Part of the Globe and Mail Shop Talk series:
Are you new to e-commerce, or simply want to know how to succeed online? Check out these B2C e-commerce tips and insights, taken from our two-part Shop Talk video series.
Online shopping is becoming increasingly popular in today’s day and age. More and more consumers are choosing online retailers over brick-and-mortar stores, driving previously offline businesses to compete in the online space.
With 80% of consumers buying online, it’s expected that global e-commerce will grow to approximately 5 trillion USD by 2021.1 Yet, nearly half of all Canadian small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) either have minimal e-commerce functionality or no website at all.2
The journey of bringing your business online seems challenging and complex. Just the thought of it can send some SMBs into a dizzying array of questions about the potential roadblocks ahead. What technology and expertise do I need to succeed? Am I ready to manage the potential growth? Is it worth the investment?
In this B2C focused segment of the two-part Shop Talk series, a panel of industry leaders discussed some of the top e-commerce questions and shared their B2C e-commerce tips.
- Aila Morin, Director of Brand Marketing at Mejuri
- Derrick Fung, CEO and co-founder of Drop
- Lauren Haw, CEO of Zoocasa
- Robin Hamill, Independent Shopify and E-Commerce Consultant
We’ve summarized the experts’ top five insights to get right to the point. Keep reading to set yourself up for a successful future in e-commerce.
What does the current state of e-commerce look like? [1:00]
Now more than ever, an online presence is crucial to the success of a business. Consumers regularly look to social media, review sites and search engine results for social proof. In fact, it’s become the norm. 91% of customers have visited a brick-and-mortar store solely because of its online presence.3 Derrick Fung describes the phenomenon situationally: “If I see a store, the first thing I’m going to do is open my phone and, on the spot, look it up. If there’s nothing, then I’m like ‘this store’s maybe not legitimate.’” But, despite the staggering case for e-commerce, B2C entrepreneurs continue to be hesitant about moving their businesses online.
There are a variety of factors that may prevent SMBs from moving online:
- Already satisfied with profits. Some entrepreneurs are happy with their current level of success and don’t feel the need to seek further revenue or growth.
- Lack of expertise. Those who are more accustomed to traditional brick-and-mortar commerce may not feel tech-savvy enough to start an e-commerce website.
- A potential victim of success. An SMB may not want to or feel like they’re able to handle the growth that comes with the success of an online business.
- Difficult competition. While e-commerce helps level the playing field, it’s still hard to compete for attention online against companies with larger marketing budgets.
What do you need to know before starting an e-commerce business? [4:18 & 8:55]
Building an e-commerce business can be both complex and rewarding. Successfully developing a secure base for your online presence involves a lot of consideration, market research, time and effort.
Before you begin, the panel of experts recommend these three B2C e-commerce tips to increase your success:
- Be ready to actively market yourself. Digital marketing encapsulates a lot of components that are constantly evolving. Understanding how to market your brand is a complex skill set to develop – but critical to achieve measurable success online. There are valuable learning resources you can utilize online, such as LinkedIn Learning, to keep you on top of the latest trends.
- Consult an expert early. E-commerce and online marketing strategies are entirely different from what a brick-and-mortar business is familiar with and how they compete. Gather advice and expertise in the early stages. Think of this as an investment – minimizing the time it takes to strengthen your e-commerce strategy.
- Understand your strengths and where you’ll need support. Think about your own strengths. Maybe you’re really good at selling your brand in-person, but not so good at copywriting it. An honest reflection will build the strongest foundation for your e-commerce business. Work on what you know you can master and see where you can source people to support the operations beyond your skillset.
Bonus B2C e-commerce tip. The most important piece of advice is to not rush the process. Take the time to educate yourself and develop a strong e-commerce strategy before you start.
How do you avoid some common B2C mistakes? [15:42]
Making mistakes is a part of any new business venture. “There is no brand legacy that is completely flawless. All you can do is do your absolute best, learn from it, and iterate,” states Aila Morin. While it’s important to learn and grow from your mistakes, get to know some of the common faux pas to prevent any unnecessary setbacks.
There is no brand legacy that is completely flawless. All you can do is do your absolute best, learn from it, and iterate.
The experts share some tips on how to avoid common mistakes business make:
Mistake: Confusing websites.
How to avoid: Follow e-commerce conventions. Make sure your navigation creates an intuitive experience. Make customers feel comfortable on your website from their very first visit. Ensure the simplicity by asking someone disconnected with your business to test out the site for feedback.
Mistake: Not mobile friendly.
How to avoid: Design for mobile first. The majority of internet traffic is mobile.4 Start your business by considering how your site will look on a mobile device. This will make sure you avoid losing valuable customers by giving them a difficult user-experience.
Mistake: Guessing your customer base.
How to avoid: Truly knowing your customers. Understand your customers by researching their preferences and niche. If necessary, test different methods to determine the right channels to reach them.
Remember, even with tons of B2C e-commerce tips from experts under your sleeve, you will inevitably make mistakes. How you manage your mistakes is how your brand will be remembered. By being transparent about your mistakes and learning from them, your customers are more likely to stay with you.
How do you leverage data in your marketing efforts while maintaining customer privacy? [5:57]
Data has changed the digital marketing game by enabling businesses to target their marketing efforts. With aggregated data, you can identify commonalities among your customers and reach consumers where they will notice you. While data is valuable in marketing strategies, data privacy is a growing concern among both businesses and consumers. Protecting customer data (e.g. login credentials and credit card information) should be top-of-mind.
To maintain your integrity and protect your customers, it’s advised that you proactively take these two steps:
- Use a trusted data security system. Employ a reputable company that specializes in building secure platforms for data protection.
- Be transparent in your data collection. Eliminate ambiguity by stating the exact points of data you are collecting.
Carrier factors to consider when moving your business online. [20:14]
Choosing the right delivery partner can elevate your business. Carriers manage a vital part of your customer experience: the time between your customers clicking the “check-out” button and their order arriving on their doorstep. It’s important that you choose a delivery provider you truly trust to own this process.
Here are a few factors to consider when selecting a delivery partner:
- Coverage of your customer base. Deliver quickly and efficiently to your customers with reliable and courteous service.
- Website integration. Seamless integration with the e-commerce platform you use.
- Tracking technology. Let your customers track exactly where their order is and when it’s arriving.
- Strong working relationship. Maintain a strong relationship with your delivery partner to discuss how their services can scale as you grow.
Reap the rewards of bringing your business online.
The e-commerce learning curve may seem steep, but the reward of a strong online presence is an investment worth your time. As your business begins its journey to the online world, remember these key takeaways:
- If you don’t know, ask for help.
- Educate yourself throughout the process.
- Be willing to fail, iterate and grow.
Take it from the experts. Watch the full video for more useful tips from B2C industry veterans.
- Lipsman, Andrew. Global Ecommerce 2019. eMarketer. 27 Jun. 2019.
- Globe Content Studio. Canadian SMBs online presence. The Globe and Mail. 17 Oct. 2019.
- Funk, Sherene. 12 Small Business Website Statistics You Need To Know To Increase In-Store Sales. Rain. 17 Aug. 2017.
- Funk, Sherene. 12 Clement, J. Percentage of all global web pages served to mobile phones from 2009 to 2018. Statista. 22 Jul. 2019.