To understand the fundamentals of how to scale an eCommerce business, try to picture your online store as an apartment complex or house. To build a solid building, you first need a strong foundation. Next, you need building materials and labor to help you gain momentum to complete the project. Followed by the final finishes and design details.
However, it is also important to understand that you will never be 100% done. You will constantly be remodeling, tweaking, building on, expanding or putting new touches on your building. The same thing is true with growing an online store: you will need to be continually tweaking and evolving to scale an eCommerce business, ensuring the longevity of your brand.
If that sounds daunting, it doesn’t have to be. The secret to scaling an eCommerce business lies in these three fundamental stages:
- Building a streamlined eCommerce business from the foundation up
- Paving the way to success with momentum-driving and automation strategies
- Putting on the finishing touches by laying the groundwork for a million-dollar turnover
In this post, we will take you through how to scale an eCommerce business including, the nuts and bolts of what makes a scalable online business.
Let’s get cracking!
Stage 1: Building a Streamlined, Lean eCommerce Business Foundation
As we mentioned, the first step to scaling your eCommerce business is ensuring you have a strong foundation. Even if you’ve already opened your online store and are generating $100k, $200k or $300k per year, it is not too late to reassess your store’s foundation to make sure that you have the infrastructure in place needed to scale up your business.
Even if you’re doing 5 figures and have hit a plateau, going back to your foundation could be vital in sparking those sales. Here are the top areas to look at to ensure your eCommerce business foundation is on point.Ads by Hooly
Optimize for SEO
We know that good SEO traffic doesn’t happen overnight. In reality, it can take up to a year for your SEO efforts to start paying off. Which means even if you’re already operating a business and have either neglected your SEO or aren’t getting the results you want, there is a good chance it will take six months to course-correct; so start today – now, this very minute, to put your SEO optimization plan in action. Here’s a bulleted checklist of top SEO-optimization must-dos to consider:
- Research your industry, niche and competition to find your top keywords.
- Use apps and sites such as Screaming Frog to ensure you have no page or metadata errors.
- Test your website and page loading speed with apps such as Google PageSpeed Insights.
- Review your on-site optimization including store structure, social media integration, internal links and user experience. The best way to check the user-friendliness of your newly launched or established store is with free apps like Benchmark Hero, which will do a free analysis of your site by comparing it to 7-figure online stores.
- Add an eCommerce store blog with valuable, relevant content.
- Build off-site links using tactics such as submitting your products to online reviewers who link back to your store.
The advantage of putting effort into SEO is that, by default, you will be making your site more user-friendly to your shoppers, which will ultimately help with conversions.
Design the Framework for Email Marketing from Day One
From day one, you should be building your email marketing pool. This means ensuring you have email collection pop-ups and opt-ins in place to grow this valuable database, which will be pivotal in your marketing strategy and enable you to convert first-time traffic into customers.
Design and Implement a Top-Notch Customer Service Strategy
We know how necessary customer service is to turning one-time customers into loyal shoppers, getting good reviews and building trust. The best way to help scale your customer service as you scale your business is to have systems in place from the start to get in front of any issues that may come up.
Think about it this way. Let’s say you get one complaint per 100 customers you serve. What will happen when you are now serving 1,000 customers, or 10,000? The number of complaints will statistically increase.
Planning and strategizing how you will handle this before it happens – not just in inboxes but on social media – could be the make-or-break for an eCommerce business. Visit our 4 web stores winning at customer service post for some inspiration.
Have a Clear, Well-Planned Sales Funnel
A good eCommerce sales funnel can be divided into two major objectives: attracting new customers to your store and retaining existing shoppers. There are three main stages to attracting new customers; they look a little something like this:
Stage 1: Awareness
This is the top, or first, stage of your sales funnel, where you are introducing new shoppers to your eCommerce brand. This is where you acknowledge the pain points customers have that your products or brand can solve.
Stage 2: Interest
This is the second stage of your sales funnel where you bring customers who have engaged with your store or ads further on the sales journey with you. This is where you remarket with your email newsletters and PPC remarketing campaigns with Google Ads or Facebook.
Stage 3: Decision
Think of this stage as turning a browsing customer into a shopping customer, which can include on-site optimization to move someone from browser to buyer, automatic abandoned cart email promotions or remarketing campaigns.
The trick here is to plan your sales funnel in a way that is catching shoppers at every stage, which therefore points to when, where and how to structure your marketing strategy. All while allowing you to grow cohesively as you scale up.
Boost Traffic With Google
A very significant part of your online store’s foundation is setting up ways to drive traffic to your online store. You can’t wait for SEO, and you can’t rely purely on social campaigns. If you want to be able to scale your traffic with your business, you need a good Google Ads strategy in place.
At the very least, this should include Google Shopping and search campaigns that not only attract new shoppers but also remarket previous online store traffic. This can be complicated, but apps like Traffic Booster will navigate this for you. If you’re new to Google Ads, here’s a full guide to Google Ads options.
Create Your Facebook Product Catalog for Dynamic Ads
To be able to take full advantage of Facebook Dynamic Product Ads as well as Collection Ads, you need to set up your Facebook product catalog. Doing all the work ahead of time for this by implementing Pixels and creating your catalog ASAP, will mean that your catalog will be dynamically growing as your business grows.
Stage 2: Upping Momentum-Driving and Automation Strategies
It is critical that eCommerce entrepreneurs understand that no matter how prepared you are, you need to be able to change and adjust as your business grows. As you grow, your team and technology will need to grow with it, and there will be times of sales fluctuations that are out of your control.
However, you can do a lot to alleviate these growing pains by putting systems in place to help you build and then maintain momentum until you reach the $500k mark. These momentum-driving and automation strategies for eCommerce include the following:
Leveraging Customer Reviews to Build Trust
As you grow your business, your reviews should grow too. Reviews play a huge role in turning first-time lookers into shoppers because they build brand trust. In fact, research revealed that as many as 69% of shoppers want to see more reviews on online stores, which means adding them to your store is essential to increasing the number of new shoppers you convert.
Harnessing the Power of Remarketing
If you want to be able to bypass the 6-figure mark to reach the 7-figure threshold, then you need to harness the power of remarketing campaigns. This includes Google, Facebook and email remarketing campaigns.
As the saying goes, you have to spend money to make money. A lot of online store owners want to keep their business as lean as possible, but there is a limit. As your orders increase, the number of hands doing the work needs to increase. If you find yourself unable to keep the momentum going, it may be time to look at using third-party shipping and fulfillment solutions, leaving you to concentrate on product development and marketing.
Generate and Mine UGC To Increase Brand Awareness for New Audiences
Think of UGC as the digital combination of word-of-mouth advertising and superhero reviews on steroids. Bottom line: it can play a big part in scaling an eCommerce business.
To cash in on UGC, you first need to encourage or incentivize your shoppers to share UGC, through promotions, competitions or hashtag campaigns. This will get your brand front and center on shoppers’ social accounts. Next, you want to milk that valuable UGC for all it’s worth, which means using it in email campaigns, displaying it on your store site and sharing it on social media.
Another way of generating ‘high-end’ UGC to scale your business is by using influencers. Here’s our How to Find the Best Influencers for Your eCommerce Brand post to get you started.
Take Your Customer Service to the Next Level
Besides the usual automated emails and live support, you should be looking for ways to improve your customer service that will help you take your business to the next level. You want to set yourself apart from the competition and go the extra mile.
An excellent way to grow your loyal customer base is by creating a quality loyalty program to encourage constant customer growth while rewarding existing customers. Glam Guru is a 7-figure store that knows exactly how to set their customer service apart in a very competitive niche.
How? By leveraging Facebook groups, Whatsapp and live chat to keep customer service personalized, all while developing two unique programs for influencers and loyal customers.
Automate As Much as Possible
If you want to grow your eCommerce business while staying as lean as possible, then automation is key. There are many ways you can automate to help you deal with increasing orders in a way that doesn’t slow down fulfillment or leave you pulling out your hair.
Automation can be as simple as setting up automated emails, or more complicated like automating your product designs with Photoshop’s automation tools and PPC campaign optimization such as these 3 ways to optimize your Facebook Ads on autopilot. Every business is different, so the key is finding as many areas in your business as you can that you can automate that will enable certain business aspects to dynamically grow as orders increase.
Stage 3: Laying the Groundwork for a Million-Dollar Turnover
Once you have momentum and systems in place, it is time to lay the groundwork to turn your business into a million-dollar eCommerce brand. This is less about systems and more about planning for inevitable challenges that could arise, while also thinking big in terms of What’s next for my business. As the saying goes: you want to prepare for the worst but hope for the best!
Here are two main ways to do just that!
Prepare for Supplier Issues
Do you have a contingency plan for supplier issues? As your orders grow, you could be dealing with capacity or quality issues from your suppliers. A way to mitigate this is by building good, solid partnerships with your suppliers who are as invested in your growth as you are and have good communication flow. It also doesn’t hurt to have a backup plan!
Have a Plan to Deal with Sales Plateaus and Declines
Declines and sale plateaus are common in an eCommerce business lifespan and are almost always unavoidable. What is avoidable, though, is not having strategies in place that anticipate this. You should always be looking at how you can expand or adapt your product lines, niche or categories to stay one step ahead of stagnation. Or ask yourself whether it is time to consider expanding to other selling channels, such as Amazon’s 13 marketplaces.
That’s it: how to scale an eCommerce business the right way. Yes, it takes work, but if you can put the systems in place now to help you reach your future goals, you are well on your way to growing an 8-figure eCommerce store. Remember, each business is different, but you can be sure that there will be unplanned changes in your niche. It is almost certainly guaranteed. So to scale, you will need to adapt for your target audience and pivot when needed!
Author: Nicole Blanckenberg
eCommerce strategist and content Guru, Nicole is a content writer at StoreYa and other leading eCommerce blogs with over 15 years experience. She runs on a healthy dose of caffeine and enthusiasm. When she’s not researching the next content trend, consulting on blogs or creating informative small business content, she’s an avid beach goer and coffee shop junkie.