Ecommerce secret sauce—the 9 simple essentials of ecommerce success

Rocketspark co-founder and former ecommerce store owner Grant Johnson shares insights from clients and his own experience on the simple essentials required for ecommerce success.

Sharing our insights on ecommerce success

As a website building platform we have the benefit of seeing trends and opportunities across a variety of sectors.  We have a great community of clients who are happy to share their learnings to help others so I interviewed a bunch of them to see if there were any common themes to success.  My wife and I also co-founded an online store which we’ve now sold and so we learnt a huge amount about what it takes to launch and grow in ecommerce.

Ecommerce is growing in a COVID-19 world

Before diving into the essentials for ecommerce success it's important to highlight that while the world has changed in many ways due to COVID-19, ecommerce has grown significantly.  

In our home base of New Zealand we went though 4 distinct alert levels of in response to COVID-19 and in the graph below you can see how ecommerce grew significantly during the full level 4 lockdown when only the stores that provided essential products could trade and the trend accelerated as restrictions were lifted at Level 3 that enabled non-essential businesses to sell online. 

As life returned closer to normal in NZ at alert Level 2 we can see that ecommerce sales remained much higher than before.

As life returned closer to normal in NZ at alert Level 2 we can see that ecommerce sales remained much higher than before.

1. Start with a great product

It may sound obvious but you’d be surprised at how many people start an online store without truly understanding the market potential. Our more successful clients have typically aimed to create a point of difference and carve out their own niche.  Ensuring that there is a market of people to buy your products is an important starting point for ecommerce success.  

2. Build a community

The more successful clients are building a community of customers. Repeat custom from the same people was a real key to success.  Building a community wasn’t just about building a lot of followers on social media but about genuinely building a connection with your customers. In the video we cover the various ways clients build community.

Ecommerce features such as ecommerce customer accounts and ecommerce subscriptions make it easy for customers to make repeat purchases.

3. Do regular email marketing

Email marketing done well is a simple and profitable way to communicate with your customers.  Automated email features such as abandoned cart, welcome emails and “come back” type emails have been proven to provide significant benefits without requiring too much effort.   

Mailchimp ecommerce has some great automations that are simple to set up, manage and measure.  

4. Do the SEO basics

The fourth key theme amongst clients and from my own experience is to do the basics of search engine optimisation (SEO).  SEO is often made out to be more complicated than it is.  It’s not to say that SEO is not a lot of work but it's not complex to understand.  

SEO is a large topic but two key techniques that have proven to yield great results is to answer key customer questions in a blog and to create pages on your website that are very focussed on a specific topic. Check out our Guide for Rocketspark SEO.

5. Test and learn

Ongoing testing and learning was a key factor in ecommerce success.  For some clients social media advertising was great, for others adwords with google shopping was significant, while for others email marketing was essential.  

Some clients did discounts and promos while others never discounted and kept their price at a premium.  The key learning here is that the best approach for your business really does depend on your business and market which is why you need to continually test and learn to see what combination works best for your business.

6. Buy now pay later services such as Laybuy and Afterpay

Buy now pay later services such as Laybuy and Afterpay have delivered some really good results for clients.  An early study we did after integrating with Laybuy showed an average uplift of 66% in sales. You’ll pay a few extra percentage points in payment fees to be able to offer buy now pay later but the uplift in sales more than compensates for the cost in most instances.

7. Bring in experts

A consistent theme amongst the higher performers was that they brought in experts to help with specialist areas such as Google Adwords and social media marketing.  While these services carried a cost the return on investment typically well outweighs the cost if you are working with the right partners.

8. Be tenacious

The successful store owners will freely admit that to be successful with ecommerce is hard work and it takes time to be successful.  To succeed through the ups and downs and break through to success, you'll need tenacity and self-belief that you’ll make it. Do your reading and learn from those who've succeeded.

9. Create time by harnessing ecommerce website add-ons

The successful online store owners recognised that various software tools are essential for the success of their business.  The right software add-ons can provide significant time savings for the store owner which provides more time to focus on the important aspects of growing their store.  

For example, integrating with Xero’s accounting software saved time creating invoices and streamlined the bookkeeping process.  Connecting with Xero also provides real-time reporting and when I was running an online store I used the month to date profit and loss report to see how sales were tracking.  

Ensuring your stock levels are accurate and well managed is super important for ecommerce success.  If you experience regular out of stocks, it's likely that you’ll lose customers as they make their purchases elsewhere. Software such as Vend’s point of sale system help ensure your inventory is accurate.

Lastly, using a delivery platform such as Go Sweet Spot is great for providing delivery tracking information automatically to your customers as soon as the package is collected from you for delivery.  Providing tracking information is a great customer service feature that encourages repeat orders and also eliminates the “where is my order” queries.