eCommerce Best Practices: Beyond the Products
The advantages of e-commerce get hyped a lot — low startup costs, and little overhead. All you need is a product, a website, and a third-party logistics company (3PL) to ship your product, and you’ll be the next Dollar Shave Club, Rent the Runway, or Casper, right?
Well, no, not exactly. That oversimplified thinking might explain why 90% of eCommerce businesses fail. Even without a physical storefront, an eCommerce business is still a business, and entrepreneurs must address just about every issue that a brick-and-mortar business face.
Online retailers who’ve made it, and made it big, say that running a successful eCommerce company requires as much strategic thinking as any other business. They’ll also tell you that it’s essential to understand how and why consumers buy online, and how to develop websites, social media, and distribution systems that align with consumer habits and preferences. If you want to be among the 10 percent of eCommerce companies that succeed, here are some best practices to follow.
Your website is your storefront; make it a place people want to be
A customer who walks into a well-organized store with attractively displayed merchandise is going to be more inclined to make a purchase. In eCommerce, your website is your store, so make it a virtual retreat, a pleasurable place to visit where visitors feel comfortable and find it easy to find what they’re looking for.
One must-have: Top-quality photos of your product, along with detailed descriptions. The best stores also have friendly, helpful staff. Make sure it is easy for online customers to reach you by including contact information prominently throughout the website. Don’t make them search for your toll-free number. An online chat feature is also a preferred method of communication for many online shoppers.
Fast and easy shopping
Again, stores with a streamlined checkout process—from quick and easy checkout to departments that are well defined by signage and other visuals—appeal to customers. Websites should do the same. Put time and effort into developing an online purchasing system that allows customers to check out quickly with as few steps as possible. Try to avoid expensive shipping and other fees, if possible. If you do need to add fees, make sure they are clear upfront, otherwise, a lot of your customers will abandon their shopping carts when they realize they are being charged these fees.
Make sure your website is designed for mobile users. It makes no sense to design for a desktop or laptop screen when 60 percent of online shoppers use their smartphone or tablet to shop and buy online.
Shopify has an online store builder that makes creating a website that is automatically optimized for mobile a piece of cake. Squarespace also saves you time by having built-in mobile responsive templates.
More than a good product
A great product and a well-designed website are, of course, essential to an online business, but that’s not enough. Just as traditional stores have always promoted themselves with advertising in newspapers, magazines, and commercials on television and radio, an eCommerce business must market itself. Social media channels allow online retailers to market in many ways and to more targeted audiences. And, although social media may be less expensive than traditional forms of advertising, it is not free. It requires an investment in time. Your social media manager must keep up with the latest social media updates, trends, and algorithms and know how to use them effectively. That’s one reason some small companies find it more effective to hire a professional marketing agency to handle their social media.
Social media is a necessity
Social media is the new word of mouth. For example, if you sell online and people love your products and the customer service you provide, social media gives them the opportunity to share their experiences. They might do reviews, make comments, and shoot pictures or videos to show how they enjoy sleeping on the new mattress that they ordered from your website. You could also consider influencer marketing where you offer free products in exchange for a review on social media.
As social media has grown in popularity many platforms have evolved into shoppable apps. Instagram and Pinterest have added important new features, like Shopping for businesses. Users now have a shopping tab at the bottom of each app that will quickly take you to a page where you can search by shop name, category, or explore the suggested items you see on the page.
Ship quickly and professionally
Fulfillment–the process of receiving, packaging, and shipping customer orders — is sometimes treated as an afterthought by online retailers. They typically handle this business function themselves for a time, but as their business grows, often, they can’t keep up. And let’s face it, making tons of sales won’t matter if you can’t deliver your product in a quick and professional manner.
Successful eCommerce companies realize that they need a 3PL professional when it comes to fulfillment. A good fulfillment partner provides many advantages–the ability to negotiate better shipping fees, expertise in packaging varied products, skills at creating systems for returns, the capacity to easily increase or decrease needed warehouse space for clients, and computerized inventory management systems that provide valuable sales and marketing information to their eCommerce clients.
As an omnichannel marketing company, we assist eCommerce companies with all aspects of their business–from website design and marketing to shipping products to customers. Call us or leave a comment below to discuss your options.
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