Getting your online business up and running is a big deal. The next step is to get things really humming.
With sales data and experience under your belt, it’s time to gather more insights to tweak your approach.
To take your business and profits to the next level, it’s important to deeply understand your customers. Find out what motivates them. Consider what else you can offer that they might value.
Review where your business sits compared to others in the market and learn how to carve out your own space. And check where you sell — is it still the right choice for you and your customers?
And check where you sell. Is it still the right choice for you and your customers? If you’re selling overseas, check that you’re following exporting rules and optimising your business for your overseas customers.
Learn to create a good export plan
Start by creating personas that sum up your ideal customers. These fictional characters help you picture who you want to sell to, and how to attract them.
Next, find more detailed information to improve your personas. Here are example questions to answer in a persona’s description:
These are not descriptions of real individuals. You don't need matching characteristics for all your personas. Just use whatever helps you tell them apart.
Make the most of your information sources. Start with what you already know about your customers, eg from newsletter sign-ups or point-of-sale systems. If you talk to people to get more insights, make a note of whether they’re loyal, occasional, or lost customers. Information about all three can be useful. Platforms like Google Analytics and Facebook Audience Insights include information about the types of users visiting your site or social media.
Google Analytics(external link) — Google
Facebook Audience Insights(external link) — Facebook
Using your personas regularly helps you get to know them better. For example, when planning a marketing campaign, think about how best to attract each persona. How might they react to different messages? Deeply knowing your personas helps you think of new ways to engage with, and sell to, customers.
Once you have a great set of detailed personas, keep an eye out for any changes you need to adapt to. For example, a new product may bring in new customers with different characteristics. Or social media platforms might grow or shrink in popularity among different groups of customers. During customer research, check if your respondents match existing personas. Fill in any gaps in matching personas and keep them up to date.
Customer personas help you understand the journeys your customers follow towards buying. Once you identify key customer journeys, you can make improvements.
Start with a customer persona and a clear map of their customer journey, eg as a diagram or a set of steps. If you don’t have a map yet, start with the six basic stages each customer goes through:
Trigger: There is always something that triggers a potential customer to look at your product or service. Think about what’s happening before they get to your shop front.
Researching: They’re likely to shop around, looking at different options, so you need to sustain their interest in your product or service and give them the information they are looking for.
Shortlisting: Next, you need to convince your potential customers to consider what you offer. Your customer personas can tell you what they might be looking for.
Choosing: At this stage they hone in on what matters most to them about the product or service. Think about how you can help narrow down their options.
Buying: Make it easy for your customers to start and complete their purchase.
Follow-up: Think about how you’ll keep in touch with your customer after purchase.
For example, imagine you sell shirts.
Summer is coming up and your customer wants a new t-shirt.
They start by researching different t-shirts on the market, looking at your website and others. At this stage, they’re getting a good idea of all possible shirts that fit a broad category, eg summer t-shirts.
They choose a small selection that meets their needs. They will likely weigh up many aspects they find important, eg price, colour, fit, quality.
Make it easy for them to choose your t-shirt by giving them all the information they need.
Ideally, they buy from you instead of a competitor. Make it simple, eg your checkout process.
Ask for feedback or check what their after-sales experience is like.
Markets keep evolving. Keep an eye on your place in the market to stay ahead of your competition and adapt to changes, eg new competitors or changing prices.
Did you use product, place, price, and promotion as a framework for understanding your marketing mix? You can use the same framework to review it, and see if your choices still stand up.
Look at how your business has changed. And how your existing competitors have changed, which competitors have joined or left the market, and anything else that could affect your position.
Every product or service has its own profile of price, performance, and customisation. These characteristics define the position of the product or service in the market.
Different profiles can make two otherwise similar items appeal to different customers. And each item’s profile determines how it stacks up against competitors.
Use the tool below to compare your business, or one of your products or services, against its competitors. It rates whether you have a strong position in the marketplace. We’ll help you identify some common opportunities and risks.
Competing head-on with bigger businesses can be difficult. They have more resources to help them dominate the market.
But as a small business, you may be able to respond more quickly to change. If you spot a gap in the market, you can create your own space where you’re not competing directly against bigger businesses. For example, you might be able to offer a personal sales experience with expert advice, without increasing your costs.
To find your niche, you might consider:
It helps to explain your unique selling point clearly. Write down a simple description that explains to customers why they should buy from you. It will make a great slogan for your website — and define your approach to all parts of the sales process.
Offering products or services that complement each other can:
Understanding what products and services go together can help you improve your offering. For example, you could create bundles or combo deals for items that naturally go together. Or offer subscriptions for products your customers buy regularly.
Or you can take the next step and create value with something completely new. If you currently sell products, think about related services. If you sell services, consider related products. Use the tool below to explore opportunities.
Review the locations you chose when you started selling online. Check whether anything has changed, and how various locations are performing. Consider whether to add new locations, or move away from old ones.
You might sell on your own website, a shared marketplace like Trade Me, or both. Using one location can work well, but consider extending to others to be available to more customers. It’s common for businesses that start on a shared marketplace to later create their own website. The change is like setting up your own shop after having your products stocked in other retailers’ stores. Having your own website saves on commission costs, and offers better control of the shopping and brand experience.
Review where your customers are in relation to your physical operations. They may be nearby or too far away for quick delivery. They may be in the same country or overseas. Think about how you can improve operations or customer support.
If you started out online-only, you might benefit from adding a physical location. This could offer a better brand experience, boost sales in a particular spot, or improve trust because customers can experience your products in person.
Alternatively, if your physical store is not profitable, it might make sense to mostly focus on selling online.
If you’re selling to customers overseas, you’re exporting. This means new markets and more customers, but also new challenges.
Try to optimise operations or customer support, eg:
A local base can help you build credibility and stay in tune with local trends.
At times business.govt.nz refers to specific businesses to make our resources more effective and easier to understand. We do this on the advice of our independent expert partners, including the New Zealand Business Performance Panel. However, we do not endorse any third-party private-sector businesses.