What Is E-Commerce for Small Businesses?
E-commerce is more than simply launching a website and promoting it. It’s a means to use various strategies and channels to promote and sell products or services online.
It involves using a variety of channels and techniques to reach target customers and encourage them to make a purchase, from creating an online store, driving traffic to it, converting visitors into customers, and retaining those customers for future sales.
What Are the Benefits of Selling Goods and Services Online?
There are many benefits to selling goods and services online. Some include:
- Expanded Reach: E-commerce can help you get new customers you couldn’t reach solely with a physical store. You can reach customers across Canada and worldwide, not just in a specific geographic area.
- Lower Operating Costs: Unlike brick-and-mortar stores, e-commerce businesses typically can be run at lower costs. When you don’t need to rent a physical store or hire retail staff, that keeps the barriers to entry low. You can also save money on shipping costs by using drop shipping. And it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to start an online business.
- Always On: Your online store is open 24/7, allowing customers to shop conveniently and providing flexibility in an always-on world.
- Scalability: E-commerce has become essential for business survival, and you can easily scale your business by expanding products and audience size.
- Revise and Refine: E-commerce platforms provide valuable customer data, which can be used to personalize marketing campaigns and improve performance.
Why Should Small Businesses Use E-Commerce?
E-commerce accounted for nearly 20% of retail sales worldwide, and it’s forecast to reach 25% of global retail sales by 2027.
The e-commerce penetration rate for Canadians is forecast to grow by almost 3% by 2027. It is estimated to hit just shy of 80% penetration — a new peak for our digital population!
That’s precisely why small businesses in Canada can benefit significantly from e-commerce. The beauty of it is that it allows “the small guys” to go head-to-head with larger ones. Here are some specific reasons why small businesses in Canada should embrace e-commerce:
- Competitive Advantage: E-commerce enables small businesses to compete with larger companies equally by providing a wider audience and a convenient shopping experience.
- Customer Satisfaction: Customers have come to expect businesses to have an online presence, which is crucial for customer satisfaction and adopting a customer-centric approach.
- Diversification: It provides an additional sales channel, reducing dependence on physical locations.
- Test New Products and Services: Much easier with an online store, businesses can easily add new products or services and evaluate how they perform.
What E-Commerce Marketing Strategies Should You Use?
Here are some of the ABCs of e-commerce marketing strategies that can be effective for your small business:
- Affiliate Marketing: Partner with other businesses to promote your products or services in exchange for a commission on any sales made through your affiliate link.
- Content Marketing: Create high-quality, informative, engaging content to attract and retain customers. Take what is relevant to your target audience and do it — as a blog post, video, infographic or whatever else your target audience finds valuable.
- Email Marketing: Build (and nurture) an email marketing list to send subscribers personalized updates or offers.
- Influencer Marketing: Expand your reach and connect with new followers through collaboration with influencers whose values and brand align with yours. That can help you.
- Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising: PPC advertising allows you to place ads on search engines and across other sites or platforms (e.g., Google Ads) to target specific keywords and demographics. You only pay when someone clicks on your ad.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Improve your website’s visibility and traffic by optimizing it for search engines and ranking higher in search results pages (SERPs).
- Social Media Marketing: A powerful way to connect with your target audience, build brand awareness, encourage engagement, and promote your products or services using social media. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and X (formerly Twitter) can be great for sharing content, running contests, and advertising.
Your e-commerce marketing strategies should be tailored to your products, target audience, and budget. Experiment with various tactics to determine what works best for you.
How to Attract Customers to Your E-Commerce Site
Beyond deploying smart e-commerce marketing strategies, there are several avenues a website can explore to attract customers.
It should go without saying — if you want to succeed in e-commerce, you must have a great site that is easy to navigate and intuitive for finding information, including:
- Use Images: Use appealing images and an easy-to-read layout. Keep them on our site with engaging extras like styling or serving ideas, demonstration videos, and anything else that would spark interest in your offerings.
- Quality Is Key: What’s the use of a pretty face if you don’t have the goods to back it up? Mobile is on its way to dominating, so you should optimize for all devices to provide the best user experience. Additionally, a secure website is essential to ensure e-commerce success. Customers need to feel safe sharing personal and financial information, and strong security measures such as SSL encryption and regular audits can build trust and protect your brand. Plus, search engines prioritize secure sites in their rankings, making investing in security a worthwhile investment.
- Ensure Your Site Works: Your website should be easy to use and in working order. Customers should be able to find what they are looking for, including menus, the placement and function of icons and other buttons, and active links.
- Pricing: Make sure your prices are competitive — enticing to customers but leaving you able to make a profit. Consider offering different shipping options to keep costs low.
- The Customer Is Queen: At a minimum, excellent customer service is crucial. That includes response times, return policies, and other value-added ways to ensure customer satisfaction.
Pay for Advertising
They say you must spend money to make money, which applies to the online space. Consider:
- Digital Optimization: It doesn’t have to be expensive. Start with relatively user-friendly paid advertising platforms like Google Ads and Facebook Ads to reach your target audience, engage customers, develop a brand following, and drive sales. If you must choose just one, Facebook Ads excel at brand building with memorable ads and generally outperform Google. However, while Google Ads can offer less visually-driven options, they are often better for driving sales due to their massive reach.
- Retarget: Customers who have previously visited your website are more likely to buy from you again. Retargeting those visitors can increase customer purchases by showing targeted ads to people who have visited your website. It’s harder now due to fewer third-party tracking cookies, but it’s still effective for boosting sales.
To ensure success, be creative and produce content that resonates with your audience. Avoid creating content that may put people off. Making bespoke and high-quality content is vital when setting up an e-commerce website, helping you engage customers, build a following, and drive sales.
- Intelligent Descriptions: Ensure the high-traffic pages on your site (home, about, shipping FAQs) have unique and informative information and product descriptions. Additionally, take any opportunity to boost SEO opportunities. Adding informative content to your product and category pages can drive performance and increase engagement, conversions, and average cart value with one tactic.
- Create Supplementary Content: Attract new audiences and engage existing customers by publishing blog posts and adding rich content to your website, such as product demos or explainer videos. Use email marketing to stay in touch with customers and promote products. Ask your customers for feedback and focus on content topics they care about.
- User-Generated Content: Another powerful technique is encouraging customers to submit reviews, testimonials, or user-generated media that can provide authentic social proof that influences potential buyers. Additionally, hosting webinars or live events can establish your website as a valuable resource within your niche, showcasing your expertise and creating opportunities for customer interaction.
Leverage the Power of Community
Did you know that nine out of 10 people are likely to trust a recommendation from others, even if they don’t know them, over the brand narrative? Communities and reviews are assets. Make them work for you to capture new customers by:
- Developing a loyal customer following by building a supportive and active online community centred around your brand. Hosting forums or social media groups can foster a sense of belonging while learning valuable insights about your customers.
- Promoting and showcasing positive feedback and reviews from satisfied customers is a powerful tool for establishing credibility and trust with potential customers. It can communicate the value and quality of business, improving your brand’s reputation, attracting new business, and boosting loyalty.
With e-commerce marketing strategies, these methods can diversify your customer acquisition channels and contribute to sustainable growth for your online presence.
Steps to Take to Create an E-Commerce Marketing Strategy
Here are the steps you need to follow to create an effective e-commerce marketing strategy:
Decide on clear, quantifiable business goals such as increasing brand awareness, generating leads, or driving sales. Use industry benchmarks against which to measure your goals.
Conduct Market Research Before Starting Your Business
- Identify your audience and understand their needs. Whether you operate as a business-to-business or business-to-consumer business, the choice should align with your resources and target.
- For sales outside of Canada, work with an e-commerce distributor to navigate cross-border regulations, cultural differences, exchange rates, and shipping costs. Targeting urban areas in Canada can be more cost-effective.
- Analyze competitors to refine your business plan and stay ahead.
- Keep abreast of the latest trends and developments within your industry and market.
Pick Your Product
- Evaluate your inventory to determine what is best suited for e-commerce
- Choose lightweight, shelf-stable, and unbreakable products
- Consider shipping factors like weight, breakage, contamination, temperature, pilferage, moisture, and the delivery cost
Craft a Well-Rounded Marketing Strategy
- Visually appealing content that loads quickly
- Multi-channel tactics like SEO and social media
- An easy-to-use website with whatever best caters to your target (e.g., quick order fulfillment, available customer support)
Choose a Platform
When selecting an e-commerce platform, consider value, dropshipping ease, and sales boosting. Options include Amazon, Shopify, Etsy, Square, Wix, and WooCommerce. Choose the one that best suits your needs.
Create a Content Calendar
Depending on your mix, plan and organize your content marketing efforts in a calendar, outlining your blog posts, social media updates, and email campaigns.
How much money will you spend on your e-commerce marketing campaigns? Set a budget to allocate funds for advertising, content creation, and technology expenses.
Ready, set, go! Put your plan into action, monitor its performance, and adjust as needed.
Track, Adjust, and Repeat
Continuously analyze your data to refine and improve results. E-commerce transactions provide a wealth of data, including website traffic, social media engagement, and sales. To avoid being overwhelmed, focus on important metrics like cost per acquisition, cart value, conversion rates, and cart abandonment. Make adjustments as needed and experiment with different tactics to achieve your goals.
What Liability Risks Do E-Commerce Businesses Face?
E-commerce businesses face a broad range of risks, including:
- Contractual disputes arising from disagreements with suppliers, customers, or partners that could lead to legal problems.
- Data breaches that compromise your and your customers’ confidential information.
- Failing to comply with regulations if care is not taken to follow relevant laws and regulations, including consumer protection, privacy, or product safety laws.
- Intellectual property (IP) infringement if you sell products that infringe on another’s IP rights, including copyrights, patents, or trademarks.
- Product liability is a risk for any seller. You can be held liable for physical harm or property damage to one of your customers caused by a defective or hazardous product you manufacture, distribute, or sell.
What Insurance Does an E-Commerce Business in Canada Need?
The insurance needs of an e-commerce business depend on your business’s operations and the risks it faces.
A typical e-commerce business insurance policy may include:
- Cyber liability insurance to protect your e-commerce business against financial losses caused by cyber-attacks and data breaches.
- Product liability insurance can cover expenses and damages from products you manufacture, distribute, or sell.
If your business has physical locations, such as a retail store or warehouse where you store your inventory, you should also consider adding the following coverages to your policy:
- General liability insurance is essential for businesses operating online and in a brick-and-mortar location. It protects you against claims of third-party bodily injury or property damage. For example, if a delivery person visits your store to drop off or pick up goods, falls and is injured, general liability insurance may cover their medical expenses.
- Commercial property insurance is vital if you store inventory, have a physical store, or manage your business from home. It protects your business property and contents if damaged by fire, theft, water, a natural disaster, theft, or vandalism.
Things to Consider When Buying E-Commerce Business Insurance
How do you know if you are choosing the right insurance for your e-commerce business? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Have you read the fine print carefully? Ensure you understand the policy’s terms and conditions before purchasing it.
- Are you happy with the coverage? Make sure the policy covers the risks that are most important to you.
Protect your business from financial losses with the right insurance and focus on growing your business. Fill out our online application today for a free quote and get the peace of mind you deserve while racking up the clicks from your customers.