls to action (CTAs) such as buttons, popup offers, and mailing list signups are just a few ways to get a visitor’s attention with an element that stands out due to color, location, or interactivity.
You will also notice that like The Vitamin Shoppe, all the top websites make it VERY easy to navigate their site and reach the products you want to find. The Vitamin Shoppe uses dropdown menus that give one-click access to specific products. The easier it is to find an item (and the fewer pages they need to navigate), the more likely they are to make the purchase.
Shop1 takes care of effective, optimized web design for you. You can customize the look, but when you build with Shop1, you never have to worry about your site’s functionality.
5. Site Speed Optimization
Do you remember the days of dial-up internet? Early internet users were happy to spend more than 30 seconds for a single page to load (and sometimes more). Now, you’re lucky if a visitorwaits for more than 3-4 seconds before abandoning your page.
Attention spans have shortened in an age of instant gratification with gigabit internet, so if you want a chance to convert a customer, you’ll have to do it quickly. The easiest way to ensure you’re not losing customers before you even have a chance to convert them is to optimize your website speed.
For example, in a test of load times on the top 100 eCommerce sites of 2018, it was found that 39% of sites loaded within 2 seconds and 99% loaded within 5 seconds However, these websites are usually much larger than most small business websites, making the lower end of the spectrum both achievable and important.
Google agrees that site speed is important as well, citing it as a factor in your SEO performance. From getting clicks to keeping visitors, you cannot ignore site speed for your business website.
Fortunately, all of Shop1’s website builds are built with speed in mind. Each template utilizes a lightweight, simple, and effective design to minimize load time and maximize your conversion rate.
6. Mobile Support
Did you know that mobile traffic (even without including tablets) makes up more than half of all web traffic? When you also consider that 34.5% of eCommerce sales come from mobile devices, it’s easy to see why responsive web design for mobile support can be seen on just about every top-100 online shop.
Regardless of your industry, business size, or budget, mobile support for your online store cannot be ignored. If you eliminate half of the potential traffic to your site and a third of the sale potential, you’re going to struggle to grow.
Did I mention that mobile optimization greatly improves your chances of showing up in mobile searches, and even helps desktop searches? There’s no reason not to optimize for mobile browsers. To make it even easier, sell with Shop1’s responsive web design templates to ensure your site is always ready for mobile sales without worrying about adapting your desktop site.
7. High-Quality Product Listings
When you’re selling products online, you miss out on one of the greatest selling tools that traditional stores have – physicality. Unfortunately, your customers won’t be able to hold the product in their hand before they make a purchase, which limits the amount of information they have available to make a buying decision. Online shoppers cannot see the product, the packaging, alternative angles, or anything else – unless you provide it for them.
High-quality product listings, including a comprehensive gallery of high-res pictures from every angle or even interactive pictures (zoomable or 3D model rotations) can recreate the hands-on traditional shopping experience. Descriptions should also include as much information as possible, including the dimensions (alongside a picture that shows the product’s relative size). Customers will feel more informed, more confident in their purchase, and trust your store more if they know that you have nothing to hide in your products.
Nike provides a good example of a high-quality product listing that shows their shoes from each profile. These views are an essential part of the buying process that shoeheads and regular shoppers alike rely on, which is why Nike features them at the top of the listing (and on the majority of the page).
8. Quick and Easy Customer Service
The customer experience is one of the most important aspects of an online business. Customers are everything – without them, there is no business, no sales, and no profits. The customer experience can drastically affect your business for better or worse, which is why it’s important that you provide the best customer service possible.
“The customer is always right” may be a bit of an overblown adage, but in online business, a happy customer is incredibly valuable. Their positive experience can act as a marketing tool, their positive feedback can be social proof of reliability, and happy customers are more likely to be loyal customers who are worth as much as 67% more than newly acquired leads.
There is a lot of uncertainty when buying online. A lack of a physical store location means that your business is faceless (outside of its logo), which means you need to prove to potential customers that your website is reliable. The easiest way to do that? Add a human element with customer service options that humanize the process while eliminating sales process hurdles that may prevent a sale.
Live chat can provide quick and easy answers that the FAQ doesn’t cover, such as additional product information that is holding up a sale. Email support can make post-sale customer service easier and foster more loyalty from past customers. While a bit more expensive and harder to maintain as a small business, phone support can provide instant, in-depth support to all kinds of customers.
Amazon may be the pinnacle of customer service right now, offering email support, an automated help bot, near-instant live chat, and phone agents around the clock. They are prompt (phone wait times averaging under 1 minute and chat times even faster than that) and effective, which is essential when you are at the top of the eCommerce ladder.
However, for solopreneurs that don’t have the ability to provide constant support, Shop1 can cut the need for customer service support down drastically. When you use Shop1, all order, shipping, and return management is handled by Shop1. You can focus on providing pre-sale support without needing to worry about the post-sale, helping to create more sales for yourself.
9. Short, Fast, and Complete Checkout
Perhaps the hardest part of running an online store is getting people to checkout (or more specifically, give you money). Traffic is great for an online business, but if those visitors aren’t buying, you’re not going to make profit. If you want to keep the sales rolling in, you need to make it as easy as possible for people to pay you.
One of the best ways to create an effective checkout is to minimize the steps it takes to complete a sale after choosing a product. This is because with every new page that has to load, there is more time for the buyer to reconsider their purchase. Amazon’s one-click “Buy Now” feature is a good example of overcoming cart abandonment, skipping the checkout process entirely and authorizing a purchase with single click.
Checkout should also require the bare minimum from the customer, but can ask for additional information voluntarily. For example, digital products that require no shipping should not require an address for purchase, as that gives the buyer a reason not to buy from you. Requiring users to create an account is another major negative, causing as many as 28% of the abandoned carts at checkout.
When it comes time to accept payment, the more, the merrier. No matter what way they want to pay you, it’s important to maximize the number of potential sales you can earn by including as many forms of payment as you can. For example, retail giant Walmart has an incredible number of payment options for customers to use, which means they don’t have an excuse not to finish the order.
A responsive checkout is also crucial to securing mobile sales. Even if your site works on mobile, a checkout page that confuses customers isn’t going to convert well. Fortunately, Shop1’s checkout process is short, contains only the important checkout fields, and fits easily on any screen size so you don’t frustrate mobile customers.
10. Cart Abandonment Recovery
To succeed in eCommerce, you need to make the most out of every visitor to your website. While conversion rate optimization can help to keep customers on the site, that’s not where most sales are lost – it’s at checkout.
As many as 70% of customers abandon their cart at checkout for a variety of reasons, including checkout time and checkout requirements as we previously mentioned. Losing out on 7 out of every 10 potential purchases can be killer for your business, so using cart abandonment recovery to try to pull some of those customers back in can make a major difference.
Shop1 understands how important cart abandonment recovery is, which is why it is included in the Shop1 platform. When a customer adds something to their cart on your Shop1 store, the contents of their cart are held even if they leave and come back, or switch devices. If the cart is abandoned, the software can automatically send a follow-up email that makes an offer or reminds the customer that their cart is ready, allowing you another chance to close the sale.
GoDaddy is a top online store that utilizes cart abandonment information to try to complete a sale. If you’ve ever looked into domains or services from them but left early, you’ll almost always get a discount offer to come back. While it may be easy to anticipate this and wait for a free offer instead of buying for full price, as long as they get the sale, the strategy works! Plus, customers won’t know your practices beforehand, so it can still feel exclusive.
11. Free and Fast Shipping
Online shopping has become a major part of the retail market, accounting for about 14% of the total retail purchases worldwide in 2019. But no matter how much it grows, one thing stays true – people HATE paying and waiting for shipping.
A 2018 survey found that 79% of US shoppers said that free shipping makes them more likely to shop online, which is an essential statistic for any eCommerce store without a physical location. While shipping can be affordable or expensive depending on the package contents, customers greatly prefer free shipping because when you charge for shipping, they are more likely to weigh the convenience of buying online against the shipping cost (which is essentially the convenience tax). If shipping is free, they are more likely to only look at the product total, which may be the difference between a sale.
Wait time for receiving a shipped product is also a major obstacle to success as an eCommerce location because when people buy something, they want it then. While it isn’t physically possible to teleport a product to them, providing customers with the option to expedite shipping can be a great way to allow them to make the decision of cheaper versus faster for themselves. That being said, with the Amazon 2-day shipping standard that exists right now, we recommend prioritizing the ability to ship quickly as a priority.
Luckily for you, using Shop1 for your dropshipping store ensures that you don’t have to stress over the complexities of balancing shipping speed and cost. With all American suppliers, your customers won’t have to wait two weeks or more, and your shipping rates can be more affordable, making free shipping more realistic to offer on your store. If you are working with a lower-margin product type, using a minimum order total to receive free shipping can be a good way to offset your shipping costs, increase the average order value, and make customers feel like they are saving by spending more.
12. Post-Sale Service
Remember when we highlighted how returning customers are worth 67% more than newly acquired leads over their lifetime? Well, one of the main ways that these top-rated online shops are earning returning customers is from post-sale follow up and customer support. Everyone likes to feel important, so once you’ve made a sale, it’s time to show them how much you appreciate their business – especially after they already paid.
After a customer orders from your store, it can be helpful to include a personalized “thank you” email in addition to the order confirmation. In this email, you can make their purchase seem more personal and let them know that you appreciate their support. A customer that feels valued by a brand is more likely to return if they need a similar product or service in the future.
These emails can also include feedback requests, which you will see from most major retailers after a purchase is made. If they decide to provide feedback, you can then contact them to address it, or provide a short “thank you” to acknowledge that their experience was heard. If your support is responsive, you can address negative experiences before they spread to others, or help reinforce a positive experience that can be shared for free advertising.
Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end! You now know the most important things that Top-100 online shops are doing that you can implement in your own store. It may not happen overnight, but by implementing these best practices on your own eCommerce store, you can position yourself for growth.
If you’re looking to begin dropshipping and want to simplify some of the items on this list, Shop1 can make web design, customer service, and order fulfillment simpler and easier for you. You’ll have more time to market and sell your products, refine marketing strategy, and invest time into your company’s growth rather than worrying about the technical parts of eCommerce business.
What are you waiting for? The sooner you start, the sooner you may find yourself on a list of the top retailers in your industry.