E-commerce is a rapidly growing industry that, far from being some shopper fad or trend, has changed the way businesses interact and trade with consumers on a global scale and it’s here to stay.
Any business, from the lone home-worker to the grand multi-national must have an online presence and cater for distant customers if it wants to remain relevant and competitive.
For almost any enterprise, e-commerce trading has a number of advantages over bricks-and-mortar premises; although there’s mounting evidence that the retail sector in particular needs to provide consumers with both in an omni-channel shopping experience.
An online presence with e-commerce capabilities can enable businesses to:
According to industry research firm eMarketer, e-commerce is forecast to grow by 20.2% across the board, with emerging markets in the Middle East, Africa and China being responsible for driving global B2C sales in excess of £1.5 trillion this year.
Although e-markets in Europe and the US are well established, they have not yet reached maturity and according to Forrester, are also forecast to maintain “a slightly more modest 9.1 per cent” growth until 2018.
However, despite strong consumer demand for e-commerce, there are a number of barriers that all businesses wanting to implement or increase online sales, face.
For many, those barriers relate to infrastructure, skilled personnel, costs, consumer trust but most importantly of all, competent distribution logistics; without the capacity to deliver goods, e-commerce organisations simply fail to deliver.
A recent study conducted by comScore explored the impact of viable delivery options on consumer trust and shopping habits.
Those surveyed cited transparent shipping information, including a “projected timing of delivery, clear communication while goods are in transit and clear communication of a company’s returns policy” along with free or discounted delivery options as major factors influencing their purchasing decisions.
While most participants agreed that a delivery window of up to 5 days was acceptable, a failure to provide information about the delivery service in its entirety in a concise and clear way directly contributed to 55% of those asked to ‘abandon shopping carts’ before making a purchase.
However, sites which manage consumer delivery expectations well and offer a user-friendly returns policy could expect return visits from 48% of their consumers with the same amount making retailer recommendations to their friends.
It seems that for any sized business, deciding how to meet customers’ delivery service expectations and finding the right distribution partner is vital for overall e-commerce success.
The good news is that because the very essence of e-commerce is global trade, any business whether small or large, whether in a mature or emerging market, can benefit from using an established international mail house or distribution centre, anywhere.
Organisations like Asendia, a British consolidation of La Poste and Swiss Post are already equipped with a variety of delivery solutions including distribution, order fulfillment, secure storage and pick and pack services that cater for the specific needs of the e-commerce industry.
To improve your online operations or source the right distribution solution for your start-up, contact Asendia directly for advice and information on adopting a tailored delivery service suited to your e-commerce venture.
Many small business owners now operate some form of ecommerce website, whether it’s a blog enabled to take payments for information downloads or a fully optimised online store. Whenever you take payments from customers, it’s important to create a checkout system that’s user-friendly. It doesn’t matter how ingenious your products or, or how slick and modern your website design is. If your checkout system is overly complicated you will end up losing profits due to abandoned shopping carts and last-minute buyer remorse. To help streamline your website’s checkout process, the following are a few tips to keep in mind.
Make Shipping Charges Clear
Your delivery and shipping information should be easy to find on the website. If a customer only finds out about extra shipping charges at the very end of the transaction, they may abandon the sale. This will also make them far less likely to visit your site again in the future. Be sure to provide clear links to shipping information from every page of your website, or include this information on the product pages. This helps prevent any surprises.
Ability to Edit Shopping Cart
A common navigation issues that arises in poorly designed ecommerce sites is the inability for a customer to make changes to their shopping cart without losing data. They should be able to smoothly navigate between the product pages and the shopping cart without losing any information. Make it easy to delete unwanted items or add new ones before proceeding to the final checkout stage. An example of this can be found in the adult website Vibrations Direct; which includes a link to the shopping cart clearly displayed on every page. If you need to go back to add another butt plug to your cart, you can simply go forward or backward without losing any information. Major online retailers from Amazon to H&M offer this same feature, for a greater user-friendly experience.
Use a One-Page Payment Form
If payment involves multiple steps and complicated forms, you will boost your chances of losing the sale. A buyer may decide that making a purchase is simply more trouble than it’s worth. Avoid asking for arbitrary information, sticking to basic contact details and credit card information instead. Some websites require customers to register before they can make a purchase, which is also a big turn-off that can result in lost profits. Remember that you’re already collecting contact details as part of the checkout process, so there’s no need for a separate registration step.
Provide Multiple Payment Options
The more payment options you provide, the more customers you will draw in. Some customers cannot use Paypal for whatever reason, so be sure to give them additional credit card options. It’s also important to make sure that you have the proper level of security to enable these transactions. Protect your clients by using a secure payment platform with shopping cart software or other professional tools.
Just as it’s ill-advised to require registration as part of the checkout process, it’s also wise to avoid any other extra information. If you include additional promotional information or thank-you messages, you’ll run the risk of confusing your customers.
Essentially, keeping your checkout system as smooth, straightforward, and transparent as possible will help you maximise your sales and keep your customers coming back. This is one of the most important layout issues of any ecommerce website, so it’s worth spending some time to perfect.
Image credit: dan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Drop shippers are the life blood of many online businesses and forging a successful relationship with them can make or break your company. Rather than holding your own stock, drop shippers allow you to take orders which are then passed on to them, and they in turn fulfill the order. There are some drawbacks- most noticeably smaller margins and lack of control offer fulfillment- however, there are also many benefits. Drop shippers eliminate the need to have suitable storage facilities, which can often be extremely expensive; they also mean that you don’t need to worry about postage and packing. Here are five tips to ensure you get the most out of your relationship with them.
Don’t fall for scams
The main reason people are reluctant to use drop shippers is because of the large number of scams which exist. Spotting them is not an exact science- but it can be done. Avoid any companies which require you to pay a fee before you are able to see what products they sell. This might seem obvious but it catches out hundreds of people each month. Always research a drop shipper before you use them. If they are a scam then there is likely to be a lot of buzz about them on the various e-commerce forums that are out there.
Ask if a distributor will drop ship for you
Many of the companies which drop ship for me specifically claim on their websites that they do not offer this service. By making contact with them personally, explaining my business and why their products would be a great fit and by providing some projected figures, I have managed to convince them that drop shipping can be beneficial for them. Thanks to this personal approach I am now the only small independent trader able to offer a certain range of deluxe dog harnesses and several other product lines. Always ask- no matter what their website might say!
Make your first orders to yourself
When first using a new drop shipper I always send at least three orders to myself and people I know. This allows me to see how quickly the items are delivered and how well packaged they are. This is really important. Your customers have no way of knowing that you are not in charge of fulfillment- so any problems here will be a black mark against your name, not your drop shipper.
Visit your drop shipper
Try to organize a day when you are able to go and visit your drop shipper. I believe that being able to really get to know the products you are selling is essential- although I know a lot of internet entrepreneurs would disagree. What a visit to a drop shipper does allow, is for you to take some bespoke pictures of their products. Other companies will be using the same stock images which they have supplied you with- if you can go and get your own pictures, or even better video, then you will immediately stand out from the crowd. This is a tactic which I have used to great effect on my site Dogscorner.co.uk.
Always pay them on time
Many drop shippers require payment before each order is processed and although this might sound like a lot of hassle it is actually my preferred means of operating, as it ensures all payments are up-to-date. Forgetting to pay your invoice will quickly lead to a deterioration in any relationship. I know several entrepreneurs than have made an honest mistake only to find a huge back log of unfulfilled orders and telephone lines jammed with angry customers.
Image credit: www.nchannel.com