Today, online shopping is on the rise. According to Statista, the global retail sales of e-commerce stores are poised to generate about US$ 653 billion in 2018. But, that only for about 11.9% of the ecommerce market share, and up from 3.5% a decade ago.
What does that mean to e-entrepreneurs? There is still an enormous opportunity to exploit. But, it’s one thing to create a store but getting is noticed out there is another challenge.
You can create and uploaded powerfully engaging visuals. You can add sumptuous product videos and a copy to go with it. But, that might not be enough to gather a following for your e-commerce store. Building a community around your business is the key to getting your business out there.
How can you build a community for your e-commerce store?
First of all - Define your business
You can’t build a community around a business you don’t understand. Know what your business stands for, how different it is from other businesses and the type of people you would want to attract in your business community. Once you are clear with these essentials, you can get on with creating the community.
Rethink customer service: Happy customers = happy businesses.
Think of customer service as the competitive advantage. Customer service is the backbone to growth of your e-commerce business. Whether your customer will return or get trapped in the nets of your competitor depends on how they experience your brand.
You will always have well-oiled competitors that you can’t beat in the price wars and fast shipping. Brandi, one of the brains behind Fluff & Familia, says:“…you can’t beat e-commerce giants like Amazon on low prices or fast shipping. But as a small business, you can engage your customers on a one-on-one basis, and thus offer “competitive advantages that [big brands like] Amazon just can’t replicate.”
While such brands can get you the product quickly, they might not have time to respond to all questions and concerns customers may have about the product. That is where your small business comes in – buying your time to answer their questions.
For example, you might need a maroon-colored print for your special occasion that might not be on sale on the shelves of the big online stores. As a business owner, you can talk to them to see how you can “assist them on a personal level.”
Go an extra mile with your services. Find what the latest developments in your market are. Always find out new ways of engaging your customers and what is on demand. Study your competition, and find out what they are not doing and what they are doing better.
- Invest in technology. Upgrade your website to load faster. Everyone loves hassle-free shopping experience. If you already have a CRM, you can makes notes about the challenges your customers are struggling with. You can also note the customer’s birthdays and their dues dates. Once you have all that information, you can periodically check in on how they are doing. That way, you will draw them to your brand.
- Offer live chats – Customers want to talk from real humans who understand their problems. Ensure that you have someone around the clock to respond to your customers’ queries and concerns. That way, your business will stand out from the muck of competition.
Give back to the community
How do customers view your product? If they view it as a commodity, expect their loyalty to last for as long as your prices keep low. Since you can’t beat established brands in price wars, chances are you are likely to get out of business sooner.
For your customers to do business with you, you need to offer compelling reason beyond price. For example, your customers care more about philanthropy. In fact, the study conducted by Cone Communications and Echo Research (2013) revealed that about 82% of consumers in the US consider, among things, social responsibility when they shop. There are tons of benefits that come strategic giving.
Even when you are working on tight budgets, you call still give something to the community. For example, David and Brandi diverted their marketing budget to sponsor an award ceremony at Mommy Con, the largest parenting conference in America.
A lot of people felt they felt they should have used the money to buy a booth where they could sell their products. But, they wanted to support something they so believed in. A lot of people were moved by the gesture. They thought instead of “trying to make a profit out of the event”, Fluff & Familia team proved to them that they loved “supporting the causes that [they] believe in.” The results were astonishing.
Create a support group
One of the keys to success of your online store is building amazing support groups for your customers. That is where your customers would discuss issues that matter to them. For example, Fluff & Familia crew shares their “personal journey with [their] customers, and the challenges we’ve gone through together in terms of my postpartum depression and infertility.”
For example you can create a Facebook, WhatsApp or Telegram private group. Using the channels, you can engage your customers, and help them with their challenges. Customers can also raise issues and discuss them among themselves. They can also advise each other on issues to with your products or other issues outside your field of operations.
You can also ask for reviews. Let your customers tell you what they think about your products and generally their shopping experience. It is these interactions that help you improve the quality of your products. But, most importantly, your honest answers will draw more people to your brand.
Summing it up
Creating an online presence could be easier. But, making your brand stand out from the marsh of competition is easier said than done. You need to do more. Building an online community around your business could be the biggest competitive advantage over your competition. It takes time to build one. But once, it will reduce your workload and save you a lot of time and resources.
Mohit is a digital marketing expert with experience in marketing, communications, and e-commerce development. His interests include e-commerce software, accounting software, and content marketing. When he’s not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, friends, and playing chess.
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