Many companies in their early stages find themselves shorter on resources than they would like to be. This is a natural place to be in, but this doesn't mean you have to lower your expectations for growth. There are countless success stories of smart, innovative people starting with nothing and creating massively profitable companies.
It's unwise to think that just because your resources are limited, you can't increase sales. E-commerce companies are in an especially advantageous position to increase sales without increasing costs because of the efficiencies of an online business model.
Unlike a brick-and-mortar businesses, the advantage of working in e-commerce is that increased sales often do not lead to significant increases in costs from wages and store maintenance, though this isn't always necessarily the case.
It takes creativity and patience, but anyone can increase revenue without a massive budget. Here are six tips that will help you bootstrap your e-commerce business to seven figures in sales.
1. Build your email subscribers list.
Findings from a recent Adobe report show that around 98% of millennials check their personal email at least every few hours. Email marketing is a highly effective channel for re-engaging with customers who have already demonstrated an interest in your value proposition. If a well-thought-out email marketing campaign is managed and executed properly, e-commerce stores have shown the ability to confidently attribute over 50% of sales to the campaign.
The first step in email marketing is to set up drip campaigns, abandoned-cart emails, and other sequences to re-engage customers. The importance of producing quality content – and the email copy and templates that come along with it, of course – to consistently send out can't be understated. The good news is that if you're already creating content for your website, you can often repurpose said content into new emails. All it takes is a slight change of format, and you have a ready-to-go message for your customers.
The next step is to build a strong list of email subscribers. This can be a slow, tedious process, but the better the content you create and send out and the more creative you get with email-capture campaigns, the quicker this process should be.
Once you have a strong, sizable list of subscribers, you have access to people who have already declared themselves fans of your content by signing up for the emails you regularly send out. Needless to say, these people should be treated as top-quality leads for your company.
After creating the necessary content and building a subscriber list of your own, you'll want to make sure people are actually reading the emails you're sending out by tracking open rates – from there, optimize things on your end, accordingly. Pay attention to what the data is telling you and refine your content to meet your subscribers' interests.
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2. Target the right audience.
Some young companies think they will achieve major profits by selling their products to everyone. Unfortunately, the larger your desired audience is, the more costly it will be to reach them. At least initially, it's important to choose a finite, well-defined audience and specifically target the people found therein.
You will spend far less money on customer acquisition if you target a specific group of people and cater your products and marketing efforts to their unique needs. As you get more specific in your targeting, your ability to refine and optimize will increase. When choosing an audience to target, think about how you can meet the unmet needs of one specific group. Then, run a series of A/B tests on Facebook and Instagram to validate these assumptions.
3. Use social media to build community.
As of 2020, it's widely accepted that social media is one of the best tools for businesses trying to grow without spending millions of dollars in the process. Social media can help you build brand loyalty by interacting with customers on a more personal level. It's also great for building a sense of community with them.
Brand loyalty is important for a company trying to increase sales, as a reported 43% of customers spend more money at stores (or with brands, really) with which they feel an emotional connection. Keep this in mind as your brand seeks to interact with customers and prospective customers on social media. Engagement is great, but merely existing on social media does little to help improve a brand's bottom line.
In order to build a sense of community and brand loyalty among your brand's social media followers, it's important to frequently engage with customers. In turn, this encourages them to engage with you, as well. Responding quickly to interactions and getting to know your customers on a more personal, yet appropriate level helps with this. Social media contests and giveaways can also encourage engagement, too.
It's important to be consistent in posting on social media, so your customers look forward to the content you share. As you increase your consistency, followers will start to expect your content, which saves you the effort of trying to reach them. Lastly, avoid the knee-jerk desire to simply establish Instagram as your e-commerce brand's channel of choice. Instead, diversify, finding the right mix of social networks that will make the most sense for your brand.
4. Make data-driven decisions.
Running a business has often been treated as a trial-and-error process. Business owners follow their intuition and wait to see what the results will be. Unfortunately, it can be expensive to test new strategies on your company with no guarantee of success. A business with limited resources has little room for error and must test early, often and resourcefully.
Luckily, making decisions doesn't have to be a guessing game. In fact, if you want to increase your sales by a large percentage, your decisions must be informed by data, especially if you are trying to avoid wasteful spending.
With today's technology, there are numerous low-cost ways to use data for decision-making. Most website platforms will help you track consumer behavior. For example, Google Analytics is an excellent resource for understanding your customers. Spend some time with the tool to better understand it. From there, deploy it to understand the onsite behavior of those to whom you're selling.
Using the resources available to you to make decisions will lead to a much higher chance of success than simply relying on your gut instinct. The truth of the matter? Even with a microscopic budget, you can still achieve tremendous profits.
5. Prioritize excellent customer service.
Implementing customer service of the highest quality is another low-cost way to increase revenue and stand out against the competition. According to a 2019 Gladly survey, 84% of customers will switch to a different company after three negative experiences with customer service. Furthermore, 17% of customers leave after just one bad experience.
The best way to ensure that customers feel properly taken care of is to respond to questions, comments and concerns as quickly and effectively as possible. According to Gladly's findings, consumers expect a response to email inquiries in three to four hours.
Live chat is also gaining traction as an efficient way to communicate with customers. Consumers expect a response to a live chat inquiry in under a minute. There's a reason it's called "live chat." The expectation is that it is constantly being monitored. Unfortunately, failure to meet these kinds of quick response rate expectations can make a bad impression on customers. Avoid this issue by making customer care a top priority for your e-commerce brand.
Although expectations for customer service are high, these expectations are frequently not met. Consumers are always looking for a new brand that will take care of them better than the rest. Though difficult, this gives you an excellent opportunity to acquire new buyers by simply showing them that you have the highest customer service in your industry. Free shipping and quick returns are simple offerings that users expect in 2020 – start thinking beyond these offers for continued success in 2020 and beyond.
6. Implement cost-effective marketing strategies.
The implementation of certain growth-marketing strategies can produce tremendous ROI. For example, if you're looking for a good place to start, content marketing – think of creating and managing a blog, for example – is a great way to engage in some new-age marketing without ruining a budget.
This kind of organic approach, however, won't yield much in the way of revenue-generating results all that quickly. Creating and implementing a comprehensive paid-ad campaign with more tried-and-true growth hacks can generate the explosive growth you might be looking for. Much of this starts with strategy, experimentation and engaging content. For the purpose of brevity, however, let's focus solely on the final point.
In terms of visual content, video can reliably perform if executed well. In fact, a recent survey by Renderforest found that 78% of businesses increased their site traffic after creating and housing video content on their websites. Video content is sometimes seen as too expensive to pursue, but it doesn't have to be. Anyone with a smartphone, an editing app, and a bit of artistic ingenuity can quickly upload videos and increase web traffic.
Whatever form of content you end up going with, it must be of the highest quality. It may seem difficult to consistently create high-quality content, but keep in mind that you can repurpose existing content to remove some of that pressure.
Finally, another cost-effective marketing strategy is retargeting. Retargeting campaigns are a highly efficient way to convert piping-hot leads into new customers while keeping costs down. In a retargeting campaign, ads are directed toward people who have already shown some kind of initial interest in your brand by visiting your page.
Retargeting uses cookie-based technology to track when people view your website or product page but have not yet finalized a purchase. It's an extremely popular strategy among entrepreneurs and marketers as it produces reliable ROI that's easy to measure and learn from. And it makes sense – it takes much less effort and money to acquire a new user who has already shown an interest in your e-commerce offering.
Feeling overwhelmed by all of this? If so, you're not alone. Though it might sound corny, it's true: The journey to seven-figure e-commerce sales is a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time, allow yourself to make mistakes, and your e-commerce store will see real growth before you know it.