4 Habits of highly successful eCommerce businesses

Shani Ishigaki
7 minutes
E-commerceBusiness tips
4 Habits of highly successful eCommerce businesses

When most people look to successful eCommerce businesses for inspiration, they tend to focus on the products, the packaging and the ads.

But here’s the truth: products and marketing are merely part of the puzzle when it comes to these success stories. There are so many other elements at play, and ignoring the winning formula is a big mistake.

The secret to building a successful eCommerce business

When we spoke to eCommerce founders about the strategies that helped build their own successful brands, we learned that their real power is their ability to lead purpose-led, customer-centric and experience-driven growth strategies.

With some of the biggest days on the eCommerce calendar finally behind us, it’s a good time to take guidance from the brands that showed up on game day.

In this article, we’ll share four valuable ideas to help brands reach more customers, not just on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but well into 2022.

1. They get customers talking about their brand values

When you see customers declaring their love for a brand on social media, it’s not always their product or service people are talking about.

In many cases, it’s their brand values that lead to real engagement and close customer connections. They know what they stand for and what resonates with their target market.

Finding the ‘why’ of your brand

Founder of sustainable bedding and sleepwear label Ettitude, Phoebe Yu, says it’s not enough to simply create a great product and call it a day.

“These days, the smart consumers also buy into the ‘why’ of the brand or company,” says Phoebe.

With so many sustainable bedding brands available in the market, the company put a laser focus on what they stood for as a business and their brand as a whole entity.

After years of working in the textile and homewares industry, Phoebe leveraged her first-hand experience to create something more sustainable, more comfortable and more affordable.

“People want more sustainable products, but I don’t think we should pay more,” Phoebe says.

It’s easy to get sidetracked by what your competitors are doing or what the latest trends are when you’re building a business. But if you offer customers something they can relate to, it’s much easier to gather momentum. Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth marketing.

2. They get personal with products and the customer experience

Personalisation is a hot trend among eCommerce businesses.

It’s no surprise. Recent customer experience research from McKinsey found that 80% of shoppers want personalisation.

As customer preferences shift, newcomers are outmanoeuvring established brands by offering personalised products and tailored customer experiences.

The bar has never been higher for eCommerce, but small businesses now have access to the digital tools they need to challenge the bigger players.

Customisation takes the cake

Take Lyka, for example, a direct-to-consumer fresh pet food company that’s disrupting an industry that hasn’t seen innovation in decades. Their online-only business model lets pet owners customise recipes, meal plans and portions, depending on their pet’s breed, age, activity level and allergies.

Reducing the cognitive load

Furniture company Brosa’s Chief Commercial Officer Rushabh Sanghavi says personalisation throughout the buyer journey has been a key differentiating factor for the brand.

Infrequently purchased products like furniture require a unique selling proposition to keep new business flowing through. But Rushabh says they’ve achieved this by reducing the cognitive load of buying furniture. How? By offering easy delivery, at-home assembly and services to have customers' packaging materials collected and recycled.

“The [furniture] industry isn’t known for its great customer experience, and that’s something we truly believe we are disrupting at all stages of the purchase journey for the customer—be it when they walk into our store or interact with our teams online over chat,” Rushabh says.
“We’re going over and above at all times to make it easy and simple for them to put their homes together.”

3. They don’t just stick to tried-and-tested marketing channels

Every business owner is looking for the marketing channel that delivers the best quality leads at the lowest cost. And prioritising channels that make the most sense to your business—for the most part—is smart. It helps keep your cost-per-acquisition (CPA) down.

But that doesn’t mean you should put all your advertising eggs in one digital basket.

Successful entrepreneur Phoebe Yu (Ettitude) recommends always reserving at least 15% of your marketing budget for experimental channels. Aside from the potential pay-off, there are a couple of benefits to this approach.

Brand trust takes time

Today’s technology has changed online marketing, our lives and our businesses. A customer can come to you at any given moment for a variety of reasons. It’s not a linear journey from awareness to consideration to brand loyalty.

Think about the last time you made an online purchase. Odds are it wasn’t the first time you interacted with that brand, or the first channel, or even the one device.

A multi-touch marketing approach can help you reach customers at different stages in the buying cycle. The same is true for the reverse scenario where you only reach so many customers through a single marketing channel. If the net you cast is only so wide, your business growth will eventually stagnate.

Customer expectations aren’t uniform

Being customer-obsessed isn’t about having a sixth sense. It’s about being flexible enough to let customers choose their own path to purchase.

As Naomi Simson, Founder of RedBalloon, said in a recent webinar ‘How to win & retain customers for your biggest Q4 ever’, business leaders need to understand that customers are in the driver’s seat.

“People come to your brand at any given point for a variety of reasons, and there are three primary ones,” Naomi says.

Understanding that each customer journey is unique will allow you to capture interest when and where it counts.

4. They go where the demand is…even if it’s abroad

Up until recently, dreams of international expansion and global growth for businesses used to be just that: dreams.

Even with the rise of eCommerce, businesses were forced to choose between two less-than-ideal options:

  1. Use a payment gateway and cop the crippling foreign exchange fees.

  2. Wait months on end to set up local bank accounts with overseas branches (and still pay the high FX rates).

Yes, taking the leap offshore used to be a perilous pursuit. But the world is becoming increasingly connected, and eCommerce businesses are starting to offer their products and services wherever they’re wanted.

From growing pains to global growth

According to Shopify, the global eCommerce market is worth a total of $4.89 trillion in 2021. That figure is expected to grow over the next few years, which tells us that borderless eCommerce is quickly becoming the norm.

In fact, a recent Airwallex poll found that 77% of small and medium-sized businesses in the UK planned to expand their international presence in 2022.

Thanks to modern global business accounts, multi-currency wallets and payments technology disruptors, businesses can now turn their growing pains into global growth. Customers all over the world can now buy from the brands they love without paying a penalty.

Final thoughts

Many eCommerce owners make the mistake of trying to emulate their competitors without truly understanding why their business is successful.

If you take one thing away from this article, remember that every business is unique. Figure out your purpose, be customer-obsessed and create experiences that set you apart. If you can do these things, you’re way ahead of the curve and on track for success.

What strategies have (or haven’t) helped your business in the past?

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Shani Ishigaki
Content Marketing Manager

Shani Ishigaki is responsible for Airwallex's content marketing strategy in Australia, and around the world. Shani specialises in empathy-led copywriting and lifecycle marketing for B2B SaaS, and playing the tambourine.

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