Chances are that you've purchased something (or hundreds of things!) online at some point in your life. But now it's time to think about ecommerce from a retailer's perspective. What is ecommerce; what does it entail; where does it happen; and why should you sell online?
A payment gateway supports the series of back-end communications that must occur for a consumer to make a purchase on your ecommerce site. You'll have a lot of options to choose from. Learn the difference between modern and classic, hosted and integrated gateways... and know what to look for in a gateway provider.
Shipping is the biggest expense an ecommerce business has to contend with—and shipping costs are the #1 reason for cart abandonment—so it's crucial to get this right. You'll have some factors to consider to find the "sweet spot" of shipping—prices consumers are willing to pay AND that cover your costs.
Once you have a sense of the pricing strategies available to you for shipping, it's time to choose the best carrier for your business. Learn what factors carriers use to calculate shipping fees, and how to estimate costs on your own so you can make an intelligent (read: data-based) decision about getting products into customers' hands.
Once your shipping costs and carriers are determined, it's time to be transparent with consumers about what (and who) they are. After all, prospects will want to know how soon, how safely, and how cheaply their items will arrive before they hit that "Purchase" CTA. Learn what strong policies include... and read some examples.
Your shipping policy and your returns policy will probably be the two most-read documents on your ecommerce website. It's worth remembering that around 30% of products ordered online are returned... but a good Returns & Refunds policy can offset that loss by generating more sales and bringing satisfied customers back.
Visitors' behavior on your website will give you insights into your site and offering: what products they look at but don't buy, what content keeps them on the page the longest, where they drop off in the buyer's journey. Making business decisions based on this data can do wonders for your bottom line. Know what metrics to track.
As an ecommerce business, you can't escape collecting data about consumers—to complete transactions, to subscribe users to your email list, or to improve user experience and conversion rates on your site. But you've got to let consumers know you're collecting it—and what you're doing with it. Here's how.
A Terms & Conditions is the set of rules that governs your relationship with your site visitors and customers from beginning to end. Think of it as a code of conduct that lays out the roles and responsibilities of all parties. Learn why you need one, what topics it should cover, and what best practices are for writing and disseminating it.
So far, we've discussed payments, shipping, and analytics in setting up your shop. But there are many more back-end processes that need to happen to keep your business running: order management, inventory, accounting, email marketing, and more. Don't approach these as separate events, but as a single, seamless event: Your relationship with customers. Integrations and automations will allow for this.
A brand's position is a collaborative creation: It's everything a company does to create a unique impression of itself for consumers, plus all the ways its market perceives those efforts. To improve market perception, you've got to know the elements of a successful positioning strategy.
You can't dive fully into a positioning (or repositioning) strategy without knowing how your market currently perceives you. This means knowing the most useful questions to ask about prospect and customer perception, where to go to find the answers to those questions, and what tools and resources will help you measure consumer sentiment.
Positioning strategies are always relative: Your company isn't fast; it's faster. You must know your competitors intimately if you plan on standing out from them. This means gauging both their positioning strategies and their markets' perceptions of those strategies. Where are they successful, where are they failing, and where are the gaps you can fill?
Now it's time to articulate the primary value that sets you apart from your competition. Your differentiator must be unique, relevant to your target market, and something you can deliver over the long term. There are a variety of differentiation styles you can use to highlight your competitive advantage and the value you offer your market.
A persona is a semi-fictional representation of your real prospects and customers, based on insights and real data from market research. It's an essential tool for empathizing with your target market: what they hope to accomplish, what goals drive their behavior, what factors cause them to buy. Know where to find the data to build them and what details to include.
You can't properly position your brand until you're clear about what your company stands for—the values you want to abide by for the long-term. Mission, vision, and values statements give your company a shared worldview and purpose that will serve as an anchor through both the monotony and chaos of running a business. Know how to make yours effective.
When done well, value propositions and unique selling propositions will shock your prospects awake by helping them realize they have a pain point they didn't even know needed solving. They're the two most significant tools you have to explain to your prospects why they should do business with you.
Your brand positioning statement is like the concentrated crystals that remain at the bottom of the glass after you've mixed all the above research and writing together and let them sit... until all the non-essentials evaporate in the sun of Contemplating Your Business Purpose. It will ultimately support all your marketing messages and bring clarity to all your sales strategies.
Now that your brand positioning statement is in place, it's time to turn that all that writing into a real-time strategy—to live and breathe the claims you've made. Brand rollout entails socializing your positioning internally, mapping touchpoints, determining your brand's voice, attending to your digital presence, and creating a style guide for your teams.
A SWOT analysis is a type of situation analysis that asks you to identify your business' strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats—giving you a broad sense of where you stand, and ultimately, helping you home in on a topic for your market research. Learn how to conduct a powerful SWOT.
The term "market research" research describes the whole collection of strategies used to gather information about your target market, your industry, and your business: It answers virtually every question you might ask concerning these things. Learn in detail what it entails, what its benefits are, and when to conduct it.
You know as well as we do how crucial it is to know your competition intimately: How can you make decisions without understanding the broader realm in which your business operates? Learn how to identify both direct and indirect competitors... and where to go to find out as much as you can about how they operate.
Secondary market research is already-existing market data compiled by entities such as trade associations, government agencies, and chambers of commerce. It will help you discover things like market saturation, consumer behavior, demographic characteristics, economic conditions, and much more. Know where to look.
Now it's time to drill down into your particular offering, and your particular market segment. Primary market research is a group of methods that let you get information directly from the source: your prospects and customers. Learn the leading methods, how to choose which one is right for you, and how to select the right participants.
We don't have to tell you that consumers have strong opinions. Market research surveys give them a formal channel through which to express them. Learn about available channels for survey distribution, the difference between qualitative and quantitative questions, best practices for surveys, and how to analyze the results.
While surveys are primarily useful for quantitative research, interviews and focus groups will get you deep, qualitative insights about your market—the juicy, subjective, emotional "data." Learn the advantages of these two methodologies, when to choose an interview (and when to choose focus group), and how to prepare for them.
When conducting interviews and focus groups for your market research, you'll be working within a time constraint. How do you make the most of that brief—but crucial—encounter with representatives of your target market? Here are strategies for facilitating the conversation and for analyzing the experience afterward.
Observational research refers to the wide range of methods used to collect information on your market by "watching" consumers act in natural or contrived environments. It measures behavioral data directly and unobtrusively. Learn about the available types of observational research to determine the best method for your business.
A skillful online shop homepage includes a number of decisive elements. You'll have to think carefully about your value proposition, images, and product categories, and offer good UX features, like a persistent search box and cart and clear information about payment methods and policies.
Product pages give you the opportunity to present your products in all their glory, and offer your prospect a friction-free path toward purchase. It helps to consider these pages as substitutes for a live salesperson, since they need to perform the same tasks a store associate would.