In just three months in 2020, eCommerce sales in the U.S. skyrocketed and broke all the previous decade’s records. The pandemic forced people who had never shopped online to do so … and are now comfortable doing so. Baby boomers and older generations joined millennials in boosting eCommerce growth.
But it’s not only customers who changed their buying habits. Mom and Pop shops had to adapt and launch online. Even our neighborhood plumber is now on Google My Business, which he disregarded before 2020.
Ecommerce growth may slow in 2021 as people will once again be able to shop physically. However, we won’t see the same massive crowds in malls and shopping centers. People have discovered the advantages of online shopping. In many ways, it has made their lives better.
Customers can maximize their time when shopping online. They can look at 10 brands in 10 minutes or less. They’re more trusting of faceless entities who ask for their personal data and credit card information. Last year, 75% of Americans tried out different brands, stores and websites. Sixty percent of them plan to keep buying from these.
Don’t wait and see how the business environment will unfold in 2021. The trends are evident. There’s still uncertainty, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t create strategies to grow this year. So, if you need ideas, here are the best ones, in my opinion. Find out how you can adapt each to your business.
1. Revisit your 2020 Plan
I hope you didn’t trash your marketing strategy for 2020 because the world turned upside down. You might have ideas that can still work this year. Instead of discarding these, improve or make small adjustments. Remind yourself what your goals were before COVID 19 struck. I’m sure you looked forward to growth … and you may have grown faster than you thought with the explosive growth in ecommerce!
However, no matter the disruption (up or down), you still need to revisit and remember your long-term goals with your business.
2. Expand your business
Have you considered complimenting your online presence? You might be underutilizing your technical assets. Or, you’re not branching out to other opportunities that could fuel your growth.
Take private labeling, for instance. Sell everyday items like water bottles, but ask your supplier to make small tweaks different from others, and add your own logo I’m sure you can think of other products that you can add to your line.
There are other ways to diversify. I suggest you read our article on eCommerce business models. Some of these can improve your bottom line this year.
3. Explore and test new marketing platforms.
Our previous blog on 2021 trends mentioned new channels such as IG Reels and YouTube Shopping. These are still works-in-progress. But, it’s wise to explore ways on how these can grow your business. When these finally take off, be sure you won’t be left behind.
4. Bring your shop closer to your customers.
We just published an article on conversational eCommerce. I suggest also reading it. Communicating with your target audience through their favorite messaging app is one way you can get ahead. Why wait for them to contact you?
Customers are often interested in what’s new. They may not purchase from you regularly because they don’t need what you’re offering now. But when they do, you’ll be the first on their minds.
I used to get a birthday greeting from my now-retired doctor. It went like this – “Happy Birthday! Buying us drinks is voluntary but your annual physical exam is mandatory. Call us now for an appointment. Your health is important.” Is this bringing the shop closer to a customer? Absolutely!
5. Set up a physical display of your products.
You don’t have to lease permanent space to have a small display of your items. Find opportunities to open pop-up retail stores or kiosks. Events such as fairs, exhibits or conventions are held virtually at the moment. These will soon be back physically as restrictions are relaxed. There might be one in your neighborhood in the near future, so be alert.
Images and videos are fine, but there’s nothing like checking out a product in person. People get a better feel of how it can benefit them unless it’s a repeat purchase. Would-be customers can also meet you – the person or persons behind a brand. You could do a product demo and gain more leads.
6. Send out catalogs.
Do people still read these? According to this study, they do and these boost sales. Physical catalogs are easy to find around the house and can’t be deleted like e-mails. Your customers can browse at their leisure while relaxing on the sofa or bed.
Your catalog doesn’t have to be 100 pages thick. You can fit as many photos as you want without worrying about your website’s technical constraints. While your customers are reading, you have their complete attention.
If you can’t afford a pop-up store, catalogs may be better alternatives. Take the time to design one (or hire someone to create it). It will define your brand and create a long-lasting impression. Your photos and descriptions should be appealing. If needed, employ models your customers can identify with.
7. Suggest gifts and offer discounts for every occasion.
Like Amazon, monitor your buyers’ preferences. Offer new products that are relevant to them. Take it a step further.
If you’ve done your homework, you would know what your customers are regularly buying. I offer birthday discounts to my customers on products they often purchase. Other companies are no longer limiting their promotions for the big holidays. Some restaurants offer a free meal for birthday celebrants and graduates as long as they bring one paying customer.
The big stores suggest gift ideas regularly for all occasions. It can work for your business. Add a preferred customer or parents’ day. But offer relevant products.
8. Create a loyalty club.
Retain customers with exclusive benefits like free shipping, first dibs and discounts on new products. They can earn points that are convertible to cash every time they buy from you. You can also give them coupons for free coffee from Starbucks, for instance.
You want your business to be inclusive. Membership only options may be too exclusive for you. But it’s a way to reward repeat customers. Remember, it will cost you 5 times more to find new ones.
9. Offer free or discounted shipping.
What’s the difference between saving $10 on an item and free shipping that would cost your business $5.00? Apparently, the latter is more appealing to consumers.
According to this article, free shipping is a huge incentive to shop online. Ninety-three percent of customers add more items to a cart to qualify for it. More than 78% of customers joined Amazon Prime because of it.
If you sell physical products, find a balance between shipping costs and revenue. I would take the middle ground and offer free shipping for X amount of purchases. Conduct an A/B test to find the right amount acceptable to your customers.
10. Offer Free Delivery.
Customers don’t need to physically shop for the same items they’ve been buying for years. They can either request delivery or curbside pick up. Free delivery can increase your local customer base. It’s also a way you can rise above your local competitors.
Many online businesses cater to their local clientele. You might have a few local customers now, but wait until word spreads that you can deliver for free.
11. Add a review or testimonial page to your website.
People trust customer feedback more than the word of a company. I look for reviews before spending money on a product or service. These are way better than ads. Have you considered a dedicated page on your website just for these?
If you’re confident about your products, you have nothing to fear. Sure, there’ll always be unhappy customers. Promptly attend to their concerns … for unhappy customers, I’ve received rave reviews from them for our excellent customer service. Most of them will let others know how you served them. If you assisted them well, you’ll get positive feedback.
12. Offer a subscription plan.
If your product or service is designed for it, offer your customers the convenience of regularly receiving your products without going through the ordering process repetitively. They can choose to unsubscribe anytime they want. It’s a win-win situation for both you and your customers. You can even offer a discount if they subscribe for a year or more.
13. Appeal to Your Customers’ Values.
Show social responsibility to differentiate yourself from your competitors. According to this study, 87% of customers will purchase from a business that advocates an issue they care about. Seventy-six percent will walk away from a company that supports beliefs that are contrary to their own.
What are your advocacies that can resonate with your audience? Environmentalism is common among many businesses. Others state that their products are made by physically challenged individuals. You can also tell your customers that a portion of your revenues is donated to good causes.
14. Enhance customer service.
This is last on my list, but definitely not the least. An excellent after-sales experience is one way to retain and draw in new customers. Sure, your marketing funnel might have a 99% conversion rate. But if your service is mediocre, your customers will have second thoughts and look for alternatives.
Checking up on your customers through messaging should be standard procedure. I receive the following text whenever I buy from my preferred gadgets shop. “Thank you for your purchase. We hope our product is serving you well. For any concerns, send us a message. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.”
Many businesses forget to express gratitude and follow up on product satisfaction. Your products might cost more than the competition. You can make up for it with excellent service. Keep in mind that successful businesses always take care of their customers. When brands are all alike, it’s how they treat their customers that decides the winner.
Most of these tips are simple and easy to implement. I’ve tried each and can say these worked for my business. Which ones are relevant to you? Tell us your comments below.