With a massive customer base opting to go online for shopping, the e-commerce industry is only going to witness an upward trajectory for a long time to come. For aspiring e-commerce entrepreneurs, this unprecedented opportunity for success and sustainability is exciting, promising, and fascinating.

In its 2017 report, A Look At The Evolving E-Commerce Landscape, Nielsen drew an interesting comparison between FMCG and e-commerce retail. The report said the FMCG sector is growing at a rate of just 4%, with signs of a further slowdown. Retail e-commerce, on the other hand, is expected to grow by 20%, which will be a $4 trillion market by 2020. Clearly, there is a paradigm shift in consumer habits and preferences, which is opening the floodgates for more and more e-commerce companies.

Having said that, this profound potential is also paving way for a fierce competition among new e-retailers. They are finding innovative ways, using the latest technologies, and revisiting their strategies in an attempt to outsmart each other. The e-commerce market has grown so huge that it’s got something for everyone. The need, however, is to move with the right approach.

So, how prepared are you to become a successful e-commerce entrepreneur?

If you are aiming to build a winning e-commerce business model, focusing on the following critical areas will give you a guaranteed success:

1Identify and Understand Your Target Audience

Before diving into the abyss of the e-commerce world, you need to fully understand what your target audience is. Unless you have a clear understanding of your own value propositions and target market, how will you strategize to reach them? Different audiences need different marketing styles, which mean it’s easy to lose sight of basics inherent to every strategy. If you are unsure of your audience, you will fail to get right messages that connect with them because you are unaware of who will consume your products or services.

To get into the specifics of defining your target audience, a good strategy is to create buyer personas. HubSpot defines a buyer persona as “a generalized representation of an ideal customer”. By creating a generic profile of buyer persona, you can easily map out their pain points, which in turn will give you an indication of how your product or service can solve those problems. By connecting the benefits of your product or service to their pain points, you will be able to align your message with their motivations. It will eventually help you tailor your marketing efforts and connect with your audience to meet their needs and address their concerns.

2Have a Strong Social Media Presence

The evolving transformation of social media has become a highly impactful area as far as e-commerce is concerned. Initially, from connecting people to people, social media has traveled all the way to play a deciding role in every business. With a sharp growth in internet and smartphone usage, people have embraced social media like never before. They are using various social networks for all the practical purposes. It’s high time for your brand to have a profound social media presence. The idea is to make sure you are always visible to your prospects. Whenever a demand arises in your own niche, your brand will automatically become a preferred choice.

Today, social media is a crucial ingredient for reaching out to your target audience. It’s helping businesses create interest in their products or services well before they are ready to purchase. According to a recent report, 71% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals. Also, 4 out of 10 social media users have purchased an item online when it was shared with them on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. Another study suggests that 55% of B2B buyers search for product/vendor information on social media.

It is clear from these facts and figures that social media is an influencing factor in consumers’ buying decisions. So, to leverage the maximum potential of various social channels, you need to create compelling content for every stage of the buyers’ journey. You need to post positive customer reviews, feedback, and testimonials to boost e-commerce conversion. To sum it all up, an active presence on social media enhances your brand perception and increases overall sales.

3Put the Focus on Customer Experience (CX)

Customer experience plays a vital role, especially in the e-commerce segment. As a matter of fact, the biggest drawback of any e-commerce business is its inability to let its customers touch, feel, smell, and see the products before arriving at a purchasing decision. Thus a great customer experience can mitigate this challenge. For example, offer them appropriate pricing, provide free shipping, and simplify the shopping cart. Also, a great web design for easy navigation and optimizing your e-commerce site will go a long way in enhancing customer experience.

To build a successful, profitable, and sustainable e-commerce business, you have to invest in your customers before they enter the buying cycle. The genuine investment in your customers begins with understanding each of their touchpoints. A touchpoint refers to an interaction your prospects have with your brand. These interactions can take any form, like visiting your website, a live chat with your customer reps, the condition of items they receive, or a follow-up on your part. So, making all these points of contact smooth enhances customer experience.

Another way to improve the CX is creating a seamless omnichannel experience. Today, omnichannel isn’t just utilizing technology or a conversion strategy. It’s more broadly the brand experience that a customer has with you across various platforms and channels, at every step of the way.

4Create a Seamless Transaction and Checkout Process

Mishandling your customer transactions could be a big speed bump in your e-commerce sales. From a security point of view, many customers are wary of providing their personal information to online companies. Unless the consumers are convinced of the secure transaction as well as more payment options, your conversion funnel is yet to provide the desired results. Many small and major e-commerce firms have already been hacked, while some of the world’s largest corporations have fallen victims of cybercriminals. You have to allay the fears of your consumers regarding their sensitive financial details ending up in wrong hands.

Another key area to focus is to make a seamless checkout process. A relatively lengthy or confusing checkout process can make customers abandon their carts. An effective checkout, on the other hand, involves a minimal number of steps. It guides your prospects through a straightforward and hassle-free transaction. The fact is too many fields to fill during the checkout process will eat up your users’ time, which in turn will negatively impact your sales. Furthermore, you can use tactically placed CTA (call-to-action) buttons that can effectively guide your customers through the checkout process.

5Stay on Top of SEO

Owing to the massive explosion of e-commerce ecosystem, a flurry of businesses is entering in this increasingly crowded place. Since your brand is also competing with hundreds of other e-commerce companies, it is pertinent for you to stand apart from your competitors. Therefore, you have to stay on top of SEO in order to rank higher on search engine results. An aggressive SEO strategy leads to the maximization of your company’s profitability.

A higher search engine ranking determines how fast your customers find you. No visibility means there are very few customers who actually know you, which eventually leads to lower sales and lower growth. SEO is also one of the most cost-effective ways of driving traffic to any website. For that, it is important to optimize your site for keywords and images. So, targeting the right keywords can bring your products up during customer searches.

Conclusion

In order to succeed in your e-commerce entrepreneurial journey, you have to simplify the consumer shopping process and increase customer experience by fully understanding your target audience.

Your brand needs a profound social media presence that caters to all of your prospects. Plus, a seamless checkout process with a solid SEO strategy can give you the desired results.Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

Senior VP of Business Intelligence Development, I have assisted the Fortune 1000 company with expertise in the web as a whole, including ground-zero marketing efforts that benefit both consumer and vendor. I’m a thinker, communicator, marketer, competitor, people person, and all-around busy bee. I’m a relentless networker with several years of real-world experience and two college degrees under my belt. He is also a contributor on Esprittoday.