So, you've put in the hard yards, set up your online store, and dealt with all the issues and challenges that no one ever thinks of in the early stages. Things are ticking along, but you feel the time has come to crank things up. Well, you've come to the right place, because we’ve put together the complete guide to upscaling your online store.
Before you commence the process of scaling up, you need to ask yourself some honest questions.
How well are things actually going? Don’t even think of making the step up until you’re sure your product has been perfected, that it’s in demand, and that your profit margins are viable.
What are you trying to achieve? You need to be clear on your objectives, and whether the priority should be to acquire more traffic for your site, or better convert the prospective customers you already have within your grasp. Also, you need to chart a roadmap for growth, with clear deadlines and timeframes. And of course, leave yourself the flexibility to re-evaluate things as you go.
Can you raise the finance? Once you have well-defined goals and plans in place, you'll need to know to the last penny what capital you can spare, have a realistic means for raising funds, or assess viable borrowing options whose repayments won't place undue strain on your liquidity.
The 8-point plan for e-commerce growth
Once you're confident all the above boxes are ticked; that focusing on growing your online store is the right thing to do, and that you have the resources to facilitate it, then it's time to press on. The question is - how?
1) Supercharge your marketing plan - Upscaling your online store goes hand in hand with upscaling your marketing strategy. It's time to pull bigger levers, although you'll need to determine which of these are most suitable, powerful and cost-effective for your business. Is social media advertising an area where you need to boost your presence? Will the gains of paid search outweigh the costs? Is it time to put more focus on SEO? Email marketing? Or perhaps traditional advertising channels speak best to your audience? If you don’t know the answer to this question, we’re big advocates of having well organised trials. Set a budget, have a plan, and measure the results. If the cost per customer is within budget, scale up that test.
2) Automate, automate, automate - Automation is another key part of growth. Whether it's order fulfilment, pricing models, running the numbers or any other internal process, it's time to invest in taking the menial jobs off your to-do list. Not only will efficiency levels go through the roof, but you'll have more time to get your head above water and see the bigger picture, leaving you well-placed to focus on strategy and key business decisions.
3) Get your site in order - Aside from basic checks, optimising your website for user experience, customer journey and SEO is vital. But it's also an ideal time to up the ante in terms of branding. You don't only want your site to be a mechanism for customers to have a great experience, but also buy the products they want with ease. You want them to affiliate themselves with your business and identify with your brand. Be that with an upgraded logo, snazzy new designs, helpful content, enticing new promotions or all of the above, your website is a powerful tool for growth.
4) Seek out partners - Partnering with other firms is another way to expand your reach. Affiliates represent low-hanging fruit, and an almost risk-free way to boost sales and brand awareness. But margins tend to be wafer-thin, and a more sustainable, long-term solution lies within partnerships. Whether that be leveraging the power of another brand for cross-selling purposes, pooling resources and expertise, or integrating with another platform to collaborate on a new product offering, there's a world of opportunities to unlock.
5) Point-of-sale finance - Retail finance is a no-brainer if you want to drive conversion uplift. Depending on the nature of your product, and the dynamism of your online payment system, partnering up with a finance provider should be a revenue and sales driver.
6) World-class support - With all these cogs turning and a flood of new customers engaging with your online store, the number of variables increase. So, ensure that the customer support you provide is fit for purpose. Automating and/or outsourcing customer support may seem tempting, but in the growing world of digital retail, customers value the sound of an informed person's voice at the end of the phone (or live chat), and a personalised approach, more than ever. Tools like Zendesk can really help you provide game changing customer service too.
7) Expand your audiences - Expand the audiences you'll be trying to engage. First, by segmenting your target markets, and then developing a deep understanding of the demographics and preferences of each segment, before applying these learnings to other complimentary potential customer segments too.
8) The price is right - To tailor your approach, you should look to be flexible with your pricing strategy. Whether that be discounts, or packaging bespoke offers together that resonate with the individuals or group you're targeting, the time has come to step away from a one-size-fits-all approach to your price models.
Deliver your growth
Using the 8-points above, you will hopefully be able to produce a detailed plan of what you intend to achieve, and how. With your plan in place, all that’s left is to execute the plan and deliver growth. Remember to track everything, do regular feedback sessions and do more of what is working and pull back on what’s not.