Unless you’re a huge business with unlimited resources – think Amazon or Wal-Mart – ecommerce can be challenging to handle. This is specifically true if you’re a retailer that sells physical products, as opposed to a service provider. However, thousands of small businesses across the country have proven that it’s not impossible. You simply need a strategy.
4 Biggest Challenges for E-commerce Retailers
Before you can improve, you must understand the root of the problem. You have to brainstorm and hone in on the major challenges you’re facing as a small ecommerce business. In all likelihood, your challenges include one or more of the following:
- Handling shipping and logistics. For single storefront retailers, logistics are a breeze. All you have to worry about is lining up orders and making sure they arrive on time and as-promised. However, as an ecommerce business, you don’t enjoy the same luxuries. You have to figure out things like where you’ll store your goods, what shipping service you’ll use, how to handle returns, what level of tracking you need, and dozens of other factors. Will you charge free shipping? Who absorbs the cost of returns? The questions are endless. Most ecommerce businesses end up settling and charging a flat rate. While this is easier, it almost always leaves money on the table or costs too much. And how do you compete with Amazon’s free two-day shipping promise for Prime members? It can seem like too much at times.
- Building and maintaining a website. In the ecommerce world, your website acts as your storefront. Not only do you need to make it sleek and attractive, but it needs to be highly functional and quick. According to this KISSmetrics infographic, 25 percent of site visitors will abandon a page if it takes longer than four seconds to load. In fact, four seconds may be too long. Three percent of your entire target market will leave if a page takes more than one second. On top of that, your site should be simple, informative, and engaging enough to convert browsers into customers. Any minor hiccup can send them running to Amazon or eBay.
- Gaining insights. Collecting customer data is extremely important for any ecommerce businesses. And while Google Analytics and A/B testing software options exist, knowing how to use them and which metrics to track can be challenging. It’s something larger companies dedicate an entire company department to.
- Providing good customer service. The fourth and most serious challenge involves customer service. While the Internet offers many benefits in terms of connectivity and access, it’s at a disadvantage when it comes to interaction. Physical stores have the benefit of face-to-face interactions, while online companies work with a veil between the two parties.
Tips for Enhancing Ecommerce Customer Service
While each of these challenges can be discussed in-depth, the most important is arguably the latter. Good customer service is the backbone of any successful business and can make up for shortcomings in other areas. Before addressing the other issues, you need to learn how to master ecommerce customer service. Here are some valuable tips:
- Be reachable. The best thing you can do is ensure you’re reachable. Clearly list your contact information on your website and offer multiple communication channels. Ideally, you should be reachable via phone, email, and some sort of online chat platform.
- Invest in responsive design. The average ecommerce customer in 2015 owns a smartphone, tablet, and laptop. Additionally, he or she may also own a smart TV and desktop computer. Each of these devices comes with a unique screen size, which makes it challenging to develop a positive UX on your site. Thankfully, with responsive web design it’s simple and easy. Now is the time to invest in a responsive layout so every customer – regardless of screen size or device – is able to easily access and navigate your online storefront.
- Make timeliness a priority. If you’re going to encourage people to contact you, you better respond in a timely manner. You should establish a company policy that dictates how soon emails and phone calls must be returned (ideally within a few hours) and stick to it.
- Provide added value. You need something that will set you apart from the competition and offset being unable to interact with customers in person. According to The Violet Vixen, it’s important to instill confidence and level the playing field. “We offer a free sizing help consultation service, as the inability to try on clothing is one of the biggest barriers to purchasing online. That’s our way of telling customers we understand your reservations and we’re here to help,” said a brand representative. Other necessary value ads include free shipping, secure checkout, and convenient returns. Do you provide any added value, or are you simply matching your competitors?
- Utilize social media. Your best tool for humanizing your brand and engaging with customers is social media. You should invest in all of the basic social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, as well as growing ones such as Vine, Snapchat, and Instagram. Once you’re set up on these sites, use them as platforms for developing thought leadership by sparking valuable conversations and effectively curating and disseminating content. Your goal should be to develop engaged communities within your niche.
Learn to Overcome Ecommerce Challenges
The fact of the matter is the issues facing ecommerce retailers aren’t limitations – they are merely challenges. The difference between the two is that challenges are capable of being overcome, while limitations have a ceiling. As the ecommerce industry continues to grow, it will be incredibly important for businesses to overcome difficulties by enhancing customer service and improving communication.