7 Steps to Create a More Profitable, Longer-Lasting Ecommerce Business
Is your ecommerce business struggling in terms of profitability? Believe it or not, this is happening all over the ecommerce landscape. And it’s largely because of fad-based or trend-based businesses. A trend emerges or a consumer need arises. Ecommerce brands pop up to sell the popular product or provide a solution. And once consumers move on to something else, the brand is left with no real business.
This happens over and over again. Many businesses rise and fall because they focus on the wrong things. They look at top line sales from one channel (usually Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok traffic), rather than keeping an eye on actual profit and investing in future growth. As a result, many ecommerce businesses are unhealthy and teetering on the edge of disaster. Are you?
At Metacake, we’ve spent over 10 years helping direct-to-consumer brands build long-lasting, sustainable, profitable businesses using simple, timeless principles.
In this post, we’re going to talk about seven things you can start implementing today to help your struggling business, or to prevent your business from struggling in the future.
Why Preparing for the Future Will Make or Break Your Business
Before we get started, let’s take a moment to remember why this matters.
Whether your goal is to have a long-lasting business that’s yours to run for years or to build a profitable business that you can sell down the road, you need to think ahead. Just getting by month to month and hoping for increases year after year is not enough. If you want to grow and withstand trials along the way, you must be intentional and strategic.
You may not currently be struggling, and even if that’s the case we still encourage you to keep reading. All brands need to be in the business of crisis-proofing, and these strategies will help you do that. You have probably heard rumblings of an economic recession looming this year, and that makes it all the more important to plan ahead now. Even if a recession doesn’t happen, the future is always unknown. In order to build a business that lasts, preparing for the worst is actually the proper way to build a secure foundation.
The 3 Systems that Need to Work for a Successful Ecommerce Business
In any ecommerce business, there are essentially three engines (or “systems”) at work that keep the business running. Before you take any action steps to improve your current business or protect it for future success, it’s crucial to keep these systems in mind.
The first is acquisition. The business needs multiple reliable methods to keep consistent traffic flowing to the website so it can acquire new customers.
The second is conversion. The business must have a website that is strategically designed and optimized for conversions (turning site visitors into customers).
The third is maximization. It’s crucial to have systems set up that will maximize your conversions— in other words, increase average order value and customer lifetime value. This is key to profit and long term growth.
7 Steps to Help Improve a Struggling Ecommerce Business (and Future-Proof Your Brand)
1. Diversify your marketing channels.
Many brands rely heavily on one marketing channel — like Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok ads — for their traffic and revenue, which is risky. If algorithms, targeting capabilities, data privacy, or more changes, all your sales could be gone in an instant. That’s why it’s so important to quit being addicted to a high ROAS and diversify your marketing instead, spreading your marketing out among many channels that work. Some will show immediate returns and others will be more of an investment, but diversification is the healthiest way to build a business.
With diversification should also come an understanding of owned vs unowned channels. You need to have both.
Unowned marketing channels like Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, Google Search, and YouTube are totally out of your control. Anything can happen there, so you can’t technically rely on the results of them for your future security and success.
In contrast, email marketing is an owned channel, giving you complete control of how and when you reach your customers. The only expense is what you pay for your email service provider (much more affordable than ads). It’s also our top method for driving real customer relationships and increasing the lifetime value of your customers. If you’re not currently investing time and resources into your email channel, now is the time!
2. Optimize the way you advertise.
Now for the money you do spend on unowned, paid marketing channels, it’s time to start implementing real advertising tactics. Since running advertising has gotten “easier” from a platform perspective, we see many brands just throwing together some copy and creative and hoping the advertising platform works some magic. Not a good approach.
No matter where you advertise, the principles of effective advertising still apply. Dial in your irresistable offer and your value stack. Know your audience and what their needs are, and speak to the pain points your products help solve. Write compelling ads that appeal to logic and emotions. Test quality creative in different formats.
3. Build a real brand.
When you run an ecommerce business, your brand is your only asset. Many competitors could pop up and try to sell your product for a cheaper price on Amazon. But the one thing that can’t be ripped off or replicated is your brand. And that’s more than just your colors and fonts and tagline. Your brand should be centered on purpose (why you do what you do). It also includes the emotions you want customers to experience when shopping with you and the aspects of your business (and the way you do business) that sets you apart from everyone else. Once all of this is dialed in, you can start to build real brand fans for life rather than just one-time customers you never see again.
4. Fix your margins.
Having enough margin built into your product pricing is crucial. Without enough margin, you won’t be able to run a customer-service centered business or invest in research and development for product line expansion and future growth. This may mean you have to increase your prices, which scares a lot of businesses. The key to retaining your customers when increasing prices is to be sure you’re effectively communicating the value of your product and how it changes their life, while also providing excellent customer service. Learn more about the importance of margins and all that it can do for your business here.
5. Focus on customer lifetime value.
Customer lifetime value is an extremely important metric and a golden multiplier for your business. There are several things you can do to boost this, but the first is to look at your product line strategy. Is your product a one-time purchase and they’re set for six months, or a year, or more? If so, you’ll definitely need additional products that complement that purchase or are just of interest to your customers to keep them coming back to your store. Even if your product is something that is used or consumed and will need to be repurchased with some frequency, having additional products is really key.
The next thing to look at for increasing customer lifetime value is your customer journey. Is your website built in a way that allows for clear navigation and easy access and visibility to all of your products? Do you recommend other popular products at the bottom of product pages or through one-click up-sells? And what about after customers complete their purchase? Following up via email is essential. Whether they’re a first time buyer or repeat customer, there are automated email sequences that should be set up to thank them for their order and educate them about how to get the most out of their order, and then showcase other product offerings they’ll love.
6. Increase your conversion rate.
Get back to the basics and make sure you have a website that is built to sell well. There are many factors that go into this. You’ll need a platform that supports your business in terms of speed, cost, and customization capabilities such as Shopify Plus, BigCommerce, or Magento. You’ll also need to carefully select a great theme to be the blueprint of your store. Then, you’ll need to strategically design your site to not only reflect your brand but also guide visitors along your customer journey and make purchasing as simple as possible.
Pro Tip: If you need guidance on how to design the perfect ecommerce website that is strategically built for conversions, be sure to check out our guide that helps you do just that: The Perfect Ecommerce Website Bundle.
Once your site is built, the conversion work doesn’t stop. You’ll need to regularly use CRO to systematically adjust areas of your funnel where customers are not taking action. When doing so, be sure to watch your analytics closely. Decisions about what needs fixing on your site and how to go about doing it should always be data-driven, not based on your team’s opinion or preferences.
7. Consider adding a wholesale channel.
Winning long term is all about investing in healthy growth and managing risk. Depending on your business and product line, wholesale could be a great way to balance your direct to consumer channel. We recommend building a wholesale portal and then starting with small retailers. Don’t go after the big ones right away. To learn more about wholesale and whether it’s right for your business, click here.
Shifting from Fast Growth to Healthy Growth
If you want your ecommerce business to be more successful now as well as protected against economic downturns and other unknowns, it’s critical to start investing in healthy growth rather than fast growth. The seven steps we’ve listed here today are key factors in a business that is profit-driven, rather than ROAS-centered. Focusing on immediate return and chasing viral growth has caused so many ecommerce brands to climb fast and fall hard. Don’t let that be you! If you want to succeed long term, invest in the hard, worthwhile work required for healthy, profitable growth. No growth “hacks” are required— just timeless business principles that are applied to ecommerce.