To stay competitive in ecommerce, you should always be searching for opportunities to improve your website and the experience it offers your customers. Over the course of helping several clients bolster their ecommerce businesses this year, we noticed a few common tactics that were effective at improving sites in a variety of areas:
Your product pages should provide shoppers with as much detail as possible so customers can comfortably "add to cart" without needing to leave your site to do additional research... and potentially find the information through a competitor. Think about ways you can enhance manufacturer-provided content to make it more robust and preemptively answer customer questions.
Call monitoring tools (if your customer service department uses them) can be a great resource for pinpointing areas of the customer experience that need improvement. Reviewing customer service calls can reveal patterns or errors you may not find otherwise, such as missing information (see above), frequently asked questions, or areas where CSRs need more training.
Cart & checkout
Upgrading the functionality of your site's cart and checkout process can be the most effective tactic for turning abandoned carts into completed purchases. Of all the strategies for improving ecommerce performance, this may be the one that most e-tailers struggle with. It's also perhaps the subject we've covered the most extensively on our blog. Click here to browse our collection of ideas for making better checkout pages.
The internet, and by extension online shopping, is without borders. Often, fast-growing ecommerce companies are eager to extend their business to the international level, but it's more challenging than the openness of the internet would have you believe. In addition to logistical considerations, there's also the matters of foreign exchange and payment processing. If you plan on increasing the number of international transactions on your ecommerce site, be sure to consider the following tips to provide your new customers with a user-friendly billing experience.
Research from Ingenico, an international payment processing company, has shown that 25% of shoppers will leave a website if their preferred local currency is not offered. If your ecommerce site accepts more than one type of currency, clearly mention it next to product prices, on the cart/subtotal page, checkout pages, etc.
Add conversion features
If an international shopper reaches the checkout page and doesn't see the cost of their order in a currency they're familiar with, they will most likely visit a currency converter website to understand how much they're paying. If you're trying to reduce cart abandonment, then this "checkout distraction" scenario is one you want to avoid.
Remind consumers about banking policies and fees
Many consumers aren’t aware that banks and other credit card issuers charge fees for currency conversion and/or international payment processing (and any conversion features you provide are unlikely to account for those extra fees). Additionally, transactions involving foreign currency can be flagged as potential fraud by credit issuers and blocked. To help prevent returns, billing-related customer service calls, and cart abandonment, inform your customers of these and other potential payment issues that may affect them. One way to do this is to provide the information in detail on an FAQ page, then offer to direct users there at key junctures – like when they are using your currency converter or when your checkout system detects foreign billing information.
There are several reasons why shoppers choose to abandon carts. But in most cases, the reason boils down to checkout pages with poorly designed user experiences. In a behavioral survey of 1,300 online shoppers conducted by ecommerce technology company, Namogoo, 75% cited the importance of an "easy checkout process" for a desirable shopping experience. According to the survey, the following UX issues had the greatest influence on cart abandonment rates. Are you addressing these on your ecommerce site?
More than half of those surveyed (63% of mobile and 53% of desktop users) said that excessive or repetitive form fields at the checkout stage were the most frustrating part of shopping online. With this in mind, think about ways you can streamline the process of submitting information during checkout. For example: incorporating autofill features into your delivery/billing address forms. Or if your ecommerce site requires account creation to complete a purchase, consider alternatives like Guest Checkout or social media login functionality.
If your checkout process loads too slowly or crashes, that’s definitely going to cost you sales. Make sure to test your site's checkout thoroughly by accounting for as many user actions as possible, like using the browser’s back button (in the above mentioned survey, 36% of mobile shoppers abandoned their carts when the back button didn't work as intended, requiring them to re-enter all of their purchase confirmation information). Additionally, look for ways to proactively help users avoid checkout errors. For example, you can automate error messages so they appear dynamically as each form field is filled out, rather than after the user attempts to submit the info.
Distractions and Clutter
Shoppers are more likely to abandon their carts if any of the steps for finalizing the purchase are unclear. The Namogoo survey found that 46% of users consider website navigation to be a deciding factor for whether to purchase from that site. Similarly, 29% of users said that pop-ups and interstitials on the checkout page distracted them from completing their purchases and negatively affected their perception of the website. Keep the checkout flow as clean as possible by saving non-checkout CTAs (e.g. "Sign up for our Newsletter" or "Other products you may like") for the "Thank You" page, and adding features that help users progress with checkout rather than pause it – for example, adding options to change the quantity, color, size, and other attributes of the items in their order without having to leave checkout.
More and more ecommerce businesses are adopting omnichannel strategies to get their products in front of more customers around the web. Most e-tailers are already familiar with adding their products to channels like Amazon and eBay, but what about Google Shopping?
In a nutshell, Google Shopping is a pay-per-click advertising channel, but instead of text ads, users are shown robust product listings from your website within Google. These shopping-enhanced adverts mostly appear under Google's "Shopping" tab. But, if you've optimized your adverts properly, they can also appear in Google's main results for certain user queries. When a user clicks on your ad, they are directed to a product page on your website. Since many consumers begin their "buyers' journey" with a Google search, this can be an effective way of reaching new customers.
The factors Google considers when deciding what search queries should trigger your ads includes not only your bidding activity, but also the content of your product listings. Therefore, in order to get the best ROI from Google Shopping, you need to strategically optimize the content of your listings.
For example: per Google, listings that contain poor-quality images may be prevented from appearing in search results. Read Google’s guidelines for high-quality images and make sure your listings are meeting this criteria.
Additionally, Google wants to present users with complete information related to their queries. To help your listings perform better, take the time to fill out all of the requested fields (Title, Description, Product Category, Availability, etc. etc.) with complete and accurate information. Then, put a process in place to make sure your listings stay up-to-date with relevant info.
If you take care to cultivate your listings, analyze performance data, and bid strategically, Google Shopping can be an effective addition to your business’s omnichannel presence.
As your ecommerce business grows, the pressure increases to obtain more SKUs, staff, and facility upgrades. There are two paths you can take to invest in your growth: in-house managed expansion, or outsourced expansion through a third-party logistics provider (3PL).
Generally, your available resources, immediate needs, and planned rate of growth all factor in to deciding which path offers the better ROI. Since each strategy has its pros and cons, choosing between the two can be harder than it sounds. To help you decide which expansion path is best for your business and long-term strategy, you should consider the following areas.
Packaging & kitting considerations
Do your orders require simple packaging that can be prepared inexpensively in bulk quantities, or do they demand a more complex packaging procedure? If an intricate package is part of your product’s appeal or branding strategy, it may be worth keeping production in-house to maintain close control over the process and/or avoid transitional hiccups. But, if you have no such customization concerns, a 3PL may be a more cost-effective option. Although, depending on your customization needs and the 3PL’s capabilities, outsourcing may still be a good choice. For example, at Fulfillment Works, we have lots of resources to design and produce custom packaging for our clients at minimal cost.
Human capital considerations
3PL providers usually have all the resources needed to help clients start expanding right away. If you have a small staff or your executive team lacks the experience or availability to execute on growth initiatives in a timely manner, outsourcing is typically the better path for expansion.
Technology & equipment considerations
Upgrading to a new WMS or adding new equipment to distribution facility requires a sufficient budget and an integration strategy that minimizes operational disruption. The more complicated your expansion needs are, the more difficult they will be to accomplish entirely in-house. Since 3PL providers already have the technology and equipment in place, they may be the better choice for businesses that need rapid expansion of facilities or operational capabilities.