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The True Purpose of Your Ecommerce Website

By Shaun Tinney
4 minute read | Last Updated: May 28, 2016

If your ecommerce website is managed under your marketing budget, you’re doing it wrong.

A brand’s ecommerce website is a business unit and it should be run like one. It cannot thrive starving off the scraps of the marketing budget.

To generate any kind of profit, an ecommerce site must have its own dedicated operations budget. Not just for standard development and maintenance, but for continual improvement in the name of customer service and driving conversion to boost your bottom line.

Your website is no longer a marketing tool

How did websites end up under the marketing budget in the first place? Because that’s what they used to be used for. Customers, devices, and expectations have evolved. Most brands haven’t.

Why online sales aren’t a priority right now

“But wait,” you say, “we don’t focus on sales online because it upsets our dealers.” I hear you. Channel conflict is an issue, but it’s not as big an issue as you think it is. The most difficult hurdle has already been cleared. You already sell online. No one knows how much you’re selling online, so stop pretending like you need to be terrible at it.

In addition to disappointing your customers, being bad at online sales trickles down to your dealers and your brand.

When your site makes it difficult for your customers to buy directly from you, it reflects poorly upon your brand. Fewer customers will spend their money with you online or in stores as a result.

What your company thinks the site is for

“Our site is a brand tool, and a place for brand storytelling, a way to connect with our customers.” Yes, it is. And no, it’s not.

Your marketing team and your marketing agency keep their jobs by constantly spending on campaigns to drive awareness and traffic, build buzz, and create connection.

When that effort succeeds and potential customers visit your site, marketing has done its job.

But that is where the marketing should stop. If all customers find on your site is more marketing, you lose.

All that money and genius go to complete waste as soon as your email popup takes over the screen with a self serving brand request.

To succeed at ecommerce, your site must serve your customers not market at them. Help them research your products, make their checkout quick and easy, provide them the content they are looking for.

If your content makes the research and purchase process easy, they will buy from you directly. Your margins will rejoice.

What to do if you want to stay in business

Don’t worry so much about upsetting your dealers. Don’t think so much about how to tell your brand story. Realize you are in business because of your customers.

Your customers are connected. They’ve spent more on Apple products in the last 3 years than on your products in the past decade. And now they’re looking through a beautiful glass handheld screen to see your products online. Not a catalog. Not a billboard. Not a commercial. Not a banner ad. Your brand website.

The only way that you can possibly connect with them online is to support your overstretched and understaffed digital department. So invest money in making the site look great, work well, and help people buy from you. Turn your site into an asset that provides an ROI far beyond pageviews and Facebook likes.

The only way to free up your team to generate revenue through your site is to support that effort directly, with a budget devoted to the revenue stream that creates its own positive feedback loop.

The positive feedback loop of investing in ecommerce

The more you invest in your ecommerce site, the more revenue, profit, and commerce will occur. The more you invest in improving your conversion rate, the more you’ll earn and learn from each visitor to your site.

Increasing your site’s sales at higher margins means more free cash flow to invest in driving more relevant traffic. More customers, more conversions, and more revenue create a self-funding cash positive feedback loop.

Start treating your website like the self-funding business it really is. Free your website from the neglect it suffers under the marketing budget, and invest directly in the one channel that can pay for itself.