It’s the right time of year for self-employed sellers to take a step back and ensure that their business is going in the right direction. It’s not (yet) too late to change business priorities and ace your year.
You should be asking yourself:
- How can I turn over a new leaf with a new business venture?
- How can I boost sales figures?
- How can I gain new business opportunities?
- How can I explore new, untapped markets?
With this in mind, we take a look at ten ecommerce trends self-employed sellers need to know…
1. The ‘Trust Economy' Soars
The importance of generating excellent reviews for your products has never been higher. Trust-building social proof comes in many forms nowadays including, Trustpilot, Amazon, Google Plus, industry reviews sites, and area-based review sites.
Social networks like Facebook are also encouraging its community to invest more in the ‘trust economy.’ They are making it easier for people to share their thoughts on brands and products , and react to branded content.
You may want to try running any positive reviews as a promoted post, or boost older posts with lots of comments to attract more interaction. Even as a solopreneur, try to create a sense of community around your business.
2. Building Community Sales
Creating a community surrounding your service can help you leverage that all-important 2018 watchword — social proof.
By utilizing things like Facebook Community pages, you can set up online groups based on relevant subject areas. For example, if you sell hardware and DIY tools, why set up a carpentry group with tips on joinery? It’s a great place to meet and network with happy customers.
You can use these groups to attract social media influencers (i.e., experts with a large following on social media). Alternatively, you can set up local Facebook events in your city. Put on live workshops for customers and members of your local community groups. Encourage attendees to check-in’to your business page at these events and post their photos.
The aim of building a business and customer community is to bring in loyal brand advocates. If you are looking to build business via word of mouth, or you’re looking for a way to get product reviews, this can act as an attention-grabbing in with your core audience.
3. Voice Command Shopping
Services like Alexa are becoming more mainstream. Many small business owners can now utilize voice technology for office tasks.
Voice command services can connect with your email and calendar, allowing you to update information in seconds. You can also use these services to track your deliveries, or even to auto-generate invoices. Explore what voice technology can do for you, and remember that your customers are probably doing the same.
4. Mobile-Responsive Design Expanded
Your customers, regardless of what you sell, will be checking you out before making a purchase. And there’s a good chance they will be doing this with their smartphones.
Making your mobile website a thing of beauty and functionality will help you during the year ahead.
From a UI (user interface) perspective, your site should present only the information users need to perform certain actions. This means that from the moment they land on your page, they will need to see a stripped-down menu of options, and in most cases, a search bar.
On your desktop site, in contrast, the space on the homepage is more abundant. This allows you more freedom to include immersive graphics, animated menu options, etc.
For mobile interface design, load times need to be quick and seamless in 2018. In this case, an animated homepage may not be the best fit.
5. Social Selling Dominates
Buyable pins, shoppable galleries, and swipeable stories are marrying the shopping experience with social media. Build up a detailed picture of your target customer base and put the right ads in front of them to encourage a sale.
Instagram Stories has brought in enormous results for social sellers of late (15-25% click through rates). But social selling is set to become even more popular in the year ahead.
Shopify users can now tag products within their posts and link directly to their store pages. This new functionality enables users to buy without even leaving the social app.
6. One-On-One Selling Hits New Channels
If you are not leveraging chatbots, you are missing out on a smart, full-time employee. Facebook Messenger allows developers to create opt-in chatbots from their business profile. These bots trigger a personal conversation once the user opts in on your page. It’s a super fun way for customers to engage with your social profiles and business, and it allows a small operation to scale faster.
Brands are using messenger selling to drive conversions based on data insights. Over time, your programmed chatbots can provide lots of data on your customer’s preferences and queries. On the customer side of things, personalized chatbot services can process payments securely and eliminate hesitations 24/7.
7. Visual Branding Builds Trust
Regardless of what you sell, you need to ensure that your store brand is recognizable. To compete with the major retailers, making your store a ‘destination’ both online and offline will give you a unique, competitive edge.
This has always been an important factor for a business’s identity. However, as the changes in US tax codes may encourage more self-starters, setting yourself apart could hinge on your brand’s aesthetic in 2018.
The best brands have a clear logo, and all of their photography and imagery have a matching tone and style. Hit up free-to-use photo sites for a quick and easy way to refresh your brand photography.
Luckily, thanks to freelancing sites like Fiverr, even small, at-home stores can outsource their store’s branding and create a professional brand image for less hassle and money. Start by creating a logo, printing it on a small selection of your products and packaging. Start to build a recognizable, visual profile that will bring you repeat custom.
Over the past year, we have seen plenty of small, family-run businesses go the distance thanks to stellar branding.
8. Sharing Knowledge With The World
As the popularity of the ‘gig economy’ continues to rises, the barriers to self-employment are becoming increasingly non-existent.
If you run a website and you are working hard to deliver great content, you can also offer an eBook outlining your extensive industry knowledge to help more people onto the ladder. You can set up quickly through Kindle Direct Publishing and host the book downloads through your shopping cart.
Brands like Modcloth's Cook, Craft & Create use their YouTube platform to provide knowledge, diversify their audience, and maximize sales.
9. Machine Learning Reaches SMEs
With the introduction of marketing automation bots, even sole traders can reap the benefits of having a virtual assistant. These A.I tools examine your site’s marketing analytics and suggests social media posts ideas that would be a good fit with your brand.
Split-testing software can also offer you useful tips and keywords that convert, for creating high-performing campaigns.
10. Remote Assistant Economy
If you are struggling to handle some of the mundane tasks in your sole trading business, remote assistants can take away some of the strain. You can hire low-cost freelance assistants on a site like Upwork or PeoplePerHour.
For example, if you need some advertising research, you can hire someone to trawl through the top accounts on Twitter, while you craft your latest ad.
The uptake of all-inclusive Subscription as a Service (SaaS) services can be a lifeline for new business owners. Learning the ropes of marketing, SEO, accounting, etc. can be straightforward under these plans.
Self-employed sellers should be looking for ways to streamline their operations with automated tools. Social selling should also start to dominate your online marketing output. Whether you’re exploring shoppable galleries or playing with Instagram and Snapchat stories, leverage social proof to help you bring in sales and advocates.