How to grow your eCommerce business in year one

Ecommerce is a growing industry – this is a great time to invest in it and build your own online emporium from scratch. At the same time, competition is tough, and you have to have the marketing collateral and products to match. Homegrown brands and global multinationals are looking to make big profits from the buoyant market – make sure that your business gets in on the action too. Here’s five tips to help you encourage e-commerce growth for your brand and business in the first year of trading. Good luck!

Get featured in the local media

The simplest promotional tactics are often the most effective ones. Free press and media can be a really valuable way of spreading the word about your products and business, and it’s also a great way to boost your ecommerce SEO.

As well as help drive sales, media coverage can help build credibility for your brand (increasing both business and personal credibility).

Talk to local press and journalists – they are always hungry for a good story — especially about an innovative new business. (Newspapers and publications are often run by interesting members of the community so getting ‘in’ with them may benefit your business in other ways too). Check out these free PR resources.

And don’t just think about traditional print media – explore community radio stations, online blogs, and even local community notice boards as potential places to be featured.

The ecommerce industry is still dependent on offline opportunities so always be on the lookout for how you can use advertising and media real estate in your immediate surroundings to help promote your business. Pop up stores and exhibitions are other strategies that all burgeoning ecommerce brands need to embrace.

Not sure what story to tell about your brand?

Maybe your business challenges could benefit other entrepreneurs in the community, or do your products themselves have an interesting story to tell? Delve deep into all the challenges you’ve faced and the wisdom you’ve picked up along the way – there will no doubt be plenty there to cover!

Media tips:

  1. Try to find an interesting angle to your story when you first pitch it to people – make it about others, not you
  2. Get good at networking (online and offline) with local journalists and editors to help build a personal, as well as professional, network
  3. Follow up on any media placements frequently – editors are busy, so help them help you
  4. Promote any published stories through your own promotional channels too.

Give stuff away for free

Free samples and taster packs are a great way to find your new product tribe. Getting stuff for free helps people trust your brand even when they don’t know who you are (yet).

This strategy is especially great for new skincare and beauty products —  free samples are an easy thing to send out to new customers, and if your product is good – people will want more.

Thinking about how you’re going to distribute these samples to market? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Online advertising & a free sample campaign (in exchange for customer data/Facebook like etc.)
  2. Sampler packs sent to people’s homes in the local/national area
  3. Testers included as part of another product family (like a subscription box) – sent directly to people’s homes
  4. Testers passed out at local retail outlets (or even on the street)
  5. Booths at markets and pop up shops are great places to dish out testers
  6. Door to door tester distribution and awareness raising
  7. Tester distribution at an event

Make sure your products testers are branded, look professional, and that potential customers can easily find out more if they want to.

Work with the local community

Use the knowledge base around you to help you grow your ecommerce business organically. Too many ecommerce merchants rely on the faceless online marketplace, forgetting the merits of working with people around you in the real world.

  • Find a local mentor to help you troubleshoot business challenges. They can help you decide what direction to take your business in, or introduce you to important local people and retailers
  • Speak to local trade groups and associations to get feedback on your products and business idea.
  • Crowdfunding is a great way to find investors in your very own neighborhood, as well as attract the attention of investors globally. Whether local or global – get people invested in your business in order to see it grow. Local community members who have invested and believed in you will become staunch brand advocates as you grow.

Find brand advocates

You don’t need to sell to everyone, but you do need to find your brand advocates. Find out where (and who) your ideal audience are likely to be– and then focus everything on engaging with and targeting them. The best customers are the ones who recommend your business and products to their friends and family, becoming advocates on your behalf.

  • Find your tribe online. Don’t be afraid of exploring new platforms avenues even if they seem alien and foreign to you right now. Being successful online is all about connecting with your audience, so learn how to listen and observe. Be brave.
  • Focus on great customer service and exceptional customer experiences to help encourage repeat custom. Try to make the experience of shopping with you as special as possible – from the online order form to the final packaging and delivery.
  • Your visual content either sets your brand up for success, or failure. You want to to embrace fresh concepts like animated videos or trendy flat lay imagery so that your store really ‘pops’ online and on social media. Look for proof of concept on mobile and seek customer feedback on early brand iterations. Places like Instagram are great places to go to gather feedback.
  • You can also use social proof to grow your business.

Disrupt with a new model

To be able to really succeed as a new business, you need to go beyond designing a new product, to designing an entirely new business model. The best businesses of the past few years have disrupted whole industries by turning customer problems on their head and changing the conversation. They’ve done this by providing innovative solutions that are now ingrained in their business models.

  • Industry disruption comes from better business models. Think about how your business can be more connected and joined-up, or whether you can undercut competition by being more streamlined. Don’t get so caught up in product development that you forget to develop your business.
  • Think differently with your logistics, brand culture, funding etc. Try to differentiate – don’t get obsessed with falling in line with the market.

Embrace new technology

Use the collective knowledge of global technology companies to bring high-level expertise to your small ecommerce business.

  • Going digital removes some of the traditional barriers to setting up your own business-like lack of capital and physical storefronts. Technology helps new players get involved by levelling out the ecommerce playing field.
  • Be clued up on business security and make sure you are protected against cyber-attacks. Cyber-attacks can be expensive and are potentially ruinous for a young brand.
  • Invest carefully and don’t get sucked in by a glossy sales pitch for something your business doesn’t really need. Running an agile business is knowing when to step back.

It’s completely possible to grow a profitable business with a grassroots and community-first attitude, as long as you stay 100% focused on your core customers. On the other hand, you can also run a very profitable business that gives back to the community by reinvesting in the marketplace. Whatever you’re selling – don’t be afraid to embrace technology and seek untapped commercial opportunities in your area. Go to ecommerce conferences, network, and constantly strive for more in order to learn from the best. What is the one thing you want to achieve with your business this year?