10 pro tips for making your new e-commerce effort a success

E-commerce was already on the rise well before 2020, and the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has only accelerated this phenomenon. Many businesses that have been accustomed to primarily brick-and-mortar sales are now handling unprecedented volumes of online orders, and this trend shows no signs of slowing down.

The Business Journals

To help you adapt to this change, we asked 10 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust for their insights. Below, they share their best advice for companies that are navigating a growth in direct-to-consumer shipping.

1. Hold interactive demos in-store to promote online sales later.
Leverage space with demos and interactive models in conjunction with an online presence. You can operate with less square footage and potentially enhance your customer experience with less inventory in stock but more access to the product. – Dale Gillmore, Quest

2. Evaluate your sales tax obligations.
With an increase in online sales, you need to evaluate your sales tax obligations. Most states that collect sales tax now have laws that create a sales tax obligation in their state based on the number or amount of sales made — an obligation businesses incur simply by selling into their state. Whether utilizing a third party to ship a product or doing it yourself, you may need to look at where you’re collecting sales tax. – Robert Dumas, TaxConnex

3. Set up a strong supply chain.
Have a great supply chain in place to ensure that shipping delays are minimal. No one wants to order a product and then wait a month for it to show up. – David Wescott, Transblue

4. Write clear product descriptions and ensure timely customer support.
Make sure your product descriptions are clear and accurate and that your customer support is timely and comprehensive. Ask yourself, “Would I buy if no one was around to explain it to me?” and “What if there is a problem with my order?” If the answer is “No,” “Maybe” or “I’m not sure,” then go back and improve your merchandising and your support messages. – Russell Harrell, SFB IDEAS – a Strategic Marketing firm

5. Invest in an integrated point-of-sale system.
Most point-of-sale systems now have integration for orders and inventory with the common e-commerce platforms. It is really cost-effective now for a small brick-and-mortar retailer to push online and in-store sales by presenting all their inventory online. Many customers pre-shop online to find what they want in stock and then go to the store or place an order for local pickup. – Matthew Palis, Infront Webworks

6. Look into back-end support software.
Utilize automation and software solutions that have pristine track records and are easy to implement. There is a plethora of back-end support software to alleviate the burden for brick-and-mortar stores entering the e-commerce space — especially when sales have gone from a trickle to a deluge. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management

7. Take advantage of your newfound product control.
Once your product goes through traditional supply chains, you’re dependent on a couple of large outlets to sell your products, meaning you’re bound by limited price flexibility and exclusivity agreements. Being D2C means you’re able to control your products through various push/pull marketing methods, including your website and the numerous platforms where you sell (website, email campaigns and social media platforms). – Wesleyne Greer, Transformed Sales

8. Implement an enterprise resource planning system.
To capitalize on emerging direct-to-consumer opportunities and effectively transition to an e-commerce platform, an ERP system should be selected and implemented to help staff deal with order volume, fulfillment requirements and warehousing complexities. Benefits realization planning should also allow employees to recognize this new software’s competitive advantages — with comprehensive training. – Joey Johnsen, Zeevo Group LLC

9. Streamline your backend and fulfillment processes.
Ensure your backend and fulfillment processes are streamlined, as consumers have become used to e-commerce and expect instant fulfillment with shipping to their doorsteps within days. If your backend and shipping take too long, a consumer can get antsy and cancel the order before they receive it. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

10. Understand the e-commerce customer’s journey.
The biggest difference in adapting to an e-commerce mindset is to understand the customer journey and experience. In e-commerce, the customer experience is just as important as making a visitor to your store feel welcome. From packaging to delivery, customer service to return policies — every step of the journey must be thought through with care and precision when you convert to e-commerce. – Paul Weber, EAG Advertising & Marketing

8 Emerging E-commerce Trends Marketing Experts Are Excited About

Trends come and go like the ebb and flow of a tide. It seems like with each new quarter we see e-commerce trends on the horizon that might have a massive impact on various industries. Companies that can spot these trends before they hit the mainstream can capitalize on their new knowledge. Because of how quickly trends can gain traction, a company that can prepare or pivot into a trend before everyone else can see a lot of engagement from their core audience. However, the key is figuring out which trends are the exciting ones.

AdAge Collective

In particular, e-commerce trends can be particularly fickle. Emerging trends, the ones that haven’t reached critical mass yet, are the ones that businesses should spend their focus on. An emerging e-commerce trend, if caught on the rise, can catapult a company’s popularity. When you find the most exciting emerging trends, you’re almost guaranteed to be the talk of the town.

These eight entrepreneurs from Ad Age Collective have become quite adept at spotting emerging trends and picking out the most exciting ones from the bunch. We asked them about the most recent emerging trends in e-commerce that we should be aware of. Their responses are below.

1. COVID-19 as an e-commerce accelerator
A trend I noticed is COVID-19 as an e-commerce accelerator. Huge brands had to dive into the direct-to-consumer (DTC) playbook. Mega-retailers being “forced” into e-tailing now are finding they can activate customers at mega-scale via video ads, gaining positive attribution analytics leading to redistribution of and more sales productivity for their marketing spend. – Sean Cunningham, VAB

2. Personalization improving the online shopping experience
E-commerce personalization will improve the online shopping experience. Customers want to feel cared for, especially when they are looking for a particular product. Algorithms can assist with making webpages, emails and even advertisements more personal. When the algorithms are properly trained, then businesses can use them to win over customers. – Duran Inci, Optimum7

3. Exponential growth of online grocery and last mile delivery
The greatest e-commerce impact of COVID-19 is the exponential growth in online grocery and last mile delivery. Consumer volume increased as advertising opportunities for brands beyond perishables have expanded. Now beauty, alcohol, OTC and other center-aisle categories must build strategies for “the third shelf.” – Kerry Curran, Catalyst

4. Shopify’s integration with the Walmart Marketplace
Shopify’s integration into the Walmart Marketplace is big news. This sets up a positive network effect for Walmart, Shopify and Shopify’s sellers — more audience for Shopify and its sellers, more product diversity and revenue for Walmart to compete with Amazon. By linking advertising closely with demand, this will make the Walmart advertising platform more powerful for some advertisers. – Dan Beltramo, Onclusive (formerly AirPR)

5. ML and AI for customer service increasing velocity
Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) for customer service will help increase e-commerce velocity. Customer service is often an underfunded necessary evil for e-commerce brands, particularly when a burst of operational issues inevitably arise. Resolving customer challenges at scale keeps customers coming back because customers want to talk to “someone” who can resolve issues in real time. – Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive

6. The rise of the curbside delivery concept
The game has changed completely for businesses that rely on in-person activity for revenue, such as restaurants, bars and events. The concept of “curbside delivery” has opened up new possibilities for taking a piece of that experience away to recreate in new and different environments. The more creative a brand is, the more they can still meet customer needs regardless of our changing world. – Holly Fearing, Filene Research Institute

7. Growing importance of voice search
Voice search is coming, but it’s being ignored. With the rise of virtual assistants, e-commerce has been quick to understand the implications. When a consumer can order a product by simply saying “Hey Alexa, order X,” that changes everything from the standard web and/or social search. Marketers need to understand that voice is a completely different game to SEO — adopt voice early and they’ll be ready. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap

8. The surge of in-home training and mindfulness platforms
An exciting trend to watch emerge has been the surge of in-home gym equipment, virtual personal trainers and mindfulness platforms which allow people to feel part of a community without having to meet in person. This is a big area of opportunity for both the consumer and the advertising industry. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising