As we close out yet another trip around the sun, you may be starting to wonder “What’s next for my online store?” A new year is a great time to stop and take stock of what worked, what didn’t, and what you can do to improve the bottom line on your BigCommerce store.
In ecommerce, as in life, continuous improvement should always be top of mind. Consider the following when planning your next course of action.
Improve Your Store
If you’re not intentionally working on making your ecommerce store better, you’re allowing it to get worse. Everything is constantly changing. Focused, strategic effort on your part is necessary to make your store the best it can be.
Don’t let that scare you! Avoid overwhelm. If you don’t know where to begin, small changes made consistently over time are a good way to start making progress … but don’t delay. Start now.
Master Your Analytics
If you don’t know where you are now, how will you know how to get to where you want to go next? If you’re not in the habit of getting regular updates on your store’s current status, this should be a priority on your to-do list. What critical information can you learn from your store’s analytics?
- Audience: Where are you buyers located? How old are they? Are they men or women?
- Acquisition: Where is the majority of your traffic coming from? What ad campaigns are working?
- Behavior: Are your buyers first time or repeat visitors? How much traffic is from mobile?
- Conversions: What’s your conversion rate? What pages on your site convert best? How many didn’t make it to checkout?
… and much, much more.
If you’re not knowledgeable or comfortable using Google Analytics, you’re not alone. Check out The Best of the Best eCommerce Analytics Tools to Grow Your Business.
Hot tip: If you have a BigCommerce store with a large product catalog of unique fitment products (like Year/Make/Model), PartFinder features Data Insights, real-time data generated by customer behavior on your site. Customer searches on your site generate unique data that you can use to improve both your marketing and inventory efforts.
5 Quick Fixes
I look at a wide variety of ecommerce websites every day, offering constructive criticism and our development services on BigCommerce’s Community Forum. Here are the top five areas of improvement I regularly comment on:
- Make sure your site is secure
I’ve been seeing this a lot lately. If customers don’t feel that their payment method is secure, they won’t buy from you. Period. Get an SSL certificate for your site pronto.
2. Feature an eye-catching banner with concise messaging
Your site’s banner is prime real estate, and is usually the thing your customer notices first. It can either inform and engage them or turn them off completely. This is the space where you identify your product offering with clear, targeted messaging and sharp photos. I cannot overstate the importance of high-quality images here. The banner sets the tone for the rest of the site, so you should pay especially close attention to this area. Make sure your aspect ratios are on point so you don’t get the dreaded s t r e t c h e d photo effect.
3. Create a one-line navigation bar with clear product categories
Is your navigation bar product-focused? Things like Shipping and Returns don’t belong in your nav. Have large, well-defined product categories with dropdowns to keep the nav tidy. We recommend 6-8 navigation items, tops.
4. Keep your Home page product-focused too
Your potential customers come to your site to buy from you. They don’t need to read a long story about you or your products on the Home page. While an About Us or Our Story page can be quite compelling, it does not need to take up valuable Home page real estate. Share your story, your philosophy, and interesting details about your quality craftsmanship (if applicable) with appropriate keywords, on a dedicated page they can get to from the main navigation bar.
5. Standardize your product images and create unique product descriptions
This is another area that can sabotage your Home page experience. Make sure the sizing and aspect ratios of your product images are consistent. When image boxes vary in size, they not only look sloppy, but can throw off the alignment of product names and pricing info. Create unique product descriptions rather than using ones supplied by a manufacturer (if you’re a reseller). If you have a product that comes in five colors, it’s best to create one product with five variations than five separate products. Writing creative, compelling product descriptions isn’t always easy. Work on them over time if necessary, but avoid duplicate content whenever possible.
Invest in New Apps
So many apps, so little time …
It’s very likely that you’ve purchased a number of apps to help you with marketing, inventory, shipping, and so on. But when was the last time you took a stroll through the BigCommerce app store to see what’s new? Are you up on all the latest technologies? Small investments can pay off big. Check out this list, BigCommerce Must-Haves to see what you’ve been missing.
Refine Your Product Offering
Is your current product offering too narrow … or too broad? I am always amazed to see online stores selling everything from soup to nuts with no sense of cohesiveness. It’s one thing to sell “gifts” and have a wide range of items, but when you’re primarily selling phone cases but also baby bibs, women’s underwear, and garden hoses, you achieve what I call “the garage sale effect.” It’s very difficult to market stores like this because there’s no direction or target market you can aim for. You really can’t compete in Amazon’s “sell everything” space, so make sure your products are related and can be categorized so that anyone visiting your store knows immediately what you’re selling and why they should buy from you.
As Stephen Covey wrote in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (a must-read for all humans), the seventh habit he references is “Sharpen the Saw.” Entrepreneurship is hard. You must take the time to invest in yourself if you’re going to have the energy and motivation to continue.
Remember: You’re the goose laying the golden eggs. If you’re not continually improving yourself, you’re continually decreasing your effectiveness and putting yourself on the fast track to burnout.
STOP: Take a Break
When was the last time you took a vacation? Remember, taking a break doesn’t have to mean two weeks in Europe. It could be a weekend getaway, an overnight trip, an afternoon doing something you love, or even a 10-minute meditation. If you don’t make yourself a priority, no one else will.
LOOK: Read & Learn
We all struggle with information overload. The key is being selective. Read blogs and follow business experts on Twitter, or take online courses from sites like Lynda.com or Udemy to enhance your skill set.
I also recommend checking out online forums to stay current on your platform’s features and improvements. BigCommerce’s Community Forum and Facebook page are great ways to learn from other store owners, development partners, and platform experts.
LISTEN: Find Your Podcast Nirvana
If you don’t think you have time to listen to podcasts, you’re doing it wrong. Podcasts are a great way to stay informed while you multitask. Next time you’re eating, exercising, or driving, fire up a podcast see how fast the time goes. If you’re not sure which ones are best, check out 42 Top Ecommerce Podcasts That Will Make You an Ecommerce Magnate and get inspired.
Driving while looking in the rearview mirror is never a good idea. But taking the time to reflect and assess your goals always helps determine your road map for the future. Wishing you a healthy and prosperous new year, and happy selling.