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An expert’s introduction to easy eCommerce for owners and MDs

The world of eCommerce can be complicated – but, with the right guides to question, simplify and master what’s “under the bonnet”, business leaders can make highly profitable leaps towards understanding. Gordon Mathie, Firebird’s eCommerce expert, shares an informative introduction packed with advice.

Most owners and MDs are not eCommerce geeks and specialists – and they don’t need to be. Still, taking time to acquire a basic knowledge of what’s going on “under the bonnet” online is well worth the effort. For many, that learning process should go hand in hand with a process of simplifying and decluttering how your company operates, both internally and externally.


With over two decades’ experience overseeing transactions with millions of unique users, I know how easy it can be for some owners to get bogged down in the details. But there are ways to avoid this, and still build a strong understanding of the eCommerce funnel linking traffic to the bottom line. Specialists like Firebird can create a bridge between your work and the often overcomplicated world of eCommerce. Let’s dig in to why this matters, as well as some tips to start unpicking the main issues.

“Do you know where you’re losing customers? Where you aren’t spending enough? Where you’re spending too much?”

If you’re like the majority of business owners, you’ll be employing someone to run your company strategy online. But do you know your top five KPIs for marketing? Do you know the proportion of customer sessions that currently lead to sales?


Do you know where you’re losing customers? Where you aren’t spending enough? Where you’re spending too much? If you don’t know these figures, does the person or team you’re employing know them – and can they share them quickly and clearly?


Since it’s so easy to manipulate numbers and make the data look good (we’re all guilty of that from time to time, let’s face it), it’s vital that the numbers you’re choosing to monitor and assess are in the right areas. After all, if you confidently know the figures you’re working with, you can learn when to loosen the purse strings (and when to rein them in).


Just don’t lose sight of the basics…

“You are only ever one click away from losing a customer”

At its core, the rules for best practice in eCommerce are fairly simple. In fact, the simpler the better. Essentially:


  • Your potential customers are more than likely busy people

  • They may arrive at your site via a smartphone or tablet

  • They need to be able to find what they want, whether that be a product or information, within a couple of clicks. Or at the very least they need to quickly know they are in the right place to solve their problem

  • They are not going to read everything, and are unlikely to scroll down too far (“below the fold”)

  • You are only ever one click away from losing a customer, and from them switching to a different shop, so above all give visitors to your site a compelling reason to stay and ideally interact with your brand (whether filling in a form, giving you their contact details in return for something of value, or better yet making a purchase)

Keep these facts in mind when creating your website – by ensuring your “shop window” is simple and clear to browse, is easy to view on mobiles, and does not overload visitors with the things they won’t want to see – and you’ll already have the edge over many competitors.


Behind the scenes, all companies also need to establish a simple baseline, against which their teams can easily assess the success – or not – of their activities, then formulate their strategies in response.

“To let potential customers come and go without sharing their details is an almost criminal waste”

You do not need to track everything when a visitor comes to your website. What you do need, as best you can, is to obtain their details. The who, where, when, what, why.


eCommerce is a funnel: visitors come in at the top; then, if all goes well, they make a purchase at the bottom, becoming a customer. Along the way, if your website has the appropriate elements in place, you can acquire their details, and work on lead conversions, even if they don’t spend on early visits.


To let potential customers come and go without sharing their details and telling you who they are, is an almost criminal waste I see on many websites today. By establishing tools, live chat and CTAs (calls to action) – offering a free download or quiz, for instance, to incentivise the exchange – you can ensure you have the best shot at knowing who has visited and why. After putting their details into your CRM, your business can then begin the hard work of converting that to high-quality sales over time.

“Think differently, be bold, and start spending heavy when others spend light”

As a general rule, you should also know your online marketing spend – and, ideally, this should be uncapped. Why? Imagine you’re spending £15k and getting £75k back. Why not spend more? As long as it’s bringing in (i.e. acquiring) customers at a price that makes you a tidy profit then keep spending and don’t be restricted by an artificial budget. Setting rigid marketing budgets may in fact be the biggest factor constraining your growth.


Be sure to think outside seasonality too. We all believe in buying patterns and alter our marketing spends accordingly. Well, guess what? Low spending equals low sales! During the pandemic, when patterns were widely thought to be out the window, my team tried high spending all year round and saw exceptional returns as a result.


We quickly realised that, by only sticking to historic trends, we were creating patterns that confined and restricted us unnecessarily. It taught us to think differently, be bold, and start spending heavy when others spent light. Do the same with the right team under you and it’s likely you’ll do well.

“We can untangle, declutter and demystify what’s out there”

Most owners and MDs don’t know the numbers, funnel, conversion rates, costs, and so on, involved in eCommerce, and yet it clearly pays to. At Firebird, we can make this complicated area feel far less so, for you and for your team; untangling, decluttering and demystifying what’s out there.


By asking the right questions, narrowing down the right KPIs and honing your key messages, you can change your company’s habits in a way that meets your customers’ wants, for the benefit of you all.


Gordon Mathie is a market-leading expert in eCommerce businesses with millions of unique users and online transactions. He has over 20 years’ MD experience in SME, as well as 10 years’ Top 6 Management Consultancy experience. Gordon is the expert for the eCommerce module of Firebird’s Foundations for Growth programme.


Learn all about the programme, and get in touch with Firebird, at www.firebirdpartnership.com

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