This Is Your Warning: You Darn Well Better Put The Cart Before The Horse

By October 14, 2015Strategy

You heard me.  Yep, I have the audacity to contradict the old adage. But hold your horses! Hear me out as I address a couple of common order of operations faux pas I’ve seen time and time again that e-commerce hopefuls commit. Industry estimates run the gamut, but, most agree that customer acquisition can cost anywhere from 5x to 10x (even up to 30x by some sources) more than retaining existing customers. So, make sure your cart is well intact to best leverage ad spend that will convert those first time visitors into new customers. This will make it easier to increase your return on ad spend (ROAS) the next go-round with retargeting potential repeat customers.

Have the Goods [so customers want to create their own cart]

A common pitfall of longtime brick and mortar retailers – ranging from corporate giants to and standalone store entrepreneurs – is that they’re often in such a hurry to get their e-commerce store online they fail to make sure their online product assortment is an appropriate reflection of the brand identity they’ve so carefully curated offline.  It can take sufficient time to build out the catalog, so to speak, but most customers’ first impression of your product/brand/service is often a lasting one. Get it right!

Ensure that you can support the inventory needed to reinforce the voice of your brand and make for an easy shopping experience.  For example, if your expertise is streetwear savvy graphic design t-shirts, be sure to have sufficient variety, sizing and styles that represent the latest fashion trends.  

Be in-stock!  

This seems like a no-brainer, but again, remember that once those media dollars start flowing, you may only get that one chance to close the deal with a prospective new customer.

If your inventory is split between brick and mortar and e-commerce, an integration between your offline POS system and online backend is a must.  Check out providers such as Accumula, which have integrations with Shopify and Magento.  The time you’ll save through automation is invaluable, as is the accuracy that these systems will provide. All of these tools ensure customer satisfaction that what is ordered is available as advertised.

In the case of service-based businesses make sure to fully bake your offering.

Ensure all features and value propositions are indeed deliverable through the service and/or platform. Expand the service area such that it would truly have value to an audience large enough to warrant online marketing expenditure (versus an initial offline organic direct sales approach).  

For the latter point an example is: if one of your key value propositions to new customers is a function of the geographical coverage in which your service can be used, your energy should be spent in expanding the network to provide customers with sufficient variety of service locations and/or resources.

As it relates to my first point, the pressure (especially when the acronym VC is involved) to hit launch dates often drives companies to prematurely roll out the ‘beta’ version of a software/digital product or service. Typically this stripped down version leaves much to be desired in terms of user experience and availability when compared to the full version.

If you must choose…

….between launching an incomplete product/service or missing a launch date, I believe the best choice is to put out the best quality product possible. Marketing a subpar or variant version of the end-vision product or service can damage your company’s reputation beyond repair. Missing the launch date is much easier to recover from.

Bottom line is to put yourself in the shoes of your potential customers and see it from their perspective. Is the product/service you’re so eager to market to customers cart-worthy?

Ask yourself, and be honest, is it yet?

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