How to Grow Your Online Sales in 2017
There is no doubt that e-commerce is the way of the future. It is expanding worldwide at an astounding rate; in the U.S. alone, e–commerce grew by over 15% in 2016 to top US$394 billion dollars. It’s news worth paying attention to, especially since businesses and consumers in Latin America and the Caribbean haven’t even scratched the surface of the immense opportunity e-commerce offers in the region and are playing catch up with not only the United States, but Europe, and other parts of the world as well. For businesses that want to expand their reach, offer greater value to customers, strengthen competitiveness, and increase sales, an aggressive strategy to increase online sales is the way to go.
An Effective E-commerce Site
An effective e-commerce site is the most critical part of any effort designed to grow online sales. This can be created by hiring a developer or using an e-commerce website builder such as Shopify or 1shoppingcart. Many small businesses choose to use an e-commerce website builder because it enables them to get started immediately, requiring little expertise, manpower, and most importantly, minimal risk. These companies typically have a large selection of website themes and built-in blogs, offer free trials,24-hour customer support, e-commerce marketing tutorials, and strong security controls. Probably the biggest advantage is the minimal upfront cost, starting at as low as a few U.S. dollars per month, which allows companies to affordably test the e-commerce waters without substantial financial investments.
Whether you choose to use a website builder or hire a developer, there are several characteristics that your e-commerce site must have. The most basic checklist item is that the site must be user- and mobile-friendly. Most internet users across Latin America and the Caribbean access the web via their phones, so having a website that is optimized for mobile phones, as well as across all browsers and devices is essential. Social media integration is also important to facilitate and support social sharing, social media promotions, and advertising. Other essential checklist items have to do with understanding online shoppers and their buying behaviors and ensuring that the site meets their needs and expectations. Online shoppers are generally more sophisticated consumers who require substantial information to help them evaluate potential purchases before they decide to spend. Therefore, e-commerce sites must have high quality product photos, videos, and detailed product service descriptions and specifications. Your site must also include customer ratings, feedback, and reviews; a large percentage of today’s online shoppers base purchasing decisions on the advice of their peers. Another emerging best practice to provide online shoppers even more information, is the inclusion of live customer support or detailed questions and answers, purchase history, recommended products, search filters, and more. You may also want to consider adding language options to your site to expand the potential market and to capture users in a database for future direct marketing.
Once you have a well-functioning e-commerce site, your strategy should incorporate consistent marketing, advertising, and promotional tactics to drive users to your website, increase conversion, capture customer feedback, and continuously improve their online shopping experience. In Latin America and the Caribbean one of the main challenges for e-commerce is that large segments of the population do not have bank accounts or credit cards. Uptake however, according to the annual United Nations Conference on Trade and Development B2C E-Commerce Index, is growing at a fast pace.
One of the most effective ways to drive traffic to your e-commerce site is through social media, especially Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, which are the most popular social media sites across the region. Posting creative and engaging content and advertising are great tactics to capture user attention and get higher levels of engagement that lead to greater sales. The use of promotional tactics such as special and limited time offers are also effective because they grab attention, provide specific calls to action, and have a sense of urgency that encourages the target audience to shop now. Many users want fresh product and service offerings and new and relevant information related to the products or services they provide, so frequent website updates are critical for continued engagement and to increase online sales. Search engine optimization of your website can increase your site’s visibility to your target customers and drive potential shoppers to click. By far one of the best ways to increase sales is to directly email users who have signed up for your database. The key ingredient to developing the right mix of marketing tactics is to test several, measure their effectiveness, and invest consistently in the ones that work.
With an e-commerce site, businesses can offer loyal and potential customers round-the-clock convenience. By virtue of being open 24/7, 365 days a year, that means your website is always selling. Including excellent customer service, mobile optimization, and a strong social media presence can mean higher traffic and increased sales for your business.