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How to Grow A Successful eCommerce Business: Workshop Recap With BVA & Start Small Think Big

In March 2021 BVA hosted an eCommerce workshop with our partners at Start Small Think Big with the goal of helping their small business clients learn more about how to make an eCommerce business successful.

Hosted by BVA’s Director of Strategy, Dax Young, and Director of Delivery, Retainers, Sean Glass, this virtual workshop covered all the fundamentals of how online business owners can build a growth strategy, even if they’re just starting out. No matter what life cycle stage your eCommerce business is at, there are key areas of focus that every merchant must address in order to meet their goals and scale.

In this article, you’ll find not only our team’s top advice for how to grow an eCommerce business, but also responses to the most commonly asked questions during this workshop.

Ready to grow the eCommerce portion of your business? Let’s do it!

Top Takeaways of How to Grow an eCommerce Business:

  • Know Your Customer
  • Build Relationships
  • Be Aware of Your Audience
  • Identify Competitive Edges
  • Establish Media Channels
  • Improve Customer Experience
  • Choose the Best eCommerce Platform
  • Consider Amazon & Online Marketplaces
  • Measure Data & KPIs
  • Monitor Audiences & Adjust Ad Spend Accordingly
  • Pursue Influencer Marketing

Question 1: What goes into a successful eCommerce business?

Fact: Building a successful digital business is complicated.

There’s no arguing that there are a lot of factors that go into building an eCommerce store and expanding your online presence. A lot of boxes need to be checked.

When it comes down to the basics, here’s what our strategists say needs to happen first:

  • Know your customer. You must first define your target audience and determine which criteria is important when targeting who’s most suited for your product or service. This will help you better communicate your brand’s messaging on your online store, your social media, and any paid marketing efforts.
  • Build relationships with your customers. Whether you’re a small business just starting out, or you’re pulling in 50M+ in annual online revenue, your customers will always come first. When first starting out, leveraging social media and word-of-mouth as a way to nurture current customers and acquire new ones is essential.
  • Have awareness that your audience may not be just like you. Oftentimes business owners believe that they themselves are their target consumer. When, in reality, this mindset can hinder your business growth because it will close your efforts off from segments of the market that may actually be better suited for your offering. Don’t limit your business by assuming that your customers are the same as you. Instead, invest time and effort to really get to know all possible target personas for your audience.
  • Identify your edge over your competition. What makes your business and offering different from other businesses in the space? Harness your differentiator and let that guide the way you build your online presence and message your brand.

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Question 2: How can small eCommerce businesses have a successful digital marketing strategy?

When it comes to building your digital marketing strategy, it’s important to understand the difference between the three different types of media:

  1. Owned Media- Owned Media includes everything that your brand can control: your website, your social, your email, and SMS.
  2. Paid Media- Paid Media can include performance marketing ranging from traditional ads, PPC, Paid Social, influencer marketing, and display ads. Display Advertising is the fastest growing area in paid media.
  3. Earned Media- Earned Media includes things like press and unsponsored social media posts.

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An important part of digital marketing (and your overall eCommerce strategy) is Customer Experience (CX). CX is a totality of cognitive, affective, sensory, and behavioral consumer responses during all stages of the consumption process. Sounds simple enough, right?

Well, for those of us that need a bit more explanation, here are the three areas of CX to pay attention to:

  1. Brand- This is how your customers can identify your business (your name, logo, distinct features). Think of the big brands that you’d know anywhere (Ikea, McDonald’s, etc.) that have very strong brand identities.
  2. Website Look & Feel- The user experience (UX) design of your website is very important for displaying your brand messaging.
  3. Customer Service- Providing exceptional and on-brand customer service is the way to create happy, loyal customers that will not only come back for more, but also advocate for your brand.

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Question 3: How does a direct to consumer brand choose the right eCommerce platform?

At BVA, we’re quite partial to the Shopify platform for many reasons. BVA chooses to work with Shopify for merchants of all sizes because it’s very good for both starting out online and also for scaling your business.

However, it’s always important to vet all your options. For small businesses, there are a few different platforms to choose from, and it’s an important decision because your eCommerce website is like running a store, just without the physical location.

Our strategists recommend looking for the following things when identifying a technology partner for your online business:

  • Look for a platform that is growing. You need a platform that will grow with you. You want the platform to be able to showcase that their business is doing well because that in turn means that your business can scale with it. You don’t want to be strapped to a clunky, outdated technology stack down the line.
  • Ensure that they can easily demonstrate the ROI. If the platform you’re looking at doesn’t provide case studies or show results from businesses similar to yours, it may not be the right fit.
  • Evaluate if they have active customer support lines. You want to find a platform that will meet your business’s support needs and be able to provide you with help if something goes wrong.

Question 4: Should direct-to-consumer brands be in online marketplaces like Amazon or Walmart?

Many small to mid-sized businesses struggle to determine if they should be selling on Amazon.

In today’s world, the fact is more than 6 out of 10 shoppers say that they start their shopping journey by making a search on Amazon. It’s no secret that Amazon has raised consumer standards with convenience and two-day shipping.

For these reasons, every business should consider Amazon and online marketplaces like Walmart. Selling through these channels can increase your brand exposure and ease of access to customers.

What our strategists do recommend is investing time in determining when it’s right for your business to join a marketplace. When you’re a small business, it’s especially important to make sure you have enough resources to focus on both your online store and selling via other channels. When your brand has the time and resources to invest in strategizing and executing for both, that’s when it may be the right decision.

Question 5: How can small eCommerce businesses measure success and formulate KPIs?

The fundamentals for business growth are building, measuring, and learning. Then, rinse and repeat. This should be an ongoing practice for any eCommerce business of any size.

When it comes to identifying your business key performance indicators, our team recommends these three as the most important metrics to pay attention to:

  1. Revenue- Very little explanation needed here. This will tell you how well your business is doing.
  2. Repeat Customer Rate- How many customers come back after one purchase? How many of your online purchases are made by repeat customers? This information can tell you a lot about how your business is doing. Happy customers that remain loyal are a good indication that you’re providing a top-notch offering and customer experience.
  3. Cost Per Acquisition- How much does it cost you to acquire a new customer? When it comes to paid media, how much do you have to spend in each channel to gain a new customer? When you’re starting out, focus on finding the marketing channels where it costs you the least to acquire new customers.

Additionally, the most important eCommerce Storefront KPIs our strategists look at are:

  • Sessions- How many visits is your website getting?
  • Conversion Rate- How many people visit your website and actually make a purchase?
  • Average Order Value- How much does the average customer spend on your website?

The North Star For Measuring Success: Sessions x Conversion Rate x AOV = Revenue

Question 6: What’s the average ad spend on FB?

For small businesses starting paid advertising on Facebook for the first time, this is a common question. How do you know how much to spend on Facebook ads?

Our strategists’ response was that this can vary a lot based on your audience and what you’re trying to sell. It’s important to recognize that Facebook is its own economy, and there are bounds for how much inventory (advertising space) is available.

When it comes to getting qualified leads from paid Facebook advertising, a lead can cost a few dollars or more. Our team has seen anything from $10-$50 for a qualified Facebook lead. This can really depend on the campaign.

Narrowing the audience segmentation can help with getting more qualified leads out of your Facebook advertising. It’s important to target users that are most likely to convert (this goes back to understanding your audience and which types of people are going to benefit from your offering). Narrowing down your audience helps because if there are a lot of people in your market, Facebook Ads will be expensive.

Question 7: Influencer Marketing within eCommerce - is it worth it?

As with any type of Paid Media, it’s important to stay within your business means when it comes to influencer marketing.

Influencer marketing can be a tremendous success right out of the gate for certain types of merchants, and for others it may take more time before seeing an impact. As with every part of your business, you’ll have to build, learn, and test to determine if it’s worth remaining in your strategy.

One way to dip your toes in the water of influencer marketing is to identify niche micro influencers on Instagram. By searching hashtags relevant to your industry, you can easily find accounts that may be willing to collaborate on a sponsored post or even just accept free products in exchange for the post.

If you’re looking to really invest and pursue influencer marketing, there are platforms like Grin and Impact Radius that are built to help DTC brands looking to work with influencers.

Talk to eCommerce Strategists Now

Crafting your eCommerce strategy can be daunting, and most merchants have to get an extra hand when it comes to some parts of their online business. BVA has experience building and successfully scaling over 100 brands on the Shopify platform. We’ve seen it all, and our expert strategists are there to help clients address their unique business challenges.

Schedule some time to chat with us here!