Expert Strategies for Ecommerce Retailers

What should you focus on so that you can guarantee you’ll be the most competitive, most successful seller possible? We asked top experts in the ecommerce industry what they thought sellers should work on in order to maximize sales. Here are their thoughts. Be sure to scroll below to see the infographic displaying our findings. 

What do you predict to be the hottest retail category in 2016?

Mobile & Accessories/Wearables came in first at 30%, with Clothing in second with 24% and Electronics and Toys & Collectibles tying for third at 17%. Handmade Items was fourth with 12% of the votes. As we become increasingly reliable on technology and handheld devices, our need for the latest gadgets and associated accessories should also rise. If you can incorporate mobile or tablet accessories into your inventory in a way that makes sense for your brand, do it.

What will be the most profitable marketplace for 2016?

Not surprisingly, Amazon won with an astounding 88.2% of the votes. Not to be discounted, Rakuten still made a play for most profitable with 11.8%. Given that Rakuten is a popular space to sell electronics and tech, it’s no surprise that retailers can make some headway selling there.

What efforts should new sellers focus on in 2016?

Votes were distributed diversely here, with most experts (29.4%) stating that new sellers should focus on Increasing Conversions (Email Marketing/Social Media/UX Redesign). Make Data-Driven Decisions (Business Analytics) tailed in a close second at 23.5%. Diversify Your Inventory (17.6%) was third, followed by Improve Traffic (SEO/PPC/Content Marketing) at 11.8% and then a three-way tie between Expand to New Channels, Implement Automation Tools and Look for Creative Shipping Solutions at 5.9%. A third of the experts vote for retention as a major priority for sellers. In other words, if you are getting people to your site but they jump ship without making a purchase, you are missing out – big time. Here are our thoughts on how to improve your email marketing strategy and increase conversions.

Should a seller offer free shipping year round?

Most of the experts’ votes went to yes, with 71% on board for free shipping year round. 29% advised against it. If you’re worried about managing free shipping on a small business budget, we have some suggestions for how to offer free shipping without breaking the bank.

What should be the most important operational tool to implement in 2016?

Roughly two-thirds (64.7%) of the experts suggest investing in Reporting and Analytics software. The need for Inventory Software followed with 23.5% of the votes, and Shipping Management Software came in third at 11.8%. Ideally, look for a tool that combines all three.

Is dropshipping profitable and worth the up-front cost?

Interestingly, this one was split nearly down the middle. 58.8% of the experts voted yes, while 41.2% said no. The viability and success of dropshipping can depend largely on the category in which you sell. Fashion, mobile accessories, toys and games can easily be dropshipped. Items largely seen on handmade marketplaces like Etsy may not be as profitable. Although, some sellers have indeed taken to dropshipping on Etsy and are seeing major success.

Is FBA the best fulfillment option around?

The experts have clearly spoken here. 88% voted in favor of FBA with yes – 11% voted no.

What is the biggest challenge sellers will face in 2016?

In a world where vendors and suppliers are more open and transparent about which merchants they work with, and where consumers have more information at the reach of their hands, it’s going to be more challenging to differentiate and offer a unique customer experience, besides differentiating on price.

– Jose Li, 71lbs

I think the biggest challenge is going to be figuring out how to go multi-channel without shelling out the big bucks. Not every company can afford the expense of owning a brick and mortar (that’s why they’re online, after all), but these days, it’s necessary to have more than one channel of commerce. I think we’ll be seeing some stores get really creative in the coming year or so, to offer their customers more places to interact with them, without purchasing a physical location.

– Cara Wood, Capterra

Lack of competitor data is the biggest challenge I see for retailers this year. The barriers to entry are low, and competitors are popping up in eCommerce faster than ever. Making pricing and merchandising decisions based solely on internal data or outdated competitor data won’t cut it anymore. Sellers have to collect competitor data in real-time.

– Angelica Valentine, Wiser

What is the biggest mistake ecommerce sellers are making?

I think that the absolute biggest mistake right now is that many stores still do not offer free shipping at any threshold. They are missing out on so many sales with something that is a very easy fix. I think sellers are also seriously under-utilizing content on their sites. Modcloth does a terrific job of making their buyer reviews/photos a front and center part of their site, and, as customer, I cannot tell you how much that has helped me choose clothes, and feel appreciated by them as a customer. Other sites need to follow suit.

– Cara Wood, Capterra

Lacking inventory management and not turning your inventory over often enough.

– Skip McGrath, SkipMcgrath.com

Not taking advantage of Amazon’s reach to use unique products to build a brand, and utilize pay per click more efficiently.

– Rachel Greer, Cascadia Seller Solutions

Focusing too much on price and not enough on content – especially influencer content.

– Brett Carneiro, BrettCarneiro.com

Not knowing your numbers.  This includes keeping track of inventory, as well as margin.

– Mark Le Vine, BubbleFAST

Not paying attention to their analytics or expanding their selling channels.

– Richard Lazazzera, A Better Lemonade Stand

Designing their sites for browsing, not buying.

– Jennie Wong, Ph.D., ShoppingQuizzes.com

Not knowing their conversion rates and personalizing outreach to their base.

– 3dcart, 3dcart.com

Trying dirty tricks to try and bump out competition rather than focusing on building their business in a consistent and honest way. These bad tactics actually put your business at risk.

– Melanie James, Seller Sleuth

Not investing in a functional website that is mobile friendly and without good order fulfillment process.

– Jessica Kane, Rakuten Logistics

Not paying attention to their numbers. Too many sellers don’t realize that they are not making much/if any money.

– Bob Wiley, Seller Coaching

What is your expert advice on how sellers can improve in 2016?

Retailers need to take a step back and remind themselves why they are selling the products they do – and then think creatively about how to reach their ideal consumers in the communities where they spend their time. The days of simple PPC are long gone and don’t produce the same sort of ROI anyway. Retailers need to focus on community building which will create long term success, not just seasonal.

– Bret Carneiro, BrettCarneiro.com

Know your numbers. Increase what is profitable and drop the unprofitable product lines.

– Kat Simpson, ThatKat.com

 Understand your customers the best way you can. Collect shopper data. Study their path to purchase. Put yourself in their shoes by going through the shopping experience on your site and stores. Most important, talk to them and take action on their feedback. Bottom line is, you need to figure out who your customers are, how they behave, and what would get them to convert. Once you get that information, put it to action in every part of your business, be it product, user experience, or customer service.

– Francesca Nicasio, Vend

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Tiana ByersExpert Strategies for Ecommerce Retailers

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