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Why your ecommerce website needs a better fundamental strategy, and how to build one

Successfully selling online is the dream situation for many businesses in the modern marketplace. To build an always-on, 24/7 shop window that automatically brings in leads and makes sales can do amazing things for a company’s growth. But as I’m sure you appreciate – it isn’t as easy as that.
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In reality, as the sector grows enormously, and as the number of websites, tools and applications continues to increase at an ever higher rate, the challenge to stay focussed in your marketing and stand out online is only getting tougher.

The sheer number of possible options available to try and meet this challenge is an issue. With all sorts of different approaches that could be taken to build, populate, position and promote an ecommerce website (or any website for that matter) how do you know what to choose? What should your strategy look like?

The map and the compass

To get to where you want to be as an ecommerce business your strategy needs to act as both a map and a compass. Like a map, it needs to show you what the destination is so that you can remind yourself and your team what all of the effort is for, and stay motivated to achieving your aims.

But along the way there are hundreds, if not thousands of small decisions to be made that could potentially throw you off course. This is why your strategy needs to also be like a compass, and keep you headed in the right direction.

On a daily basis your strategy needs to be able to help you make decisions. Whenever there is a fork in the road you must have guiding principle that can help you decide which route to take.

How to develop your fundamental strategy

Building a strategy that helps you make such decisions quickly and easily isn’t a straightforward task. It incorporates insights, experience and research on your customer base, available resources and overall direction as a business.

In particular there six key questions that need to be answered:

  1. The destination – what is the objective? What is your ultimate aim?
  2. The route – what are you going to build? How are you going to build and maintain it? How are you going to promote it?
  3. The audience – who is it for? What are these people like? What do they value?
  4. The reason – why do they want or need what you have?
  5. The result for them – what benefits will your efforts bring to your audience?
  6. The result for you – what benefits will this have for you as a business?

Take some time to step back from the day-to-day grind of running your ecommerce operation and consider these six key areas, and how they impact what you do.

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If you can come up with clear answers to each of the questions you will have a comprehensive framework for making actionable business decisions that will make your marketing more efficient and cohesive.

Examples of a fundamental strategy in action

Here are a few situations in which a fundamental strategy can be put to work:

  1. We have an idea for a new content series – should we do it? Good content takes time and effort – so is this topic a good use of our resources?
  2. A new social network is getting popular with our customers – should we be on it? Interacting on social media is usually a good idea, but we only have so many hours in the day!
  3. An influential website wants to partner with us – should we pursue the opportunity?
  4. Where should we hire new talent for next year?

To answer all of these questions, the companies involved can refer to the fundamental strategy, which will help them determine whether or not to carry out each action, and how to do so.

For example:

  1. If the content series is about our new products, yet we are trying to balance sales to sell more of the old ones, then the topic needs a rethink.
  2. If demonstrating to our customers that we are forward-thinking, and/or showing up online where those of our market who are more likely to be early adopters in technology are is in line with our fundamental strategy then yes – let’s get on the new social network! If this is less of a priority then maybe we should focus our energy elsewhere for now.
  3. If that website is reputable and the topic is relevant to our customers then this might well be a good idea. But we also need to think about how the partnership will be run too, and determine whether this will be in line with our strategy.
  4. We need to make new, budget-dependant, hires based on the jobs that our fundamental strategy determines. Perhaps we need to support under-resourced teams or we may need new expertise to follow a new direction. We also need to consider the strategy during the hiring process so we select candidates that will help us achieve our overall aims.

A fundamental strategy helps you forge a consistent identity online and build a following that really reflects who you are, who you serve and what you are trying to accomplish.

And when it is well thought out and properly constructed it also helps make better decisions, and make them faster. That’s the power of a fundamental strategy, and it’s a power you can put to work for your business today.

Hywel Curtis is a content strategist and marketer who helps businesses to grow online. 

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