Before you start making up your list of new year’s resolutions, think about last year’s. You didn’t lose the weight you said you were going to, you’re replaced your gym membership with a Netflix subscription, and instead of quitting smoking you’re up to four cartons a week.
Instead of making a list of things you want to do to enhance your life, but will never undertake, why not resolve to improve your eCommerce store for the new year. After all, 2012 was a year of uncertainties and many online retailers put off site improvements and marketing initiatives for fear of a lack of return.
With the election out of the way, the economy showing signs of improvement and a (hopefully) good holiday sales season behind us, now is the perfect time to start investing in your business for the new year. Here are five suggestions you may want to add to your “2013 eCommerce To-Do List.”
- Site Redesign – Far too many eCommerce store owners have put off a site redesign for the past couple years and if you’re one of them, it’s time to get moving. Typically a website should be given an overhaul every 12 to 18 months. This ensures that your site is built using the latest programming standards, has the latest version of on-page features installed and gives you the opportunity to add additional site tools to make it easier for customers to find and purchase products. On average, a store owner should budget approximately $10,000 for a complete overhaul. Of course that price will vary based on developer, features being installed and complexity of the design. When choosing a developer to redesign your site, ask for references that you can call to learn about their redesign experience and always get at least three proposals. When decision making time arrives, make sure you’re comparing apples-to-apples!
- Feature Updates – If a redesign isn’t in your budget, set aside a couple grand to install features designed to increase your average order value. The very basic features that every eCommerce store should have include: search engine friendly product reviews, social sharing buttons for Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and others, cross sell and up sell features that suggest related items when an item is added to the cart, multiple product images showing the item from various angles (if your products lend to that type of display), and a robust search engine that allows you to sort results by multiple variables. If you sell items that are very similar to each other, I suggest a feature that allows your shoppers to compare several like models. Your developer can suggest other business-boosting features your site should have based on your products and audience.
Before I go to number 3 on my list, a thought on front-page features. I’m no longer a big fan of spending a lot of money and loading up an eCommerce store’s homepage with a ton of bells and whistles. Sequence banners may have been “cool” a few years ago, but do people really take the time to click through this slide show to see what’s happening on your site? I don’t and I’m sure I’m not alone. I’d much rather see you design your homepage with elements for sale items, search engine friendly text that lets the shopper (and spiders) know what your store is about, your most popular items in a neat display and a clear path to other sections on your website.
- Embrace Social Media – If you haven’t jumped on the social media bandwagon yet, 2013 is your year. Every eCommerce store should have a presence on at least Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Pinterest is a great place to be as well if you sell jewelry, crafty, bridal or other items suited to the female sex. You should post on these sites regularly as well as offer an occasional deal to your followers. A word of advice, don’t expect to make money off social media. Sure there are people who will tell you otherwise, but in reality, people aren’t going to Facebook or Twitter to shop. They’re going there to catch up with what their friends are doing, post pictures of their cat, and don’t want to be hit over the head with sales pitches. Social media should be used to cultivate relationships with your followers by posting relevant information that attracts attention and encourages interaction. By providing your friends with a steady stream of information they see as fun and engaging, you’re keeping your name on the tip of their tongue when it comes time to make a purchase.
- Reconsider Email Marketing – A great number of eCommerce store owners I’ve talked to lately have given up on email marketing. They feel their message is being lost in the overabundance of spam that invades our in-box everyday. That very well can be true – if you’re emailing your list several times a month with irrelevant and uninteresting content. Let’s face it, why do you sign up for an email list? For coupons right? Of course! I don’t sign up to the Gap’s email list to receive articles on what I should look for when choosing a pair of skinny jeans – that’s what blogs are for. I’m signing up to receive deals, like a 20% off coupon for a pair of those pants that make grown men look like fools. Give shoppers what they want in an email, and the return will be there!
- Market Yourself Better – You want sales? Go get them! Instead of complaining about Google Shopping moving to a pay-per-click model, sign up for it, spend a couple bucks and analyze the return. Your competitor may have bailed after the switch from free to paid and you may suddenly find yourself reaping the benefits of this channel you wanted to ignore. Don’t be afraid of pay-per-click advertising. If done correctly, monitored daily and return on investment properly calculated, you – as well as Google – can make money off this channel. Get your hands around SEO and start building a plan to get the coveted organic rankings your store needs. This can be accomplished by blogging regularly, providing posts with links to your site to blogs that are relevant to your industry, submit press releases announcing a new product line or feature to your store with a link back to your site and spend time or hire someone to write good product descriptions and site content thats keyword rich but not spammy.
Make 2013 the year you’re going to knock your eCommerce sales out of the park! Don’t look back on the past and fall into old ways, look to the future and take your business to the next level by lighting a fire under your bum that will lead to a burning passion within. This can be your best year ever if you set your sights and efforts on it.
Now let’s kick 2012 in the ass and welcome 2013 with a renewed sense of optimism, an intense desire to succeed and a bottle of cheap sparkling wine.