In this advice-driven article, Tom Hurst takes us back to the basics of ecommerce. Before, you do anything further to your ecommerce website, ask yourself these four simple questions.

Over to Tom...

Customers are the lifeblood of any business, but attracting them can sometimes seem a difficult and expensive challenge. In this post we share four questions you can ask yourself today to focus on driving more traffic (and sales!) to your website.

1.  What makes you unique?

In an increasingly competitive retail landscape, having a point of difference that customers recognise you for is crucial. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to pull apart tried and tested business models or move into truly niche product categories; what it does mean is that you need to understand and communicate what’s different about your proposition.

Could you simply offer a better price than competitors or provide customer service that is out of this world? The key is to identify the assets you can leverage to provide a unique experience and stand out from the crowd.

2. Who is your target audience?

When most businesses start, an important part of their strategy will be to determine who the first customers might be and how to best attract them to make a purchase. Due to the nature of business growth, even if these assumptions were right for the first customer, they are less likely to be so for the one hundredth or one thousandth sales.

Even beyond this stage of growth, you can benefit from spending time revisiting who your target audience is. One way to do this is, either as a team or as an individual, is to build a profile or persona of who your typical customer is – how old are they? What are their likes/dislikes? Who or what are their key influencers?

This exercise will serve to reinforce or challenge the beliefs that underpin your marketing strategy and will most likely generate some new, targeted ideas.

3. What is the story your brand is telling?

Having a story behind your brand might sound like the worst kind of marketing cliché, so it’s important to say that the emphasis here is not on creating fiction but rather on telling what’s true and telling that well. Your brand should communicate who you are, what you stand for and how you are adding or creating value for your audience; this is your story. Many household names are experts at this art - what unites the content and marketing strategies of companies like Coca-Cola, Airbnb and Facebook is that they do a lot more than simply telling you to buy a product.

A strong brand story will provide a context for your product or service that people can relate to. This is not only helpful to retain and attract customers but also to encourage them to become brand advocates, sharing your content and promoting you for free.

4. What is the user experience like for a first-time customer?

So you’ve thought about what makes you unique, who your target audience is and the story your brand is telling but all that hard work will be undone if the experience for customers landing on your website isn’t spot on. The danger for established businesses is to become complacent, concentrating on what’s worked in the past rather than viewing their stores from the perspective of someone finding it for the first time.

How easy is it to browse items? Is your site navigation optimised to encourage purchases? Where are the points of friction that cause basket abandonment? The challenges here are often technical and so it is an area where you may need to bring outside expertise but a good starting point is to view your site with the fresh eyes of a new customer.