There are six traits all successful e-commerce site owner have. Over the years, I’ve met many of them at conferences and through friends. After countless conversations, dinners and phone calls, I could see that all of them were very similar in their way of thinking, how they managed their business and their approach to growing their online store.
I’ve identified all the commonalities and I boiled them down into six (not seven!) habits. Let’s start with the first one.
1. They are passionate about the customer experience.
The most successful e-commerce websites deliver the best customer experience and their owners are really passionate about this. Unlike brick-and-mortar business owners, e-commerce store owners cannot directly interact with their customers. They can’t directly guide and assist you along the way as you’re shopping. At least, not physically.
That’s where e-commerce site owners differ from traditional business owners. They have to focus on delivering the best customer service experience possible through their website and other online channels. In other words, the quality and passion has to shine through in every part of the shopping experience. This means having:
- a beautiful and user-friendly website
- an easy and secure checkout system
- a return policy with no hassle
- useful follow-up emails that people want to read
- responsive customer service emails and calls
- and much more…
When you can’t showcase your passion face-to-face, showcase it in every aspect of your online business so your customers do notice. Every successful e-commerce store owner does this and they want to share that passion not only through their online store, but also through their stories that they tell. Which brings me to the next habit.
2. They are storytellers.
People love reading and listening to stories. When you are passionate about your business and delivering the best customer experience, you will naturally share stories about it that people can relate to.
There are many ways e-commerce site owners can share their stories. While they can’t do it directly face-to-face, video is one the best mediums for delivering stories and for people to relate to your brand. Think of ways how can you use videos on your e-commerce website. In a traditional retail store, you have people who can answer all your questions and give you more insight into a particular product. Well, you can deliver almost the same experience by using videos. Here are some ideas:
- As the founder, share how and why you started your business and how you want to help others
- Talk about your product, how it will benefit the customer and put this on the product page
- Have a video version that will address all commonly asked questions (think of it as a “FAQ video”)
- Product educational videos that teach customers how to get more value out of your products and show them ways to use your product.
As an example, for software it’s very common to have screencasts that show exactly how you can use a particular function of the program. If you’re selling physical goods then that doesn’t work but the same idea still applies. Let’s say you sell blenders. You can produce videos that show customers how to make certain smoothies using your blender. Or, in a funny and extreme case, you can showoff how powerful they are by blending electronics like Blendtec did with its videos on “Will it blend?”.
Not only will videos help your business, it will also build your brand that people can relate to. The most successful e-commerce stores have a brand and people buy from brands they like. How do you get people to like your brand? By you sharing your stories.
It doesn’t have to be just over videos. You can start a blog, write fantastic newsletters, release a book, talk at conferences or even have a podcast. The main purpose of storytelling around your online business is that you want to build an emotional connection with your prospects and customers. That’s how you get people to buy from you without any price barriers and loyal customers that will buy from you many times over.
Look at Zappos. Aside from their great customer service and products, they have built their online business using storytelling. They released a book that shows how the company works. They give free tours around the office. They are transparent in all their communication. They have shared their stories countless times and many people have fallen in love with their brand.
Building a brand takes time and effort. Start today and share your stories. Communicate how you want to help them. Express your values to your prospects and customers. Let them fall in love with your brand and they will buy from you. Again, and again, and again.
3. They are obsessed with metrics.
You might have heard of the old adage “if you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.” This especially applies to e-commerce stores.
Every effective webmaster knows this. In order to grow your online business, you have to know your metrics. These are key indicators of how healthy your business is and they give you the foundation to grow.
While there are many metrics you can track, here are some you want to be aware of:
- Cost per acquisition
- Average daily / monthly sales
- Average order value
- Conversation rate
- Refund rate
- Shopping cart abandonment rate
- Average number of visit before purchase
- Customer lifetime value
- Repeat purchase rate
- Revenue per visit
How do you know what success looks like when you don’t know your numbers? If you made $12,943 in revenue this month, is that a success or a failure? What about if your revenue per visit went up $0.01? Is that a success or failure?
When you don’t know your metrics, you simply can’t grow your business in a competent way and enjoy its success.
When you know your numbers, you can also make better decisions. The great thing about online business today is that it’s very easy to gather all the numbers you need before you make a final decision.
A common example is deciding whether you should up-sell customers before or after their purchase. You can guess which approach is better, but you’ll never know for certain if you’re making the right decision.
You’re making a leap of faith that could be costly and you will miss out on potentially doubling or even tripling your profit.
It’s totally unnecessary. It’s better to test this assumption on a small scale and let the numbers drive your decision.
4. They are experimenters.
Every successful e-commerce website owner is always testing different parts of their website to improve conversions and to generate more sales.
Once you get into the habit of testing ideas and assumptions, this will become a lifelong process in your business. There are many things you can test, but here are some suggestions that can affect your bottom line right away:
- Category and Product page templates – try different templates and see which converts the best.
- Checkout page template – same idea as mentioned above.
- Up-selling before or after purchase – could triple your profit if you find out the right sequence and products.
- Prices of your most popular products – test a wide range of prices to see which brings the most profit.
- Testimonials – where to put them and which to include.
- Social sharing buttons – some products benefit from this, others don’t.
There are a lot of experiments you can run with an e-commerce store, but the list above is a good starting point. If you are new to split testing, I suggest you look into tools such as Google Analytics Experiments, Visual Website Optimizer or Optimizely. They are very easy to use and one of the best tools available today.
Get in the habit of experimenting and your bank account will love you for it.
5. They proactively seek feedback from their customers.
The best way to find out what’s successful about your online business and what’s not working is by talking to your customers. Talk to the ones who spent their hard earned money on one of your products. They are the people who will give you the best feedback because they want you to succeed. After all, they trusted you with their money.
Calling them is more effective than sending them an email. It’s more personal and you can build a connection with your customers. Don’t know what to ask them? Simply think of questions of how you can improve your business. But if you need some suggestions, here you go:
- What is one thing we can do better?
- Are you happy with your purchase? Is there anything we can do to make you even happier?
- How did you find out about us?
- How was your experience shopping on our website? Is there anything that stood out positively or negatively?
- What made you ultimately decide to buy from us?
- What is the one thing we should never stop doing?
Get social with your customers. They are the best people to talk to and to spend time with. The more you do it, the more you will improve your online business in the shortest amount of time.
6. They are obsessed about making customer’s lives better.
Your customers are the lifeblood of your business and you want to treat them the best you can. From analyzing many e-commerce websites, I’ve noticed that the top ones are always giving; they add value to peoples’ lives whenever they can and profit from that.
Think win-win. How can you improve your customers’ lives? Think of ways to make them happier. How you can make them a better people?
Here are some actions you can take to inspire your customers and add value to their lives:
- Write a killer newsletter for free that they will want to read every time.
- Show them different products and accessories that complement their recent purchase (up-selling) and show them how it improves their lives.
- Send follow up emails on how they can use your products more effectively and how they can get the most out of it. You get bonus points if you use videos.
- Give them a call and suggest different products that they might enjoy based on their past purchases (cross-selling).
- As a sign of appreciation, only give existing customers a discount for a future purchase.
Start adding value to existing customers and I have no doubt that you and your online store will succeed.
Time for Action
There you have it. The seven habits of highly effective e-commerce site owners. Now it’s your turn to incorporate these into your life that will help you grow your online business.
Let us know in the comments below how you are going to do it!