Posted January 31, 2007 10:37 am by with 8 comments

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[Editor’s note: With this article, we’re welcoming guest contributor, Gareth Davies of GSINC, to the Marketing Pilgrim team.]

How come some ECommerce websites flourish but many just drift along or even fail altogether?

Having worked with many websites that have grown to turnovers of £1m GBP (and more) we have been able to observe common traits that apply to almost all of them. As a result we have compiled our list of the ‘Top 10 traits of highly successful ECommerce companies’.

1. A clear vision and goal
They know exactly what they want to achieve. This ‘laser like focus’ helps form an unshakeable conviction and dedication to building a successful online business.

2. Patience and a long-term view
They constantly measure if they are gradually getting there. And they can live with the paradoxes in online retail. For example the Internet changes quickly but organic SEO is a relatively slow process. Every day, every week, every month gives feedback measured in many ways against targets.

3. Taking calculated risks
Taking necessary risk and being prepared to invest is key. Investment is the fuel of a business so choosing where to spend money is critical. Successful websites invest money in activities that generate growth or make them more efficient – ideally both at the same time.

4. A commitment to ‘Kaizen’ or continuous improvement
Winners know this and delight in every little enhancement they make. Whole redesigns are common every 6 – 12 months. The search engines love it. These websites never rest on their laurels because within a few weeks someone could come along and take some of their business. Which is not part of the plan.

5. Successful sites employ good advisors
No one can be expert at everything and having specialist advisors you can trust and follow (and measure results from) is essential. ECommerce does not get simpler as time goes by. Winners pay for the best advice when it comes to strategy, tactics and growing the business.

6. They make decisions quickly and change their mind slowly
In the world of web retailing three months is a long time. Too long for inaction. In general, winners make decisions quickly then measure results and adjust accordingly. All improvements are based on measured results against documented targets – even if the targets are frequently revised.

7. The consumer is King
Changes and improvements should benefit the consumer and in doing so convert more consumers into customers and existing customers into bigger and more frequent spenders. Elegant design might be satisfying but frequent and multiple site enhancements whose effectiveness shows on the bottom line is even more gratifying.

8. Successful sites embrace technology and change
There’s a million teenagers out there who want to steal your business. If they had the funding they’d be doing it now. Keeping abreast of developments online is key in online marketing, news, shifts in online culture and understanding how to read basic web analytics. Being clueless to these things will eventually leave you for dead.

9. Be fair and honest with customers and suppliers
Building a well-loved and respected business is key. The real money is made over the long term through repeat sales and referrals. So by offering great customer service and being fair in all business dealings, long-term relationships can flourish with both customers and suppliers. Customers may take a long time to get but can be lost in an instant through poor customer service. Don’t be afraid to give people their money back. Even smarter sometimes is to offer it very willingly and then chat through other options.

10. There is no such thing as ‘easy money’
There’s an army of wannabees online wanting to make a million for little or no work and hoping that it is possible to make money for doing next to nothing. Successful retail website owners know that this is a myth and the Internet is like any other business. It is focus, hard work, constant improvement and – if you’re targeting and measuring right – great fun!

This list is by no means exhaustive. If you think we have missed anything important then be sure to let us know.


Gareth Davies is CEO of GSINC Ltd an Internet marketing consultancy based in Birmingham, UK. Originally starting life in new media design, he was seduced by the world of search marketing in late 2001. In addition to GSINC duties he is senior consultant for the UK’s largest Internet retail group SafeBuy. A big fan of music and film Gareth brings a fresh mix to the MP team.