Operating an e-commerce business is like driving on a road that’s always changing. You’re an organized, detail-oriented site manager that understands a ton about marketing, technology and of course the products that you sell. You create an annual roadmap within your budget, work hard and expect to see growth, but low and behold the landscape starts changing. You try to stick to your roadmap, but the e-commerce roadway is constantly evolving. Combine that with the other complexities of operating a business, i.e margin pressure, competition, staffing and other headaches. In e-commerce your road literally changes before your eyes – kind of like playing Mario Cart – and to make matters worse, sometimes the changes are invisible until you see negative numbers in your sales.
Here are some clues for anticipating changes in the Roadway:
Google = Constant Change. Deal With It.
Like it or not, your business and life online are somewhat dictated by Google – if for no other reason than it’s the most popular search engine (and brain of Android, Siri and most mobile operating systems). Google made 500 changes to its algorithm in 2013 alone. The makeup of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) is changing all the time. In fact, Google made a significant change to its algorithm affecting the way local business listings are prioritized in the 3 days before this past Christmas. In addition, Adwords had several feature changes, primarily the migration of PLA to “shopping,” a new emphasis on extensions, sitelinks, call tracking, and address verification.
What to do?
Subscribe to and read www.SearchEngineLand.com to stay on top of Google algorithm changes.
Intrusion Threats & Security are Increasing at an Astounding Rate
In 2014, it was widely reported that a Russian crime organization stole the credentials of 1.2 billion internet users. “If the number is accurate, it’s astounding,” says Roy Nutter, computer science and electrical engineering professor at West Virginia University. “That could be nearly half of the world’s estimated 3 billion Internet users.” If you own and operate an e-commerce business, it is no longer a question of if _you will encounter a security threat, it is _when.
What to do?
Immediately change all admin passwords if you have not done so recently, and use complex, auto-generated passwords that are very difficult to hack via brute force programs. Also, consider hiring a CISM (http://www.isaca.org/certification/cism-certified-information-security-manager/pages/default.aspx) to complete an audit of your existing security practices. Also, be sure to understand if you should consider going through PCI compliance (https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org)/ given your risk profile as an online merchant.
Competitors High, Competitors Low. More Competitors All the Time.
Your competitors just started selling on Amazon at prices that undercut you significantly. A new online merchant just threw up a Yahoo Store and he’s fulfilling his orders less than a mile from your brick and mortar store. All of the sudden you are at 9th position bidding against a keyword in Google when, for the same cost, you used to be 1st. The competitive landscape is always changing as the barriers to entry are very, very low for many e-commerce businesses. It’s even possible to start selling on eBay for free.
What to do?
Adopt a policy of regular competitive benchmarking across channels and build a monthly scorecard that accounts for changes that are observed. You may argue with your team about how to respond to competitive threats, but at least you will know when you need to act.
The Bottom Line
There’s more to come in Part II. Discouraged? Don’t be. There’s still a lot of opportunity in e-commerce. Only about 6-14% of retail transactions in the US happen online (depending upon which source you believe) so, despite the constantly changing roadway with all of its challenges, you can still succeed. Be organized, flexible and willing to adopt to an ever-changing business environment. Give us a call at Accorin if you need help with your e-Commerce strategy or tactics.