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Four steps to grow and scale your e-commerce business

April 25, 2019

Having an online business can be both satisfying and rewarding, especially when you start seeing benefits like steady sales and profit, a growing customer base, and great reviews. But with success comes a lot less time to focus on the future. Once your online business has been up and running for some time, you can get trapped in the monotony of the day-to-day running of the business. So how do you grow an e-commerce store? We thought we’d share some simple suggestions to inspire you to take action to grow and scale your e-commerce website. 

For this guest post, we asked e-commerce expert Warrick Kernes to share a few tips on how to grow your e-commerce business – a few secrets from someone who’s been-there-done-that. 

Over to Warrick.


1. Increase your website traffic

When business owners tell me that they aren’t happy with their sales, the first thing I ask about is their traffic. What has your traffic been like over the last three months? Where is your biggest source of traffic? Which pages are receiving the highest traffic?

As an online business owner, you need to know the answers to these questions if you want to increase your sales. It stands to reason that sales are largely driven by the amount of traffic you’re getting to your site. In general, if you increase the qualified traffic, you’ll increase the sales. Of course, you need to get high quality traffic. You do this by attracting users to your site using SEO and paid ads.

Paid traffic sources include adwords, Facebook ads, Google shopping, remarketing and display ads, and can be a great way to proactively find your customers and show them your products. This method works but it requires budget. The downside of paid advertising is that when your budget runs out, the traffic stops. Because of this, we recommend doing a combined approach of paid ads and SEO.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a long-term game: creating content which ranks on Google and draws customers to your site for months and years into the future. Good SEO has relevance and authority.

The relevance of your content determines how and when it will be shown as a search result. Well-written, relevant content will be full of keywords relating to your products and it will ideally be evergreen (content that won’t date) so that the content is still relevant into the future. The authority of your content and your website determines how your site is ranked on Google. If you can create content which is shared or linked to from popular (high authoritative) websites in your market, this will increase the authority of your website. Building your website authority and constantly releasing relevant content is a great way to get up to the top of page 1 on Google. This will naturally increase your sales.

Read more advice for increasing your website traffic here.

2. Increase your conversion rate

The conversion rate of your website shows how many visitors to your site complete an order. SA’s average is lower than most people might think – just 1.5%. This becomes a very important metric to monitor: if your website’s current conversion rate is sitting at 1% and you can increase that to 2%, you’ll double your sales from the same amount of traffic.

Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) is a never-ending game of tweaking and fine tuning your website to see what works best. Not sure where to start? Here are a few key areas:

  • Check the logic of your website navigation to ensure that users can find the product that they’re looking for in as few clicks as possible.
  • Ensure the checkout process has zero distractions or pop-ups.
  • Check that your ‘Add to Cart’ button is an eye-catching colour.
  • Ensure that your site works 100% perfectly on a smartphone.
  • Set up abandoned cart recovery emails (if a customer doesn’t complete their purchase, you send them an email reminder to complete checkout).
  • Put some budget into remarketing to bring interested users back to buy.

3. Increase your average order value

Every time you’re in a queue at the shops, you’ll see the sweets and magazines specifically placed to encourage impulse purchases to increase the value of your order. Imagine how much those R25 impulse purchases add to the company’s overall annual turnover!

If you’re not already doing this on your website, it’s a simple addition that can lead to an overall increase in sales. There are a number of ways to encourage customers to increase their order value. Depending on which website platform you’re on, there are a number of plugins and apps which recommend up-sell and cross-sell products. You can structure bundle deals, offer buy-X-get-Y deals or you can offer a gift with purchase if the customer upgrades to the more expensive alternative.

If you offer free shipping on orders over R500, then you prompt customers to add something to their cart when they’re buying something for R450. This works exceptionally well and helps to drive up the average order for your store.

4. Leverage marketplaces to grow your sales  

Instead of seeing the big retailers as our biggest competition, we can now start using them to our advantage. By listing and selling your product through marketplaces (like Takealot, Loot, Makro and Bob Shop), you can get massive exposure for your products to the millions of people that visit these sites regularly. As a result, you may be able to significantly grow your sales.

Some entrepreneurs are hesitant to list their products on marketplaces because of the fees involved, and because they don’t want to cannibalise sales on their own sites. But the truth is that customers who buy from big marketplaces probably wouldn’t have found your site independently, so these are sales that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. Of course, it is important to check that your margins allow for you to sell through the marketplaces and still make a profit at the end of the day.

We hope these tips inspire you to take your business to the next level. Just remember that scaling too early can strain your resources and impact customer experience. Carefully evaluate your readiness and ensure that you have a solid foundation before expanding your online store.

About Warrick Kernes

Warrick is an entrepreneur and author. He founded the Insaka e-commerce Academy and is now dedicated to growing SA’s e-commerce industry. The Insaka e-commerce community is now one of SA’s biggest communities of e-commerce entrepreneurs.

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