In this current pre-vaccine pandemic economic landscape, SMEs face significant challenges.
In this current pre-vaccine pandemic economic landscape, SMEs face significant challenges remaining viable, more so if they don't have genuinely great eCommerce site.
Back in 2017, long before the Covid-19 crisis forcibly shuttered bricks and mortar businesses, Nasdaq predicted by 2040 that 95% of all purchases would be being facilitated by eCommerce.
To stay in business, now more than ever before, you will need to keep a digital door open, especially if your physical one is closed.
But it isn't enough to whip up a quick online retail site using a website builder and expect sales to come rolling in.
Online retail is hugely competitive, and there are tools, tricks and trade secrets you will need to understand and use if you are going to make it in eCommerce.
Every day, around the world, entrepreneurs use content management system (CMS) platforms such as Shopify and Magento to bring their brand new online stores into existence.
And there are a lot, according to research by 99firms in early 2020 there were already over 24 million eCommerce websites. Unfortunately, their research also suggests that over 80% of these online stores will fail.
The cause of eCommerce business failure is usually a result of one, or a combination of, these five common factors:
For your online store to stand out, serve your customers and succeed, you will need to have a solid strategy to address these potential pitfalls.
While your initial online customers will likely be existing bricks and mortar customers that you have invited directly, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is how new customers find you.
When someone searches for whatever it is you sell, they, and your site, are at the mercy of Google's algorithms and ranking signals which decide which websites will top the organic site results, ordered by relevance, on its search engine results pages (SERPs).
Keeping up and meeting Google's webmaster guidelines to stay on the front page of a potential customer's search results can be quite tricky. Google is managing the tug of war between paid advertisers and organic relevance to give the best results.
To rank well, your site needs high quality and relevant content that uses keywords and phrases someone might type into Google.
Review Google's Search Quality Guidelines and try to avoid posting too many ads or affiliate content on your site.
TIP: Don't try to "hack" SEO just to lure anyone to your site. Unqualified traffic is likely to quickly leave as soon as they discover your store doesn't offer what they need. Google's algorithms pay close attention to visitor retention and engagement and reward or punish sites through ranking them accordingly.
Much of the user experience (UX) begins with the choice of CMS platform used to build your online store. There are multiple options available, and they range in price, flexibility and functionality.
As with all things you get what you pay for, so it is worth paying a bit extra for a website that is attractive, easy to navigate and offers a broad range of templates and eCommerce tools that can be scaled to meet the needs of your business.
Zeemo recommends custom coded Magento eCommerce stores for websites with multiple integrations, complex backend CMS and excellent security. Shopify is a good option for more straightforward small e-shop sites that need to go up quickly.
Aside from load speed and easy navigation, your website should be aesthetically appealing. While it is keywords that improve SEO, it is high-quality product photography and videos that enhance UX.
First impressions last, don't skimp on low resolution or poorly lit photos. Be sure to take shots from multiple angles; after all, your client can't physically pick up and inspect your products; they must rely on you to show them.
Make sure to optimise UX for both desktop and mobile, as increasingly consumers are shopping from their phones. Your site's mobile version needs to be easy to navigate via touch.
UX is also how you funnel traffic toward a desired action, like making a purchase or signing up for your newsletter.
Your site navigation should be simple, fast and intuitive because the longer it takes a customer to move through the buying process, the greater the risk you have of losing them.
Take advantage of timesaving tools such as 'one-click sign up' with a Google, Twitter or Facebook account and eCommerce plugins such as 'add to cart' and 'buy now' buttons.
Offering the option of an 'express checkout' that securely saves customer payment and shipping information and preloads it at checkout improves the UX of returning customers.
TIP: Don't try to "hack" UX to trick someone into buying or signing up to something they haven't expressly sought out.
We have all had frustrating experiences with sites that deviate from UX norms, like switching button size or location or swapping the traditional 'red means no' with green. Or found ourselves stuck on a website that has made us jump through a bunch of hoops to leave. Or been asked a manipulative question, such as "No, I don't want to know the secret to happiness" when trying to exit.
Please don't do any of these things; customers despise it.
The very first step of establishing trust between a potential customer and your website is to make it extremely clear what it is your business does.
To succeed in eCommerce, you have to have a clear, consistent brand with great values behind it. Today's online shoppers want to know not just what you do but why you do it.
Building your values into your brand's identity will impact a potential buyer's decisions. It will inform their first impressions, so make sure they align with the values of your target audience.
If you are going to take payments or have visitors enter personal information, your website will require a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate. SSL is a technology for encrypting sensitive information over the Web and lets your customers know their data is secure.
When surveyed, 85% of customers said they trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations, so be sure to include genuine reviews on your website.
You must have a strong focus on only delivering top quality products at a reasonable price, but if you do, the glowing reviews will take care of themselves.
Prioritise addressing any negative customer interactions quickly, such as refunding faulty product returns; remember, a dissatisfied customer is more likely to go out of their way to share a bad review than a satisfied customer is to write a good one.
Finally, transparency builds trust. Your customers should encounter no ambiguity over the cost, quality or quantity of the products they are looking to buy and your contact information needs to be accessible.
TIP: Don't try to "hack" trust by fabricating reviews or testimonials, it can backfire badly.
Don't have hidden fees or dishonest product descriptions.
Even if you choose to use a 'contact us' form plugin, also include a direct email address, phone number and physical address to give customers confidence that you are a legitimate business they can reach if they need support.
Let's face it; no one wants a checkout process that makes purchasing your products harder than it needs to be.
Therefore choose a CMS platform that has full stock control and shopping cart functionality.
There is nothing more annoying than making it through the purchase funnel: adding a product to the cart, entering in all your delivery and payment details, only to be advised upon payment attempt that the product is out of stock.
As mentioned in the UX section above using timesaving plugins such as 'one-click sign up', 'add to cart', 'buy now' and 'express checkout' will allow customers to speed through the checkout process.
Finally, just as with a brick and mortar store when something goes wrong, the same customer support principles apply online. No matter how great your products are, sales do and will go badly from time to time.
Whether it’s wrong size, wrong colour, transit damage, or a wide range of other reasons, when an online customer wants to return a product for replacement or refund, needs after-sales support or has an incorrect charge, you need to respond, quickly.
So, part of managing your eCommerce business needs to be establishing someone who is highly responsive and responsible for managing customer support. This could mean needing to budget for an agency or having IT team supporting your store.
TIP: Don't try to "hack" sales support.
Your customers deserve to have a support channel easily accessible, don't build a website with only a FAQs section and no way to get personalised customer care.
Don't ignore unhappy customers, the noise they can create can drown out your goodwill, and the internet has a long memory.
Shipping costs, options and speed are incredibly influential in online shoppers purchasing decisions.
Behavioural studies show that when customers don't have to pay for shipping, they are more likely to impulse purchase because there's a perception of less risk.
Likewise, if there are too many complex shipping options or the affordable options mean long delays, online behavioural studies show customers abandon their carts at checkout.
That's why you should offer fast and free, or same or next day express metro delivery or Click & Collect shipping options when you can.
With several competitive fulfilment and dispatch services with a little shopping around, you can often secure reasonable fixed postal rates enabling you to factor shipping cost into your product prices. This is how most eCommerce sites manage to offer free shipping when orders exceed $30 or more.
The pandemic has also meant that many offline stores are still open even though they can't have customers in-store. Therefore they are managing sales via eCommerce, preparing the order and offering contactless collection, thereby allowing customers to bypass delivery delays and shipping costs.
TIP: Don't try to "hack" shipping.
Be transparent and upfront about shipping costs and times.
While it is acceptable to have a margin for shipping built into the product cost to offer free delivery, do not do the reverse.
Some online merchants try to game 'sort by price' by listing products at ridiculously low prices but then including a product cost margin into an exorbitant postage and handling cost that the consumer only discovers at point of purchase. You aren't going to win favour with a $2 widget that costs $50 to deliver.
Despite the uncertainty of the economic impact of coronavirus, one thing is certain, the way we do business has changed.
Self-isolation and consumer anxiety about public places has driven many people from offline shopping to online, and it is unlikely to revert when the pandemic is over.
By setting up a virtual eCommerce store, you have a means of retaining existing customers and leveraging the changing consumer behaviour to attract more from a broader geographic region than a local shopfront.
The digital retail landscape is here to stay, but making it big online is hard. Zeemo can help ensure your eCommerce business stands out in such a saturated crowd.