How You're Actually Holding Your Online Store Back

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Even while businesses of many kinds suffer due to the lockdown measures imposed to combat the spread of COVID-19, some industries have been able to continue largely unaffected: and e-commerce is one of them. In fact, the widespread confinement and closure of brick-and-mortar stores have led to an uptick in online ordering, allowing some sellers to flourish.

This is worth noting because merchants have always had excuses for why their stores aren’t performing as well as they might, and this pandemic is the current favorite justification. If you run an online store and are consistently dissatisfied with the results, there’s a great chance that you’re holding your store back to some extent.

Does this mean that you’ll be doing big business if you stop getting in the way? No, obviously not, but it does mean that you can likely achieve meaningful improvements if you commit to polishing your approach. Here are some ways in which you’re plausibly self-sabotaging:

You’re letting your product range stagnate

Part of the appeal of e-commerce can be the relative ease of upkeep. You develop your store (or throw it together using a template), configure it, add the products you want to sell, and let it run. If you’re using a conventional fulfillment model then you just need to monitor the orders and ship them — and if you’re using drop shipping then you don’t really need to do anything at all.

The problem with this relaxed approach is that product ranges aren’t evergreen. Items often become popular for short times and then lose all their mainstream appeal, with the prime example in recent memory being fidget spinners. They were everywhere for a time… then they weren’t. And there’s surely still some demand for them, but nowhere near as much as there was.

And even when you pick product types that are evergreen, the products themselves won’t be. New models will enter the market. Old ones will fall out of favor. If you’re still stocking products that are effectively obsolete, then you shouldn’t be surprised to see them sell in small numbers. 

What you need to do is semi-regularly update your range. Follow industry blogs and social media trends to find new products worth stocking. Clear out old stock that isn’t selling. And if you’re dropshipping, don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ve already reviewed all the options: new suppliers pop up all the time and current ones often update their ranges too.

You’re not doing enough marketing

For the most part (barring those run by brands big enough to be household names or at least industry stalwarts), online stores don’t make sales if they’re just left to run. They need to be promoted, yet some sellers assume that a lack of orders means there’s no interest in what they’re offering. If you’re not running any PPC campaigns or doing any content marketing, then it’s nearly miraculous that your store has survived for this long.

A great PPC campaign uses finely-honed targeting to reach the ideal audience: the people most likely to be receptive and spend in large amounts. You can advertise through Google, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, Twitch… the options are extensive but don’t try to target them all at the same time. Pick two or three that best suit your store niche.

Content marketing is all about building up your brand, demonstrating expertise to encourage people to trust you, and showcasing your products where possible. It takes time and consistent effort to make content marketing work, but if you start now (perhaps releasing two blog posts per week) then you can make a lot of headway in a year.

You’re providing inadequate support

Perhaps the best thing any online store can do (or any store in general) is to focus on customer support. The happier you make any given customer, the more likely they’ll be to come back and spend more, the more receptive they’ll be to your marketing, the more forgiving they’ll be of average prices, and the better the chance of them driving referrals will be. Even so, it’s oddly common for sellers to assume that their work is done once orders are completed.

Adjust your operational process to put a lot of emphasis on post-sale support. Reach out to recent customers to see if they’re happy. Offer discounts for other products. Ask them for feedback and action any good suggestions to show that you care about making your company better. It’s really hard to find new customers, and if you can maintain even a small number of loyal customers, your store can achieve excellent results for a long time.

If you’re making one or more of these mistakes at the moment, try not to get too frustrated. Instead, focus on the positive: that you have the opportunity to make up for your mistakes and improve the performance of your store with relative ease.