It’s one thing to create an eCommerce site. Creating a dynamic, elegant and inviting online presence is quite another. Once you’re up and selling online, how can you make that the best and most profitable experience possible? This brief guide offers tips and advice to help you adapt your business model and put eCommerce front-and-centre.
Logistics and Delivery
If you’re new to eCommerce, you may be learning the ins and outs of order fulfillment on the fly. Not only will you face the challenge of establishing a delivery operation, you’ll also be doing so in extenuating circumstances:
Use Safe Packing Practices – Customers may expect to see policies and processes in place that prevent spread of the coronavirus through safe shipping and handling. If you or your employees are packing products for shipment, wear face masks and gloves. It’s also helpful to post publicly on your website and social media accounts the steps you’re taking to make each shipment as safe as possible.
Update Your Returns Policy – As customers shift to online purchases without the option to touch, or try your product in person, this shift can mean more returns – due to the limitations of shopping online and the way people shop, for example “buy to try” buying multiples of size, and colour with the intention of keeping their favourite and returning the rest.
You may want to update your returns policy to account for an increased number of returns. Increased returns can drive up your costs, waste packaging. On the other hand, customers will remember generous policies during difficult times, which may translate into greater loyalty. Some retailers are lengthening their return window to allow shoppers more time to get to the post office or to visit the store. Try to find a balance between being generous to online customers while factoring in your ROI and labour costs.
Set Up Order Fulfillment and Labour – It may make sense to partner with a fulfillment center to help manage your shipping and delivery. Fulfillment centres bring expertise, larger space for storing inventory and quicker delivery times. Understandably, fulfillment partners are usually more expensive than shipping and packing products yourself. If your volume of eCommerce orders is manageable, you might do just fine with having your staff fulfill them.
Calculate Your Shipping Costs – You will also need to factor in costs for packaging and delivery, and decide which delivery carrier to use. Some carriers are offering free packaging during this time. Many are also offering scheduled pickups from your location. Make sure to communicate with your customers as your delivery operation evolves. Manage expectations around shipping delays and arrival times. Consider encouraging customers to purchase more than your average ticket value by offering free shipping for orders above that threshold.
Marketing Your Online Store
As online sales continue to increase, you may need to broaden your focus from meeting the needs of your existing customers to include growing new eCommerce sales. If you’re just starting to market your eCommerce site, experts recommend spending time on two things: identifying your audience and positioning your product.
“The more you know about your audience, the easier it becomes for you to create compelling marketing materials,” says The Blueprint, a publication by The Motley Fool. “This is why creating a buyer persona is an important step before you even start marketing your products. With it, you have a solid grasp of who your audiences are and what makes them tick.” Once you have identified a buyer persona, you can learn more about how to best position your product online. How can you talk about your product on social media, on your website, and in online ads in a way that appeals to your target customer?
If there’s a silver lining, it’s that there’s a newly captive audience on the internet. People are shopping from home for many more items than ever before. There’s an opportunity to grow sales through your eCommerce site – and here are some ways to get started.
Make It Easy to Find Your eCommerce Shop – If you’re adding eCommerce to your existing website, have you made your new channel prominent and easy to find from your homepage? Are you linking to it from your social media channels, email newsletter and sites like Google Business? Signal from as many places as possible that you’re open for online business.
Optimize Your Site for Higher Traffic – If your site feels clunky and hard to navigate, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to maintain sales during this time. It’s important to make sure that customers can find your site, and also that it’s organized and easy to navigate. Search engine optimization can certainly get complicated, but there are simple changes you can make to help your store appear in more relevant online searches. As for site navigation, think carefully about the user experience, organize your stock listings in an intuitive way and consult with your friends, family, staff and customers for more perspectives on how to streamline your eCommerce site.
Include High-Quality Images – As you work to optimize your site, we recommend that you use excellent product images. Professional photography across your site can make a huge difference in the shopper experience. The images shown on your site should not only be enticing, but consistent with your overall store design. If your shop is stark and industrial, use dramatic lighting; If your aesthetic is more approachable, make sure the lighting is warm and inviting.
Get creative with your content. Some retailers have started offering curated subscription boxes with customer favourites and complementary products that they’re hoping will become more popular. Create a video preview of what’s going into each subscription box on your social pages, and have your team get creative with your content.
Customer Loyalty and Sustaining Your Business
Your eCommerce site is now your primary tool for selling to existing customers. Since existing customers are the core of any business, how can you make sure they’re still being served by your eCommerce site?
Encourage Repeat Purchases With Subscriptions – If your customer is likely to buy your product on a repeat basis, make automatic reorders easy. Give a small discount for subscribing to regular refills and ideally let the customer set their preferred refill cadence.
Lower Shopping Cart Abandonment (the “Almost Sale”) – The average global rate of cart abandonment – when customers add items to their online cart but never click purchase – is just over 75%. That’s a huge, missed opportunity for many retailers.
Some simple changes to the shopping and checkout process can help you lower cart abandonment rates. Create urgency by showing stock availability: when an item is running low, a casual browser may become a buyer much faster. Set up an automatic email that is triggered when a customer leaves something in their cart. One report found that of the 45% of “cart abandoned” emails that are opened, 50% of them receive click-throughs and 50% of those click-throughs result in completed purchases.
Other Tactics for Smarter eCommerce
There are many ways to encourage customers to shop at your eCommerce site. Some retailers offer a free gift with purchases over a certain amount. Whether or not you’re able to give discounts during this time is unique to each retailer; we know times are tough and so do customers.
Another great way to build customer loyalty is to motivate customer account creation with a loyalty program that encourages repeat buying. Give a small discount off a customer’s first order if they create an account. Alternately, you could offer a first-time buyer discount code in a pop-up that invites new visitors to sign up for your email list. Everyone wins: you get a customer’s email (and hopefully, a first purchase) while the customer gets a discount.
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