To Keep Up as an Ecommerce Business, Recognize That It May Be Time to Expand

A new survey of ecommerce professionals shows the industry is bullish.

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By Amad Ebrahimi • Oct 10, 2018 Originally published Oct 10, 2018

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Contrary to popular belief, the most valuable resource for entrepreneurs isn't money. Instead, it's information. Think about it -- you won't see a penny of investment funds or revenue if you don't know what you're talking about. In the world of ecommerce, understanding your market and knowing what your competition is doing is critical.

Related: 5 Ecommerce Secrets the 'Experts' Aren't Willing to Share With You

Hiring an analyst or funding your own major study sounds great in theory, but the associated costs in terms of time and money may not be in the cards. If this is the case, how do you obtain this information to get a leg up on your competitors? One source: the Ecommerce Performance Indicators and Confidence (EPIC) study. Published by SLI-Systems, the EPIC Report is based on a survey of 276 ecommerce professionals. The study takes a look at industry confidence, ecommerce growth and key performance indicators critical to any ecommerce entrepreneur.

Confidence in ecommerce is increasing.

If you're a player in the ecommerce space, you're in a bullish market. The EPIC report shows that confidence within the industry has remained high since the first quarter of 2017. It also shows that 93 percent of retailers have plans for expansion. Here are some insights for incorporating the EPIC report into your ecommerce operation.

Expansion is key.

For the fourth year in a row, over 90 percent of survey respondents report plans for expansion. The steps you take to expand hinge on the trends occurring in your industry. For example, overall expansion (adding new products, hiring employees and upgrading technology) should be a priority if you're in the apparel/fashion industry. If you're in the housewares and home furnishings industry, adding products or product lines is of higher importance.

Related: U.S. Supreme Court Decision on Sales Tax Could Be Costly for Emerging Online Businesses

However, enhancing product lines to boost your business should be a priority for every industry. You may want to source new products, release updated versions or offering upgrades.

As implementing and purchasing new technology is universally supported by survey respondents across ecommerce industries, it may be time to up your tech game. For example, you may consider adding an AI-powered chatbot to provide customer service or a one-click checkout feature to your website. Both are easy to implement and can be extremely effective in boosting your sales and authority.

Looking too far into the technology future could be a drawback for your business. Even though smart speakers and virtual reality headsets are growing in popularity, the EPIC Report showed that fewer than 1 percent of retailers prioritize voice search, while VR remains the lowest-ranked initiative at 0 percent. Instead of simply shooting for the "latest and greatest," your focus should always be on improving the customer experience.

Customer experience comes first.

It's all about the customer. According to EPIC respondents, customer experience was selected by 25 percent of retailers as their top initiative. Even if online revenues are up, you'll eventually fall behind if you don't continually focus on enhancing customer experience.

Related: 2019 Will Be a Revolutionary Year for Online Shopping

The good news is that improving the customer experience doesn't need to be expensive, time-consuming or overly technical. Make sure that your website is fast and easy to navigate. Use free social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to reach and engage customers. Improve customer service by making your company contact information prominent on your website or even add in a basic FAQ section. If you have a complicated checkout process, simplify it -- you will realize fewer abandoned carts, greater revenue and happier customers. No one wants to waste time entering the same information or deal with the headaches of unclear pricing, shipping and other fees.

These steps are simple but have a big impact. The combination of increased transparency, improved navigability and a prominent social media presence can lead to an exceptional customer experience.

The EPIC report contains a lot of information and data, but it all comes downs to one thing: knowing your market. Take a look at your industry and where you sit in it, then find the tools you need to connect with your customers and grow your business.

Amad Ebrahimi

Founder and CEO of Merchant Maverick

Amad Ebrahimi is an entrepreneur, business owner and founder of Merchant Maverick, a partner referral site which has helped over 1 million businesses make better decisions since 2009.

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