You need eCommerce skills to be a successful entrepreneur in the digital arena.
eCommerce skills can be learned just like any other set of skills. But developing eCommerce skills is not as cut and dried as acquiring skills through standardized education. Getting into eCommerce isn’t like getting into a profession like accounting, finance, or even business management. Professions are defined lines of work where you do your part and you’re done, and someone else does theirs and takes responsibility for that.
Being an entrepreneur, you are expected to be and do more than a set of specific, delineated tasks. You have to take on the many roles that your business needs you to play for it to survive. Moreover, when you’re online, you need eCommerce skills to build and polish up the digital savvy that your business needs to work and grow.
What are these eCommerce skills?
To be successful in online business, you need certain eCommerce skills that are specific to doing business in the digital world. You will notice that they are based on elemental concepts of business in general. You can’t get away with applying traditional knowledge to your online business, however. You must embrace these eCommerce skills if you want to thrive in the online jungle.
(1) Your eCommerce Business Model and Platform
Choosing the right business model and platform is a vital aspect of starting an online business. To pick the right ones, you need to know how they work and what characteristics point to the best one for you. Furthermore, you need to know the actual, practical applications of their working parts. Without the eCommerce skills of knowing the most suitable eCommerce business model and eCommerce platform and how to use them, your business could be doomed before it even has a chance to launch.
Do you know what business model and platform you are going to use for your online business?
Instead of firing blind and just hoping for the best, do your research into the different eCommerce-specific business models and platforms. Know what related aspects best complement them, such as product and audience types. This is essential to building a solid base on which to build a business.
(2) The Online Shopper
People are people, right? Not exactly. The digital persona of any one of us can be quite a bit different from who we are in the physical world. Just think about how you relate to strangers online versus face to face and you’ll get an idea of how different.
Do you know the behavioral nuances of the online shopper?
This is where the eCommerce skills of data analytics and online communication first come into play. You need to get to know your ideal customer in the online world. Set aside any information that you may have collected over the years about physical customers and human contact. Dive into digital data and get involved in online communities. Meet people online and learn how their digital personas interact.
With this new and more accurate information, you are already increasing your business’s potential for success by a huge factor.
(3) Supplier Communication
I won’t say that only brick and mortar businesses have the advantage of being able to meet suppliers in person. Many physical stores source from other countries. On the reverse, many online stores also source locally. Orders are placed over the phone or via email in most cases these days. Deliveries are often handled by couriers rather than business employees. So what’s the difference?
The eCommerce skills of communicating online or via phone and managing deliveries must be equally developed for any type of business in this day and age. Personal contact is still preferable, but becoming less and less likely in our globalized world.
Are you good at less personal and familiar communication?
A lot is lost when you communicate with someone you haven’t met in person. You can’t see or share facial expressions. You can’t interpret or interact with body language cues. The common niceties that we take for granted are gone, such as a simple handshake, complimenting someone on their outfit, or saying how well they look today. These rapport-building greetings must be replaced with more indirect social courtesies. Learn the conventions that you can apply over the phone and via email. Once you’re comfortable with indirect communication, you will have the first set of eCommerce skills that you need to build rapport with suppliers.
(4) Product Listing
When you sell in a physical store, you don’t have to get as detailed with written product information. Most customers will go straight to the product, see how it looks, hold it and inspect it. If any questions arise, they will reach out to an immediately available sales assistant. Online, you must anticipate this and have all the information readily available. On top of that, you need to consider how to compose that information in the first place so it reaches your customers.
Do you have the eCommerce skills of writing product text that speaks to customers balanced with what internet search engines can grasp?
Brick and mortar shoppers have already set aside the time to actually go out and look for something to buy. Moreover, they can see everything on the shelf in one glance and conveniently compare the details. Online shoppers rarely have this luxury of time to browse, made more complicated by having to switch from product to product and being limited to your provided views on small screens. Make sure that you do not further impose on their limitations. Create comprehensive yet succinct product copy.
You are at the mercy of the search engines to get your product in front of online shoppers. Brick and mortar shoppers can easily understand different words and phrases that mean the same thing. Online, there is a middle man that is not as keen. You have to know what words and phrases to use and strategically place these key words and phrases in your listings so you are visible and likely to convert.
(5) Online Management Tools
Planning, organizing and tracking inventory, for instance, is one of the many ongoing processes for any business. Every entrepreneur has their own personal preference for how this is done. It’s very convenient when you’re working alone, and you may have never considered doing it any other way. Once you start working with others, however, it’s not as simple. You may have a partner or eventually hire workers to help you. If you are location independent, you can’t simply have a quick chat to share notes or pass over the inventory report.
Can you confidently wield different online tools?
A very important set of eCommerce skills is knowing how to use online tools to streamline operations. Particularly when you’re collaborating with others who are not physically there, you need these tools to attain and maintain efficiency. Whether you use simple Excel sheets and email back and forth, upload to Google Sheets and track user edits, or learn a more comprehensive collaboration tool, you need to know how to make the most of these tools. You need these eCommerce skills to free up everyone’s time so they can work on more important activities for your business.
(6) Website Traffic
As mentioned above, you need to work with the internet middle man, the search engine, to get people to your store. There are many analogies I can share about internet billboards and addresses and e-everything that you have in the physical world. The truth is, however, that it really does not work the same way. You need eCommerce skills that are specific to digital marketing.
Do you know how to attract attention online and bring people and products together?
You wouldn’t take product samples into a book club venue and leave them there for when the next meeting begins. It’s not sensible. Doing this online, however, is basically how social media marketing works. There aren’t enough newspapers in print or enough data about their circulation to accurately target the readers who match your ideal customer profile. There are, however, more than enough websites and pages and groups to make accurately targeted advertising possible.
Note also that alongside the vast digital marketing opportunities available comes greater competition. The physical world is finite, but the digital one is capable of expanding without limit. If you want to be able to shine online, you must learn the specific eCommerce skills for internet marketing to drive traffic.
(7) Customer Relationships
Similar to building relationships with suppliers, you need to apply your eCommerce skills to customer outreach efforts. You have even less of a chance of meeting your customers than you do your suppliers. And loyal customers are so much more important to your business growth.
Do you know how to stand out in the vast yet simultaneously accessible online expanse?
Online and phone communication etiquette is essential to attracting and retaining customers. They don’t know you, and more importantly, you don’t know them. They care not a whit about shopping at the store next door. You won’t recognize them. And they don’t need you to supply them with an item because they don’t have to go very far online to find hundreds of the same thing.
Make your customers want to stay with you even if they never have to face the inconvenience of going down the street or to the next town to find another store that carries the product they want. Sounds difficult, huh? That’s why you need eCommerce skills to make you that much more attractive as you face different and greater challenges online.
Start Cultivating Your eCommerce Skills
Start today with the basic eCommerce skills that you need to learn and improve on. Remember, entrepreneurship is a marathon. There are challenges, changes, and sacrifices along the way. Take it one curve at a time, but always prepare the eCommerce skills that you need to get over the next hill.
And keep your chin up! There are lots of people who are there to help you on your journey!