For many small business owners, e-commerce is a veritable godsend: with more and more consumers taking their money online, it’s no longer necessary to invest in a physical storefront, hire people to man it, or keep inflexible hours.
However, it’s not to say that taking your operation into the digital age is without its own set of challenges. Below are some of the most common ones you may come across as an e-commerce retailer:
As of current estimates, there are between 12 and 24 million e-commerce sites available globally, and more are created every day. It’s a highly competitive market that can feel stifling for a small business just starting out—one that doesn’t yet have an established brand identity or a following to speak of.
With many other online businesses offering the same products and services that you do at competitive prices, the question of how to attract a customer to patronise yours instead of others' can be a difficult one to answer. E-commerce retailers must distinguish themselves from their competitors and stand out from the crowd to attract buyers to their business. Having a professionally designed website that is optimised for both mobile and desktop browsing, as well as Google's algorithm, is one way to break away from the pack.
Order fulfilment is a major component of any e-commerce business, and one of the most important ones to consider. Common issues in this area of the operation include poor inventory management, inefficient packing process, and orders being filed or packed inaccurately or improperly.
E-commerce retailers are encouraged to switch to third-party order fulfilment services in the USA as soon as it is viable for them to do so. These services can take over filling orders and picking and packaging the items, as well as keep an eye on inventory while delivering what the customer ordered within the expected timeframe. They can also take charge of your business' returns, replacements, and refunds.
Ironically, many businesses transitioning from a physical to the digital space fail because their selling methods are weak and antiquated. Retailers can no longer expect to simply put a quality product out and assume that it will sell itself, and they cannot assume today’s purchasing public to patronise a product out of brand loyalty alone.
In the competitive e-commerce space, a business that isn’t making the most out of its social media accounts will inevitably be left behind by its competitors. Social media is a powerful tool that you can use to give your brand a personality, as well as an ingenious platform that enables you to interact with existing and potential customers directly. It lowers the barrier between buyers and sellers who are unable to engage with each other face to face.
Maintaining customer loyalty is another major issue in e-commerce. With many retailers vying for a consumer’s attention, it’s easy to get undercut by a competitor if they offer an additional benefit that you currently do not have, or have better customer service. Identify the weaknesses in your operation and be prepared to apply changes wherever necessary.
The statistics speak for themselves: according to a survey conducted by leading financial services corporation American Express, a majority of Americans will choose not to go through with a purchase after experiencing poor customer service. In the same study, it was found that a third of all consumers claimed that they would consider switching to a competitor after just one instance of bad customer service. Additionally, the average American will tell 15 people about a bad customer service experience.
There is a disconnect between a seller and a buyer in online retail; that’s the nature of the platform. What this often means is that trust is not a given, and it can take a long time to develop. Creating positive experiences and improving customer support can alleviate that disconnect. Empowering customers with the knowledge they require to resolve their own issues with an informative website will help considerably, as does having a dedicated customer-facing team that is easily reachable.
To survive in the aggressive world of e-commerce, a business owner should know how to let go of past habits and embrace changes. These changes not only help your operation grow and flourish; they can also make running it a piece of cake.