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It seems everywhere we look, we see another brick-and-mortar brand closing down for good. Since the early 2000s, the rise of the internet and ecommerce platforms like Amazon and Shopify have fundamentally altered the way we shop for goods, and this trend has accelerated since the shutdowns earlier in 2020. With more brands moving online, it’s not enough to have an online presence anymore, because there’s too much competition. To rise to the top in eCommerce, you must not only know the right strategies, but also the major barriers to entry and how to work around them.
Platforms like Shopify have made it easy for anyone to quickly and effectively launch a strong storefront, including everyone from small entrepreneurs to established brands such as Ring, Heinz, The Economist, and more. Shopify is an all-in-one platform that allows brands to manage inventory, process orders, receive payments, and more. It even goes as far as being able to launch marketing campaigns within their backend with a few clicks of a button.
While this is a great feature for marketers, it also means the market is really saturated, because anyone with a laptop, an Internet connection, and a half-hour of time can become an eCommerce seller. While the opportunity to make money online, if done right, is nearly infinite, sellers need to be careful in how they approach their marketing.
In recent months, we have seen a massive crackdown on traffic platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, as well as what brands are allowed to be pushed by influencers, which all affect your ability to generate sales for your online store. Even more importantly, payment processors such as Square and PayPal have recently started to freeze store owners’ funds at a much higher rate than before. Because of this, if eCommerce sellers are not careful, they can find tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue tied up for months at a time.
Barriers to entry for eCommerce sellers have become more established, and there is slightly more regulation around what you can and can’t do when it comes to conducting business online. Social platforms that push ad-based content only want the best of the best. Otherwise, it could drive away their users and prevent legitimate businesses from competing.
I work with a range of clientele, and I have seen entrepreneurs pull in well over a million dollars in revenue through Facebook ads and good website design. My agency Goel Strategies specializes in providing these services and it is my responsibility to stay on top of what is going on. This is why I sat down with Ryan Ward-Williams also known as @ryandubs on social media, who is the founder and CEO of Ultrabrand and is an expert in providing branding strategy to his clients. He has worked with big names in both the fashion and entertainment world like Kylie Jenner, James Charles, DJ Khaled, and Shaquille O’Neal. Ward-Williams shares eight major points that can help you stay on top of the eCommerce game in 2020 and beyond.
Take advantage of real data
Data capture is a powerful tool that can be used to make highly informed decisions on marketing strategies. Modern-day branding is done in many ways, but social media outlets are king. Products and brands are pushed heavily through influencer marketing, and data capture can help you choose which influencer or outlet is best to work with for your specific brand. In the past, many companies would use data to simply see who has the largest social media following and choose their brand ambassador from there. However, what research has shown in recent years is that the biggest following is not always the key to effective marketing. Public engagement rates have shown to be much more critical. For example, an Instagram account with 20,000 followers and an engagement rate of 25% is much more effective in brand marketing than an Instagram account with 1 million followers and a low engagement rate. The bottom line, choose your influencers wisely. The numbers aren’t always what they seem to be.
Related: How Data Analytics Can Help You Become a Better Entrepreneur
Be real with your audience
Picture perfect is no longer the best way to advertise. Social media feeds, physical attributes of models, and email formats are examples of areas in which you can get creative in marketing your brand. The key takeaway here is to represent your audience. By doing this, consumers can relate to what they see and are more likely to actively interact with the brand. Do all of our Instagram feeds look perfectly formatted, set up with a specific post precisely every 72 hours? No. Show the audience that you’re a person, not a robot set up to sell a product or service systematically. Another great tip is to take your followers on the entire journey of a product. Give them the behind the scenes content that they crave. Ward-Williams has a facial moisturizing spray product that contains water from Iceland. To tell the story, he flew out to Iceland and visited the processing plant to show the audience that he isn’t only selling a cool product, but is invested in doing so.
Don’t wait for the right time to launch
In most cases, waiting to establish your brand will not pay off. The idea that you need a larger audience or need to refine your brand further is generally misled. Ryan told us a story of a celebrity who launched a product with a following of nearly 14 million people and saw a total of just $1,000 in sales on the first day. Meanwhile, Ryan launched a brand of his own with only 20,000 followers and saw a much higher revenue. It’s a perfect example of why having a large following does not guarantee your brand will be successful. You need to invest in your brand, and you need to be passionate about making it work.
Related: 5 Things You Must Do to Successfully Launch a Business
Hire an advertising agency
For a long time, businesses were shying away from using ads to market their brand. Things are once again changing, and while there are many downfalls to creating your own in-app ads, hiring an agency to advertise for you can work wonders. On average, using an ad agency will show four-to-seven times the return on investment for every ad you run.
Don’t wear too many hats
Once a brand reaches a certain point, the amount of work needed to keep things in motion can be overwhelming. Creating content for social media is a job in itself, not to mention advertising, client communication, and product development. There will be a turning point when many of these tasks should be outsourced. Hire a team to help run the brand effectively.
User-generated content is key
For a brand to be successful, it needs to invest in UGC (user-generated content.) One of the most effective ways to do this is by making the entire unboxing process fun and exciting. Ward-Williams gave a great example of his own brand, Dew of the Gods. By using colorful and attractive packaging, the packaging becomes another product in itself. Consumers willingly share and tag the brand in the unboxing experience on social media. Don’t be afraid to ask the customer to share their experience with the product. The incentive of re-posting is more than enough to get the customers to engage in the brand actively.
Related: User-Generate Content Is How You Get Customers to Sell For You
Take advantage of the rise of new platforms
Ward-Williams adamantly believes in TikTok as one of the most influential platforms for up and coming brands. He brought up how in just four months, he has amassed almost 300,000 followers on the platform, where he mixes small-business eCommerce advice with behind the scenes content on how Dew of the Gods brings its products to life, from manufacturing all the way through to selling on Shopify. Rather than focusing on a brand profile page, Ryan recommends establishing your presence on TikTok as yourself – the creator of the brand – taking users along your journey of successes, challenges, and even failures. Known as “#BusinessTikTok,” there’s an entire community of like-minded business owners looking to learn from each other where users share their best tips and tricks in the world of eCommerce.
Learn the ins and outs of Shopify
As one of the leading global eCommerce platforms, Shopify caters to all sizes of businesses; from mom and pop shops, all the way to large enterprises. Ryan emphasized how easy the platform is to learn and operate your online business from, and suggests taking advantage of Shopify’s free trial period, even if you haven’t started your business yet. Shopify will be where your online business lives, so getting to know how the platform works is essential, but approachable to all.