E-commerce Basics that You Can’t Ignore

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Photo Credit: Hello I’m Nick

10 reasons your online store isn’t meeting your expectations.

2020 was a big year for e-commerce. Global online retail sales grew by 15.8% in 2020, fuelled at first by crisis, and then by newly formed habits that are unlikely to retrograde anytime soon.

There’s no disputing the fact that customer behaviours have changed. And it all started a year ago this month as we sat locked away in our homes, panicking over access to things that we never thought we’d have to plan for.

As our new reality sank in, many of us instinctually turned to e-commerce as a solution. “No problem. I’ll just go online,” we told each other. “Businesses are ready for this.”  Sadly, we couldn’t have been more wrong.

As demand for basic necessities saw a sudden uptick, supply chains at grocery stores were pushed to their limits, delivery services admitted they didn’t have adequate staff to fulfill orders quickly enough, and despite a plethora of app-driven food delivery services out there, it was suddenly very clear that restaurants couldn’t afford to use them if their dining rooms weren’t supplementing the investment. Even Amazon struggled to keep up with their own customer promises. And for a time, there was nothing prime about being a Prime Member.

Today 49% of global consumers say they shop more online now than they did before the pandemic hit. This enormous change in behaviour left many businesses scrambling to set up or fix up their digital ecosystems in an attempt to recover losses from their primarily brick-and-mortar shops.  But those that successfully shifted their operations online now face new challenges: technology investments that could take years to pay back, the realization that they don’t have the right internal resources or skills to successfully navigate digital channels and an online landscape that’s more crowded and more competitive than ever

Websites that used to be online hubs for contact information, menus and marketing content are suddenly the only reliable way to keep selling products and services through rolling lockdowns and the best way to manage a growing volume of customer service requests as shoppers acclimatize to new systems and rules. But putting up an e-commerce site is just the first step of many. Businesses who find that they’re still struggling to build the momentum that they had within a more traditional shopping environment sometimes overlook small details in the digital space that can make a huge difference. If you’re not seeing the conversions that you want, take a step back and assess whether you’ve covered off the basics.

Here are some of the things you might consider.

1. Have you earned your customer’s trust?

New customers land on your website but have never heard of your brand.  In just a few short seconds, they’re going to decide whether they believe you can deliver on what you’re selling. So that first impression is pretty critical.

Consider adding testimonials and/or reviews to your home page and include social proof, pop-ups that tell your customers that someone else just purchased your product or service, to reinforce quality and demand. You can also include links to your social channels so that potential customers see other customers endorsing your product. And always ensure you’re showcasing a secured website, detailed contact information and multiple ways to get in touch to resolve customer service issues.

2. Are you thinking like your customer?
The average online shopper only wants to click three times before getting to the checkout page of your website.  To make those three clicks as effortless as possible, you need to understand what your customer is thinking, feeling and doing throughout that journey.

Putting yourself in your customer’s shoes will eliminate any potential roadblocks that can prevent a sale.  You can achieve this by completing a customer journey mapping exercise and testing your website with real-life shoppers who can provide actionable feedback on how customers will interact with your pages.

3. Have you clearly communicated your value?
Your customers need to understand exactly why they should choose your product over those of your competitors.  So, you need to communicate your value in a very clear way. Be sure to drive the key messages home in your page headlines, product descriptions and throughout any supplementary content that you use for marketing purposes (that includes, videos, blog posts and even your FAQ page).

4. Are you trying to compete with everyone? If so, stop. You’ll never win.
Going online means opening up your borders, which also means broadening your list of competitors.  Not only are you competing against businesses that ship to the same locations, but you’re also competing against giants like Amazon and Walmart.  Part of the challenge is determining who you believe you can beat.

And beating them doesn’t necessarily mean surpassing their sales. It might mean that you pick a few elements that you can focus on mastering – customer experience, marketing, speedy shipping – and become the best at that one piece so that you become a formidable alternative to the big machines. Use your marketing dollars to ensure your customers understand why you’re a viable alternative. Then all you have to worry about, is delivering on your promise.

5. Are your shipping costs too high?
Businesses like Amazon have made free shipping and next-day delivery the norm.  So, customer expectations are higher than ever.  Sky-high shipping rates are among the top reasons customers abandon a cart before making a purchase.

If you can’t offer free shipping across the board, opt for threshold shipping rates (e.g., Free Shipping on Orders Over $100) and promote the offer on the landing page so that customers know what to expect before they begin their shopping journey on your website. There is nothing more annoying to customers than spending an hour filling a basket, only to learn during check out that your shipping rates are more than the price of the product they’re trying to purchase.

6. How does your product look online?
When customers are looking to make a purchase online, they want to feel confident that what they see is what they’re going to get.  Low quality, under styled or under merchandised product images, leave customers wondering if you’re selling a quality product. Always feature high-resolution images and videos that show your product in the best light possible. This small effort will go a long way.

7. Do you know where you’re at in the marketing funnel?
It’s naïve to think that you can close a sale if nobody knows who you are. Sometimes it pays to spend a little time at the top of the funnel building awareness for your product or brand and then working your way down to a sale. You can certainly skip steps along the way (your customers will determine how quickly this process moves) but you have to start at the top and you need to have a clear understanding of what tactics will generate what results along the way. If you don’t, you run the risk of wasting precious dollars.

A clearly defined journey means that you can make informed decisions and realistically plan against your investment.  Here’s a high-level view of what can work for you at each stage of the journey:

Awareness – If you want customers to come to your website, they need to know that you exist.  You can do this with things like Social Media Advertising, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

Consideration – Once you’ve gotten their attention, make them want you.  Engage in active dialogue with potential customers on your Social Channels, demonstrate authority through Blogs and capture their imaginations with Video. Win them over to close a sale.

Retention – Did you know that it’s much more cost-effective to keep customers coming back to your website vs. constantly have to look for new ones?  Use Virtual Events, Email Marketing and Online Forums to keep the conversation going and to continuously demonstrate that you understand what your customers want.

Advocacy – Your most loyal customers will not only keep coming back to buy from you, but they’ll tell all their friends to buy from you, too.  Set up and nurture channels that make it easy for this to happen.  Online Customer Reviews, Social Media and Email are all great options.

8. Are you relying too heavily on your owned properties?
Start-ups and new brands can sometimes benefit from leveraging digital partnerships with established e-commerce leaders. If you’ve been at it for a long time and you’re just not seeing traction, but continue to get great feedback on your product, selling on third-party platforms like Amazon or eBay could be a way to go. It could be a way to kickstart some sales.

However, it’s important not to neglect your own website while managing your third-party stores. Ideally, you should be working on building an audience for your owned properties at the same time.  It’s important to remember that your own digital channels are where you can retain full ownership of your customer relationships.

9. Is your social presence strong enough?
87% of e-commerce shoppers believe social media helps them make a better purchase decision. It’s not uncommon for customers to vet a new company by going to their Facebook or Instagram account first.  Having a strong social media presence will not only help tell your brand story it will also help you reach a very targeted audience.

10. Are you learning from your data?
The beauty of e-commerce is there’s no shortage of data.  Traffic, bounce rates, average time on site, average basket size and the list goes on and on and on.

Getting your analytics tool set up is the easy part.  Learning how to read, understand and organize your data is a bit harder. Building actionable insights that empower you to make confident and quick decisions is critical to any e-commerce business.  If you’re not looking at your data and learning from it, you’re likely not getting the most out of your digital marketing investment.

Are you seeing the results you want from your e-commerce business? If not, we’re happy to talk about it.

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