Good e-commerce growth relies on practical, as well as creative, solutions. In order to maximize your brand’s potential, you need to be ready to take processes apart and put them back together again. Take a long hard look at your customer experience – everything from finding a product on your site right down to opening a package two days later. What’s holding your business back right now? Where is the money going? Here are five of the common problems faced by e-commerce businesses– as well as how you can avoid these unhelpful pitfalls. Here is to a year of brand growth – not stagnation.
Bad shipping makes for bad shopping.
An unoptimized shipping strategy could be causing you to lose revenue and devalue your customer experience.
Shipping is something that many e-commerce brands neglect – but they do so at their peril. It’s no coincidence that big players like Amazon have heavily invested in shipping in the past few years. Better shipping rates make your company more competitive, and can help you beat the competition with better delivery options (= improved customer experience).
Delivery is a key component of the customer experience:
- Shipping options: people want to be able to choose the delivery method that is most convenient for them; whether that’s fast or slow, cheap or premium.
- Easy tracking: customers like the reassurance of being able to track their order and keep tabs on where it is.
- Easy delivery: the delivery experience needs to be as smooth as possible, with packages arriving in-tact, and drivers and delivery couriers liaising with customers.
- Labels & packaging: an important brand touch-point, these need to reflect care and a high level of service and detail.
It’s important that you get the best rates for your product dimensions and that you’ve done all you can to save money on shipping. A solution like ShippingEasy that integrates with the rest of your online business can save you money and time by bringing everything under the same roof, giving you more control with flexible shipping management.
Poor brand consideration
Invest in your brand from day one because it’s going to be one of your most valuable business assets. Customers will judge you on appearances, so don’t give them any reasons to trash your brand. Remember – a brand is everything that you do, not just your logo and brand guidelines!
- Sloppy labels will make you look amateur – make sure that you use high-quality branded labels on all your packaging. Make sure that any shipping labels included in the packaging are of a high quality and well-branded.
- Cheap packaging devalues your brand – bad and not fit for purpose packaging is a safety risk, as well as an eyesore.
- Online customer experience – the customer will expect an updated and fully featured website that hasn’t got any typos or inconsistencies.
- Outdated website design or bad stock imagery – this will make your e-commerce store look unprofessional and will harm conversions. It’s important to focus on the visual experience of shopping as well as the copy and customer experience. Good product photos don’t always have to be pricey.
Content needs to connect with your prospective buyers, otherwise you are just throwing money, time, and expertise down the drain.
- Invest in the right content platforms and formats that make sense for your brand. Think carefully about where your audiences are likely to be, as well as what formats are easiest for you to create. You have to be brave enough to venture into new avenues every now and then, but make sure that you are doing so because of your customers. Don’t just start sending loads of snaps on Snapchat because it was ‘cool’, with no real idea of who’s engaging with you there.
- Not sure if content is working for you? Get better at measuring the ROI of your content marketing efforts in order to explore what’s working and what isn’t.
- Buyer persona development is a great way to ensure that you are correctly targeting your content. Focus on a few core personas, and make sure you keep things as people-centric as possible.
- Use keyword researched content for SEO purposes, but avoid any underhanded practices like keyword stuffing or unnatural language. Use your keyword research to better understand your users, structure your content, and engage – not to mislead.
- The best kind of e-commerce content is engaging, and sells in a subtle way. You don’t want to just be pushing out boring sales messages 24/7.
Unsophisticated customer journey
How easy really is your product discovery? Are technical glitches making your customers see red? How are your landing pages converting? In order to create a successful e-commerce brand, you need to heavily invest in the best customer journey possible.
- Make sure that you keep on top of any error messages, 404s, and CMS updates. Letting technical things slide could have a huge negative impact on your customer experience. Technical audits are an e-commerce lifeline.
- You have to be clever about how you handle choice on your online store – too little and people won’t know what to do; too much and they will be paralyzed.
- Don’t just settle for one sale – always be looking for ways to sell more, and sell smarter. This isn’t about unhelpful pop ups, but about being smart about personalization, product recommendations, and suggestions. Always send out clever cart abandonment emails if people don’t go through with a sale.
- Remember that everything that works on desktop, needs to also work on tablet and mobile. Online shopping is increasingly mobile-centric and with smaller screens, come different design challenges. You need to prioritize simplicity.
- The customer journey doesn’t end at the sale: order confirmation emails, deliveries, customer service, customer support – all of these need to be as slick as your sales plan.
Need for capital
Money can hold e-commerce brands back. Sometimes there is no easy way out of a tough financial situation, but there are some hacks and money management tips that you can use in order to build a cost-effective business.
- Careful stock management will keep you from having too much stock that could end up becoming a burden (or being liquidized). Find suppliers with smaller minimum order quantities, never buy too much stock at once, and use an inventory management system. You want high enough stock levels to meet demand, but low enough stock levels so that you aren’t needlessly stockpiling.
- Crowdfunding is a great way to get capital for emerging businesses, especially if you’ve got a new and innovative product. Crowdfunding applications are easy to fill in, but to get returns you have to offer plenty of value and reasons for investing.
- Manage your outgoings on a monthly basis to get around costly set-up fees. Spread your web costs out with a monthly all-in-one e-commerce platform, and use a service like Webgility to help with accounting. Start small and grow your commitment to these services with time – an annual plan may save you money once you’re sure you’ve got the right one.
- Outsource as much as you can: use virtual teams to help you scale customer service and social media, and invest in chatbots to improve your sales pipeline. There is no shame in being smart about automation and people management, as long as you make sure it doesn’t negatively impact customers.
From shipping to SEO, running an e-commerce business will test all your management skills at once. Hopefully a long hard look at financial data, coupled with some clever technology and research, will help take your brand to the next level in 2017. What unexpected challenges have you faced in your business?
Patrick Foster, e-commerce entrepreneur, coach & writer.
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