While global e-commerce sales are predicted to approach $2.5 trillion this year and continue to grow to nearly $4 trillion by 2020, according to a recent eMarketer report, the market remains highly competitive.
Nearly 80 percent of new e-commerce sites ultimately fail, and companies need to have a strong understanding of their market, trends, merchandise, platform, and e-commerce hosting if they want to be among the minority of sites that succeeds.
Most importantly, though, new sellers must understand their customers. More than any other factor, knowing your customer is what will allow you to deliver a first-class online experience.
Know What Matters
When launching a new site, many sellers tend to fixate on one aspect of their business at the expense of others.
For many brands, it’s their product. There’s a tendency in the business world to assume that great products equal success. Unfortunately, that’s simply not the case. No matter how good, interesting, or exciting your product selection may be, products alone don’t attract customers.
Unless you offer something truly unique that cannot be found anywhere else, customers have countless online options. Obvious factors like price and stock will influence customer decisions, but customers also must be able to find your site, find products on your site, and trust your site enough to actually complete a purchase, which means SEO, user experience, and branding are all critically important.
Some sellers will also focus too much on price, thinking that good prices are more important than a good user experience. Of course, a certain category of shoppers will make buying decisions based on price alone, and there are countless online tools to help them find the lowest prices quickly. But if customers reach a site that is poorly designed, hard to navigate, slow, or suffers from downtime, they’ll simply be unable to make a purchase and are unlikely to return.
Gone in Seconds
With a nearly infinite number of sites to choose from, customers will not wait around for a site that is under maintenance or even slow to load. Surveys conducted by Akamai and Gomez.com found that roughly half of internet users expect a page to load within two seconds, something that requires a strong e-commerce hosting platform. Without it a couple seconds of lag time can mean the difference between a completed purchase and an abandoned cart.
Shoppers who have a poor experience on your site typically won’t give you a second shot — in fact, 79 percent say they’ll never return to a site again if they have trouble with it. Even worse, 44 percent say they’ll tell their friends and colleagues to avoid buying from you as well. If you want to prevent all those potential sales from evaporating, ensuring that your site is always up and always available is the first step.
But reliability without accessibility is like being locked out of an expensive sports car — it doesn’t matter how great the engine is if the driver can’t get inside. Offering universal accessibility to a potential global user base is a major key to your success. Here are four tips for making that easier:
- Find the right hosting partner. While on-site hosting can be a good option for larger retailers, it becomes a significant financial burden for smaller businesses (which represent the majority of e-commerce sites). Rather than having to buy and maintain your own equipment, a hosting provider can offer flexible operating expenses-based services that won’t break the bank.
- Make sure your infrastructure is flexible. Your average traffic and sales for, say, a Tuesday in July is going to be quite different from the Tuesday before Christmas. E-commerce sites can go through significant peaks in traffic, but maintaining that capacity can come at a steep financial cost. If you work with a partner with flexible, hybrid solutions, then you can spin up and down servers as needed, providing an optimal user experience at all times while preserving your bottom line.
- Use a CDN. Many e-commerce sites make use of large files like product videos and images. Unfortunately, these can cause slow loading times, particularly if your customer is located far away from the origin servers. With a content delivery network (CDN), your images and videos are cached at strategically located super PoPs around the world, dramatically improving user experience.
- Make sure you’re connected to a global network. If you had a physical store located off a highway plagued by construction and continual traffic jams, you may find that your customers get tired of trying to reach you. Similarly, if your online store resides on a slow or unreliable network, your customers will also begin to seek other options.
By working with a global network with multiple data centers and points of presence — and, ideally, 99.999 percent reliability — you can ensure your site is always accessible and that your customers can reach you no matter where they, or you, are.
Setting up an e-commerce site isn’t hard. Keeping it running, though, is a different story. Many would-be sellers find themselves expending a significant amount of capital and labor before ultimately shutting down. Don’t be one of them. Keep in mind the tips above to improve your chances of success and ensure your shop stays open for years to come.