In the past 12 months, we have seen a meteoric growth of online shopping.
This Covid19-driven 12 months of nesting forcibly changed consumer habits. The unparalleled demand generated was (and still is) a golden opportunity for ecommerce.
At the same time, a massive amount of new shops opened and are still opening online every day. Some are offline businesses pushed online as a way to survive. Others saw the situation as an opportunity.
Acknowledge the competition
More online shops means that the industry is maturing, inspiring trust and attracting more consumers. That is clearly a good thing.
But it also brings more competition. A constant intake of fresh blood and new ideas, new technologies and channels. And of course, new entrepreneurs thirsty for success. All reasons to keep you on your toes. But that is also good, as it pushes you to excel, serve your customers better and grow as a business.
Even if you have the experience, an established brand and clientele, you are not immune to ecommerce competition. So use it as a motivation, not as a threat.
How to stay competitive in ecommerce
Know your business
Daily tasks probably take up your time and make it harder to set aside time to look into the big picture. But if you make a habit to spend just 30 minutes a day on the important aspects and KPIs for your business, it’ll pay off.
Know your financials
- What are your operating costs, marketing costs, product costs and shipping costs?
- What are your profit margins? This will help you play with pricing and promotions.
- How are your products performing? Find your star products and leverage their success. Consider replacing slow performers to open space for new products with potential.
- What is your CAC (customer acquisition cost) and LTV (customer lifetime value). These numbers are hand in hand, as they show you how much return you are getting for the price you pay to get each customer on average.
Know your customers
- Draw insights from reviews and customer support feedback. Read your reviews often to adapt and correct them fast. Make sure that your support team follow up on customer issues to gather more details.
- Gather analytical data. Look into customer behavior as detailed as possible to understand how the make buying decisions. Metrilo can help you with ecommerce analytics and CRM.
Know your competitors
- Who are they, and who are the newcomers? Check social media, search results and media geared at your target audience.
- What are their value propositions? Understand how they position themselves and what helps them sell.
- How or why do they appeal to your customers? How are they different from your brand? And what can you do about it?
Monitoring those basics gives you the performance of your business and your environment. By understanding them, you can act when necessary, improve and maintain your position.
Guide the customer journey
The customer journey is how the customer interacts with your brand, it’s the process from their point of view and it is messier than marketers like. So mapping out the possible touchpoints allows you to predict it better, be proactive and drive the customer to purchase more effectively:
- Reduce friction on every step of the journey.
- Predict when the customer will need to contact support, and avoid it by supplying the information needed beforehand. This saves a lot of time for your support team and creates a better experience for your customer.
- Give a little extra push when needed – offer a deal in a key moment, remind about an abandoned cart, engage after purchase, remind to reorder, etc.
Keep in mind that the last step of your customer journey is the one that triggers him to return and restart the cycle. Retention is not only an important strategy, it’s also an important indicator that you are doing things right.
Provide flawless customer service
Customer experience is the key to customer loyalty and retention. If you want to offer your customers a good experience, nothing stands out as your customer service.
Related: How to use cohort analysis to improve the ecommerce customer experience
Your support team is the first line of communication with your customers, they can solve issues and make people feel good about purchasing from your shop.
But your customer service doesn’t end there:
- Be reachable on any relevant channel both before and after the purchase.
- Be polite and empathic. Communication soft skills are essential to your support team. When your customer is upset or hesitant, it’s important that they feel heard. Reconfirm that you take their issue seriously and that a real person is handling it professionally.
- Get back to the customer in due time and also offer at least some kind of a solution.
- Have a good and intuitive FAQ in place. Let people quickly find answers if they don’t want to talk to support.
- Offer order tracking.
- Be upfront and transparent. This is key to managing expectations and avoiding misunderstandings.
- Be proactive. Remind the customer about being there for them with a message offering a tutorial, or help, or asking for feedback.
Simply put, make it clear to your customers that you appreciate them.
How to stay relevant in ecommerce?
With the uncertainty of the pandemic in the air, consumers look for small acts of reassurance in familiar things – a brand that does not let them down, for example. Being relatable, close and active.
- Your customer base is your brand’s community. Address topics that are relevant to them and that they can relate to on social media. Keep them engaged, ask for their opinions and incentivize them to share their experiences.
- Social commerce. Take advantage of most people spending more time on social now. Tap into the built-in shopping features of these platforms. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and even YouTube Shopping is about to be launched. You don’t need to be everywhere, but you need to be where your customers are (remember the importance of knowing your customers?).
- Personalized experience. The days of one experience fits all are long gone. Ask people about their interests to offer personalized suggestions. If they are a repeat customer, use their purchase history to make educated tailoring. Use geolocation to fine-tune language, promotions, even regional events.
Related: How to do tailored email marketing without being creepy
- Update your website often with new elements or feature other products on the front page. This is not new but cannot be stressed enough. It helps you test new products to see how they perform or try new strategies for old products. At the same time, it makes people to check on your site more often.
Remember to follow other brands and influencers to see how they keep things interesting for their audience. They also found ideas and inspiration somewhere else, so keep the circle going and improve when you feel you need to.
Expand to new markets
International expansion can be a way to increase sales and become more competitive. If you operate only on your domestic market, neighboring countries are your next natural markets, both because of logistics and cultural proximity.
A lot of online shops (probably including yours) deliver internationally but that is not the same as expanding your shop into that country. You are not harnessing the full potential of that market.
When you expand internationally, you establish a local presence, closer to the customers and more strategically positioned to engage and retain.
Localize your shop – adapt it to the local market
- Currency & payment methods. Apart from displaying prices in the local currency, make sure that you offer the popular payment methods in that region.
- Regulations. Make sure that your products and your marketing campaigns are compliant with local regulations.
- Language. Ideally, your website will be available in the native language. There are plenty of services available online to translate your website.
- Logistics. Choose carriers carefully. The shipping experience is part of the overall shopping experience so this partner is very important.
- Return policy. You already have a return policy in place for your domestic market. Now you need to adapt it to the realities of international shipping, considering that costs will be forcibly higher and the delivery times longer.
Related: How fashion brands can minimize returns
- Import taxes. A lot of jurisdictions apply import taxes to goods with a commercial value above a certain amount. Make sure that you know these specificities and communicate them clearly to your customers to avoid unpleasant surprises later.
- Message. First, you want to make sure that your marketing messages are appropriate by local cultural standards and don’t sound off. Second, you want your brand’s message to resonate with that market so you might need a different message than your domestic one.
- Marketing channels. Make sure that you use the popular ones in that region in order to get to a broader and interested audience. That will also allow you to reduce costs and increase conversion rates.
- Customer service. If your website is in the local language, you should provide customer service in the same language. You can either hire a local customer service rep (even if part-time) or provide non-live support in the native language as a minimum. You should also understand what the customer service standards are in that market and structure yours to be positioned above them.
- Domain. This step comes with a statement – I am fully committed to this market and I am working to get your trust. But this is a step to take only after the local language is available in your shop.
- Mobile experience. Offer your customers a mobile responsive and mobile friendly online shop. This is not specific for international expansion, but a vital step for getting ahead of the competition. And it should start at home, even before you consider other markets.
Avoiding friction, creating trust and appeal are all essential for being competitive when expanding to a new market.
Competition is healthy
In a lot of industries and cases, the combined marketing efforts of you and your competitors are worth a lot more than the sum of the parts.
You are working together to educate your customers and generate global awareness for your product, which increases that demand and the clientele.
Competition also provides you with a measure of your own performance. And the fear of being outperformed is the best motivation for constant improvement.
The key point of being competitive is not to “kill” your competition but to ensure your own growth. To be more precise, to ensure a growth that is sustainable in the long run.