This year has been unlike any other, and as the holiday shopping season approaches, many are wondering what it will look like.
During the spring and summer, COVID-19 forced many businesses to close temporarily, while other major retailers — including J.Crew and Neiman Marcus — filed bankruptcy. A majority of companies found ways to pivot and offer online shopping options as a way to survive during lockdowns. In-person services such as gyms and yoga studios went virtual, while travel-related businesses including rental cards and airlines, suffered in sales.
On the other hand, some companies saw a boom during the pandemic. With consumers spending more time at home, video game companies and businesses supporting at-home workouts saw a spike in purchases. Peloton saw a 66% growth in revenue from its in-home bike and treadmill sales.
Grocery delivery and takeout options also saw tremendous growth this year.
After such an unprecedented year, many consumers and retailers are looking to the holiday season knowing that traditional Black Friday shopping isn’t a reality. Instead, stores are focusing on ecommerce sales, which are expected to increase during the final quarter of the year.
As many as 61% of retailers are expecting more engagement and sales through social media and businesses are ramping up their holiday marketing plans because of it.
So, how can you properly prepare for a holiday shopping season with ecommerce right at the center? Our Ecommerce Holiday Checklist is a great place to start.
2020 Ecommerce Holiday Checklist
Each year, retailers rely on the holiday season to make a heavy portion of their annual revenue. This year has brought forth many changes in consumer shopping habits, but businesses can still expect a boom in holiday shopping. It’s not too early to start preparing, as you’ll want to create a seamless experience for customers that will keep them loyal. Let’s work our way through a checklist to ensure we don’t miss anything:
- Ensure customers will have the best user experience.
- Automate selling, shipping and fulfillment.
- Create strategic holiday marketing and promotions.
- Ramp up customer service and support for holiday traffic.
- Measure the success of your holiday campaign.
Ensure Customers will Have the Best User Experience
Today’s consumer craves a personalized experience when they shop online. Is your site ready to deliver? To have a successful holiday season, your ecommerce store should have a solid infrastructure, industry-leading uptime, and updated third-party integrations.
Let’s take a look at some of the crucial ways you can update your site to meet — and exceed — customer expectations before the holiday season:
1. Evaluate the overall store experience.
Use your website design to bring your brand to life and create a custom experience.
Building a personalized shopping experience for all of your customers means that if you’re having a holiday sale on different products, you should cross-sell and upsell products that directly complement the sale for visiting customers.
Product recommendations that speak to the consumer as an individual shopper can have a lasting impact. By using vital consumer data points that are specific to individual customers (such as search, shopping cart, and purchase histories), you can boost sales during the holiday seasons and help raise your overall conversion rate.
Test your infrastructure. Your ecommerce store needs to be able to handle a surge in traffic and transactions. Do a round of load testing to ensure servers can handle increases in traffic and transactions. Reach out to your technology provider like BigCommerce. These companies can help you perform load testing to determine visit numbers and traffic patterns.
Check your site speed. Your page load time should be under three seconds — any longer than that and you’ll be looking at very high bounce rates. If your load speed isn’t optimal, a tool such as GTmetrix will provide you with a detailed list of recommendations on what to change, such as optimizing your image sizes for the web or reducing redirects. Having too many plugins and apps that need to load can also slow down your site speed.
Evaluate your third-party integrations. Take a look at your third-party integrations. Are they up-to-date? Test them, make sure they can handle the load, and then don’t add any others. Additional or last minute app add-ons can break aspects of your flow or slow down your site. This is exactly what happened to GymShark in 2015 when an app integration caused their site to go down for eight hours straight on Black Friday. Unless something is broken, put a “code freeze” in place a few weeks before Thanksgiving.
Enable cart abandonment notifications. There are many reasons a customer might leave your website with a shopping cart full of items. Sending them a push notification will remind them of the products they left behind, with a goal of convincing them to make the purchase. These notifications have double and sometimes triple the click-through-rate of a targeted email.
2. Update your merchandising strategy.
This holiday season, many consumers will be shopping online. This means retailers face massive competition for consumer attention.
Typically, mobile bounce rates are higher and with more consumers turning to their phones to make purchases, a business’ mobile experience is vital. In fact, consumers give just 0.05 seconds to form an opinion about a site and 38% of them will stop engaging if the content or the design is unattractive.
The key to succeeding is personalized merchandising: analyzing each user’s unique shopping behavior to deliver content and product recommendations that are relevant to them.
During the holiday season, if retailers don’t have something relevant to show shoppers right away, they risk losing a sale — particularly on mobile devices, where screen real estate is limited.
Capture consumers’ immediate attention with a robust online merchandising strategy. Follow these online merchandising strategy best practices to make holiday magic this season.
Showcase your holiday products. Start by determining which products you’re going to sell this holiday season. Are there specific holiday bundles your target audience has been wanting? What about seasonal favorites?
Next, consider how you’ll display these seasonal items on your site. For example, you could have a holiday-specific category in your site navigation. Make shopping easy by organizing gifts in one place.
Personalize your customers’ experiences. Content is still king, although personalization is the crowning glory. By analyzing behavioral and contextual customer data, as well as business-related data like margin and inventory, merchants can surface relevant products to inspire customers and encourage them to make a purchase.
Basing product recommendations on customer data — such as geo-location or demographic — leads to a significant increase in conversion rates and a decrease in cart abandonment.
For example, say a particular toy is trending in New York City. Parents of a certain age that live in the city can be targeted with content related to that must-have toy, which simultaneously removes an entire step (searching for the toy) in their buying journey and leads them deeper into the site (and closer to checkout).
Retailers can also use insights from previous browsing history to surface relevant content to shoppers, perhaps reminding them of the perfect gift they browsed last time they visited or showcasing something related to a previous purchase.
By understanding the landscape of gifting during the holidays, as well as the context and behavior of each customer, retailers can build entire stories simply by guiding site visitors through relevant product recommendations.
If telling an intricate, multi-page story with personalized product recommendations isn’t in the cards this year, then retailers should at least start with location-based gift recommendations on each category page.
Tune site search for each customer. The same search data you’re using for SEO can give you a boost with your on-site search. Make sure your website’s search results return accurate products to help your customers find exactly what they’re looking for.
Not only will a customer get to the item faster, but a seamless shopping experience will not go unnoticed. Customers are loyal to brands that make shopping easier, especially during the holidays. If they run into problems and can’t find what they’re looking for on your site, they’ll find it somewhere else.
The great thing about updating your own search is that you’ve got complete control over the keywords, pages and results. Use it to your advantage while creating a frictionless experience for holiday shoppers.
Evaluate your site’s error tolerance. You know those ‘did you mean…’ messages that pop up above the search box when you make a spelling error? This is a form of error tolerance. In a nutshell — the search engine recognizes that you made a mistake and attempts to fix it for you.
Until recently, all the possible errors and their corrections had to be pre-programmed into a search engine’s list of possible results. Smarter site engines use the search data they collect on a continuous basis to work out what customers meant, even when they make a spelling or grammatical error.
And it works.
Digital equipment supplier Xpres struggled with their website’s restrictive built-in search functionality. Search results were often incorrect, and some products were undiscoverable. Klevu’s search engine brought them the level of precision their customers needed to find their products, and they saw a 19.8% increase in revenue after switching.
Despite this leap forward and the real-world benefits to companies like Xpres, the vast majority of websites are still using the old technology.
Create a visual search interface. Search results should be displayed visually in the search box itself, even as autocomplete options while you type. Instead of a drop down menu to house your search filters, they are displayed as categories in an open sidebar. All of these visual and predictive features combine to make something that Klevu calls ‘Smart Category Navigation.’
Like error tolerance, it helps reduce friction to the checkout. But it goes much further, too — offering an intuitive interface that customers, once they’ve used it, won’t ever want to be without.
3. Optimize the checkout page.
By the time a customer reaches the checkout page, they’ve already decided they want to make a purchase. Optimizing your checkout page means making the process as smooth as possible, so the customer doesn’t leave before completing the purchase.
Create a seamless checkout experience by only having one checkout page, enabling guest checkout, and offering several payment options.
Simplify checkout to one page. Having all of your checkout-related forms on a single page makes the process easier and quicker for customers. Loading a single page vs. waiting for multiple pages to load — especially on a mobile device — can be a game changer. Don’t give customers time to leave your site. All of these factors boil down to one: customer satisfaction. A single checkout page adds to the overall user experience of your site and you want people to walk away feeling satisfied with all of it.
Enable guest checkout. Anonymous checkouts are especially important for first-time customers. Online shopping requires trust in the merchant, and many customers don’t feel comfortable saving their contact information during their initial visit to a store.
Requiring a registration also interrupts the shopping process. Once customers decide to buy, they want the checkout process to be easy – which should be the aim of merchants as well. Checking out as a guest is often quicker than creating an account, is viewed as a lesser “commitment,” and erases the potential perception that you’re after user data.
Offer several payment options. When a customer is ready to enter their payment information, the last thing they want to see is that you don’t provide their payment method of choice. Consider offering more payment options such as PayPal/Venmo or American Express. Providing as many secure payment options as possible is convenient for the customer and they’ll appreciate being able to pay however they wish.
Enable multi-recipient functionality. Instead of having your customers place a plethora of orders for holiday gifts, enable multi-recipient functionality to remove unnecessary stress during the busy holiday season. This functionality allows customers to send specific items to other addresses, making your store a one-stop shop.
“Often we’ll have one customer — usually ordering for a corporate gifting program — who wants to send gifts to a thousand different recipients, literally. Instead of placing a thousand unique orders, it’s a better customer experience if we can simply route different items to individual addresses.” – Lauren Cevallos, Ecommerce and Mail Order Manager, Lammes Candies.
Selling, Shipping and Fulfillment
To execute on a great customer experience strategy, you’ll need a clear plan on where to sell your products and how to ship and fulfill orders.
1. Expand your sales channels.
Your ecommerce store isn’t the only place to spread holiday cheer. Consider other sales channels such as:
- Online marketplaces.
- Social commerce.
- Brick-and-mortar shops.
Treat other digital sales destinations the same as you would your own ecommerce site and ensure the customer experience is as smooth as possible.
If you’re selling in a brick-and-mortar, offering the option to buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) will be vital. BOPIS is a great option for shoppers who prefer to browse online, but also want the items in their possession on the same day.
This method allows retailers to blend the online and in-store experience to engage with customers while still offering a more convenient way to shop.
In fact, according to a recent study by Adobe:
- BOPIS increased by 195% YOY in May due to the pandemic.
- BOPIS is becoming the delivery method of choice for consumers.
- Shopping trends adopted during the pandemic are likely to become permanent.
This holiday season, retailers can enable BOPIS to eliminate the pains of shipping and processing while delivering a convenient and safe shopping experience.
2. Sell to your international customers.
Going global with your business may sound intimidating, but it should be a good chunk of your strategy as you’re looking toward the holiday season.
Of course, it is the busiest selling period of the year so you’ll want to make certain steps during this critical planning period to ensure everything works correctly and you avoid any large-scale disasters come the holidays.
Know that selling internationally isn’t just for larger brands. Businesses of all sizes can plan to go global for the holidays as long as they use the right methods and plan effectively.
Start by researching your markets. Before taking your products international, you will need a better understanding of the taxes, customs, duties, and any other requirements of the countries you are looking to sell in. This will ensure you position your business and your products more effectively and keep your customers informed of any charges they may incur on their end.
Your customers and their purchasing habits should also be a key part of your research and planning. Just because you have a clear understanding of your buyer personas and sales trends in your current market, doesn’t mean this will translate well in another country.
Using tools like PayPal’s PassPort Site will provide you with more information on global buying trends. Learn what products are in demand in your targeted sales region so you can make the best decisions when it comes to positioning your business on a global scale.
Test the markets early. Take a look at your current data and see where customers are already buying from. If specific countries are more popular than others, use this time to test those markets with your global selling strategy.
Look to expand your reach by investing a little more in these markets. You could start small by using other sales channels such as eBay and Amazon to gain a greater presence in new countries and test demand before committing fully.
Seeing how these geographies perform prior to the holiday season will give you a better indication of where you may want to invest more in the future, such as setting up a web presence specific to those locations.
Secure customers with payment method options. When selling globally, a huge portion of abandoned carts come from customers not being able to use their preferred payment method when shopping online.
Buyers want to feel secure and protected in making a purchase, which is why using a payment gateway they recognize can help to increase those conversions.
Consider using a payment method that already has a strong global reputation, such as PayPal. Already built into BigCommerce so it’s easy to set up, PayPal is used worldwide and is known for its security and purchase protection.
Remember, it is all about familiarity. Going global necessitates building trust, so doing what you can to make the buying process as familiar and native to specific markets as possible will increase your sales and improve your international presence.
Optimize your website. Optimizing your website can mean many things. From making sure to clearly display relevant shipping and delivery information per country, to installing a multi-language toggle for your website — you should be thinking about your customers all over the world and their experience of using your website.
You might also want to consider building a targeted website specific to a region. For example, you already have a U.S. site but find online shoppers from Germany have a particular interest in your products. How can you cater to this market more effectively? Setting up a website in a local domain name for the German market, along with currency conversion, text translation, and delivery costs all specific to the region, will provide you with more flexibility and provide your German customers with a better shopping experience.
It’s also important to recognize that different cultures may perceive images and content differently. Colors are a prime example of this. In South Africa, the color red can symbolize mourning whereas, in Chinese culture, red represents a celebration. Think about your promotional materials and how you can tailor your content to suit each sales region.
Showing your customers around the globe that you care about their purchases and strengthening your relationship with them will help you to increase their lifetime value.
Take your discounts international. The pandemic has pushed many consumers around the world to shop online and 85% of retailers believe online sales will see higher numbers than last year, as a result.
When establishing your holiday promotions, think beyond the Black Friday and Cyber Monday mayhem. Change up your messaging by looking at the global promotional calendar, increasing your sales with international shoppers in the quiet space before your regular promotions begin.
Prime Day is scheduled to be delayed until at least October, which could make for a great time to offer discounts when consumers are looking for sales. This could also jump start the holiday shopping season around the globe.
3. Determine how you will carry out shipping and fulfillment.
During the holiday season, you’ll likely experience an increase in orders. To prepare for the
heightened traffic, you’ll need to determine how you will handle shipping. There are three
- Handle shipping and fulfillment in-house.
- Outsource shipping and fulfillment with a third-party logistics provider (3PL).
- Outsource shipping and fulfillment with a dropshipper.
Whichever path you follow, you’ll want to automate your shipping process. Shipping software gives
you access to one dashboard where you can compare rates, print labels, manage orders, print
shipping labels in bulk, and reconcile shipping bills. You can also set shipping rules to automatically
select the cheapest rate, fastest method, etc. To understand how sales tax affects your shipping cost, integrate a tax and accounting software like Avalara, Vertex, or Quickbooks to help determine where and when you need to charge tax.
With the right shipping strategy in place, you’ll be able to offer your shoppers a better shipping
experience, improving conversion and brand loyalty. BigCommerce offers partnerships and
integrations to help accomplish this, such as ShipBob, Shipstation, ShipperHQ, and FedEx —
and global solutions like Route, EasyShip, Flavorcloud, or Global-e.
In-house shipping and fulfillment.
In-house shipping and fulfillment means you’re managing the inventory and the shipment for all of the orders. For many businesses, this method is convenient and works just fine. However, once the volume of orders reaches a certain point, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with managing all of the steps it takes to get items safely out the door.
Outsource shipping and fulfillment with third-party providers (3PL).
Working with a third-party provider (3PL) for shipping and fulfillment means that another company will take care of this part of your business for you. With a 3PL, you’ll be able to take advantage of bulk shipping discounts and advanced tracking technology. Utilizing a 3PL also means customers will receive their packages faster and if there’s any questions or issues regarding shipment, they can reach out to the 3PL. All of this frees up you and your team to focus on other aspects of the business that need your attention.
Outsource shipping and fulfillment with a dropshipper.
With dropshipping, products are sent directly from your wholesaler to your customers. Outsourcing shipping and fulfillment with a dropshipper cuts down on time and money spent shipping each item. Since products only leave the warehouse one time, there’s less costs involved and you don’t have to keep track of inventory, shipment or returns.
4. Create a memorable packaging and unboxing experience.
Ecommerce shops don’t just have a “brand,” they often have a deeply rooted story.
This story reminds shoppers why they aren’t buying the item from a discount store or a large marketplace, but are instead going directly to your website for your products. Yes, it is critical that you tell this story on your website, email communications, and social media channels, but there is no denying the power of physically seeing and reading a message to make it stick.
And, at a time of year when your customers are likely to come home to a myriad of generic large RSC boxes from mass marketplaces that contain more air than product, you can truly set your company apart with a thoughtful packaging experience that elevates your direct customer connection.
A simple printed name on your packaging can make all the different to a customer’s experience.Use your packaging to show your brand imagery, but also as a reminder of your resourcefulness and sustainability.
5. Have a clear return policy.
In some categories, such as apparel, up to 30% of online purchases are returned. And 96% of consumers will go back to companies who made returns and exchanges as seamless as possible.
Making returns painless not only strengthens customer loyalty, it also benefits your operations — fielding those return requests takes customer service a lot of time. How can you build the dream return process during the holiday season?
- Use resealable mailers (mailers with a “dual peel and seal”) or add an extra poly mailer to each shipment.
- Include instructions on how gift recipients can reuse the original shipping package for returns.
- Consider adding a return label to each shipment that can be given to the gift recipient.
- Include a short note that can be given to the recipient, detailing how to make a return or exchange.
If your return policy is too strict during the holiday seasons, you risk losing the sale.
The holidays are a time when you should be a little more flexible and provide convenience for your customers when it comes to returns — simply because things happen. Wrong sizes are ordered, a product is faulty, expectations weren’t met, etc.
The important thing for you to do is build trust by making sure your return policy is fully transparent and fair.
Also, have an extended return window around Christmastime (usually until the end of January) so consumers have time to return gifts. This will increase overall customer satisfaction and keep them coming back even after the holidays are over.
Create Strategic Holiday Marketing and Promotions
Whether it be new technologies or promotional strategies, merchants have had to adapt their stores to meet lots of unexpected changes this year in order to sell their products in the most efficient way.
This story will be no different when it comes to businesses preparing for the craziness of promotion and selling during the holiday season.
That’s why it’s important to make sure your store is fully optimized and ready with its campaigns and promotional strategies before big holiday spending periods like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Here are some key planning points on what you can do to make sure your store is fully optimized and equipped for the frenzy of holiday selling.
1. Adopt promotional strategies to engage customers.
Sometimes it’s essential to use the holiday seasons as a part of your marketing strategy to increase overall sales. This means that you should run sales that are specific to a certain holiday in order to increase festivity and enthusiasm among your consumers.
Consider using gift cards to upsell at checkout, offering seasonal services such as free gift-wrapping or shipping, or creating limited-time offers to add urgency.
The possibilities are bountiful when you consider your own brand and products and how you can bring in customers with promotions while simultaneously helping them celebrate the holiday season.
Consider free shipping and wrapping in your holiday marketing plan. Since Amazon has made free shipping a staple part of online sales, you can expect to drive more sales and conversions if you offer some sort of free shipping deal during the holidays.
Potential customers will most likely go through with a sale if free shipping is involved. This could mean you offer free shipping on orders over a certain price or maybe offer free shipping during a specific time period, such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
If you’re lost, take a look at your competitors’ shipping plans and see how you can adjust your store to attract the most customers possible during the holiday seasons and boost your conversions.
Plan for holiday contests and giveaways. Enacting different contests and giveaways during the holidays is a great way to help you increase customer satisfaction and engagement while also boosting sales. This can be done directly on your store’s website, or you can utilize social media tools.
For instance, on Instagram you could post a picture of one of your products during Christmas, and run a contest for people who comment about their favorite part of the holiday in order to win that specific product.
Not only are you engaging customers and fostering a sense of community around your brand, but you’re also promoting specific products and deals you might be running during the holiday seasons. This is why planning contests and giveaways before a certain holiday season starts will be an effective marketing strategy for your ecommerce store.
Have a rewards or loyalty program in place. Having a customer rewards or loyalty system in place that is tailored to your brand before the holidays might be a crucial step for you as a business owner.
By making an investment in your returning customers (and encouraging new customers to join), you’re adding extra consumer incentive and value to your store.
A good rewards program will be easy to use, have membership-only benefits, place higher value on your products, and increase member engagement and interaction. This is a good way to turn one-time holiday shoppers into lifelong customers.
If you’re searching for apps, Smile.io is a good place to start looking for your reward system service needs.
2. Integrate your marketing efforts.
Keeping a constant stream of content flowing is an essential part of planning a marketing strategy for the holidays.
This can be done with social media channels, blog posts, video content, etc. Any web search traffic directed to your business is good traffic. When your content is original, up-to-date, and relevant to the holiday season, chances are customers will be directed to your store and therefore boost your holiday sales.
For example, if you create a blog post on how to properly decorate for the holidays and feature a variety of your products, you have a higher chance of making a sale from customers visiting your blog. This example can be translated across many different brands, as long as the content is relevant to not only your brand but also the holiday/season you’re promoting.
Reach your customers on social media. Posting to your store’s Instagram story, making Facebook posts promoting deals and discounts, and tweeting a product campaign with a #hashtag slogan are just some of the various ways you can use social media during the holiday season.
This is where your brand needs to be unique and creative to garner the attention of consumers. Ensuring that your social media campaigns and marketing techniques are in place (before holidays like Christmas) will help you boost sales and get the word out about why shoppers should visit your store.
For instance, if you make sure that you are set up with Instagram’s feature, Instagram Checkout, you can start campaigning special discounts and deals way in advance of the holiday season, and utilize this feature by selling directly on the app.
Garner views with paid advertising. Organic traffic is valuable, but paid advertising can boost your brand in a saturated market. A quick place to begin is Facebook or Instagram Ads, since you can simply boost organic content. Where you’ll want to spend a little more time is search engine marketing and overall conversion rate optimization.
Organic SEO will help you rank on Google, but, similar to social media, a paid boost can garner
thousands of more views. Google Ads is key to any paid strategy as it can help drive both website
and in-store visits. If you have an omnichannel approach, investing in paid advertising can help
drive traffic across channels, too.
Send holiday emails. Sending promotional emails is a key and essential part of holiday campaigns. If you have specific holiday sales, discounts, or special offers — do not wait until the last minute to get those promotional emails out.
By capturing the attention of your customers beforehand, with the help of automated email features, you can get the word out early about any holiday promotions that will increase conversions when you need them most.
This also goes for email reminders about abandoned carts. Since consumers are shopping across multiple online stores during the holiday seasons, they might forget to check out at yours. A gentle reminder to your customers if their cart is abandoned will be a great way to boost your holiday sales.
Send holiday texts with SMS. When it comes to holiday, SMS provides a special opportunity to connect with your customers. Automated text messages bring a new level of personalization to virtual communication.
Many brands leverage SMS marketing to execute pre-built sequences and conversations specific
to cart abandonment, order and shipping confirmations, personalized rewards, limited-time
promotions and more.
Use SEO tactics to rank on Google. Everyone knows that earning top positioning with search engines through SEO can sometimes take months to achieve, depending on the keyword competitiveness.
So how can you quickly modify your SEO to capture holiday traffic in time for the winter months?
Getting a jump on your holiday SEO now is critical to make sure you capitalize on seasonal SEO opportunities. Not only can a great holiday SEO plan help reduce your dependency on PPC advertising, it can also help improve performance through other marketing channels.
Do a bit of keyword research to find out what gets the most interest in your vertical, and start optimizing pages for your base keywords plus these modifiers.
It’ll be more important than ever during the holidays to make sure that your landing pages are top notch — because these pages will most likely be redirected from content searches or direct links from emails or advertisements.
It’s a vital aspect of your store to have landing pages with designs and layouts that are appealing and easy to navigate. Elements such as the shopping cart and social buttons need to be visible and easily accessible so that holiday shoppers can browse once they’ve been redirected from a link.
If you’re worried that your store’s visual content needs updating, look into apps that will help you create landing pages and raise conversions well before the holiday season approaches.
Ramp up Your Customer Service and Support for Holiday Traffic
The holiday season is quickly approaching and, to be prepared for success, both your business and
your customers need adequate support.
1. Make sure your ecommerce platform provides 24/7 support.
The holiday nightmare: a crashed website on Cyber Week. After months of hard work, your
customers are disappointed and unable to make purchases. It’s often overlooked, but support for
your business is make or break for success.
Now is the time to make sure your ecommerce platform has 24/7 global support, premium security features, and industry-leading uptime.
BigCommerce comes with all of this and more. Our support team can help you with anything related to selling online and growing your business, like boosting conversion, improving your shopping experience, managing catalog transfers, and recommending solutions for taxes, payments, shipping and software integrations. We also stand out from the crowd with ongoing
content resources, like our product blog and BigCommerce blog, and our offering of growth and
launch services where you will work with a dedicated ecommerce expert.
2. Develop a robust customer service plan.
You’ve got a dedicated support team behind your store. Now, you must take care of your customers.
The holidays are undoubtedly a busy and sometimes stressful time. Be prepared to handle any
questions and concerns, and make information readily available.
Have dedicated support and respond to inquiries quickly. Even when something goes wrong, a positive customer support experience can lead to a loyal customer. You should have dedicated support for phone, email, and social media — and be sure to respond to all inquiries within 24–48 hours.
Make your contact information prominent and easy to find.
Adding updated contact information to your website and all order confirmations can enhance a customer’s trust with your store. Creating an FAQ page that offers quick and easy answers can also build trust with new customers. Providing answers to common questions may also lighten the load on your customer service team.
Ask for feedback from customers.
“How was your experience today?” This is a simple question that brings a lot of value to your
business. Not only are you obtaining customer testimonials, but you will also learn a lot about how
you can improve as a business.
You can also incentivize your customers to leave a review with a special one-time discount or free shipping.
Measure the Success of Your Holiday Campaign
Once Cyber Week 2020 is in the books, the holidays still aren’t quite over. Now, it’s time to measure
the performance of your promotions and campaigns.
1. Have goals and KPIs for the holiday season.
Numbers don’t mean much until you translate them into insights. Measuring key performance
indicators (KPIs) can help you understand your overall performance.
BigCommerce merchants benefit from Ecommerce Analytics and Insight reports, directly in the platform, that provide a deeper look at customer data all in one easy-to-view dashboard, at no extra cost. Google Analytics is another great tool to integrate to further optimize your website. When it comes to KPIs, you’ll want to look at your ecommerce data and marketing success factors.
Measure ecommerce success. This group of data helps measure the performance of your website, customer journeys, and what content or products are performing best. Here are few KPIs to consider:
- Average order value (AOV)
- Conversion rate
- Shopping cart abandonment rate
- Traffic (new vs. returning)
- Site speed
- Bounce rate
- Traffic source
- Mobile site traffic
- Day part monitoring
- Product affinity
Measure marketing success. This group of data will help you understand how specific campaigns are performing. Consider these KPIs:
- Pay-per-click (PPC)
- Click-through-rate (CTR)
- Subscriber growth rate
- Email open rate
- Social followers
- Number and quality of product reviews
- Banner or display advertising CTRs
- Blog traffic
- Affiliate performance
- Average position (search)
2. Evaluate data and make adjustments.
Once you’ve gathered all of the necessary data, adjust your efforts accordingly. If you notice that customers are engaging more with certain advertisements, increase them. If a majority of your site traffic is coming from a single source, continue your efforts and make a plan for increasing traffic from other channels.
3. Use 2020 holiday data to guide your 2021 holiday strategy.
A new year sparks new resolutions and goals. Apply the same mindset to your business and take
the time to evaluate your annual growth. Take note of what worked, what didn’t, and
what you learned.
Taking a moment to reflect on your growth will confidently set you up for the future. Every year will
bring new challenges, but creating a future-proof strategy will help you build, innovate, and grow.
As you begin crafting your 2021 strategy, be sure to:
- Set goals and objectives to hold your team accountable.
- Identify areas of improvement and invest in the right solutions.
- Continue to grow your business and engaged customer base with creative marketing.
This year, businesses and consumers are looking forward to the holiday season more than ever. Many shoppers will be looking for gifts to send to loved ones they haven’t seen all year, and business owners are hoping to make up for lost revenue during the year and start 2021 with a positive note.
As you can see, preparing your business for the holiday shopping season during any year is no small task. This year, more people will be ordering online, and whether they’re picking up items in-store or having them shipped, it’s important for the experience to be smooth from start to finish.
Once 2020 is behind us, many experts predict that the shopping trends adopted this year will be around for the long-term. In a way, prepping for the holiday season is a great way to set up your website and mobile elements for whatever the New Year brings your way.
Take holiday readiness with a step-by-step approach, and before you know it, you’ll be on your way to welcoming jolly shoppers with ease.
You’ve heard of B2B, B2C, and maybe even D2C. To add to the alphabet of business models, there’s also B2B2C, which is business-to-business-to-consumer. This model has also been referred to as B2X (business-to-x), B2E (business-to-everyone), or even B2M (business-to-many).
In recent years, more B2B models have decided to expand their approach to create a B2B2C model that reaches the final consumer. With nearly everything making its way online in one way or another, consumers are demanding much more from those who get their dollars.
This means businesses must take control over the customer’s shopping experience and create a lasting relationship with the end user. This is another way technology has changed how people shop for everything, from groceries and mattresses to clothing and electronics.
Consumers will buy just about anything online, as long as it’s a positive experience. As many as 60% of millennials are loyal to brands that offer a unique shopping experience, and since millennials are positioned to be the biggest spenders in the country, businesses are following their lead. This need to control more than just the product has B2Bs looking toward the B2B2C model.
The B2B2C model can work in several different industries and it doesn’t look exactly the same for each business. So, let’s dive into the corners of B2B2C and take a look at what it is, the benefits and the challenges of it, and how it can succeed.
What is B2B2C Ecommerce?
B2B2C ecommerce takes out the middleman usually between the B2B organization and the B2C, putting the businesses directly in contact with the consumer. The B2B2C model can best be described by looking at how a wholesaler or manufacturer interacts with traditional B2B and B2C models.
In those cases, the wholesaler or manufacturer sends goods to the B2B, and those goods are then sold to the final consumer. In a B2B2C model, the wholesaler or manufacturer reaches the final consumer by either partnering with the B2B or directly selling to the consumer. With B2B2C ecommerce, these transitions happen online, often through virtual storefronts, an ecommerce website, or even apps.
In many B2B2C ecommerce models, the consumer knows they are getting products from a business that’s separate from where they purchased it. For example, the consumer may purchase a product from an affiliate blogger but the product is branded and sent by the manufacturer.
For many long-standing B2B companies, taking things one step further and moving from a B2B model to B2B2C is becoming a popular choice. Let’s take a look at why.
Why are B2B Businesses Expanding to B2B2C?
For some businesses, the B2B2C ecommerce model simply makes sense given today’s retail climate. As consumers grow more comfortable with shopping online, they’ve come to expect a seamless buying experience, which includes having a relationship with the brand.
Because of this, many B2Bs are finding it difficult to stay relevant. In some cases, the relationship between B2Bs and B2Cs is siloed, and savvy consumers—especially millennials and Gen Z—are starting to notice.
Millennials have forced many brands to change the way they work and interact with consumers. With the power to spend $1.4 trillion (accounting for 30% of all retail sales in 2020), this unique group of consumers is not one to ignore.
Having grown up in the digital landscape of Google and Amazon, along with a myriad of social media platforms, millennials expect a lot from the places where they choose to shop. They want a store to offer self-service, with 24/7 access, so they can purchase at their convenience.
Even business buyers have become more critical of the wholesalers they work with. According to research, 70% of business buyers are looking for a user experience similar to Amazon when they purchase goods and 74% of business buyers want their shopping experience to be personalized.
B2B2C Ecommerce: Maximizing Business Opportunities
B2B2C ecommerce models have plenty of benefits for the B2B and the B2C to make the bridge. In a B2B2C model, it takes work on both sides of the hybrid agreement.
A B2B2C benefits the B2B — or the wholesaler or manufacturer — by reaching a large and loyal customer base, making bulk sales, retaining credibility by working with trusted brands, and having low customer acquisition costs.
A B2B2C benefits the B2C — the retailer or service provider — by making sales without backend logistics, attracting loyal customers to the store or website, having a wide-range of high-quality products to offer, and selling similar products and services.
Let’s take a deeper look into the benefits of B2B2C ecommerce:
1. Strategic customer growth.
When a business is a B2B2C, one of the major benefits is getting access to customers who are ready to buy. Consider this: if a B2B decided to switch to a B2C model, they’d have to create a consumer-facing brand from the ground up, including building a robust marketing strategy.
When a B2B decides to partner and move to the B2B2C model, the consumer-facing elements are already in place and successful. A B2B2C hybrid also looks to make business sense, in terms of the consumer. For example, a discount store isn’t going to partner with a high-end candle wholesaler. The partnership is targeted, so the B2C already knows the consumer will be excited and ready to purchase items from the manufacturer.
2. Removes disconnect.
In the traditional B2B model, a manufacturer sells their inventory to a retailer and the transaction for the B2B is over. The retailer, or the B2C, can then take those items and sell them at a price-point they choose and can market them in any way they like.
In a B2B2C model, the manufacturer gets to create and maintain the relationship with their customers. The sales process is also simplified. The business has control over all of the branding, and they get to keep consumer data. This improves the customer experience and can help make for a frictionless buying process.
3. Maintain control over supply chain.
Remember, in a B2B2C ecommerce model, there’s no middleman. This means a supplier can bypass the supply chain, purchase items for less and sell products for a lower price point. Lower prices make everyone happy.
Skipping the supply chain also means manufacturers can offer products faster. Today’s buyer wants to be able to purchase and return items as fast as possible. Many times, traditional B2B and B2C models couldn’t keep up with buyer demand. A B2B2C is more efficient, especially for the fashion industry which must keep up with seasonal fabrics and styles.
Challenges of B2B2C Ecommerce
Of course, the B2B2C ecommerce model has its challenges along with the benefits. One of the disadvantages of the B2B2C model is creating an effective marketing strategy. Generally speaking, a B2B2C is dealing with different groups of buyers — the retailer or the affiliate and the consumer — so creating a cohesive plan can be a unique challenge.
There’s also the issue of integrating the technical side of the business. In a B2B model, the manufacturer used a website created for selling to other businesses. While B2Bs often work years to create innovative online options for their clients, creating a consumer-facing site has different needs. With a B2B2C, there’s a more complex online buying experience that must work seamlessly with an inventory warehouse.
Does B2B2C Make Sense for All B2B Ecommerce Businesses?
In short, B2B2C doesn’t make sense for every B2B ecommerce business. In order for this model to be successful, everyone involved should benefit.
If a B2B is considering the B2B2C model, their clients would have to be willing and ready to provide access to consumers who would be interested in purchasing the products. The B2B would also need to have direct access to consumer data so they can personalize products to match customers’ needs.
If a B2C is considering the B2B2C model, their B2B partner should be willing to sell additional products or services outside of its core business. The B2B partner should see the advantages of working with you, instead of entering the market on their own.
The B2B2C model is a hybrid solution; a true partnership. Although it’s not for every business, it does work for many, especially as consumers’ buying habits continue to evolve. Even if the B2B2C model isn’t right for a business today, it might be the right solution in the future.
Building the Ultimate B2B2C Strategy
If the benefits of a B2B2C ecommerce model are enticing, next comes creating a strategy that’s built for success. There are several parts to a strategy, but having an ecommerce solution — such as a B2B2C ecommerce platform — that works for the customers and for the business is key. Here’s what any B2B2C should prioritize in their strategy:
1. Prioritize customer experience.
The customer experience is one of the major differences between the B2B and B2B2C models, which is why it’s at the top of the list. B2B2Cs should create a customer experience that drives loyalty.
The consumer-facing website needs to have the bases covered when it comes to page load speed, page structure and overall design. It should also feature relevant content and a seamless buying experience, from selecting items to completing checkout. Finally, the security of the site is paramount since it will house sensitive customer data and payment information.
2. Make your store web responsive.
Mobile ecommerce in the U.S. in 2020 will bring in $314 billion, which is 44% of total ecommerce sales. Making your online store responsive to mobile will cater to those smartphone shoppers. Having an omnichannel approach to B2B2C sales will also work in your favor.
Millennial and Gen Z consumers prefer using their phones to shop because of the convenience. Once you’ve gone through the efforts of creating a responsive mobile site, you can also attract buyers with exclusive discounts or rewards by using branded shopping apps.
3. Cross-selling and upselling.
An online store can — and should — offer similar products to customers in real-time, just as an in-store sales associate or a member of a sales team would do. Certainly we’ve all found great products by looking at those suggested under “Customers who viewed this product also viewed…”
This kind of product suggestion really comes in handy if an item requires multiple pieces, such as a desk and the matching chair or electronics with proper charging equipment. This is another small way to build loyalty, as the customer will appreciate the helpful and frictionless buying process.
4. Flexible and fully integrated platform.
Having a fully integrated platform means catering to B2B customers as well as the end consumer. When B2B clients visit your site, they will likely be looking for catalogs, ready-to-ship kits and multiple payment options. On the other hand, consumers are more interested in the overall look and ease of your site as they complete transactions.
Tactics for Being Successful with B2B2C
Once you’ve got the components of a winning strategy figured out, it’s time to get into the tactics that will create a successful B2B2C.
1. Create B2B specific promotions.
It’s easy to forget that even in the B2B space, buyers are humans. B2B customers want a great shopping experience and, just like end consumers, they’re less-likely to walk away from a targeted promotion. Expand your B2B reach by offering trade-ins and price reductions.
You can also tap into other sales channels and create social media promotions for your B2B clients. A study from Hinge Marketing revealed that more than 60% of buyers research service providers online before making a purchase.
2. Advertise customer service.
Good customer service can help your business stand out, but it’s usually only considered in the B2C model. Having customer service — and making it known — will also help customer retention.
Use your customer service to help your clients save money. You can also use this department to reach out to clients for feedback. Answering questions and assisting current or potential clients on social media is also a great way to help them, while also letting others know that you have a team available for assistance.
3. Create a referral program to benefit your dealer network.
If customers consistently have a positive experience with your product, a referral program can expand your reach to new clients. Consider the type of reward that would resonate best with your current clients — this could be a discount, a free training, a gift card, etc.
Next, figure out when and how the client will be rewarded. Of course, you’ll want to automate this process so it doesn’t require additional business processes on the backend. Finally, promote the referral program so clients can start spreading the word.
Examples of B2B2C Ecommerce
There are B2B2C ecommerce models in many different industries, from insurance and construction to fashion and food. Let’s take a look at some of the companies that have morphed into B2B2Cs to meet consumer demand and reach business goals.
1. Lammes Candies.
The family-owned candy company in Austin, Texas opened in 1885, long before ecommerce was an option. Lammes Candies made a name for itself with its pecan pralines, mailing them around the world in the 1920s. But over the years, Lammes Candies has shifted its model to keep up with consumer demand and business needs, all while utilizing available technology.
With the birth of the internet, Lammes Candies took a step toward ecommerce by creating a visual online catalog, but making sales over the phone. Today, the company has a robust online ordering system and they make 50% of their revenue from wholesale customers, and the other 50% from consumers. The B2B2C model works for Lammes Candies because of the relationships they maintain with other businesses, but also because of their direct sales with the end consumer via their website and retail shops.
UPLIFT Desk, a manufacturer and retailer of standing desks, ergonomic chairs and other office accessories won over customers by creating an online experience that lets them customize and truly see their desk before purchasing it. Customers enjoy this type of option, especially when the item is a higher-priced investment piece.
UPLIFT Desk sells directly to consumers online, but is working to expand their B2B efforts. Through their website, they’ve provided desks for large employers including Google, NBC and M.I.T, among many others. Their unique online buying experience makes UPLIFT Desk attractive to end-consumers, but also to B2B customers.
Before all of the changes of 2020 came along, more consumers were making the shift to shopping online. The effects of the pandemic was the push many businesses and consumers needed to get online, and it looks like they’re going to stay for a while.
Consumers are now looking for personalized shopping experiences that are convenient and financially savvy. This demand has not gone unnoticed from B2Bs around the globe. Making the transition to a B2B2C model allows businesses to have more control over the customer experience and, if done right, it can also result in more revenue and more opportunities.
The global ecommerce industry is vast. In 2019, the value of ecommerce sales worldwide reached $3.535 trillion. Yes, trillion…with a ‘T’. The size of the sector has been growing year-on-year for over a decade.
It’s fair to say that online shopping has revolutionized retail. As ecommerce first took hold, pessimistic prognosticators claimed it would be a death knell for retail jobs. The age of shop assistants, they argued, was over.
That may have proved right to an extent, but the idea that ecommerce would harm the job market isn’t. You don’t need an in-person shop assistant for each purchase, but you do need 1000s of workers behind the scenes. They’re who make online shopping work.
If you’re looking to join their ranks, you’ve come to the right place. In this post, we’ll tell you all you need to know about jobs in ecommerce. That includes:
- Why jobs in ecommerce are so sought after
- Which are the hottest ecommerce jobs around
- Where you can find the right ecommerce job for you
- Which skills you should hone to improve your chances of landing that ideal role
Why Look for an Ecommerce Job Right Now?
Ecommerce is big business. Ask someone to name the most significant company they can think of, and many of them will come back with ‘Amazon’. As such a thriving sector, there are many reasons to seek either full-time or part-time jobs with ecommerce companies.
1. Ecommerce has a fantastic long-term global growth outlook.
As we saw earlier, the ecommerce market has seen sustained growth for years. At a time when many sectors are struggling, the industry’s future prospects also look brighter.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have shopped online more rather than less – at least for many types of products. It’s been one of the biggest changes alongside the growth in remote working. Plenty of people have had greater exposure to ecommerce during lockdowns. That’s likely to impact shopping habits well beyond the end of the crisis.
2. Ecommerce gives you a “feel” for customers.
Modern ecommerce businesses are obsessed with giving superior user experience. To succeed in the competitive niche, an ecommerce company must be customer-centric. That means teaching their staff to empathize with and understand consumers. It’s as essential as providing tools such as a VoIP phone system for small businesses to aid communication.
A job in ecommerce, then, is a great way to get a ‘feel’ for customers. You’ll learn how to ID pain points and understand how to serve consumers best. Those are transferable skills that will stand you in good stead in your career.
3. Ecommerce exposes you to all aspects of a business.
Ecommerce jobs are, by nature, multi-faceted. When you work for an ecommerce business, you’ll get presented with varied tasks. It’s how the sector operates. Workforce optimization in the niche usually means using the same staff for many activities.
One day you may need to monitor the brand’s social media, the next, you could be editing their ecommerce platform. The wide-ranging experience you’ll gain will stand you in good stead for the future.
4. Learn fast by instant feedback.
Online shoppers expect a seamless customer experience. Part of that is expecting ecommerce companies to react at speed to criticism or issues. The need for speed trickles down to all ecommerce staff, even those in entry level positions.
Working in such a high-pace environment presents lots of learning opportunities. You’ll get instant feedback on your efforts and be expected to respond. If you can handle the pressure, your hard and soft skills will improve in no time.
19 Hottest Jobs in Ecommerce
As the ecommerce sector grows, so do the job opportunities within it. Far more than you may realize goes into making your online order go smoothly. The following are just 17 examples of the types of ecommerce jobs out there waiting for you to grab them.
1. Entry-level jobs in ecommerce.
As with many industries, new hires in ecommerce may have to start with an entry level job and work their way up. Unlike other sectors, though, you’ll find plenty of these types of job postings from ecommerce businesses.
Internships are a great way to get a foot in the door of any organization. An ecommerce business is no exception. The beauty of being an intern is that you can prove your utility to a company without much prior experience.
It’s likely only to be the largest firms that take on interns. Such positions can be paid, stipend, or unpaid. The first and last of those options are self-explanatory. A stipendiary internship is one where your travel or other expenses may get covered. You don’t, though, receive a wage or salary.
As an intern, you’re expected to turn your hand to whatever an ecommerce manager asks. You won’t be doing anything glamorous like developing new products. You may end up making lots of coffee. No matter, you’ll gather loads of invaluable experience.
Customer service representative
Of all ecommerce job titles, customer service representative is the most fundamental. No ecommerce company can thrive without these employees. They’re the frontline workers who handle orders and answer customer queries. Often, they may also deal with inbound sales over the phone.
In smaller firms, these individuals may also dabble in other areas at quieter times. That means things like email marketing, ecommerce website design, and more. At time of writing, the US national average wage for a customer service representative is $16 per hour.
Marketing is an essential part of ecommerce. Marketing specialists help businesses track and understand prevailing market trends. They ensure that new products, promotions, and more get tailored to consumer demands.
Larger ecommerce companies may have a marketing manager above a team of specialists. At an SME, a customer service rep or another team member may be asked to be a marketing specialist, too.
SEO content writer
In the online world, the search engine is king. No ecommerce business can thrive if their pages don’t get plenty of traffic. An SEO content writer is essential to vaulting a site up the search engine results pages.
These workers are responsible for optimizing all the written content on ecommerce websites. They use platforms like Google Analytics to track and improve the performance of product, category, and other pages. They’re likely also to be involved with link building.
Once again, the role of SEO content writer may fall to another worker at the smallest ecommerce businesses. Major brands like Clarks, meanwhile, might have a full team of writers. They may even outsource the work to specialists.
Logistics is a critical aspect of ecommerce. You can have all the SEO or digital marketing in the world, but your firm will fail if you can’t fulfill orders. Warehouse personnel are essential to order fulfillment.
They pick the items needed for each order, pack them, and ensure they leave on time. Workers in the warehouse are also vital for inventory management. They update colleagues or systems on stock levels, ensuring firms don’t over or undersell. All ecommerce firms – except those who only dropship – will have warehouse personnel.
Operating an ecommerce business generates a lot of admin. That includes handling supplier payments, doing the accounts, and more. An administrative assistant shoulders the burden of such paperwork and organization.
An admin assistant’s role may form part of a customer service rep’s job in a smaller firm. That’s even though their job title does not cover it. More notable brands, meanwhile, will have specialists who are not customer-facing.
This is one of the broader job descriptions in the world of ecommerce. A retention specialist works to keep customers loyal to a brand, in whatever way they can. Maintaining a customer base, after all, is critical to any business.
These employees can be either full-time or part-time. They are usually restricted, though, to more established brands. They’re not strictly ecommerce specialists and can work in other fields, too. Their job is to ensure customer experiences that keep shoppers coming back for more. They might create ebooks of product usage instructions or reach out to customers for feedback.
2. Experienced-level jobs in ecommerce.
That accounts for the entry level jobs in ecommerce. One of the great things about the sector, though, is that there are also plenty of opportunities for more experienced candidates.
User experience designer
User experiences are fundamental to ecommerce. They’re the interactions between customers and a brand’s services – i.e., their website or apps. A user experience (UX) designer must ensure those services work as well as they can. Take the below screenshot of the Glory Cycles website as an example:
A UX designer would have been responsible for tailoring the site to its audience. They will have decided on the placement of the search bar, and the titles for the navigation tabs.
That’s only scratching the surface. These professionals must understand online marketing, customer experience, and more. That’s the only way to get UX design just right. They may even play a part in optimizing tools like ACD call center software to aid customer support.
All businesses – in ecommerce and otherwise – want loyal customers. Consumers who keep coming back for more are great for the bottom line. One way to boost loyalty is by building a community around your ecommerce brand. This is something that often leverages the power of social media.
We can all think of those brands whose customers are more like fanatics. They’re always talking about the latest new product or what else a firm is up to. They’re hugely useful as brand advocates. A community builder aims to create such a following by combining the roles of a social media specialist and project manager.
There are two main types of developers who work for ecommerce businesses. Those are website and software developers. The role of the former is self-explanatory. The latter are often tasked with building specialist databases or applications.
These roles are amongst the most sought after. Recruiting top tech talent, after all, is always tricky. Less established ecommerce businesses may not have such professionals in-house. They’re more likely to use ready-made ecommerce platforms or outsource development work. The biggest brands – who can afford the higher wages – are where these roles exist.
Ecommerce companies have extensive IT infrastructures. Many run various types of software solutions and have lots of hardware in offices and warehouses. An IT technician is charged with providing the all-important technical support. The more complex the infrastructure, the more crucial that technical support gets.
This is another job title that’s unlikely to get found at smaller companies. The big boys of ecommerce, though, certainly have in-house business analysts. Their job is to keep their fingers on the pulse of business operations.
A business analyst will analyze the data generated by an ecommerce company. They’ll then report back to ecommerce managers, project managers, and others about what is and isn’t working.
Ecommerce is a visual niche. The imagery used on an ecommerce website or in marketing materials plays a major role in influencing customers. Online consumers, after all, can’t see products ‘in the flesh’.
A graphic designer for an ecommerce business handles that crucial visual communication. They may get charged with designing a new homepage or drafting images for new products. A more significant firm with lots of need for original content would employ several in-house graphic designers.
3. Management jobs in ecommerce.
There is also a range of managerial positions within the ecommerce niche. It’s little wonder, with so many different professionals for each firm to keep track of. These are some of the most common management jobs in ecommerce.
Supply chain manager
Keeping track of the supply chain is essential for any ecommerce brand to succeed. A supply chain manager has ultimate responsibility for that process. That means they must stay across many activities and areas. Those include relationships with suppliers, inventory management, deliveries, and reverse logistics. Amongst other elements.
A supply chain manager is in charge of their company’s warehouse personnel. In ecommerce businesses with tight budgets, an owner may take up this role by proxy. Many companies, though, will employ a dedicated supply chain manager.
Digital operations manager
A digital operations manager is similar to a project manager. In their case, though, the project encompasses all the firm’s digital activities. Think website maintenance, SEO, email marketing, and more. In essence, this ecommerce specialist must keep all digital platforms operational and stable.
Digital marketing manager
There’s a fair bit of crossover in the roles of digital operations and digital marketing managers. This job title, however, is more specialized. This type of ecommerce manager focuses on material that’s customer-facing.
A digital marketing manager is in charge of all online promotion of a brand. They use tools such as Google Analytics and manage staff, including SEO content writers and community builders.
Customer satisfaction manager
We’ve already touched on the importance of world class customer service in ecommerce. Dissatisfied customers swiftly abandon online brands. Some larger ecommerce companies, then, employ a dedicated customer satisfaction manager.
This individual must keep an overview of all the brand’s attempts to improve user experience. They would have responsibility for non-managerial customer service employees. They also play a part in tech decisions impacting those staff. For instance, they might recommend a call forwarding service to connect customers better to support agents.
In ecommerce, as elsewhere in business, managing the money is vital. A financial manager has ultimate control over a firm’s finances. That means they look after budgets, expenditure, payroll, and more.
The role of a financial manager is crucial to all ecommerce businesses. For those with limited budgets, though, their tasks may fall to other managers. Multi-tasking is a hallmark of SMEs, after all.
Director of ecommerce
The big cheese. The head honcho. The…well, you get the idea. The director of ecommerce is in charge of all a firm’s online shopping operations. The previous managers and all other ecommerce project managers answer to them. For the most significant decisions, this is where the buck stops.
Skills Necessary for a Successful Ecommerce Career
Now you’ve read our rundown of the hottest jobs in ecommerce, you may have found the one you want. What’s left is to do everything you can to go out and get it. That starts with honing the essential skills you’ll need in your new job.
1. Technical skills.
Here are the technical skills you may need for a great job in ecommerce.
Web traffic is like gold dust to any ecommerce brand. Getting more people to visit their site is one crucial way of growing revenue. Ecommerce SEO is fundamental to increasing traffic. You stand a much better chance of getting employed, then, if you’re an expert. Try to learn about things like keyword research, metadata, and link building.
Much of succeeding in ecommerce is about being persuasive. An ecommerce website must convince visitors to buy. So must any online marketing materials. The copy used on product pages and elsewhere, then, must be top-notch. If you’re able to write such content, a potential employer will sit up and take notice.
Ecommerce businesses generate lots of data. Information comes from diverse sources like Google Analytics and order management software. That info can build up quickly and is invaluable if interpreted correctly. Teach yourself to analyze data and recognize patterns. That way, you can help a new employer track consumer trends and perform more accurate demand forecasting.
Understand the market
No ecommerce brand exists in a vacuum. Each one gets affected by market trends and the actions of their rivals. It’s crucial for team members at each brand, then, to understand the broader market. Educate yourself on this before you start a new job, and you’ll have a head start.
2. Soft skills.
These soft skills will help advance any ecommerce career.
Getting new jobs in ecommerce isn’t all about practical skills. The top companies will take it as read that applicants can use Excel or understand product management. They want candidates who support those abilities with soft skills like creativity.
Take the above example of Hyphen Sleep’s homepage. It took out of the box thinking to develop such an impactful page. Such creativity is what helps an ecommerce business to shine. Show a firm that you have it, and they’ll want to bring you on board.
You should have realized by now that working in ecommerce is fast-paced and unpredictable. Whether you work in a customer-facing or backroom role, no two days are the same. Being able to adapt to what each shift throws at you is essential, therefore.
You might think that there’s less human interaction in ecommerce than traditional retail. In sheer numbers, you could be right. The interactions there are, though, are more critical and trickier to navigate. It’s not as easy to ease an unhappy customer’s concerns via email as it is in person. Nor is it as straightforward to sell the benefits of a product that someone can’t see or touch. People skills, then, are crucial to ecommerce roles.
I’m Ready to Work in Ecommerce. Where Should I Look?
Identified the ecommerce job you want? Sharpened up your practical and human skills? Then you’re ready to get out there and capture your dream role. Here are some tips to help you on your way.
1. Get a referral.
We’ve all heard the adage that ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’. You can’t show off your skills, after all, until a manager or recruiter agrees to meet you. Getting a referral from an existing employee is an excellent way to get your foot in the door.
Employers like hiring candidates recommended to them by trusted colleagues. It’s quicker than traditional recruiting, and the applicant has already been vouched for. Reaching out to contacts who already work in ecommerce is a superb first step to getting new jobs in the sector.
2. Expand your network.
You might be unfortunate and not know anyone working at a company you want to join. This is more likely for those looking to get an entry level job. It’s not the quickest or most straightforward tip, but it pays to grow your network.
That means making new connections who could help you with referrals down the road. There are plenty of ways to do this, including:
- Attending ecommerce conferences and events
- Joining professional groups on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.
- Enjoying hobbies and interests that introduce you to different groups of people
3. Create an ecommerce presence.
If you’re looking for a higher-level new job, a prospective employer expects a level of expertise. They’ll want to see proof you’re an authority in your field. You need to present them with evidence of precisely that.
This is another long-term strategy. You must build your ecommerce presence throughout your career. Try things like writing educational blogs or speaking at conferences. Maybe you could even sign up to Help a Reporter Out as an expert source on all things ecommerce.
4. Work with a recruiter.
Finding the perfect new job is a personal endeavor. That doesn’t mean you can’t get help, though. Recruiters are there to do all they can to get you that dream role. They can guide you through the whole process. That includes getting you access to positions that may not get publicly advertised. Some ecommerce companies, after all, work exclusively with recruiters to fill their vacancies.
5. Explore a job board.
When new jobs get advertised, they appear on job boards. These are online forums you can sift in search of the perfect opening for you. The following are four useful platforms to get you started.
Indeed is a job board with a global presence. It’s designed to make it straightforward to find whichever new career you desire.
You can upload your resume to make it searchable by recruiters. What’s more, the intuitive search feature lets you find specific roles where you live.
We’ve all heard of LinkedIn. It’s the more professional, big brother of the usual social media channels. You might have used it for networking remotely, or even a bit of marketing if that’s your field.
You can also utilize the platform as a job board. Simply head to the ‘Jobs’ tab of the network, and get started. A prominent search feature makes it straightforward to find those ideal positions. You can also set up job alerts to ensure you don’t miss any new opportunities that get posted.
ZipRecruiter is another readily available board for job seekers to search. Headquartered in California, the company’s reach is worldwide. The job board often boasts over one million opportunities.
Once again, the easiest way to use ZipRecruiter is by performing a swift search. You can also, however, set up a profile and use a range of extra features. They include being able to browse ‘Suggested Jobs’ and create job alerts.
Ecommerce job board
As its name suggests, our final job board is one specifically for the ecommerce sector. Ecommerce job boards are devoted to advertising full-time, part-time, and freelance roles in the industry.
The principal benefit of this board is that more of the advertised jobs will apply to you. You don’t have to filter out all those opportunities in different sectors. Instead, you can browse only roles related to your area of interest.
Ecommerce is a booming sector. Sales and revenue in the market have grown year-on-year for over a decade. Even amid the uncertainty of COVID-19, online shopping is a robust industry. That makes it an excellent one in which to launch a career.
Whether you’re starting out or have experience, there are loads of hot jobs in ecommerce. Hopefully, thanks to our rundown of those opportunities, you know the role that will suit you. What’s left for you to do, then, is place yourself best to grab that dream job.
Build your technical and soft skills to make yourself an irresistible candidate. Then, trawl your network, recruiters, and job boards to pinpoint the opportunity you’re going to turn into a new job. With your new grounding in jobs in ecommerce, you can’t fail.
Have you tried to catch a Pokémon lately? Or experimented with silly Snapchat filters? Or attempted to fit the perfect dresser in your bedroom via the IKEA app? If these activities sound familiar, then you’ve tried Augmented Reality (AR) — the most accessible and fast-evolving immersive technology available to consumers.
Immersive technologies weren’t created yesterday. They’ve been around longer than social media or iPhones. Yet, they weren’t ready for the mass consumer market — until recently.
According to Statista, the market for AR technology is growing, with projections for 2023 valuing it at over $18 billion U.S. dollars. It also predicts that consumer spending on standalone and embedded augmented reality mobile applications worldwide will reach$15.497 million by 2022.
Now that AR is on the rise, it’s quickly finding application in most, if not all, product-driven industries. This includes the world of ecommerce. However, many ecommerce store owners are still wary of adopting AR technology — and that’s mainly because many of them still don’t know what AR exactly is and how it can change their online selling game.
For most people, AR is still a quite abstract and mysterious technology, often perceived as the science fiction out of Hollywood movies. Animated holograms, interactive displays, and virtual 3D models. In reality, all these things do already exist!
In this article, we’ll discuss in detail what augmented reality is and how ecommerce businesses can leverage it to expand their business, increase sales, and boost customer experience.
Let’s get rolling.
What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented reality is the technology that expands our physical world by adding layers of digital information on top of it. Viewed via a screen, it offers a view of the physical real-life environment with superimposed computer-generated images, therefore changing the perception of what you see in front of you.
The superimposed sensory information can be constructive (i.e., improving/adding to the natural environment), or destructive (i.e., covering the natural environment), but the intent is to seamlessly combine the digital and physical worlds.
How is Augmented Reality Different from Virtual Reality?
Augmented reality and virtual reality (VR) are the two primary types of immersive technologies. However, the terms are often confused with one another and used interchangeably.
Let’s dispel with the myth that they offer the same experience.
The basic concept of virtual reality is that it takes the user and places him or her in a new, digital world. To achieve this, users wear a VR headset or a head-mounted display made up of one or two computer screens to fully immerse themselves in the experience.
Sensors within the headset transmit signals to your brain, changing your perception of what you see and adding to the experience of existing in that world. In turn, you feel as if you’re moving around and interacting with the virtual items inside the simulated environment.
On the other hand, devices using AR layer digital items onto elements from the real world. The AR technology allows you to add or change your perception of the world in real-time while easily differentiating virtual items from existing ones.
And of course, with AR, there’s no headset needed. You can use your tablet or smartphone to view these computer-generated creations. AR developers have also made AR-enabled glasses and other light headgear.
AR vs VR: The Differences
Here are four major differences between AR and VR.
1. The virtual experiences environment.
VR provides users with a completely digital environment with no objects from reality. AR enhances what you see by adding computer-generated images to the view using different devices.
2. The equipment.
VR necessitates wearing a VR headset to create a truly immersive experience. Some applications need extra equipment as well, like a handheld controller to get the full benefit of the experience. AR, in contrast, only needs you to have a “smart device” (e.g. phone or tablet) to enjoy the experience.
3. The user’s environment.
VR requires an uncluttered space to move around safely since the user is largely “removed” from the real-world experience. Objects and people around the user can become a hazard—and the user can become a bit of a danger to others as well! With AR, you remain fully aware of your surroundings.
4. The energy required.
VR gear consumes more power and energy than AR because it is generating a full digital world rather than combining digital and real.
Types of AR Applications
Let’s take a deeper look at the common types of AR applications:
1. Marker-based AR.
Marker-based AR, also called Image Recognition or Recognition based AR, detects the object in front of the camera and provides information about the object on the screen.
The recognition of the object is based on the marker where it replaces the marker on the screen with a 3D version of the corresponding object. Consequently, the user can view the object in more detail and from many angles.
While rotating the marker, the user can also rotate the 3D imagery as well. This acts as a reference for the AR app running on the system.
2. Markerless AR.
Markerless AR is one of the most extensively used applications in the immersive technologies category. One of its types, location-based AR is easily available in the smartphones that allow location detection.
This kind of app works by reading data from the GPS, digital compass, gyroscope, and accelerometer to provide data based on user’s location. This data then determines what AR content you find or get in a certain area.
Snapchat’s World Lenses is a good example of markerless AR. With World Lenses, users can generate live filters simply by pointing their smartphone at any object or scene.
The most prominent example of a location-based AR app, however, is Pokémon Go, which perceives players’ GPS coordinates and displays Pokémon depending on where someone is located.
3. Superimposition-based AR.
This type of AR app substitutes the original view with an augmented — full or partial — view. Object recognition plays a critical role here since, without it, the whole concept is simply impossible.
4. Projection-based AR.
Projection-based AR is one of the simplest kinds of AR. It is appealing and interactive at the same time. It involves projecting synthetic light to physical surfaces, and in some cases, allows the user to interact with it.
Common examples include the holograms we’ve all seen in sci-fi movies like Star Wars. It detects user interaction with a projection by its variations.
Users provide guidance through their manual inputs and the projector responds by changing the light emitted. Projector-based AR works for both practical and entertainment purposes, as this video shows.
Augmented Reality in Ecommerce
How’s AR changing the ecommerce landscape? Check out these stats:
How Ecommerce Businesses Are Using Augmented Reality
AR allows ecommerce customers to preview products or experience services in their own environment and on their own time, before electing to make a purchase. Using AR, your customers can preview products and be more likely to pick the right product the first time.
Here are the top four ways that ecommerce stores are currently using AR.
1. Social media filters.
We mentioned Snapchat up top. If you’ve been on there or Instagram Stories lately, you’ve probably used an AR filter. These filters were once used ‘just for fun’, but over the years there has been a rise in the number of brands who are jumping on the AR bandwagon.
Why are brands using social media AR filters? There are three key benefits:
- Increased awareness of a brand or product: It is a great way to showcase a new product by telling people to ‘test’ how it’ll look on them.
- Increased engagement: AR filters are a good way to boost audience engagement. For example, you can encourage people to tag you in their stories when they use the filter to enter a competition.
- “Wow” factor: There are so many brands on social media right now. Adding an AR filter can help showcase just what makes you special.
Remember back in 2017 when Ben & Jerry’s created a highly interactive Facebook AR filter game to launch a new ice cream flavor? The game encouraged people to ‘catch’ marshmallows in their mouth. This type of filter takes more work to bring to market but it is endlessly entertaining and shareable.
We MakeUp, the Italian cosmetics brand, created an AR filter on Facebook that allowed users to ‘try-on’ different shades of its lipstick. Users could find their perfect match and make the purchase right away.
The creative involved a video that demonstrated the filter’s use, encouraging users to try it for themselves. The campaign was a huge success with53% higher CTR and a 28-point lift in sales when compared to video-only ads.
2. Preview placement.
Buying the wrong item is quite common in ecommerce because the customer can’t physically handle the product. For example, the shopper might buy a sofa set and later realize that it just doesn’t look good with the rest of the décor. That’s where preview placement can help.
It gives customers a real-time glimpse of what the product will look like when placed in their environment.
For example, Sony Electronics recently launched the Envision TV AR app as a way to “try before you buy”. This means that homeowners could preview how a Sony TV will fit on the wall or in the space that they had in mind for placement. With the app, users could accurately determine which TV size was perfect for their space by using a smartphone and the Envision TV AR app.
Etsy, an online marketplace famous for giving creators a platform to sell their art. With so many options it can be tough to select a print or painting, let alone visualize how it will look in a space. That’s why Etsy is helping consumers preview wall art in their own spaces with a new AR feature on its iOS app. So, you no longer have to rely on imagination alone when wondering if a certain print would look good above your couch.
Here’s another example of preview placement.
Burrow, a DTC furniture brand, uses AR to help customers visualize how their couches will fit in their living rooms. Their Burrow at Home app uses ARKit to place true-to-scale 3D models of Burrow’s couches in photos taken on customers’ iPhones and iPads.
3. Virtual try-on solutions.
According to a report from customer experience platform Narvar, the top reason why consumers returned goods from Amazon (34%) and other retailers (46%), was the wrong size, fit, or color.
Not every brand can offer a home try-on facility likeRevelry that allows dress samples and swatches shipped right to your door. But virtual try-on is an alternative that’s trying to close the gap.
AR helps online shoppers understand what they’re buying and how precisely items from clothing to cosmetics will work for them. Virtual try-on allows them to see how the item will look before adding it to the shopping cart.
Today, there’s a slew of brands who have embraced AR technology to offer virtual try-on functionality to the customers. For example, online jewelry retailer Kollectin’s app launched an AR feature called “Xperience” to let customers virtually try on jewelry.
Similarly, eyeglass maker Warby Parker is also playing in the AR space, allowing people to see what a pair of glasses looks like on their faces before making a purchase.
4. Interactive user manuals.
Today, user guides are becoming a lot smarter and interactive. With digital transformation on their shoulders, ecommerce brands are creating interactive user guides that run on top of their website or software. They help users better understand how their product works.
An interactive user manual responds to user actions, providing on-page contextual support when using a software, website, or application. It brands to automate customer support and onboarding and provide more autonomy to the consumer when using a new platform for the first time.
Many AR user manual apps scan the product and indicate the buttons in the real-life environment using graphical arrows and animations with text. While others like Ask Mercedes use Augmented Reality to let you explore the functions of numerous operating elements in a playful way.
Simply enter your questions into the chat text or voice and receive the corresponding response. Complicated issues are easily and systematically explained with images or descriptive videos.
How Augmented Reality Can Help Grow Your Store
One of the greatest limitations of the ecommerce industry is the inherent difficulty of trying to represent a product virtually.
AR can help bridge the gap between shopping at a physical location and online shopping by making it easier to represent merchandise and giving the consumer a better sense of what they are purchasing.
When you implement AR in your ecommerce store, you can expect to:
1. Increase customer engagement.
AR technology increases customer engagement by 66%. That’s because it keeps the user hooked to your site. And, the longer a customer spends on your website, the more likely they are to buy something.
Even if they don’t buy during a visit, the improved engagement means they’ve developed a relationship with your brand and your product, which makes them more likely to make a future purchase.
2. Attract new shoppers.
You can reach new customers and create a buzz around the brand by creating engaging AR campaigns. And guess what? As many as 40% of customers are willing to pay more for a product if they can experience it through AR.
This is because AR gives ecommerce customers greater confidence about the product and its quality before clicking “buy,” which makes them more confident paying a premium.
3. Boost conversion rates.
Average mobile conversion without AR is about 3.5%. With AR, it increases to 11%. In addition to keeping people on your site longer, AR can actually boost sales. This is likely because AR gives users more information than static 2D images.
Along with offering 3D views, it can show what a product looks like in a consumer’s space, making it much easier to make a purchasing decision.
How to Bring Augmented Reality to Your Ecommerce Website
Want to bring AR to your online store? Here are a few things you need to consider:
1. Clarify your business objectives.
Is AR right for you? What are you wanting to achieve? Does this help your customers? These are a few questions that you need to ask yourself before you embrace AR for your business.
Figure out your vision and goals first before jumping into the technical aspects of AR. Once you know where you’re going, the process of choosing the techniques and technologies you need to get there becomes easier.
2. Identify augmented reality tools you would like to use.
To assess the AR tools, think about the following:
In a limited budget, you may want to opt for an AR platform that offers a free license. Many AR solutions provide both free and commercial licenses. However, keep in mind that the free version won’t be as robust as the full version of the software.
Whether you’re planning to run your app on mobile devices, laptops, or AR glasses, ensure that the tool you use can support the hardware for your app.
Supported operating systems
If you’re planning to develop apps for several operating systems (iOS, Android, Windows, etc.), make sure that the platform you choose supports every OS you want to run your app on.
Although the AR tools in the market have similar capabilities, not all of them are created equal. So carefully evaluate each platform to ensure it has the exact features you need.
For example, not all platforms support geo-location, so if you’re planning to create a location-based AR app, stay away from such tools.
3. Market your new tool.
The next step is to think about marketing and promoting your AR initiative. After all, you want to ensure that people are aware of your app, and that they know how to use it.
Here’s how you can market your new tool:
- Create a demo video: Make promotional and instructive videos for your app that demonstrate how it’s used. This will decrease confusion and queries about your AR initiative.
- Display in-app instructions: Provide clear, step-by-step instructions that tell people exactly what they need to do when using your app. Also, add examples or even photos and in-app videos that get your instructions across.
- Make your AR content shareable: Allow users to share their AR store experience with their friends or their extensive network on social media. This can be photos with augmented objects in them or tweets with a branded hashtag.
In the age of social distancing, AR is a powerful tool for merchants. It makes it possible for consumers to engage with products almost as they would in physical stores, and that higher engagement translates to higher sales.
However, the pathway to AR victory can be perplexing if you don’t know what you’re doing. When in doubt, always seek help from a professional like Threekit.
Threekit is a pioneer in leveraging AR technology for ecommerce brands. We can help your customers see how a product looks in their space with remarkable detail and accuracy.
You glance at the clock and it’s only two in the afternoon. It’ll probably be another seven hours before you’re finally able to quit. Under the circumstances, another cup of coffee seems like a good idea. Telecommuting might be imperative right now, but it’s pretty relentless, and your salary feels less adequate every day.
Last night, your partner asked you a question over dinner.
“You know so much about retail. Why don’t you start your own business?”
You didn’t immediately have an answer. Sure, you’d considered it before, but you hadn’t felt ready to take on the responsibility.
“Perhaps this is the right time.”
Stirring cream into your Americano, you remember how that statement made you feel. Excited; intimidated; overwhelmed. You hadn’t known where to begin. Do people really just wake up one day and decide to start an ecommerce business?
Actually, yes, they do. There’s a catch, though: about half of all businesses fail within the first five years. Every month in the U.S., nearly 550,000 new companies take flight. Around 80% of them survive about 12 months — 70% last 24 months or more. Roughly 50% of businesses make it half a decade, and approximately a third survive ten years.
So, why do businesses crash and burn? The answer lies at the beginning of the trail. Many failed businesses don’t start with a solid strategy. Companies that succeed have one common seed — a great business plan.
This article is a practical and logical guide to business planning. By the time you hit the final paragraph, you’ll know how to draft your own business plan and how to use it to help your company succeed. Ready, skipper? Let’s set sail.
What is an Ecommerce Business Plan?
Excellent business plans help companies maintain focus on a predefined set of goals. They also help company owners present their businesses to lenders and investors. If your business is an online vehicle, your ecommerce business plan is a roadmap. First, define your business — your vehicle — and then describe where you want to take your business and how you’ll get there.
The best business plans read like travel itineraries. They include blueprints for growth, projected timelines, and financial goals. Like real-world route planners, they identify potential roadblocks and outline contingency strategies. They clarify topics like cash flow, expenses, marketing tools, and distribution channels in detail. Basically, your business plan is the framework for your enterprise.
Why Should Your Online Store Have a Business Plan?
Your ecommerce business plan is the most important strategic document you’ll ever produce for your company. Writing it helps you clarify your goals and pinpoint problems in advance. As you create your business plan, you will:
1. Gain a deeper understanding of your business.
Maybe your business concept hit you out of the blue in the shower one day; perhaps you pondered for years before taking the plunge. Either way, writing a business plan can help you get to know your baby better. You’ll probably think of things you hadn’t thought of before — and you’ll clarify the good ideas you already have.
Many entrepreneurs begin with a concise list on a small piece of paper and expand their plans from there. If you run into subjects you don’t know much about (tax questions, supply chain issues, warehousing needs, employee benefits options, and so forth), put them on a separate list and research them later.
At this stage, what you’re aiming for is a synopsis of your final business plan. As you write, try to answer the following questions:
- Do you plan to sell physical products, digital products, or services?
- Who is your customer?
- Will you need an external site, or can you work from home?
2. Identify resources needed to run your business.
You have a top-notch business idea. Now, you need to gather the resources to make it happen. Nearly all legitimate businesses require some form of monetary investment, but the list of supplies doesn’t stop there. Let’s look at three resource categories: financial, physical, and human.
Most small business owners start with relatively limited funds and build capital as they progress. If you can afford to buy equipment and inventory using your savings, that’s great. If you can’t, there are four main options open to you:
- A business loan.
- A partner of financial means.
- An angel investor.
- A Kickstarter (or similar) crowdfunding campaign.
Think about the type of tech you’ll need for your ecommerce business, like (at least) one reliable computer, a decent camera to take product photos, a printer, and shipping supplies. If you plan to manufacture your own products, you’ll need raw materials or ingredients. And don’t forget about the big items you might need, like business premises, vehicles, and machinery.
Some entrepreneurs prefer to work alone, while others form partnerships. Partnerships have several advantages over flying solo: you can pool ideas and financial or physical resources, for example.
Human resources also include employees, subcontractors you rely on to perform essential tasks (couriers, freelancers, etc), and people in your supply chain. You need talented and dedicated people on your team — and you’ll need to pay them accordingly, so they stick around.
3. Build a road map for the future.
Where do you want to be in five years? 10 years? Do you plan to build a global ecommerce empire? Do you intend to take your company public? Do you want to create jobs in your city or help people thrive in developing countries — or both?
This document is your game plan for success. In it, you’ll describe your expansion strategies, your sales goals, and your personal ambitions. You’ll come up with milestones and identify key performance indicators (KPIs).
4. Evaluate what your competitors are doing.
Many fledgling entrepreneurs spend countless hours worrying about whether or not their business ideas are unique. Wanna know a secret? It’s okay if your concept isn’t one of a kind. What matters is how well you measure up against your competition.
“In battle, if you make your opponent flinch, you have already won.” — Miyamoto Musashi
With that in mind, take some time to evaluate your competitors. What do they sell? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Can you learn from their mistakes? Can you source or create products that are just as good or better than those offered by your rivals, but without the drawbacks? If so, you’ll gain the upper hand in the ecommerce marketplace.
5. Spot opportunities.
Opportunities are everywhere — you just have to know where to look. You might be able to form marketing partnerships with companies whose products complement yours. You sell sneakers; they sell athleisure. You sell tea; they sell mugs.
Don’t discount the power of influencers. Partnerships with popular Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook personalities can yield substantial dividends. Because their followers consider them relatable, influencer product endorsements rapidly lead to revenue. Some influencers provide marketing services in exchange for free products, while others operate more like freelancers.
Who Needs an Ecommerce Business Plan?
Simply put, almost all entrepreneurs benefit from robust ecommerce business plans. Okay, so hobbyists selling hats on Etsy might not need a 10-page investment proposal, but they should at least write a list of long-term goals.
1. You’re just starting out.
Let’s imagine that you’ve only just scratched the surface of your business career. At this point, the sum total of your company is basically you sitting in your kitchen, staring at a product prototype. You want to sell 20,000 of these things by next fall, but you don’t have a supply chain or a distributor network yet. You need a business plan to help you:
- Set clear goals.
- Create a strategy for success.
2. You are seeking investors.
You’re on the up-and-up. Three months ago, you ordered a small-scale production from a manufacturer in Vietnam; the merchandise arrived yesterday, and it looks good. You’d like to place a bigger order, but you don’t have the capital to do it by yourself. You need a business plan to help you:
- Convince investors that your business is a good bet, or.
- Create an effective crowdfunding campaign.
3. You’re ready to scale your business full-time.
You have a small ecommerce store and want to upgrade to a bigger, better one. You’re ready to give up your day job and take your online business to the next level. You want to invest in a broader product range and hire additional employees. You need a business plan to help you:
- Get a major business loan from your bank.
- Determine KPIs, milestones, and partnership opportunities.
Getting Started With Your Ecommerce Business Plan
Full-scale business plans are pretty complex documents. Before you begin writing in earnest, review a few business plan templates and read a couple of sample business plans. Then, consider the following three questions and use your answers to create a strategic outline.
1. What are you selling?
Ecommerce companies sell three different types of products: goods, services, and digital products. You need to tell your readers what you intend to sell and why. It’s okay to write in general terms if you offer an extensive range of products; if you’re a single-product retailer or have a limited assortment, be more specific.
If you plan to sell digital products, be clear about what they are and how customers gain access to them. Will consumers download software, music, or educational videos from your site? Will you offer a streaming service? What about licensing requirements?
If you’re a service provider, tell your readers exactly what you do and where. Are you strictly local? Do you travel long distances? Will you partner with similar services providers in other areas? Do you plan to expand your service-based company across the country at some point?
2. Who is your target customer?
Many ecommerce businesses sell their products directly to consumers. If you’re a business-to-consumer (B2C) company, try to come up with a consumer profile and use it to create an online marketing strategy for your product. Are you trying to sell galvanized water troughs to dairy farmers or handmade French hair clips to fashionistas?
Some online retailers and service providers operate a business-to-business (B2B) model. Manufacturers who sell raw ingredients to food corporations or components to electronics companies fall into this category.
Whether you’re B2C or B2B, you need to try to figure out what makes your customer tick. What are they looking for when they visit your site? Are they practical and frugal, or do they have disposable income to spare? Do they want to buy plastic pellets in bulk, or do they want to invest in art?
3. How are you sourcing your products?
Some ecommerce companies manufacture their products in-house. Perhaps you make bespoke furniture or fishing rods; maybe you create iPhone apps or accounting software. In that case, all you have to do is buy shipping supplies or set up a downloading service, and you’re all set.
Most ecommerce retailers depend on a supply chain of some kind, though. LARQ, for example, came up with a water bottle prototype and used crowdfunding money to order its first production run. If you plan to use a third-party manufacturer, try to develop a good working relationship well in advance of your launch date.
Other product-sourcing options include:
- Dropshipping: Partner with a dropshipping service; products are made off-site and shipped out for you.
- Wholesale: Buy a large number of products at once, store them on-site, and ship them out when orders come in.
7 Parts of an Ecommerce Plan
All business plans are a little different, but most contain seven key elements. You might decide to add additional topics when you write your own plan, but if you begin with the following headings, you’ll get off to a good start.
- Executive summary.
- Company overview.
- Market analysis.
- Products and services.
- Marketing plan.
- Logistics and operations plan.
- Financial plan.
Perfect for time-limited reviewers, an executive summary refines your business idea into a clear and persuasive one-page outline. Your executive summary belongs near the beginning of your business plan — but you might want to bookmark this how-to and read it again later. Why? Because you’ll write your executive summary last. Again, why? Because as you create the rest of your business plan, you’ll develop a deeper understanding of your venture and your customer.
For the sake of this article, we’ll pretend we have a fledgling business called Candy Inc. Unlike retailer Bon Bon Bon, Candy Inc. is a B2B company, so it only sells sweet treats to other companies. Candy Inc. recently migrated from Shopify to BigCommerce. Let’s dissect an executive summary and provide examples based on Candy Inc.:
1. What does your business do?
Provide a brief summary of what your company does. Make it compelling and easy to digest. Are you a B2B business or a B2C business? Do you sell products or services? What industry is your business in?
Candy Inc. is a B2B candy wholesaler with state-of-the-art warehousing facilities in Seattle. We sell bulk quantities of high-quality American-made candy to other businesses.
2. What goals does your business want to achieve?
Write about your vision for your company. What do you want to accomplish? Why are you better than the competition?
The products we sell are made in the USA by family-run businesses with decades of traditional candy-making experience. We want to support these homespun chocolatiers and confectioners by forming partnerships with as many American and international candy stores as possible.
3. What products do you sell?
Provide a short but information-packed overview of the products you sell. If you sell a lot of products, it’s okay to speak in general terms. If you believe that your products are better than other companies’ similar products, say so.
Our product selection includes a range of naturally flavored taffy, hard candies infused with lavender, mint, and lemon verbena and chocolates made by intergenerational artisans in the Midwest. We also offer candy personalization services, including corporate packaging.
4. Who is your audience?
Write about your target audience here. If you plan to market your products to a range of different consumers, tell your readers who they are.
Our main clients are small- and medium-sized privately-owned candy stores across North America. We also sell limited-edition candy to department stores and large retail corporations, like Target, who capitalize on niche markets during the holiday season. Finally, we offer candy packaging services for large-scale corporate events.
5. Where are you going to sell your products?
If you have a physical store as well as a website, mention it here. If you’re strictly an ecommerce merchant, you might have several online sales channels — a company website, eBay, Amazon, Etsy, and so forth.
The Candy Inc. website is intuitive, modern, and well organized, and it has a highly effective embedded search function for visitors. We use SEO marketing techniques to improve search engine ranking, and we run banner ads on food service and grocery wholesaler sites to draw attention to our company.
6. What is your monetization strategy?
Offer a concise summary of your monetization strategy here. Will you work with wholesale companies? Will you form partnerships with influencers, or will you go with affiliate or email marketing? Will you produce private or white label goods?
Candy Inc. currently works with 50 small- and medium-sized candy stores in America, Mexico, and Canada. We work with other, smaller candy wholesalers and form partnerships with wholesale-centric social media influencers. Our private label candy production service has a 70% profit margin over confectionary, packaging, and printing costs.
Now you need to provide readers with a comprehensive overview of your business. By the time they’ve finished reading your company description, reviewers will know what type of business you run, what you plan to do, and what makes your venture special.
This part of your business plan is succinct but vital. Start with a concise opening paragraph, and then dive into the following topics:
1. Brand name.
List your main brand name or your business name and its associated brand names. The best brand names are both memorable and easy to associate with their parent companies’ industries. Take Burrow, for example, it’s a simple single-word moniker, and it implies that Burrow’s sofas are comfortable places to curl up on.
2. Business structure.
Write about the legal structure of your company here. Are you a sole proprietor, an LLC, an S-corporation, a C-corporation, or a partnership? Consider speaking to an accountant if you’re not sure how to explain your organization.
3. Domain name.
If you haven’t already got one, now is the time to register a memorable and relevant domain name for your business. Keep it as short as possible, and make sure it includes your brand name for SEO purposes.
Example of a great domain name:
Solo Stove’s domain name, SoloStove.com, is ideal. It’s short, it matches the brand name, and it’s easy to remember.
Your mission statement is part of your branding strategy. In one or two sentences, it has to convey why you are in business at all. What drives you? What’s your passion? Why did you come up with this business idea in the first place?
Example of a mission statement:
LARQ has a terrific mission statement: “You are what you drink. So drink brilliantly.”
Tell your readers all about your overarching business-related dreams. Where do you want to take your company? How will you get there? How can your customers travel with you?
Example of a vision statement:
Camelbak’s vision statement is both entertaining and inspirational. Here’s a snippet:
“Our vision is our BHAG-Big Hairy Audacious Goal. It’s an envisioned state of the future, and if we deliver on our vision, we will have a positive impact on the world. Together, let’s eliminate disposable plastic bottles.”
6. Background information.
Everyone loves an autobiography. This is your chance to provide one for your business. When did you first come up with your idea? How has your business grown and changed since then? If you have any kind of rags-to-riches story, write it here — but keep it short.
7. Your team and key people.
Mention all the major players in your company here. You don’t have to write down all 300 of your warehouse employees, but you do need to list your key personnel. Here are a few examples:
- Company owner — that’s probably you.
- CEO — that’s probably also you.
- Customer service manager.
- Logistics manager.
- PR and social media specialist.
- Advertising manager.
- SEO manager.
To win in the ecommerce world, you have to know your target market. As you write this section of your business plan, you’ll get to know your sector and specific industry’s long-term outlook. You’ll learn about your competitors, your company’s market potential, and your consumer demographic. By the time you finish drafting your market analysis, you’ll be an expert in your niche.
1. Market opportunities.
To create sales projections, you have to estimate a baseline level of interest for your product or service. Astronomical profits are fun to imagine, but you need solid independent data, and not fantasy, to come up with a legitimate set of KPIs. Make sure you know as much as possible about the following two factors:
- Customer behaviors: You have to know who your customers are and what they want. What are their psychographics? What are their demographics? What do they spread on toast every morning? The more you know about your consumer base, the better you can craft compelling messages.
- Industry trends and growth: Imagine you sell a product aimed at college graduates. How many people plan to get a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the next five years? What do college graduates tend to spend money on? The more data you have, the better.
Conduct a SWOT analysis of your company: To succeed, you have to tackle issues before they undermine your operation. SWOT analyses examine the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
- Strengths: List the best things about your company.
- Weaknesses: Be honest. Are there things you need to work on?
- Opportunities: Can you turn industry challenges into golden opportunities?
- Threats: Which external threats do you need to tackle to succeed?
2. Competitive analysis.
If you don’t understand your competitors, you can’t gain the upper hand. Conducting a competitive analysis can help you get ahead of the crowd. First, try to pinpoint the market leaders in your industry; then, identify your direct and indirect competitors. Line them up and list each company’s:
- Business model.
- Mission statement.
- Domain name.
- Monthly website traffic.
- Key product features.
- Product pricing strategy.
Pick a few real contenders and do some in-depth market research to find out what makes each one tick. Do they have the potential for improvement? Are there gaps in the market that you can fill? Can you provide better products or services than your competitors?
Once you know what your rivals have to offer, you can position your company as a better alternative. There are three main ways to do this:
- Differentiation: If you offer a totally unique product or a significantly better version of your competitor’s product, you’ll stand out.
- Consumer segmentation: Some companies concentrate on a very specific target market and build a following in that niche before expanding into the mainstream.
- Cost leadership: Put simply, you promote your company as an industry price leader — money talks, but discounts sing.
Products and Services
You gave a brief overview of your products or services in your executive summary. Now it’s time to expand on that description. If you peddle a niche product or service, go into detail about it; if you sell a range of items or provide a number of different services, highlight general features and benefits (quality, price, uniqueness, etc).
Make your products and services section easy to digest: keep paragraphs short, stick to nontechnical language, and use bullets to showcase product characteristics. Stay positive, focus on your company’s experience in the industry, and show off your own expertise. If you have testimonials from pre launch product testers, include them in this part of your business plan.
Your business idea rocks, and you’re embedded in a growing niche. Now you have to drive traffic to your ecommerce site and convince visitors to buy your products. In short, you need an effective marketing plan.
First, you need to determine your marketing campaign budget. Unless you have unlimited funds, you’ll need to find a way to put your product in front of potential customers without spending a fortune. Let’s call your customer Mrs. Jones. Where does Mrs. Jones look for inspiration? Where does she shop right now? You need to find Mrs. Jones and show her your fabulous product.
Not sure where to begin? Get with Neil Borden’s marketing mix and use the 4 Ps to write a great plan:
- Product: What makes your product or service unique? How does it fulfill consumer demand?
- Price: How much does your product or service cost to produce or provide? How much will your customers pay?
- Place: Where will potential customers look for your product? Where will your product receive the most attention?
- Promotion: Which marketing channels will you use to highlight your product?
First popularized in the 1950s, the 4 Ps concept still works in the era of ecommerce. That said, most modern marketing gurus add three more Ps to create an extended 7 Ps marketing mix:
- Packaging: Does your packaging exude quality? If you provide a service, do you look professional on-site?
- Positioning: Is your branding up to scratch? Do you maintain high customer satisfaction scores?
- People: Do you have the right people on staff? Do they work well with one another?
Exceptional marketing strategies drive positive conversion rates. The question is, which channels match your consumer demographic? Do your potential customers hang out on Instagram, or do they prefer reading WikiHow articles? Step one: figure out where your future clients are now. Step two: create attention-grabbing marketing strategies and plunk them in front of your consumer base.
1. Paid marketing channels.
Most companies use paid marketing channels to some extent because they produce measurable results relatively quickly. Examples include:
- Pay per click (PPC) advertising: You pay a publisher like Google each time someone clicks on a promoted link.
- Affiliate marketing: Websites and blogs sell your product for a percentage of the profits.
- Social media ads: You pay to advertise your product on Facebook or Twitter.
- Influencer marketing: You hire a social media influencer to promote your product.
2. Organic marketing channels.
Organic marketing channels drive traffic to your website over a longer period of time. Organic marketing tactics help build your brand name. Examples include:
- Search engine optimization (SEO): You include relevant keywords and phrases in your website content; search engines notice and your site ranking improves.
- Social media pages: You interact with followers and maintain an up-to-date presence on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
- Blogger networks: External blogs drive traffic to your site via strategically placed links.
- Content marketing: Advertorials, articles, and on-site blog posts drive traffic to category and product pages.
Logistics and Operations Plan
What do you physically need to run your ecommerce company? The logistics and operations section of your business plan covers everything from tech requirements (computers, printers, cameras) to warehousing. Writing this segment of your plan will help you understand the realities of running an ecommerce company. If you need investors, this is where you list your business’s everyday capital and expense requirements.
Your logistics and operations plan should cover the following:
- Suppliers: Where do your raw materials or products come from? Do your suppliers require payment in advance? If so, how much?
- Production: Will you create your own products, or will you use a third-party manufacturing company or a dropshipping company? How long is your lead time? How will you cope with spikes in demand?
- Shipping and fulfillment: If applicable, how long is your projected wholesale shipping time? How long will it take you to pack and ship products to customers? Will you use a third-party shipper? Will you ship internationally?
- Inventory: How much inventory will you keep on hand, and where will you put it? How will you track incoming and outgoing inventory? Do you need warehouse storage space?
Nearly all businesses need a certain amount of capital to get going. Some entrepreneurs come up with their own start-up costs, while others form alliances with wealthier partners. Still, others look for angel investors, create crowdfunding campaigns, or take out business loans.
Before you begin writing your financial plan, think about your audience and goals. Will you take your plan to your bank management team? Will you show your plan to a series of potential investors? Would it be prudent to include financial projections? Maybe you just want to get a handle on cash flow or calculate return on investment (ROI) potential.
Most financial plans include the following three economic analyses:
1. Income statement.
Your income statement provides a breakdown of your revenue sources and expenses over a specific time period — a month, a quarter, or a year. If you subtract your expenses from your revenue sources, you’ll come up with your bottom line (your profit or loss). You can project these figures based on similar ventures if you haven’t started your business yet.
2. Balance sheet.
Entrepreneurs use balance sheets to calculate how much equity they have in their businesses. All your assets (machinery, stock, business premises, vehicles, etc) go in a column on the left; your liabilities (accounts and wages payable, business loan repayment, business credit card payments, taxes, etc) go in a column on the right. If you subtract your liabilities from your assets, you get your business’s shareholder equity.
3. Cash-flow statement.
Cash-flow statements are like real-time income statements. Instead of listing expenses and revenue per quarter or per annum, cash-flow statements indicate when expenses and revenue go out and come in. If you have more money coming in than going out, you have positive cash flow; if you have more money going out than coming in, you have negative cash flow. If you forecast cash flow, you may be able to adjust the way you do business to keep your company solvent.
A stellar ecommerce business plan provides a solid foundation for success. As you research and write your plan, you’ll learn about important topics, like marketing, market analysis, and financial planning. All that extra knowledge will empower you as you begin your entrepreneurial journey.
Walt Disney once said, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”
Go ahead and pick up that pen. You can do this. Let’s go.