If you’ve bootstrapped your online retail business and are now established, congratulations. That’s no easy feat. But the next adventure, should you choose to accept it, is to grow your business. Given that all your time and money is going into serving existing customers, here are some tips to help you continue to deliver excellent products and service while expanding your customer base.
1. Take the Omnichannel Approach to Marketing
While you may be “if it ain’t broke, why add another marketing channel to the mix” school of thought, you’ll find serious benefit in expanding into omnichannel marketing. That means doing more than just promoting new products on Instagram, sending special offers via email, and writing on your blog. It means doing all of that…and then some.
Commit at least three months to a new marketing channel before deciding it’s not cutting it. Try investing in pay-per-click or social media ads, guest blogging on sites targeting your audience, using Facebook Live to show off new product reveals and anything else that might help you reach new customers.
Then pay attention to your website and sales analytics to understand where new business is coming from (one of the perks of today’s technology!).
2. Carve Out Time…or Hire Help
With all of your time going to fulfilling orders and communicating with customers, it can be challenging to find even more time to dedicate to building your brand and finding new customers.
Make it a priority. Even if you can only carve out five hours a week to dedicate to growing your online retail business, that’s a start. Alternately, if you have the budget, hire at a minimum part-time help. This person can take care of easier tasks like fulfilling orders or emailing customers while you handle marketing and business development. The investment will quickly pay for itself as you attract new business!
3. Don’t Say No to a Loan
You may pride yourself on the fact that you’ve bootstrapped your retail business without financial assistance, but don’t let your pride get in the way of an opportunity to quickly grow your company.
Taking out a working capital loan allows you to get easy access to funds to cover expanded inventory space, hiring an employee, or buying larger quantities of products in bulk. While of course, you will have to pay this loan back, the interest rate you pay may well be worth it if it helps you expand your business in ways you couldn’t have done without the financing.
4. Expand Your Product Lines
You may now have established yourself as a trustworthy online retail business specializing in a handful of products. But given that you now have a loyal customer base, what might happen if you offer even more products?
Don’t go overboard and start offering every product under the sun. Instead, find products that complement what you already sell. If you sell handcrafted jewelry, your customers may also be interested in one-of-a-kind scarves, sunglasses, or purses.
Not sure what your dedicated customers would want? Ask them by sending a survey to understand what other types of products they would buy from you.
Once you decide on the new products, promote them on your social media channels and send a special offer via email.
5. Consider a Physical Location
You’ve established yourself online, but truth be told: there’s a lot more competition with other e-commerce sites than there is locally in your city. One way to grow your retail business is to add a physical component.
That might be renting retail space long-term and opening up a boutique…or something that requires less of a financial and time commitment like a pop-up shop or stand at a farmer’s market. The latter will help you understand local interest in the products you sell, which may help you determine whether a more permanent physical location would be a success.
6. Create a Referral Program
You already have customers that love you and come back to buy again and again. Why not incentivize them to send new business your way?
Set up a referral program that gives existing customers special discounts or free products whenever they send a new customer to you. This is a fantastic way to make them feel invested in your company’s success, since there’s a little something in it for them to gush to their friends about your brand. The money you spend on those rewards or products will be recuperated with the new business they bring you.
Above all, if you’re serious about growing your online retail business, you have to be consistent in your efforts. You can’t simply add a new product or post something to Facebook and expect an automatic boost in business. But if you continually market your e-commerce business and look for new avenues to reach new business, you will slowly see an uptick in new customers who, hopefully, will become repeat ones!