11 Smart Ways to Grow Your Online Business to a New Level

March 13, 2016

As mobile technology continues to dominate the Internet, online businesses are expected to thrive over the next few years. eMarketer estimates e-commerce sales will continue to average an annual growth rate of 10% until 2018 at the near term. By then global sales for online businesses would hit US$ 2.356 Trillion or an average of US$ 200 Billion new sales every year beginning 2014.

This optimistic growth forecast means the online business industry still presents opportunities for new players. As with all ventures, starting an online business will present challenges. But once you gain traction, business should move smoothly. The next challenge is taking your online business to the next level.

Here are 11 smart ways to consider for growing your online business:

1. Update your market research

Because information is readily accessible and available on the Internet, demand, tastes and consumer preferences are unpredictable and unstable. What is in vogue today could be passé tomorrow. The latest technological breakthrough could be obsolete in a few weeks.

Thus, it is very important for you to continually update your market research. Your target market could be undergoing changes in its demographic profile. And its consumption and behavioral patterns could be changing. Their concerns which you addressed when you launched your online business may no longer be valid.

2. Focus on high quality content marketing

Once you’ve firmed up your market research, focus on delivering high quality content marketing to them. The keyword is to personalize content. You materials must speak directly to your audience and provide actionable solutions to their concerns.

Your content must unequivocally state “Why” your online business is the best solution or only option to consider.

Content marketing is not only blogs and articles. You can use other media such as videos and podcasts. Video is an effective vehicle for delivering content as it can capture attention faster than blogs or still images.

3. Target realistic goals

Goal setting is an effective strategy for improving performance. It charts the course to where you want your business to go. But these goals must be realistic. If your online business generated $ 100,000 in annual revenues, it would not be realistic to identify next year’s revenue targets at $ 1,000,000.

Your goals must correspond with your ability to scale operations. You must consider sources of funding: internal cash flow generation, borrowings and current state of liquidity. You are also faced with the prospects of an ever-changing market. These should put your growth targets in their proper perspective.

Set small targets that are within your current capacity. For example, target a 10% increase in revenues. Then determine the corresponding adjustments to market acquisition, leads generation and sales conversion that will support this sales target.

4. Improve customer experience

Creating markets is one thing, retaining markets is another thing. Given the increase in competition, businesses are allocating more resources to market retention. You simply would not want your competition to capture your customer. In fact, customer service is already passé. The focus is now customer experience.

Customers will continue to patronize your product and service if they feel you genuinely care about their experience. You can do this a number of ways:

  • Increase the number of contact points to your e-commerce website. In addition to e-mail and phone, add chat support services and actively engage with customers in social media.
  • Hire virtual assistants to run outbound services. This includes surveys conducted via phone or e-mail. According to OutsourceWorkers, hiring virtual assistants is 3 times more cost effective than regular full time employees.
  • Establish a quick Turn Around Time or TAT on all queries and concerns. 24 hours or less is the gold standard in customer experience.

5. Be active on social media

As an online business, your primary medium is the Internet. Your business should be highly visible in the virtual world. One of the best strategies is to be active on social media.

Of the more than three billion Internet users, two billion are on social media. As of its latest count, Facebook has 1.374 Billion daily users. That is more than half of the daily Internet population! eMarketer projects the number of social media users will increase to 2.55 Billion daily by 2017.

If these numbers are convincing, then you should begin to prioritize social media as an online marketing tool.

The first step is to identify the social media network for your business. Each social network houses a distinct community with diverse online behavioral patterns. Facebook is more informal. LinkedIn has a professional approach. Twitter works best with high activity.

Second, refer to your market research and establish a posting schedule. Again, each network responds differently on the frequency of your posts and shares. You have to be mindful of this data and use it to reference your posting schedule.

Finally, engage with your followers. Whether the comment or response is positive or negative, engage openly. The most important thing is that the person reached out and communicated. This is how relationships are built which is a key strategy in social media.

6. Improve your value proposition

If your business has gained serious traction over the past year, do not rest on your laurels. Ask yourself how you can further improve your value proposition.

  • Should I add new variants to current products and services?
  • Should I expand my current product mix or menu of services?
  • Should I include discounts, promos and loyalty packages?

These are just a few ways on how you can improve your value proposition. Giving your customers more value for their money shows you care for their welfare and satisfaction.

7. Continually build your value chain

If your business is growing, you have to be able to increase scale in order to keep up with volume.

The last thing you would want is to put a halt to your momentum by not having the capacity to accommodate a greater volume of orders. There will come a point in time where your operation will yield less production for every incremental increase in volume. If your online business is growing, you should not allow delays to happen.

At this point, you have to look at expanding operations. Perhaps hire virtual assistants whom you can delegate select tasks to. These include customer support, social media marketing, accounting, website management, inventory management and administrative support among others.

8. Source for better suppliers

Even when you have built a network of reliable suppliers, it will do your business better to continue looking for other suppliers.

Manufacturers only have one purpose: to produce goods for distribution. They look for suppliers to accredit because they do not have the distribution channels to sell their goods.

But not all suppliers are created ….or treated equal. There are suppliers who are able to secure better terms and pricing from manufacturers because of volume and economies of scale.

When you have a supplier with flexibility, you will be able to negotiate better prices and terms yourself. Better pricing and terms mean better profit margins.

Improving your profit margins will give your online business more flexibility as well. You will be able to support promos, discounts and launch special offers for new products and services.

9. Enhance the mobile experience

Statistics supporting the popularity of the smart phone have been overwhelming. Since 2014, 60% of online traffic has been coming from mobile gadgets.

In 2014, there was an estimated 1.75 billion smart phone users in the world. In 2015, estimates have been revised to 1.91 Billion. By 2018, market analysts are projecting there would be 2.6 Billion smart phone users.

What this means is mobile gadgets will continue to dominate online traffic. You should periodically conduct an audit on your website to make sure it is mobile responsive. You should also continually upgrade its features to improve its accessibility to smart phones, tablets and laptops.

Mobile is where market share will be won or lost.

10. Pay attention to SEO

Unfortunately, search engine optimization is often neglected by many. The truth is that results rarely come without optimizing your websites both on-page and off-page. According to HarrisonMann, small things like optimizing your website speed will have a big impact on SEO. Hence why you should always look for ways to improve your site.

If you want your business to grow, you must dedicate time and resources to all channels that can bring significant traffic. SEO is one of the best and on the long run, if done right it’s very cost effective.

Either if you outsource SEO or have a person that can do it for you, never ignore the power of search engines.

11. Expand your business model

When the business environment becomes unpredictable and dynamic, your business model must likewise be dynamic.

Study the possibility of integrating new features to expand your current business model. Among the new business models gaining popularity is the subscription model.

In this set up, customers are subscribers. Every month, the online retailer sends them packages according to the terms of their conditions. A good example is the gift box.

Some online retailers offer products that vary in content on a monthly basis. The products are packaged as “gifts” and every month the theme may be different.

An example would be an online retailer that distributes toy gift boxes. One month the box may contain interactive games. The following month, it may contain do-it-yourself model kits.

Subscribers pay a monthly fee to continue receiving gift boxes. Thus, even if your retail price is small, your stream of income would be more consistent.

Starting an online business is a great way to build a career and generate good income. Prospects for managing a successful online business are quite high at least until 2018 in the near term.

If you already have an online business then you are far ahead of the pack. Your focus now is to keep moving forward and capitalize on the opportunities of which there are plenty.

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