The barriers to starting an eCommerce business are smaller than ever…
In reality, all you need is a Facebook account so you can access the marketplace, as well as some goods to sell, and you’re off to the races.
But starting an eCommerce business and growing a flourishing and profitable one are two very different things.
Given the ease of formation, the number of online sellers is growing year on year…
Worldwide eCommerce sales.
For both new and established online businesses this means increased noise and competition.
To succeed in the modern-day world of eCommerce you have to do more than just sell great products – you need an expanding group of avid fans who spread the word about your brand. These are your followers.
How do you build a following for your online business? Here are four tips to get you started.
1. Align your brand with a “way of life”
A key element in attracting followers and potential customers to your business is to blur the lines between shopping and entertainment by aligning your brand with a type of lifestyle.
Develop a congruent message across all of your marketing channels that sells a lifestyle, not a product.”
If you sell sporting equipment, this might be the outdoor, adventure life. If you sell items to help customers be more self-sufficient, it could be the homesteading life. If you sell high-fashion shoes, this could be the runway life. You get the idea.
Be known for more than simply your products. Offer tips on using them, curate and share interesting articles from other sources and be sure to create your own interesting and diverse content, whether those are articles, videos or collections of images. Develop a congruent message across all of your marketing channels that sells a lifestyle, not a product.
For example, stationery brand Smiggle has built a lifestyle brand that resonates with a certain type of individual – someone that is colorful and fun just like their products. The slogan “where a smile meets a giggle” captures the essence of this way of life and all of their marketing content reinforces it:
Stationery brand Smiggle’s Instagram style.
2. Be known for something unique
Succeeding in eCommerce is all about standing out from the crowd… in a good way.
To draw increasing numbers of customers to your eCommerce site, you’ll want to offer something that few or no other businesses offer.
You might be thinking; “But I sell simple, everyday products. It’s hardly unique.”
That’s fine, the thing you are known for doesn’t necessarily need to be your product. For example, you might be recognized in your niche for amazing content, a customer-friendly returns policy, a free gift with every purchase, or any other number of unique differentiators that align with your brand’s overall mission.
Set your ego aside for a moment and ask yourself “why would someone visit our eCommerce site instead of our closest competitor?” If you can’t quickly answer that question, you may need help determining what sets you apart. You could even enlist a few friends or family members to give you an unbiased review of your brand, the product line, and your key differentiator.
According to one recent study by the University of Winnipeg, e-shoppers decide within 90 seconds whether to stay on an eCommerce site or go elsewhere. That’s not a lot of time to make a good first impression. You need to be crystal clear about your unique value proposition so your website or social media copy can help visitors understand it within a few seconds.
E-shoppers decide within 90 seconds whether to stay on an eCommerce site or go elsewhere.”
A great example of this concept can be seen with leather goods retailer Bellroy. Sure, they sell wallets and accessories… but it’s so much more than that. It’s all about “helping the world carry with greater simplicity and ease.”
This video on their homepage encompasses why their brand is so unique:
3. Collaborate with “trust pockets” online
Online influencers can be invaluable for growing your eCommerce following.
A Nielsen study found that 85 percent of consumers are more likely to purchase an item that was recommended by a friend or trusted colleague.
Influencers are people with large online followings of their own who aren’t associated with your company. These can be bloggers, celebrities or social media personalities. What your niche’s influencers have in common is that they generate regular, high-quality content and they have a sizeable, loyal fan base. Their followers trust their opinions. Therefore, a recommendation from an influencer carries much more weight than a suggestion from you about your products.
How do you hook up with these influencers? You can get influencers to help promote your site in a number of ways. For example, you can offer them a free product to review, ask them to wear a branded tee-shirt or other apparel on their social media pages, or you can invite them to join a panel to discuss topics of interest to your audience on your social pages.
Which influencers should you choose? You can ask your customers which blogs, websites or social media personalities they follow and research the names that keep popping up again and again. You can also enlist the aid of third-party companies and software that connect marketers with influencers, such as Buzzsumo or Influencity, or look for the most popular sites in your field using tools such as TrendKite.
Iconosquare social media analytics.
4. Build a system for user-generated content
Few things build eCommerce loyalty as quickly as having your followers post photos and videos of themselves using (or wearing) your product.
Since everyone likes to see themselves in the media, these posts are likely to be shared repeatedly with family and friends, who are likely to share them again with their friends, causing your post’s exposure to grow exponentially.
One way to encourage this type of input is by running a contest for the quirkiest, funniest, or most popular use of your product.
Example of a branded hashtag for user-generated content.
Testimonials or product reviews can also help boost your following and your company’s credibility. Offer incentives for those posting reviews. (Of course, you can’t dictate what they will write; you’ll just have to trust that your excellent product will speak for itself.) Then, feature these on the relevant product pages of your website so your shoppers can read about other customers’ experiences and opinions of your product while they are contemplating their purchase decision.
Subscription service Sock Club, for example, has a page dedicated to displaying over 1,100 customer reviews on their website:
Displaying customer reviews on your website.
Enticing customers and followers to your new eCommerce business doesn’t have to be an impossible task. Start by offering something unique, align your brand with a lifestyle, gain credibility by connecting with influencers, and encourage user-generated content from your customers.
These four things, in combination, will build an unstoppable momentum for your brand online.