Setting up an online store seems like a walk in the park compared to a traditional brick-and-mortar location. All you have to do is create a website and wait for the orders to come in. But running an e-commerce business is more complicated than that. There’s a lot to consider and tweak along the way, including web page designs and the best way to ship products.
While an online store saves you from some of the headaches retail is famous for, e-commerce comes with separate issues. Customers must discover your store, find it inviting and easy to use, and get the support they need. The online marketplace is also rife with competition ranging from big-box retailers to smaller mom-and-pop stores. That said, there are things you can do to stand out and make your online marketplace run smoother. Here are four of them.
Busy e-commerce businesses have a lot of orders to fulfill. Keeping up will be challenging unless you’ve got a full-scale warehouse, fleet, and staff. Plus, you may need to source products from multiple vendors and manage an entire supply chain. While this may be feasible if you’re just starting out, partnering with a third-party logistics provider makes it easier.
A logistics vendor is an expert in managing inventory and fulfilling orders, including shipping. They take care of back-end matters for you and have established relationships with product suppliers. You won’t have to convert your garage or spare bedroom to a makeshift warehouse or pack and prepare boxes yourself.
Your customers’ orders will get shipped on time, reducing the chance of complaints and refund requests. Logistics vendors also handle returns, ensuring good products go back into inventory and damaged ones are discarded. They’ll notify you when they receive a returned item, so your side knows it’s OK to send a refund. Partnering with a logistics vendor frees up your time and lets you concentrate on the strategic aspects of e-commerce.
When someone wants to open a traditional retail store, they look for the best location. Foot traffic, neighborhood population and appearance, and what’s nearby factor into a business owner’s decision. An attractive store location can help drive sales, just like a poor or out-of-the-way site can slow them down.
A web hosting service is like a physical store’s location or place. Services that work well can boost sales, while those that don’t will turn customers away. Unreliable or poorly designed hosting services will slow down your site, including its separate pages and functions. Research shows that a site’s speed and performance can impact conversion rates. About 47% of customers want a web page that loads in two seconds or less.
Faster load times also lead to higher conversion rates. Even a one-second improvement can boost those rates by 2%. That may seem minuscule, but a 2% increase in revenue could push sales over your break-even point. In addition, reliable web hosting services result in less downtime and fewer glitches.
When your store is offline, customers can’t find you or buy. Page and cart errors will also frustrate visitors and cause you to lose sales. Invest in a hosting service you know you can trust.
Online clients are still human. They’ll have questions and issues that you’ll need to address. Anything from why the cart isn’t applying a sales promotion to inquiries about an order status may come up. Customers can also shop online anytime and may not want to wait for support. When online shoppers have questions, 56% expect a solution within a day, and 21% want an answer in four hours.
Having multiple support options can help your online store meet customers’ expectations. Chatbots and self-service portals with FAQs and videos will address the bulk of your clients’ support needs. These options are there 24/7 when you and your staff might be asleep, out to lunch, or on vacation. However, some problems require a live person, and some customers simply prefer human-to-human contact.
That’s why implementing other support options like live chat, phone, and email can benefit your online store. Some business owners outsource live customer service, and others handle it in-house. Depending on your store’s volume and resources, you may find it’s easier to partner with a vendor. The most important thing is to give customers fast, friendly, and helpful support.
You won’t be able to make improvements if you don’t analyze your site’s data. The number of visitors, product purchases, and abandoned shopping carts provide insights into your store’s performance. If you’re seeing an uptick in organic traffic, site analytics will reveal where those visitors are coming from. People may be using specific keywords you can leverage in online ads. You might also discover a need to better optimize your pages for search engines.
Analyzing your customers’ behaviors reveals which products are popular and what motivates your visitors. Say you find that people spend more time on product description pages than in the checkout process. This could reveal a need to ensure those pages are more descriptive and persuasive. Similarly, a high abandoned cart rate might indicate customers don’t trust the checkout process or find it complicated and confusing.
Site data and analytics are among the most powerful sources of feedback you have. Use them to improve your customers’ experiences and run tests if you need more information. For example, you might test two different checkout processes to see which one improves cart abandonment rates. Another test could use distinct layouts on product description pages to determine whether one is better at driving sales.
Operating an e-commerce business isn’t as simple as it looks. Making everything run smoothly means considering order fulfillment, website functionality, customer support, and site analytics. Paying attention to these four areas can prevent some of the complications of owning an online marketplace.