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More Terrible Advice for Online Retailers

Since giving terrible advice was so well-received the first time around, we’re back today with even more bad ideas for online retailers. Read on if you’re looking to avoid ruining customer relationships, losing sales to competitors, and making your operations team miserable.

“A good website is all you need to have a successful ecommerce business.”
Having a website that’s fun, flashy, and easy to shop is the beginning of a good ecommerce experience – but by no means is it the end-all, be-all to a successful run in direct-to-consumer (D2C) online retail. First, you’ll need great products to put on that site, which comes from a solid merchandising plan. Next, you’ll want to understand your customers and develop a marketing strategy that tells them about that fun, flashy website. And, as we all know, you can’t have long-term ecommerce success without both efficient fulfillment operations and consistent, helpful customer care. Nothing can kill the ‘feel-good’ of a great online experience faster than a package that doesn’t arrive on time or customer service that’s incompetent, unfriendly, or unavailable. Pay attention to the aspects of your business that matter – how it’s set up and how it operates to satisfy customer needs – and you’ll find success in ecommerce.

“Your homepage is the most important page on your site and should get the most attention.”
Think of your homepage like a front door to a house: if it’s clean, visually appealing, and has exciting details, customers will want to walk over that threshold and see what’s inside. On the flip side, if it looks like something out of “Tales from the Crypt,” chances are they’ll head on down the road. Homepages should have various information: eye-catching photography, information about top-selling products and current sales, and clearly-defined navigation for easy browsing. However, if you spend all of your time on the front door, the inside of your little online ‘house’ is going to look pretty scary once customers get inside. Ultimately, the most critical pages on your site are your product pages because they’re the pages that do the most ‘selling’ for you. So make sure you include high-quality product photography (360º views are all the rage), descriptive yet concise copy, and any additional information relevant to product personalization, shipping methods and times, and complementary items. Also, make sure your contact page is easy-to-find and has multiple ways for your customers to reach out, whether via phone, online form, or social media.

“You need to capture every available bit of customer information – every time – because you need it.”
Any retailer knows that the key to building a solid customer base is to build trust with your customers. However, asking people to sign up for accounts and opting them into your promotions every time they want to purchase is not the best way to win a shopper’s trust, no matter how many times you say, “We’ll never spam you or share your information, EVER!!”. Thanks to the recent Target data breach and Heartbleed bug, shoppers will be even warier of filling out personal details – and might skip buying from you at all if you force them to. So give shoppers the freedom to check out as a guest; if they are happy with the experience, they will come back again and are more likely to create an account for future purchases. A study found that close to 30 percent of online shoppers would abandon a purchase if asked to register at the time of checkout. Make account registration an optional step, and prominently display the ‘checkout as guest’ option. You don’t need that account registration to process the sale. You want it for marketing purposes.

“Put more effort into your paid advertising than social media since social media is free.”
I can’t believe in today’s world that anybody would believe this. Still, a recent Aberdeen Group survey found that 59 percent of retailers said they weren’t using social media as a customer service tool, so maybe I’m wrong. Sure, you should use paid search and display advertising where it makes sense – but don’t do so at the expense of your social strategy. After all, where do customers go when they want to ask questions, get recommendations, and complain? Social media. Use Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. to communicate your sales, answer frequently asked questions, and even get customer opinions on new products or services – all for free. More than 92 percent of customers trust social media over traditional ads. So get social or get left behind.

“Outsourcing puts you out of touch with your customers.”
It doesn’t – and we’re not just saying that because it’s what we do. When done correctly, outsourcing your operations and customer care can help you get more in-tune with what your customers want and can open up new ways to serve them better than before. Think about this: if you’re outsourcing your fulfillment or customer care because your current in-house situation can’t support your growth, you’ve likely been overwhelmed. You have put customer service on the back burner to make things work. Bringing in a partner to eliminate shipping delays, long on-hold times, or inaccurate orders due to being rushed will improve your customer satisfaction scores! If you take your time to pick the right partner and work together, you’ll never miss a beat with your customers – and might identify areas where you can improve your customer service.

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