10 Things I’d Do Differently in my Ecommerce Business

Once I sold my company this past year, I wrote a series of articles on the importance of creating an ecommerce strategy. I have written over 70 articles since then, addressing best practices and how to enhance an ecommerce company.

But in this guide, I will address what I’d do differently in my organization, knowing what I do today. Here are 10 things I’d do differently if I were to begin a new ecommerce business now.

1. Get More External Advice

As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to fall into a trap of thinking you learn more about your business than anyone else. In hindsight, I’d arrange a team of business consultants.

I would seek out financial experience, ecommerce expertise, entrepreneurial expertise, and someone with expertise and abilities I don’t have. This might be a board of directors for a company. Or, it might be a quarterly dinner or get together over a beer in the local pub.

Share your enterprise status, what is working, what is not working. Talk through your goals for the short term. You will likely get some fantastic feedback. If nothing else, you’ll have to organize your ideas and push yourself through a review of your company on a regular basis.

2. Go for Traffic, Revenue, and Profits — In that Order

When we started our company, we focused on developing an extremely profitable company. We weren’t focused on building the largest brand with the most traffic. A number of our competitors focused on traffic and earnings growth. Over time, they grew much bigger than us.

Though I don’t know whether they became highly profitable, they grew their earnings and cash flow to be much larger than our company. I wish we had spent earlier in earnings growth. We did do this after about four decades, but we never actually gained a competitive edge. We were more of an extremely successful niche player. I believe we could have been at the online Retailer 250 list if we’d jumped on the chance from the beginning.

That is harder to do now with the amount of ecommerce operations. However, whatever your business, increase your traffic and earnings first. Then tune your operations for greater profitability. I am not suggesting you eliminate a bunch of money, just be ready to sacrifice some gains for future expansion.

3. Hold on to your Money

You can not have too much money. Apple’s stockholders appear to believe it should reinvest its money or increase dividends. However, I say keep whatever loose money you have, available for reinvestment.

Skip the new vehicle. Invest in mobile, multichannel marketing, and new products to market. Save it for a rainy day or new investment.

4. Emphasize Multichannel Selling

We began selling on Amazon in 2010 with terrific success. I wish we’d done it two years before when Amazon’s market was ramping up. Today, I would be taking a look at all of my multichannel options very harshly.

Advertise your products on Google Shopping and utilize Google’s Product Listing Ads. Become visible on comparison-shopping engines. Build scalable pay-per-click campaigns in the event your search rankings diminish due to a Google algorithmic change.

Sell on the marketplaces best suited to your own products. Have a look at new social trade opportunities with Pinterest and Wanelo. Use Facebook and Twitter. Get your online shop mobile friendly today. Ensure that your emails are mobile friendly also.

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5. Can A/B Experimenting and Testing

Creating a excellent customer experience on your online shop typically takes many iterations. You will need to continuously improve your search and navigation, merchandising, shopping cart, and checkout.

Do this with systematic A/B testing or multivariate testing if possible. Unfortunately, a lot of online stores don’t have enough traffic to generate statistically significant results. You need about 100,000 unique visitors per month to get accurate A/B testing. But if your traffic is less than that, you should still experiment and test. In case you’ve got a low sample size, but see a high percentage change from a test — say a 40 percent increase in clicks on a button color change — you can be fairly sure that is a fantastic change. If you find a two percent growth, you won’t know for certain.

Give it try. Concentrate on your shopping cart and checkout where you might have the maximum impact. Try a mini-cart and a one-page voucher — both are very likely to show positive improvement.

6. Delegate More Tasks

I should have assigned more responsibility to a few key staff members. They would have benefited through the opportunity for more personal development. I could have concentrated on more strategic activities.

7. Go Low Rent

You have an ecommerce business. You have offices and perhaps a warehouse. You don’t need to impress anybody, especially not your own staff. You seldom, if ever, hold a client meeting.

Maintain your rent low. Have sufficient space and equipment, but bypass the class A or space. This will help your profits and help decrease your breakeven point.

8. Fix to Economic Changes Quickly

I was proud that we retained our team together — with the exception of one part time worker — through the worst of the downturn. We cut back a while, but we did not need to remove any of our regular staff. Nevertheless, in hindsight, I probably should have.

If you find yourself with too much space, equipment, or personnel, try to downsize fast. Do not let your bleed money on things you’re not using or funds that you don’t have fully used. You could always shift back.

9. Do More Ecommerce Networking

During my 10 years of owning an ecommerce company, I attended exactly 1 Internet Retailer conference. I learned a ton, but never attended . I corresponded with handful of other ecommerce owners, but I had little exposure to other solutions and approaches. Now, I have a huge network of vendors, consultants, and business owners that I talk to. I read many ecommerce websites and posts. I attend webinars. I know a lot more than I did while conducting my company. I wish I had done that earlier.

10. Use Analytics

To our credit, we utilized analytics in several regions of our business. However, it took us a couple of years to get the hang of it. Let your analytics drive your advertising, merchandise selection, store layout, and operations. Use every tool you can to catch and analyze your own data. Make decisions based on the numbers, not what feels right.

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