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Whether you’re a brick and mortar retail veteran, or an aspiring entrepreneur looking to make your mark, it’s hard to ignore e-commerce as a sales channel for capitalizing on new market opportunities.  According to a Statista study, “revenue from e-commerce in the United States amounted to 431.6 billion U.S dollars in 2020,” and “estimates that by 2025, revenue will increase to 563.4 billion dollars,” representing a 31% growth trajectory. 

Very exciting indeed, but if the world of online selling interests you, how do you get started?  What should you do first?  This article guides you to reviewing 4 of the most important steps in driving to a successful e-commerce business.

1. Choose the Right Product

It all starts with answering the question “what are you going to sell?”  It sounds simple enough, but figuring out what you are going to sell, and whom you are going to sell to, can very well be the hardest part of getting your e-commerce business off the ground.  Entrepreneurs often focus on their passion, and it certainly is important to be excited and believe in what you sell online.  That said, make sure to validate the market for your potential products before investing your time and money, otherwise you might be disappointed in the results.  Common ways of validating include surveys, competitive reviews, and social research.  

You will also want to determine the best means of obtaining, stocking, and fulfilling your products.  What business model will you use?  Will you distribute products from another brand, or manufacture your own?  Will you stock inventory or dropship direct to your customers?  How many options and variants will you offer?  The recommendation on the latter is to keep options minimal as you get started.  This helps keep your costs down and simplifies the decision making process for your customers, which in turn reduces friction en route to a sale.

Additional articles to help guide you into making the correct product decisions for your business include:

12 Trending Products to Sell in 2021(and Ideas for How to Market Them)

Find a Product to Sell: 12 Strategies for Finding Your First Profitable Product

From Dropshipping to DTC, Here are the Most Popular Business Models for Ecommerce


2. Locate Your Customers and Determine How Best to Market to Them

Now that you know what you want to sell and have validated the opportunity, it’s time to think about how you will market your products to your new customers.  It’s often good to start by defining a customer persona which helps you understand who your customers are, including age, sex, occupation, interests, demographics, and why they would buy from you.  Gather meaningful information to define your target audience, and then hone in on where your target audience hangs out, along with how best to reach them.

Once you find them, manage communication with your prospects by first segmenting them into 3 main stages of engagement: Top-of-the-funnel (ToFu), Middle-of-the-funnel (MoFu), and Bottom-of-the-funnel (BoFu).  ToFu is where prospects express interest, however they are not ready to engage you and your product just yet.  MoFu are those prospects that have engaged you, but are not yet ready to purchase.  BoFu is where prospects are ready to take the plunge, and place their first order with you.  Understanding which stage your prospects are in is critical to ensuring that you communicate with them properly and lead them from ToFu through BoFu.

The following resources can help you target your customers and increase revenue:

How to Define Your Target Market

What’s the Right Content for Each Stage of the Marketing Funnel?

4 Ways to Find Your First 50 eCommerce Customers


3. Remove Friction from the Checkout Process

You’ve been successful driving traffic to your e-commerce store, and BoFu prospects are ready to become customers.  With typical shopping cart abandonment rates between 60% and 80%, you will want to now focus your attention on eliminating as much friction as possible, so your hopefully soon-to-be-customers have a clear and easy path to checking out and placing their orders.

To keep fiction minimal, it is recommend you focus on:

Increasing site speed – statistics show that pages that take longer than 3 seconds will likely lead to abandonment.   Learn more about improving your e-commerce site performance and speed.

Optimize your store for mobile – With 31% of e-commerce sales occurring via mobile devices, ensure your store is optimized accordingly.  3 out of 4 online shoppers indicate they start their online purchase via a mobile device, as it saves time.

Make product selection easy – ensure products are well organized and easy to find.  Offering too many options may cause confusion and make the buying decision more complicated, ultimately leading to abandonment.

Offer payment options that align with customer preference – consumers have clear preferences on payment methods.  Limiting how customers can pay could become an obstacle for converting sales.  

Enable Guest Checkout – allowing guest checkout will lessen friction and lead to more conversions, however you will not have captured key customer information which could limit your post-sales marketing opportunities.  Nonetheless, less friction leads to increasing sales.  Encourage account registration and repeat customer loyalty via incentives, coupons, and exclusive benefits for signing up (e.g. free shipping).

To learn more about reducing checkout friction: 

5 Tips to Reduce Friction on Your E-Commerce Website


4. Automate Your Operations

Now that your e-commerce sales are rolling in, it’s game on!  The final mile of ensuring a positive customer experience is delivering your products to your customers accurately and on-time.  It’s important to put systems in place that automate synchronization between your e-commerce stores and your back office systems in order to track sales, inventory and fulfillments in a near real-time capacity.  For example, if an order is placed on your e-commerce platform (e.g. Shopify) and it’s not entered or synchronized into your back office system (e.g. QuickBooks Online) for an hour (or longer), this could cause your e-commerce inventory to become stale and put you at risk of selling items that are no longer in stock. 

Equally important is leveraging a tool that provides visibility into your fulfillments.  After all the time and investment made into getting your customers to buy, ensuring on-time delivery is essential for all business models, and particularly critical for managing dropship relationships.  All it takes is one negative fulfillment experience to drive your customers away from your store and right into the hands of your competitors.

Now is the perfect time to launch your online store and invest some time into ensuring you position your business for success!  Following the steps outlined in this article and maintaining good business sense, will help you to get across that finish line!


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You did everything right to maximize your holiday e-commerce sales!  You improved customer experience with enhanced product content and videos.  You implemented a frictionless checkout process, and you zoned in on your target market by optimizing search and nurturing your email lists with unique and engaging content.  You added social channels and a chat client to your website.  You worked tirelessly through the night to leave no stone of opportunity unturned.

And guess what?  Your hard work paid off!  Sales from your store have been pouring in!  Whether you are exceeding your target revenue or falling a little short, odds are you and your team are now working your butts off trying to ship everything you sold to your customers on time.  

With these 5 simple tips, give yourself the gift of operational efficiency and be able to enjoy a little time with the people you care about the most:

1. Keep Your Warehouse Clean and Organized

The most efficiently run warehouses are those that adopt 5S operating practices.  5S stands for Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain, representing the components of a powerful lean warehouse methodology that maximizes the best of operations and minimizes cost.

Even if you have a small warehouse or you stock products in your basement, adopting 5S principles on a smaller scale will have a positive impact on your bottom line.  You should make sure that every tool and supply, including pens, tape, boxes, carts and dollies all have locations that are labeled and easy to find when you need them.  Starting a new day fresh within your clean and clutter free warehouse is an essential start to a productive day.

2. Maintain Well Organized Inventory

Ensure that your faster moving items are easily accessible and stored closer to your fulfillment zone.  Move slower turning items further toward the back and out of the way.  One of the biggest drains on warehouse expense is labor.  Reducing the time it takes to pick inventory adds up, and will unquestionably contribute to increased profits (especially if you’re the founder and doing the picking).

When organizing products in your warehouse it is ok to split variant and related items into different parts of your warehouse.  For example you may sell a decorative pillow in 3 colors, but only 1 of the colors is a hot selling item.  Put your top selling color of the pillow closer to your fulfillment area and move the other 2 colors into a less active zone.

3. Focus on Order Fulfillment Accuracy

To err is human.  We all make mistakes.  You just don’t want to make them during your busiest time of year.  Invest into establishing an environment that stacks the odds in your favor of having every single order you ship go out the door 100% error free. 

Consider labeling items with large identifying codes that are easy to see and read.  Incorporate the use of colored labels if applicable.  Leverage the use of pick tickets and packing slips along with numbered picking bins.  This empowers you to batch pick (picking the same item across multiple orders simultaneously), remain well organized, and ensure that the right items are placed in the right carton for the right customer.

As you add increase inventory levels in your warehouse, the greater the opportunity for creating clutter if not managed properly. This in turn could lead to picking errors, as well as slow you down if random boxes are in your way.  Make sure to put all inventory where it belongs and adopt practices that will make it easy to maintain accurate and efficient fulfillment.

4. Ship On Time (there is no excuse to be late)

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes.  Once you buy a product from a website, you count the days until your product arrives (especially if it’s something you are excited about)!  It becomes frustrating to customers when products ship late or are shipped using the wrong service level.

Stay organized and establish a schedule that focuses on priority shipments first (e.g. next day, 2nd day air, etc).  Consider incorporating a customer start ship date (the first day you should ship) and a cancel date (the last day you should ship).  Also abide by fulfillment promises you make online to your customers (e.g. this product will ship within 2 business days).  Make sure you live and breath by these shipping windows with a concentrated effort on shipping as close to the start date as possible, and never past the cancel date.

It may also be worth a quick call to your local FedEx and UPS representatives so you can coordinate a pickup schedule that more effectively coincides with your daily fulfillment cutoff.  You want to have all cartons ready for shipping prior to your carriers arriving.

5. Establish a Returns Processing Practice

As your business grows in sales, so will the number of returns.  You don’t want this to happen, but it’s part of the game the same way when you play Monopoly you don’t want to “go to jail”.  It’s going to happen at some point…you can count on it!

Have an effective system in place that includes establishing a physical zone for processing returns separate from where you stock your inventory.  When customers return products, their condition will vary.  All products need to be inspected and determined if a) they can go immediately back into inventory; b) they must first be fixed and reworked; or c) they must be discarded and written off.

Don’t allow returns to linger either.  Process them upon receipt.  They will cause unnecessary clutter, and the faster you get the good products back into inventory, the better chance you have of selling them and increasing your holiday sales numbers.

Incorporating these 5 basic principles will improve your profits by allowing you to accomplish more with less, reduce stress by knowing you have well organized systems in place that make it easier for you to manage your operations, and will grant you the gift of a well run backend operation.

Enjoy this most precious gift, and may 2018 be your most successful, profitable, and rewarding holiday season yet!