This guest post was written by Jake Rheude of Red Stag Fulfillment.
“Everything's not awesome. Things can't be awesome all of the time. It's an unrealistic expectation, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.”
If the second LEGO movie taught us anything, it’s that your online business will stumble. Sometimes that’ll be ecommerce fulfillment, shopping cart abandonment, and discoverability. But, there’s always a chance for you to right the ship. Well, that’s the message we took away, at least. It’s definitely true when you ecommerce heroes are having a crisis moment.
All product-centric movies aside, there are major concerns that will face your online store throughout its life. These moments may feel bleak and overwhelming, but there’s a light at the end of that dark tunnel. You can respond to or even avoid a few of these bigger challenges.
Let’s look at five of the scariest that we’ve seen and provide some ways to address them and prevent recurrence.
1. Shopping Cart Abandonment Is Sky High
No one is immune to shopping cart abandonment, no matter how big or small or niche you are. It hits everyone. That’s why many industry practices for keeping carts active come from major players.
When the rate jumps up, it can do major harm. Or, if it’s already high, you can do some major good by cutting that rate down to size. If you’re at 75%, a general average across many industries, you’re in a good place because there’s plenty of room to grow. A 0% abandonment rate is essentially impossible if you’re selling enough to keep the lights on.
Cutting down this 75% rate by one-third would boost your completed sales from 25% to 50%. Achieving this is all about your data, so you’ll have to gather some.
Use tools like Google Analytics and options specific to your ecommerce platform to discover the culprits. Some of the most common are:
- Added costs are too high—shipping, taxes, fees, etc.
- You’re forcing people to create an account.
- Prices and costs are hidden.
- The checkout process is too complex or long.
- Delivery is confusing or slow.
- Returns policies aren’t good enough.
- People don’t trust you with their payment information.
These are the common problems you can do something about. Just under 5% of abandonments are from credit cards being declined, so again, no 100% goal is realistic. Some you can determine by seeing when the person leaves the process. Others, such as returns being confusing or not easy enough, you’ll have to ask about directly with surveys or follow-up emails.
When abandonments rise dramatically, typically you’ve either changed a policy or attracted a new audience. Maybe that latest marketing campaign grabbed Prime members who expect two-day shipping. That thought is a good driver to help you remember that you must respond to cart abandonment needs. Freebies that break the bank only help customers, not your business.
So, remember that it’s okay to charge for shipping. See what elements you can tackle to ease the process before you give away the store. Removing over-long forms or not making people create an account would be a great place to start.
2. Stealthy Ecommerce Competition Arrives
Every time you turn around, it seems like there’s a new ecommerce marketplace or store. The low cost of starting and running an online shop often means someone with a good marketing idea is able to try it out quickly.
If you’re only competing on price, you can quickly find yourself being outsold. Usually it’s by someone who offers better customer service, higher-quality products, or a price you can’t match.
Mitigating this concern is all about understanding who is out there and keeping tabs on who might be coming. Competitor research and analysis is your main goal, with a bit of customer analytics too.
You can start with a simple search and keyword analysis. Look for ads in new areas or click on related hashtags to discover who is now in your backyard. Keep on top of new social brands too.
Focus your research on determining where you provide value to your customers. Highlight these areas in your marketing. It’s best when you find a characteristic or offering that your competition doesn’t have or isn’t good at—customer service is a favorite in this space.
Research should be constant and continual. It’s okay to ask your customers about their interests when you’re providing good service.
One of the best ways to compete on customer service is to answer customer questions faster than the competition. Using a helpdesk like Help Scout or Zendesk can easily cut your response times in half. Plus, you can even connect them to eBay and Amazon by using ChannelReply.
3. Ecommerce Customer Loyalty Plummets
While you’ve got one eye on the competition, don’t forget to keep that other eye on yourself and your brand’s reputation. Actively monitor what people are saying about you to understand what you need to change. It’ll also show you what people love. If you find great mentions online—especially on social—reach out to these fans. See if they can spread the word about why they love your company and products.
Amazon and eBay sellers get a big helping hand here because of the customer reviews on these marketplaces. Taking time to respond to negative feedback and solve the issue can help significantly. They’re perfect places to see why you might be losing loyalty or sales, such as a new production partner delivering sub-par products.
When you’re experiencing a problem, start by addressing it on your biggest channel. These are going to be your most valuable customers, generally, and you’ve got the most opportunity of winning them back. For instance, Amazon has a Prime member retention rate of up to 98% for some long-term subscribers. So, you can keep getting in front of those customers by making your products eligible for Prime.
Even if you’re not selling on Prime, you can try to mimic its success by doing the things many successful ecommerce companies do:
- Bake shipping costs into product costs so that shipping always feels free.
- Simplify the returns process.
- Try offering coupons and discounts in your advertising or on sales channels.
- Include new codes inside packaging to generate more sales.
Think of the elements you want from an online shopping experience. Offer these to your customers. Even a loyalty program of your own can be helpful if done right. The big marketplaces, especially Amazon and eBay, have a lot of helpful tools. Return to these periodically.
4. Ecommerce Discoverability Is Nil
The only people who can buy from you are those who can find you. If you’re struggling with traffic, it’s time to call in the big guns to help customers find your products.
If you’re here, you likely have a store page on one of the major ecommerce platforms like Amazon or eBay. These marketplaces do some of the initial hard work for you by providing a general location for people to find you.
It’s like going to the mall, for those of us who remember summers spent endlessly circling the same stores whenever we could. Amazon and eBay are your malls, and you need to make the right pitch to get people to walk into your specific store.
If you can remember those days, look for digital corollaries of what worked. You might not be able to secure prime real estate near the food court now. But, you can join programs and use targeted ads for things like Amazon Sponsored Products.
The search bar is your new window, so develop product titles that use optimized search terms. And, make sure you use high-quality images in all listings. Think of the customer as someone window shopping. You’ve got a fuzzy, grainy picture and the store next door has a clear display that makes it easy to see what’s available. They’re going to get more foot traffic because they look more professional.
Even if you’re beating the competition on price, product information is more important to online shoppers!
Master these elements for your main sales channel. Next, expand them to other channels. The good news is that these efforts are often related. Keywords that work well on ecommerce marketplaces are generally going to work well on social channels. Think of them as hashtags.
5. Shipping and Ecommerce Fulfillment Drain You
Red Stag Fulfillment is a fulfillment provider that a lot of brands turn to when their customers are upset about the quality and speed of their shipments. Sometimes products aren’t treated well or are late. Now, stores want to take back their fulfillment from ecommerce giants. Often, it’s cheaper to do it themselves or work with someone who specializes in products like theirs.
You might be one of those sellers.
There are amazing ecommerce fulfillment companies available to help you. They can even deliver your Amazon and eBay orders for you, keeping you in good graces with those providers. It’ll keep your customers happy, too.
Struggling to meet the complex demands of marketplaces like Amazon? Do you find that costs and concerns are too high with your existing operation? Find someone who fits your business. Don’t settle for a provider who just says “yes” no matter what.
For example, Red Stag tells 88% of companies that come to them that they’re better off with a different fulfillment company designed around their industry or products. Check out some of the best fulfillment service companies based on various needs.
The truth about ecommerce shipping is that your business can almost always afford to charge for it, but you need to work to keep that cost low. The number of warehouses and SKUs, as well as a variety of other factors, all impact your ability to ship on time and on budget.
Do some homework and read up on your options. As ecommerce marketplaces grow, and their warehouses make the news for the wrong reasons, they’re becoming more receptive to companies fulfilling orders as long as they meet specific guidelines. You can do it, and there are plenty of options for help.
Jake Rheude is the Director of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of ecommerce. He has years of experience in ecommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.