All The Right “Art Of War” Quotes To Apply To Your Ecommerce Business

Gain the tactical advantage by using age-old wisdom.

James Robson
November 27, 2020

For an ecommerce business, there’s rarely been a better time than 2020, with the COVID-19 lockdown expected to add £5.3bn to UK ecommerce sales (bringing it up to a total of £78.9bn). Analysts at Edge Retail Insight, a global trend forecasting firm, updated their trends to factor in consumer retail spend given the effects of the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Fundamentally, this is all because people are spending significantly higher amounts of time at home. And with all that time can come some need-to-know ecommerce crazes such as the rise of the second hand clothing market (AKA “re-commerce”), e-scooters, and even grocery staples such as toiletries and non-perishable foods.

Ever heard the saying that “it takes 30 days to break or build a habit”? Well, actually, according to Gemma Spence, OMG Transact, the ecommerce arm of Omnicom Media Group “we’ve found that it takes six weeks to make or break a habit. During the past three months of lockdown, there has been enough time”.

Well said Gemma – there has definitely been enough time.

So does that mean that ecommerce in its current mighty form is here to stay? 2020 will most likely be a bit of a bumper year for the sector (probably well into 2021 at this rate) but recent data from shows that, in May this year only a measly 42% of shoppers said they would be more active online (i.e. ecommerce). Then, revisiting that data sample in August 2020 it was now 55% of shoppers (a 13% increase).

So it’s not a flash-in-the-pan kind of scenario. Meaning that you’re going to want to know all the right strategies for your ecommerce business (either you’re just launching, or you’re already an ecommerce veteran).

But, ecommerce is a pretty brutal and competitive industry (we’re looking at you, Jeff), and how best to win a war than to learn from Sun Tzu, one of the greatest military minds and strategists ever known? You may have heard of his seminal book – the “Art of War” – which we think can bring some interesting insight for those operating in the 2020+ ecommerce space.

Sun Tzu Said:

"Opportunities multiply as they are seized"

Very true. Now this one is all about grabbing those timely and relevant opportunities for your ecommerce business as they present themselves.

Pretty timely timing that we’re way into November 2020 and Black Friday is fast approaching (it’s Friday 27 November by the way).

As reported by the Guardian, the combination of coronavirus restrictions and Black Friday is set to predict a record-breaking month for online sales with online sales up a whopping 61% in the first week of November 2020 compared to the same month last year.

Obviously Black Friday comes but once a year, however these days there are plenty of online shopping time-zones that you should be aware of (and even be looking to tailor your marketing strategies in line with).

Here’s some for 2021:

(These are only some of the key retail dates in 2021 – not exhaustive by any means.)

Sun Tzu also said:

"Those skilled at making the enemy move do so by creating a situation to which he must conform; they entice him with something he is certain to take.”

Also very true. Now this one might seem a little obscure but stay with us – when it comes to ecommerce there is a pretty high likelihood that you’re not going to be the only business selling your product online.

With that being said, once you’ve gone to the effort of getting people onto your website, you do not then want to underestimate the importance of your product’s sales funnel.

As noted by Peter Pru, the founder of eCommerce Empire Builders, you need to experiment. Some of the highly successful ecommerce websites can look to go through at least fifty versions of sales funnels before getting the right one to bring you the conversions you need on your site.

For more on this, Crazyegg has a great article on structuring your sales funnel, managing your KPIs, and ultimately optimizing your ecommerce business’ performance.

“Know your enemy and know yourself.”

OK now, we’re not saying that your customers are your enemy, but you certainly need to know them as well as knowing yourself.

Knowing them really comes down to how well you’ve mapped out your Buyer Persona. We’re going to borrow HubSpot’s definition of a Buyer Persona here because they are really masters at this kind of thing:

“A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. When creating your buyer persona(s), consider including customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals. The more detailed you are, the better.”

- The People of HubSpot

It makes sense that, ultimately if you understand the:

  • Desires
  • Ambitions
  • Attributes
  • Buying power

Of your customers, then you’re going to be in a better position to tailor your offering to ensure higher conversions.

The best thing to understand buyer personas is to see a couple of good examples so check out this article to get an insight into 10 of them.

Final Sun Tzu piece of wisdom for today:

“The general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple where the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand.

Last but not least, a quote we can all get behind (similar to the old “fail to plan, plan to fail” mantra).

Aside from product sourcing & development, logistics, marketing, and many other things, successful ecommerce businesses need to be well-resourced in terms of finance.

So even if you’re not Jeff Bezos, these days ecommerce businesses are all the rage with online alternative funders and lenders looking to partner up with successful online retailers.

There are 4 key ways to fund an ecommerce business: ‘boostrapping’, business loans, venture capital, and ecommerce revenue shares. We’ll take a look at them and the pros and cons below:

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