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◊ Top 5 Tips for Successfully Starting Your E-Store
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Simple: Getting Started
Top 5 Tips for Successfully Starting Your E-Store
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Tip #1: Boil Down Your
Idea & Know Your Niche .....
Tip #2: Test, Test, Test! .......5
Tip #3: The Power of
Online Advertising .............7
Tip #4: Get Social ...............9
Tip #5: Incentivize Your
Customers and Build a
Referral Network ..............11
The world of e-commerce is rapidly expanding, and presents huge opportu-
nities for today’s retailers, both big and small. Companies like Amazon and
eBay are doing better than ever, while many big brick-and-mortar stores are
struggling to keep up. In fact, Forbes estimates that U.S. e-commerce will
generate $262.3 billion in sales this year. By 2017, they estimate that there
will be $440 billion in sales.
There are many benefits for both the retailer and the consumer when it
comes to selling, or shopping online. Selling online requires minimal startup
costs, and your store is open for business 24/7, completely unconstrained by
time or geographic location.
Customers are increasingly turning to the internet and their mobile phones
to make purchases, rather than heading to the nearest store. More and more
businesses are expanding online – everything from grocery stores to clothes
to furniture can now be bought and sold over the internet. Even products
that weren’t traditionally sold online in the past are now doing so, as con-
sumer trust with the online platform increases.
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2013 was the first year we saw online sales actually outdo brick-and-mortar
sales on Black Friday weekend, a perfect example of how the world, and
consumer behavior, are changing.
The world is moving online, and the longer you wait to start your store, the
more competitive the e-commerce space will be. But with so many existing
competitors and potential pitfalls in the world of e-commerce, it can be
tricky to stand out from the crowd and run a successful store. So how do
you, as a retailer keep up? And what’s the best way to take advantage of
this booming industry?
We’ve compiled a list of the top 5 tips any small business needs to know
to successfully start (and run) their e-store.
Tip #1: Boil Down Your Idea & Know Your Niche
The key to a successful e-com-
merce store is defining your
market niche as clearly as possi-
ble. Probably the most common
mistake people make when
starting their online business is
trying to be everything to ev-
eryone, and jumping in to set-
ting up their e-commerce store
before they have even decided
what they’re going to sell.
The most successful e-com-
merce stores know their niche. They have thought through and chosen the
product or products that they specialize in and which specific segment of
the population they are selling to.
Unlike brick-and-mortar stores, which can get away with selling just about
anything under the same roof (see: Walmart, Target, or your local drug-
store), small e-commerce stores seem untrustworthy when they try to be
the retailer of a wide variety of products with no common link between
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Online customers want quality and reliability. If you only sell photo frames,
for example, customers are more likely to trust that you are specialists in
photo frames and provide high quality ones.
That’s not to say you can only sell one kind of product in your store. A pho-
to frame store might also sell prints, photo albums, and even other kinds
of home décor and wall art. But probably not groceries. As long as there is
a logical thread tying together the items in your stop, you’re within your
The second challenge in defining your niche is defining and choosing the
right target audience for your store. You may initially think that everyone
on the web will be lining up to purchase your products, but in reality not
everyone will. Your job is to identify the people who really want or need
what you’re selling. In order to effectively target these people, you’ll need
to build your store for them: essentially using the look and functionality of
your store in addition to its products to attract potential customers.
Rifle Paper Co., an online store selling decorative cards, stationary, and tech accessories.
want quality and
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These two online stores are not only selling very different products, but are targeting two
very different audiences.
Figure out the need for your product or service by thinking about what prob-
lem it can solve. Refine your target market by identifying who has bought your
product/service already. If your product or service is brand new, it might be a
good idea to look at what your competitors are doing to gain insight.
To help you narrow down your audience, we recommend answering the
• What are the features of your business, products or services?
• What are the benefits of these features?
• How do the benefits help the user?
• How does your target market shop?
• What is the typical age and gender of your target market?
Do they usually have children?
What is their average income and education?
• What are their common interests?
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• Is your target market comfortable with online?
What web and offline marketing methods engage them?
Try to make as few assumptions about your audience as you can. Don’t just“fill
in the blanks”. You should engage with your potential customers and conduct
as much research as possible beforehand. Through testing and experience, you
can also tweak and refine your target audience later on. (See Tip #2)
Tip #2: Test, Test, Test!
On that note, don’t be afraid
to change when you find that
something isn’t working. The
worst thing you can do is put all
of your eggs in one basket, and
continue even when it’s proven
to be failing. Successful busi-
nesses, stay flexible, test, and
find tactics that work.
Test different target audiences,
product ranges, marketing strat-
egies, store promotions, store
layouts, etc. Often, great discov-
eries are made by accident. If you don’t test new and different possibilities,
you risk missing out on great opportunities. And that means missed profits.
The best way to test is by altering only one factor at a time. This allows you
to measure results in the most accurate way possible. If you change multi-
ple elements at once, you won’t know which factor to attribute the results
(positive or negative) to.
Some more examples of elements of your e-store to test include:
• The home page design
• A “Featured Products” category
• Compatibility with various internet browsers
“Don’t be afraid to
change when you find
that something isn’t
Supercharge Your Online Business With Referrals Page 5
• SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
• Social media advertising campaigns
• Various special offers and promotions
• Different product price points
• Product filters such as sorting items by colors, size, type, price, etc.
• An “add to wish list” function
• Buttons to share items on social media
• The ability for users to write their reviews on product pages and rate items
• Detailed product descriptions
• 360 degree product views
• Videos of products
• Keyword search of products
• Multiple delivery options
• Multiple payment options, including PayPal
• Free delivery, or free delivery over a set dollar amount
When you set up experiments, you want to have a good idea of what to
measure so you can define success. Here are some of the key metrics you’ll
likely use and the key pages on which you’ll likely track them.
(noun : sek’ses)
- The correct or desired
result of an attempt
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Tip #3: Understand the Power of Online
Online advertising is a great way to
get the word about what you do out
there and to get more traffic to your
store. This can include e-mail mar-
keting, display advertising (includ-
ing web banner advertising), SEO,
SEM, and mobile advertising.
More than 22% of all advertising
spending is spent on the internet.
In just two years, from 2011 to 2013,
the revenue generated from on-
line advertising has increased by
more than 31 billion dollars - with
the largest platform by far being
Google Adwords. It’s estimated that
by 2016, online ad spend in the US will have doubled since 2011, reaching
$67.4 billion year (13.7% compound annual growth). And that’s a conserva-
tive estimate, given the increases in the effectiveness of online ads in the
past few years, and the decline of print media.
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Just like other forms of advertising, online advertising frequently involves
both a publisher who integrates ads into their online content, and an ad-
vertiser, who provides the ads to be displayed on the publisher’s site.
If you decide to go the online advertising route, here are a few commonly
used terms you should be aware of. There are three main ways of pricing
online media: CPC, CPM, and CPA. The difference between the three is
which deliverable the publisher and marketer agree to bill you on. As you’ll
see, the pricing structure often reflects who has the bargaining power, as
well as the quality of the product.
CPC – Cost-Per-Click. This is a performance-based metric, whereby the pub-
lisher only gets paid when a user clicks on an ad.
CPM – Cost-Per-Mille (Mille is Latin for “thousand”). In this structure, the
price is based on 1000 impressions. Most publishers prefer to bill on im-
pressions because it is an inventory based product, rather than a perfor-
mance based product.
CPA – Cost-Per-Acquisition (or Cost-Per-Action). In this pricing structure,
the advertiser only pays for media when it results in a sale, or conversion
against their sales goal.
Impressions – In the context of online advertising, an impression is a
measure of the number of times an ad is seen on screen, whether or not it is
Conversions – One of the most important parts of a paid campaign is its
conversion rate. Essentially, the conversion rate is the number of visitors
performing the desired action, whether that is buying a product, filling out
a form, or some other goal of the web page.
SEO – Short for Search Engine Optimization, SEO is a methodology of strat-
egies and techniques used to increase the amount of visitors to a website
by obtaining a high-ranking placement in the search results page of a
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SEM – Search Engine Marketing is the wider discipline that incorporates
SEO. SEM includes both paid search results (using tools like Google Ad-
Words or Bing Ads) and organic search results (SEO).
Ad Network – An advertising network is an online business that specializ-
es in matching up advertisers to websites looking to host advertisements.
Advertising networks work as brokers for both suppliers (sites with content
that can host ads) and buyers (the advertisers).
Though online advertising can be highly effective, it has many drawbacks.
Not only does it require a lot of time, knowledge, and expertise, it’s also
expensive and finicky. You can pour thousands of dollars into a Facebook
advertising campaign or Google AdWords campaign and not get the results
you’re looking for. It takes years to gain the skills and experience needed to
properly run effective digital advertising campaigns, and many small busi-
ness owners can simply not afford to spend the time or money.
Tip #4: Get Social
When running a business online, you might think that your products can
speak for themselves and that you don’t need to worry about social media.
But in today’s world, social media is not only a great tool, it’s a necessary
(noun : laik)
- A Facebook function
which allows users to
show their apprecia-
tion for content
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These days every successful brand has a social media presence, whether it’s
on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Youtube, Google+, or
even Tumblr. The main social media platforms you should consider harness-
ing are Facebook and Twitter, since they are the most popular and have the
largest user base.
Social media allows you, as a business owner, to do free or paid promotion
for your store and its products. A social media strategy, particularly paid
advertising and an engaging content strategy, can be an effective way to
target audiences and drive traffic to your site. In addition, it’s also a great
way to get word-of-mouth momentum started, one of the key methods of
launching a new site or business to success.
Social media allows businesses to see customers engage with their brands
in real time and empowers them to help shape the conversation. It’s a great
way to let customers know about new products, special promotions, and
live updates in the event of a site crash, product coming back in stock, etc.
Studies show that clicking an ad on a social media site is often the first step
towards a sale, rather than the last. Because of this, advertisers are under-
valuing social advertising by as much as 116%.
Soya Darabi, co-found-
er of Zady, preaches the
importance of listening to
customer feedback. “Mod-
ern brands must embrace
online, there’s just no
question,” she says. “It’s
about remaining nimble to
consistently learn from our
customers, and to benefit
from their sincere interest in helping us grow.” After granting a customer’s
request (via instagram) that Zady begin selling dog gear, the items flew off
of shelves. “We can’t emphasize enough how listening well and using the
appropriate channels to do so can help your business expand.”
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Nathan Stoll, CEO of Luvocracy, shares another example of how social me-
dia word-of-mouth can have a “snowball” effect: “We discovered a conversa-
tion on Twitter where a Luvocracy member asked her most-trusted beauty
blogger to join the site. She wanted to start shopping all of the great rec-
ommendations her favorite blogger was making every day. She successfully
got [the blogger] to join, and she quickly became ‘addicted’ to the experi-
ence. It’s exactly how we want members to come into our community.”
While a social media presence is important and can provide many oppor-
tunities for your e-commerce store, you should note that focusing on social
on its own isn’t enough.
Many factors go into e-commerce success, and putting all your eggs in the
social media basket would be misguided. Social media should be a strong
aspect of your brand, but it shouldn’t constitute your entire business plan.
Tip #5: Incentivize Your Customers and
Build a Referral Network
Anyone who has Amazon Prime will testify to the fact that incentivizing
customers works. Whether the offer is a promotion, discount, or loyalty
program for VIP customers, providing little extras for your customers can
increase word-of-mouth promotion and build positive brand affinity in the
minds of your customers.
- To provide a reason
to do something or
Supercharge Your Online Business With Referrals Page 11
One example of this is Everlane – an online retailer that stresses transparen-
cy. Founder Michael Preysman says that the company got the ball rolling by
rewarding its very first customers. “We emailed our friends and family and
said, ‘Hey, Everlane is launching in five days — here’s what we are. Invite 50
friends and you get free shipping for life.’ And we had 600 people invite 50
friends. In total, we had 60,000 sign up in five days,” says Preysman.
The power of building a network of referrals cannot be stressed enough.
With all the responsibilities that come with building and running an e-com-
merce store, creating a solid marketing strategy is often the last thing on
your mind. But what if you had a tool that could harness social media and
referrals to your advantage, and use them to supercharge your e-commerce
business? A tool that brought in tons of new customers without you having
to lift a finger?
Did you know?
• 65% of new business comes from customer referrals – New York Times
• People are 4X more likely to buy when referred by a friend – Nielsen
• The Lifetime Value of a referral customer is 16% higher – Wharton School of
• 83% of consumers are willing to refer—yet only 29% actually do – Texas Tech
What is Forewards?
Forewards is a tool that’s designed to “just work”. It’s so easy that even the
busiest shop owner can run and maintain a high impact referral program,
by harnessing your biggest brand advocates: happy customers. Research
shows that people are four times more likely to buy when referred by a
friend. Forewards helps you create a network of positive referrals online
and through social media.
The average adult Facebook user has 338 Facebook friends. Imagine if
just one of your customers referred your e-commerce business on their
Facebook. Even if only half of their friends saw the post, and half of those
clicked on it, that’s 85 more people checking out your products, all from
“The power of building
a network of referrals
cannot be stressed
Supercharge Your Online Business With Referrals Page 12
These mentions make a difference. Up to 75% of shoppers say that they
have been influenced to make a purchase by social media. Forewards pro-
vides a fast and easy way to spread positive-word-of-mouth by asking for
these recommendations and rewarding those who do.
Equally important as asking your customers for referrals, however, is how
you ask. You’d be amazed at what a difference simply using a different
headline or choice of words makes. Unfortunately this sort of thing even
takes marketing professionals years to master.
Forewards lets you choose from a selection of pre-designed, pre-written
incentive options all proven to be highly effective. This is one of many
reasons Forewards works so well – it does the thinking for you, so you can
continue to do what you do best.
Learn more at: www.forewardsapp.com
”Up to 75% of shop-
pers say that they have
been influenced to
make a purchase by
Supercharge Your Online Business With Referrals Page 13
Putting it all Together
Selling online presents huge
opportunities for retailers, but
e-commerce businesses that
want to stay a step ahead of the
curve need to be ever-evolving,
just as the online marketplace is.
By continuously listening to your
customers, keeping up with the
latest trends, analyzing metrics,
conducting vigilant research,
staying up-to-date with emerg-
ing technologies, and using ef-
fective marketing strategies, your
business will stand out from the
Improve the experience for your users by experimenting with new tools
and making tweaks in real time. The happier your customers are, the hap-
pier you will be in the end, too. “There is no e-commerce, there’s only com-
merce,” says Luvocracy CEO Nathan Stoll. “Instead of using a megaphone,
use an inside voice and talk to the customers who already love you and tell
them why you love them. Or change your product so they do.”
Just remember that being ready to sell is just the starting point. You will
also need to know how to help you potential audience find you, make sure
that they are able to use your website once they arrive and be sure you
make them happy enough to keep coming back. An online store is a busi-
ness, and no business is as simple as pushing a big green button that says,
“Now I’m rich!” But with these 5 tips and tricks, you are well on your way to
being successful. The journey can be just as fun as the results!
Supercharge Your Online Business With Referrals Page 14