Let’s be honest, for most owners and managers of an online retail business, there isn’t really a ‘slow time’ during the year. But it’s typical that during the summer months things shift into a more relaxed mood and operations are a bit less hectic. That’s what makes this the ideal time to take a closer, strategic look at your ecommerce business and areas for improvement.
According to a recent forecast by eMarketer, US retail ecommerce sales of apparel and accessories alone, equalling 17.2% of total US retail ecommerce, will reach $60 billion by the end of 2015. Taking proactive steps to analyze, prepare and investment in your online retail operation now can help reap those revenue benefits and impact your company’s success.
To help you get started, we’ve outlined three essential ways to optimize your online retail business to ensure it’s operating efficiently and discover potential problems before they happen.
1. Check Your Web Store Performance and Capacity
It may be months away, but the holiday season is already on the mind of the ecommerce media outlet, internetretailer.com. Their survey of 150 ecommerce executives and managers discovered that those who invested the time and money in tools and technology, “nearly 98% achieved or surpassed their revenue plans for the holiday season.”
Success can be a double-edged sword, and if incoming traffic exceeds your website’s hosting capacity, that can bring online sales to a screeching halt. This can happen during the holidays and during times when you’re running special pricing and sales promotions.
To prevent this:
- Develop a close partnership with your web host company that specializes in ecommerce, has efficient and regular server backup procedures in place and has expertise in crisis management.
- Confirm your web host offers a scalable infrastructure with multiple, high-speed fiber datacenters and support for a retail management system.
- Run a web load test to check the performance of your web store and/or mobile site, either by your web host or via free tools like loadimpact.com.
2. Review Your Social Media and Content Strategy
For some time now, social media engagement has had a large impact on retailers large and small. Business Insider cited Instagram’s reach to online shoppers seeking more unique fashion items as playing a part in the slumping sales for legacy retailers like The Gap and J. Crew. “Everybody sees what’s on the runways on social media and on blogs,” stated Kate David Hudson, cofounder of online fashion magazine Editorialist, in a related New York Times piece.
This is the power of online marketing and social media that can democratize the online retail playing field, enabling your small to medium sized retail business to compete head to head with the big stores.
The first step to reviewing your current social media state and web rankings is to:
- Tap your data reports, including analytics from Facebook, Twitter and Google, to see what is resonating with your audience and what isn’t.
- Look at your marketing budget to see if you have wiggle room to spend on or increase your advertising on these platforms.
- Expand your online marketing horizons in areas you may not have yet explored, including Instagram pictures and videos, a Pinterest profile, product review videos to post on YouTube, or blogging on topics that would be of interest to your core audience.
3. Review Your Online Product Listings by Channel
Your product listings may be something you manage quite often, but if you’ve been carrying core items for some time they may need some fine-tuning. Check your shopping cart abandonment ratesto see if there are elements of your product listings that need optimizing, including descriptions, product images and even your shipping policies (shoppers are known to drop off when shipping costs exceed their expectations).
Pricing is also an area to review, since online shoppers may expect lower prices when they buy on marketplace sites like eBay and Amazon, versus your web store. If you utilize a retail management system that supports multichannel, you can view all your channels easily and change prices as needed, when needed.
Setting up standard procedures for creating captivating descriptions and photos will also streamline the addition of new products into your retail management system, enabling you to add items quickly and efficiently even when things get busy.
By taking focusing on these three essential ways to optimize your online retail business you’ll be better prepared for success and the busier shopping days ahead.
To learn more, download the free white paper “10 Strategies for Attracting More Shoppers to Your Online Web Store.”