What to do if your e-commerce becomes stagnant

10/25/2017 - Jordi Ordoñez

Sometimes it happens. It’s a natural part of the process of creating an online store. Sometimes your e-commerce comes to a standstill and it’s better that you see it coming and don’t get discouraged or start shooting blindly because that often creates more problems than it fixes.

What do we mean by a stagnant e-commerce?

It’s a process that takes place from the minute we’ve poured all our knowledge and creativity into the store. The point where we simply don’t see what else we can bring to the business model or the strategic plan.

It’s not something that happens immediately; in fact, it’s more of a process where the momentum decelerates. Let’s say we start from a baseline made up of that knowledge and creativity we talked about. If we put it professionally, we should add the study of the permanent market and the enrichment that is the experience of managing an online store for the short-, medium-, and long-term strategy.

If our baseline gets worn down and the combination of study and experience stops growing, we’ll reach a point where our e-commerce is officially stagnant.

#A – What do you do if your e-commerce becomes stagnant?

Stagnation can occur at several levels. Though this is as complicated as any business, we can talk about two main scenarios:

#1 – Stagnant e-commerce at the product level

Your sunglasses shop may no longer be of any use. You have thousands of ideas, you think of new recruitment and communication strategies that bring traffic and branding results but … you don’t sell more.

When you’re not able to profit from the advertising investment or the captured traffic you have to consider that the problem is your sunglasses.

Sit down with your team and think about what other product lines you can market and how to diversify your offer. The easiest step would be to start with related products (covers, cleaning cloths, cords to hang the glasses, tool sets to adjust them, etc.), complementary services (damage insurance). All this will offer you the possibility of creating packs that increase the amount of the average sales ticket.

Then, think about your audience. Now we need to evaluate alternative products for that target. Let’s continue with the sunglasses, maybe you can branch out with accessories like caps, handbags, and jewelry.

Another direction you can go is seasonality. Sunglasses are mostly sold in the summer so you have two options for year-long sales: go international to break seasonality (a great idea if the logistics don’t eat up your business) or look for a product that breaks that seasonality.

This could be done with another product with the opposite seasonality (ski goggles, for example) or one that doesn’t pertain to a season, like blue-blocking glasses.

#2 – An e-commerce stuck at the marketing level

This would be the opposite of the first example. You have a good product, recurring customers, and your e-commerce works well, but for some reason you’ve stopped capturing.

In this case, what you need to do is think whether you’re strategically using your own means, paid means, and what you’re earning. Why did what used to work stop working? It doesn’t necessarily have to be a tone or communication problem, nor is it a promotional issue every time (if it were, it would be as simple as reviewing margins and having sales promotions).

The first thing to know is if there’s a third party that’s hurting you, if someone is taking the strategic position you had up until now. Many times a new player comes up and passes right over us.

If it’s a price slasher that wants to earn market share by using a very aggressive price strategy, evaluate if you want to start playing his game. Many times, it’s not worth it because the numbers might not pan out. On the other hand, it may be one of those internet moles that has suddenly set up shop in your niche

In both cases you have a problem that you have to fight intelligently. If you can’t or don’t want to cut prices, you’ll have to enhance some aspect or find a different competitive advantage (for example, exclusivity, or personalization), arguments that not only justify a higher price, but even make it seem like a positive option.

Another problem that occurs in some niches is simply that segmentation doesn’t work anymore. If you’ve been focusing on the same population group with the same users that don’t change very quickly, maybe you’ve already sold everything that this niche consumes for your current product.

In this case you also have two options: increase repetition (think of a discount for users in the new collection) or open segmentation to other niches. The latter isn’t always possible, but if done using the actions we talked about to reactivate the products, it could work very well.

Be cognizant of all changes and don’t stop trying. Study your competitors, new channels, work the content a lot to bring true value to your customers, use different formats in the media you publish, and do a ton of tests to be able to fine-tune your actions.

#B – What we shouldn’t do if we’re stagnant

The first thing is don’t deny it. If you don’t think that you’ve been taking too long to bring out something new that works, it’s going to be hard to fix the problem. It’s not the worst thing to run out of ideas but not recognizing it might be.

You also shouldn’t go crazy and start putting new features in your e-commerce simply because you’ve seen it on social networks or someone says it works. It might seem like you have to integrate Amazon Pay, for example, to be up with the latest payment trends but it turns out that your problem has to do with the product life cycle and you’re not addressing it at all.

Changes in the store imply economic expenditure, resource investment, and in structural cases, can produce some confused customers. By definition, every time you touch the e-commerce you have to be looking for a solution to a problem or testing a hypothesis, the strongest one possible based on previous data and studies.

Finally, I would tell you to avoid being reactive. The minute you start acting on what the situation demands, you lose the initiative. Make proposals, run tests, create hypotheses; all before you’re definitely at a standstill.

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