Ultimate Guide to Scalable eCommerce: part 1

INTRODUCTION

Imagine, for a moment, your eCommerce website. Go ahead and picture it in your mind. Now think about why you and your team put it together, the way you did. Maybe it has a clean look or trusted colours or an easy checkout process. You may have tweaked and re-tweaked it several times already and you’re getting pretty good results.

But what if we told you that it’s 100 per cent likely that you’re still missing out on at least 50 per cent additional revenue? Would that be enough to get your attention? Would you want to know more?

What if we also told you that there are exact locations (like a blueprint or treasure map) on every eCommerce website that have been proven to be key performance areas, and most eCommerce sites are underperforming in these areas?

Now imagine that treasure map with piles of money just sitting there waiting for you to discover it. If you could have that kind of assurance, if you could have proof—that it is these same places on every website, every time, would you want to know where these places are?

Yes, well, it gets better.

Not only do these key places exist, but they are easy to get to, easy to understand, and learning how to make the necessary changes won’t require any extra training, education or a huge investment in your time.

The only thing it’s going to take is for you to have an understanding of where these key areas are, and what they should look like, to perform at their highest potential. Once you have this knowledge, which we are about to tell you, then you can go ahead and make these changes yourself (if you know how) or you can easily hire someone else to do it. The end result will be well worth the time it takes you to read this book and discover them.

Is it worth it to you?

If we promise to give you this information with no surprises, no hidden costs in this serialisation of our book, and no long, drawn-out, boring stories to wade through, would you keep reading?

Good! We would too.

So, wait. You’re probably wondering who we are and why we think we know so much about eCommerce and making the most profit possible from your eCommerce website.

WHO ARE THESE GUYS?

We are Mark and Ian Hammersley, brothers and directors of smartebusiness, a dedicated eCommerce agency based in Manchester. eCommerce is what we do. We specialise in the growth of eCommerce websites and have been scaling online businesses for the past 15 years.

It’s what we are passionate about, and, quite frankly, it’s what we and our team are extremely good at. We are definitely self-confessed eCommerce geeks!

As promised, you’re about to get about 15 years’ worth of our ‘Eureka!’ moments packed into this series.  It’s going to allow you to get past what you think is wrong with your site and provide you with some solid, tested and accurate information that we’ve used with our eCommerce clients without fail.

You’re about to learn how to spot the real problems. You’re also going to learn to think the right way about your business, your product, and the value you bring to the marketplace!

We started smartebusiness together 15 years ago. We grew up listening to our parents talk shop around the dinner table, discussing how they could grow the family bakery business and all the trials and tribulations that went with it. We still remember every Easter celebrating each time we’d break the hot-cross-bun record, at a time when supermarkets were trying to destroy us. That’s where we got our passion for business, and we try to run our clients’ businesses as if they are our own.

Shoot back with us several years ago, and you’ll see where our geekiness  and knack for eCommerce sites began. Mark had recently moved to Auckland, New Zealand, but the agreement was that his job was to remain in the UK, working for the Manchester office. We were in a dilemma. How could we make it work when one of us was on the other side of the world? Everything seemed to be working against us: the time zone, the distance and the lack of market contact. It seemed like an uphill battle. But we knew that if we grew our clients’ eCommerce revenues then the distance, time zone and everything else wouldn’t matter. Clients want results, plain and simple. Give them results and you could live on Mars for all they care.

What did we have? We had access to the Google Analytics accounts of roughly 80 eCommerce stores and we knew that some sites were growing rapidly while others were stuck. So we closed ourselves off in our respective basements and got to work. We benchmarked every statistic we could get our hands on. After some work and a good deal of research, we started to recognise the key stats that mattered. Once these were pinpointed, we started making the changes that helped each site get to the next level and the next and the next.

The result was that distance and time zone didn’t matter because our clients’ sites became some of the fastest growing  in the UK. And we want your eCommerce site to be part of that. Are you ready?

Let’s go!

WHAT DID WE SET OUT TO ACCOMPLISH?

Quite simply, we knew that if we grew our clients’ eCommerce businesses then they would continue to invest more with us. We wanted our developers to be building eCommerce sites that did better. We didn’t want to waste any time— our clients’ or our own.

From the outside of the business, the problem was clear—stagnant eCommerce site owners were asking us to help, but it just looked hopeless. Everything looked broken and needed fixing. There were a thousand things the client could try, but we needed to know what to do first that would make a difference. At the start, our clients didn’t have the deep pockets of their Goliath competitors.

THE WALL THAT HIT US IN THE FACE

They say that big breakthroughs only happen when you hit a wall. Well, SEO and Google was our wall. Google was massively changing SEO, which we used to drive a lot of free traffic to our clients. It was clear this method of growth was getting harder. We needed a new growth engine and fast. We had ignored the signs at first, but while on holiday, an employee phoned to tell us that our largest client’s SEO rankings were acting weirdly. One day they went up, the next day they disappeared, then came back, then…

Google was changing its algorithm, and even when it settled down, we realised that we did not want our clients to rely on one source of revenue. Doing so could result in a single point of failure. We had to keep growing our clients’ revenue, but without relying so heavily on Google as we had done in the past.

WHERE DO THE 96 per cent GO?

No matter what type of product you sell, if you own a website, your number one goal is to convince visitors to put items in their basket, proceed to the checkout and complete the purchase. Seems simple enough, right?

Of course, if you currently have an eCommerce website, you’ve probably realised there’s more to making sales than just putting up a site and a shopping cart.

We’ve also learned that approximately 96 per cent of customers who browse a site will leave without making a purchase, and that’s being generous. Conversion rates of one or two per cent are actually very common. This begs the following questions:

Where are the 96 per cent going?

Who are the four per cent?

How did the four per cent reach your website?

What did the four per cent do on your website?

DIGGING INTO THE 96 per cent

We had all this data; we knew that some sites were doing very well, but what were they doing differently? Were there similarities between all the good websites, or were they all growing for different reasons? Even if we found something in the data, would it help?

The trouble was, we needed to look at the data from 80 sites and pull it all into Excel. To look at everything was going to take time, and we already had a full time job running a company, working weekends and looking after young families. When were we going to find a clear two weeks, or even longer, to do the work? Also, there was no guarantee anything was going to come out of this work. So nobody was rooting for us to do it—quite the opposite. We still needed to do all the SEO work, which was still our biggest breadwinner.

It came down to a tough decision. We could drop all our SEO clients and lose 75 per cent of our marketing revenue to do the benchmarking study and hope something came out of it, or we could just continue as normal.

In my mind, SEO, at that particular time, was dead. Our minds were already made up. We dropped all our SEO clients. There was no turning back now—we needed to deliver something good!

However, after stressing out for months from gruelling research, we came up with nothing. We started losing hope; we just couldn’t see why some clients were scaling and other clients were having stagnant growth at best. We just couldn’t work it out. We had a crisis call where we were going to pull the plug on the research project. We’d spent over 300 hours poring through client statistics. We needed to have one last look at the high growth clients …then … we saw something magical. There was a consistent pattern.

After all of this painstaking work, we finally had our light bulb ‘Eureka!’ moment. It made all the difference in the success of our clients, and we’re going to share this information with you.

By Ian & Mark Hammersley, SmarteBusiness

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