Do you also want to enter the fantastic world of ecommerce? Great, it’s an opportunity not to be missed! But before you do, sit down, take a deep breath, and take all the time you need to create a detailed digital strategy. Only then will you be able to open a successful ecommerce and establish yourself in a market full of opportunities, but also pitfalls ready to drain your hard-earned savings.
Curious to know where to start to sell online successfully? Arm yourself with determination and call your collaborators and/or people somehow involved in your professional activity. Start working with them to conduct an ecommerce SWOT analysis, the foundation from which to define the digital strategy and a comprehensive and detailed business plan, which you can further explore with the ecommerce course.
What is a SWOT analysis?
It’s a framework where, on one side, you identify all the strengths and weaknesses of the company (also known as “internal factors” that can be worked on), and on the other side, you explore the opportunities and threats that characterize the market where you operate or wish to operate (these are “external factors” beyond your control). And why is it called SWOT? This acronym comes from Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
Purpose of a SWOT analysis
At the beginning of any project, a SWOT analysis helps evaluate alternative business development scenarios and define precise and achievable strategic objectives, along with the best ways to achieve them. It serves specifically as the basis for defining the ecommerce strategy.
During the implementation of the business plan, using the SWOT matrix helps ” to make corrections”, meaning to identify what’s not working as expected and make the necessary adjustments to achieve the predetermined goals.
A SWOT analysis is also very useful at the end of a project because it’s a perfect litmus test to uncover strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that were not previously recognized.
Last but not least, remember that to conduct a valuable and in-depth ecommerce SWOT analysis, it’s essential to involve people who collaborate with you. This is indispensable to gathering the most information, generate new ideas, and it’s also a powerful tool to empower people and increase their sense of belonging to the workgroup, essential foundations not only for creating and managing successful ecommerce.
Ecommerce opportunities and threats
That said, let’s start applying the ecommerce SWOT analysis, listing the characteristics that currently define the world of online sales. Below is a list of these distinctive factors, remembering that they can become opportunities or threats depending on the situation, objectives, and perspective of those considering them.
- during this phase, you need to be pessimistic and think long-term, to be prepared to face even the worst and farthest scenarios in time.
- you should aim to identify opportunities while also limiting threats.
- the online world is rapidly and continuously changing, and failing to consider that could already be a threat in itself. Kodak and Blockbuster teach us that.
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- extensive and contextual because it allows you to sell 24/7 worldwide. It’s a great opportunity, but can you handle it consistently and efficiently? If the answer is negative, don’t venture into projects larger than you can handle, as you might succumb to the threat of countless competitors and the risk of negative references impacting your brand reputation and offline business.
- dynamic. In ecommerce, everything changes and changes rapidly. New markets and competitors emerge. Channels and purchasing tools change (mobile vs. desktop). The way consumers gather information changes. ecommerce technology and techniques evolve. New marketplaces and social channels for online selling appear. Therefore, you must “be on top of things” to not miss out on great opportunities and to avoid the competition eroding the market share you’ve acquired over time with much effort.
- impersonal. Between the seller and the buyer online, there’s always a desktop, a tablet, or a mobile device used to follow certain procedures to complete the purchase. This certainly provides autonomy and speed, but it can also create a significant psychological barrier. To break down or at least minimize this relational barrier, it’s advisable to use technology and interactivity.
- technological. Even though the trend is towards continuous simplification, selling online remains a highly technological activity. Mastering this aspect is a real goldmine. With technology, you can streamline the purchasing process, identify new markets or customer targets, discover your customer’s journey, design a better user experience for the website, and implement more effective online marketing strategies. What’s the risk of not having at least a basic understanding of technology? Spending a lot of money unnecessarily on a website that cannot be found or on poorly targeted marketing campaigns or the wrong social media channels.
- interactive. Thanks to interactivity, you can create engagement, and a strong emotional connection with your audience, which is a powerful tool for promoting products, services, and company values. Post-purchase feedback is valuable for the development of online and offline sales. It’s crucial to define how to leverage positive comments and handle negative ones to foster overall business growth.
- connected to offline commerce, both for better and worse. The interactivity typical of ecommerce also extends to the offline world, amplifying the positive or negative effects of strategic decisions made online.
- paid, always and regardless. Even if you use social media or free platforms for online selling, to achieve real results, you need to consider not only the cost of managing and updating the catalog but also the cost of digital marketing campaigns to make your products visible. Additionally, don’t overlook the expenses for accountants and legal professionals to ensure compliance with the law.
- complex. Regardless of the chosen channels (ecommerce website, marketplaces, social media channels), selling online successfully means preparing and updating the catalog, conducting web, social, and content marketing, digital PR, and customer care, handling logistics (delivery times, packaging, returns, etc.), contracts, defining promotions, and analyzing data. This gives a significant competitive advantage to those who approach the ecommerce adventure with proper preparation and constant commitment, but it brutally penalizes those who dive into it without adequate planning.
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Identifying strengths and weaknesses
At this point, you need to identify in as much detail as possible your strengths and weaknesses (also known as areas for improvement) when entering the ecommerce world. Where to start to avoid getting lost in endless discussions? A good practice is to analyze each business area individually and ask these fundamental questions for each one:
To identify strengths: “Why do customers buy or should buy our products/services?” “What added value do we offer or intend to offer to our customers?”
To identify weaknesses: “Where are we less skilled compared to the competition?” “What do our customers complain about or could potentially complain about?”
As a rough guide, here are some variables to consider for an ecommerce SWOT analysis project.
Marketing and sales area
- strength of the brand and associated values
- public relations, a network of contacts, and an available database
- online presence
- products/services offered (range, quality)
- customer care and customer satisfaction
- knowledge and understanding of the target market
- competence and structure of the sales force
- online and offline pricing and promotions
- proficiency in English and other foreign languages
- research and development
- automation or ability to customize products/services
- maintenance of facilities
- warehouse programming and management
- quality control
- attention to the environment and CSR (corporate social responsibility)
- supplier quality and supply chain
- management of administrative documents and payment methods
- financial management
- personnel management
- IT and technological knowledge
- legal office skills
After the ecommerce SWOT analysis, the ecommerce strategy. A few guidelines
Now that you’ve filled all the quadrants of the SWOT matrix, it’s time to take stock, understand if the online selling project makes sense, and if so, write the strategy accompanied by a well-detailed business plan.
With that in mind, here are some guidelines to turn the findings of an ecommerce SWOT analysis into real success.
- choose a well-defined market niche and design the ecommerce project solely to meet its specific needs. Once successful in the selected niche, you can leverage the results and experience to expand your online presence.
- create added value and engagement for the chosen market segment, also through a carefully curated blog and selected social media channels.
- build an ecommerce team because the skills required for online selling are diverse, and networking is essential for operating in the digital realm.
- appoint an ecommerce manager responsible for the team’s results.
- continuously study and update your knowledge to work efficiently or delegate tasks with informed decisions.
In this regard, I would like to point out that you can find a lot of free material online. However, if you want to have more information or engage with up-to-date experts in the field, you can attend some Digital Coach courses. Among these, I recommend the ecommerce course and the Magento software course. Also, do not underestimate the importance of the Inbound Marketing and Lead Generation course. Ultimately, the biggest challenge for an ecommerce business is to drive traffic to its online store!
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