5 things small eCommerce businesses should avoid doing in order to attract and retain more customers
It’s no surprise that consumers are increasingly satisfying their shopping needs online. In fact, some industry experts predicted that online holiday shopping would overtake in-store spending in 2017—for the first time.
A Vantiv and Socratic Technologies survey of over 1,000 consumers in October, 2017, showed that 50 percent of Millennials planned to do more than half of their holiday shopping online, and 43 percent (regardless of age) planned to purchase holiday gifts online or via a mobile app.
Many SMB brick and mortar merchants are hoping to capture some of that eCommerce sales revenue for themselves by expanding their businesses to the online channel. There is plenty of evidence to support the logic of that strategy. Even Walmart, the brick and mortar giant, has adopted an Amazon-inspired third-party marketplace in its online channel.
But making the decision to sell online is only the starting point. Getting set up for eCommerce is a multi-step process. SMB merchants with no eCommerce experience are often unsure where to start and don’t have the technical expertise or modern commerce know-how needed to launch an online store.
This mix of complexity and uncertainty has fueled the popularity of turn-key marketplace eCommerce providers like Shopify, BigCommerce, and Square that take care of many of the challenges of setting up an online operation. Even self-hosted solutions that allow more flexibility and customization provide a good deal of guidance for the less experienced.
But getting an online store up and running isn’t the same as being a successful eCommerce operator. Selecting the right technologies and choosing between customization options requires a bit of understanding about the factors motivating shoppers, the rules regulating the industry, and the best practices that foster success. And while there isn’t one correct answer when it comes to things eCommerce businesses should do, there are definitely some concrete things that eCommerce businesses shouldn’t do, regardless of the industry or their specific business.
Read along to discover five things all SMB merchants should avoid when selling online.
1. DON’T put customers through a cumbersome checkout process
Most eCommerce operators want to collect their customers’ information during checkout so they can follow up with offers, discounts, and promotions in the future. It’s a great idea. But how you go about collecting that information can cause you to lose the customer, not to mention their contact information.
Kissmetrics reports that account registration is the number one cause of shopping cart abandonment. They estimate that up to one-third of customers may leave a site rather than complete a lengthy account registration.
Luckily, it’s possible to capture information and have a frictionless checkout experience at the same time. Make a customer-friendly checkout experience your top priority, and with a little creative thinking, you can convince customers to willingly offer you their information.
Consider offering a guest checkout option, or request more information in exchange for a promotional item or a discount on their order. Or you can attempt to collect more information after the sale is complete. Many eCommerce retailers are already doing this successfully. You can too. For inspiration, think about your favorite online retailers and what you like about their checkout process.
2. DON’T limit your customers’ payment options
It’s always a good idea to allow your customers to choose their payment method. But it’s even more crucial in the eCommerce space where people have heightened concerns about security and the inherent risks of entering credit card details online. Some consumers are diehard users of PayPal and won’t pay any other way online. Others may only use certain cards that have added security features. And increasingly, there are consumers who prefer the security and convenience of using a digital wallet.
If you don’t allow customers to use their preferred payment method, you may lose the sale. Javelin Strategy & Research reported in 2014 that over 80 percent of online shoppers had made an eCommerce purchase using an alternative payment method (non-credit card) in the past 12 months.
That’s a lot of missed revenue for sites that have limited payment options. And alternative payment methods have significantly grown in popularity since 2014, making it even more likely that your potential customers will use alternative payments. Make sure you can meet customer expectations by offering all of the payment types supported by your platform and be open to adding others in the future.
3. DON’T be careless about shipping policies
One of the most common aspects of eCommerce that can cause frustration for consumers and businesses alike is shipping. Shipping is expensive. One of the biggest concerns for eCommerce operators is whether or not to charge for shipping—and how to recoup the costs if they don’t.
There are a number of ways to solve shipping headaches that we won’t get into here. But whatever your solution, it’s important to keep three things in mind about shipping:
- Be clear and upfront with customers about shipping costs and delivery time before the sale is completed
- Never charge a customer’s card for the sale before shipping the item
- Make your return policy clear, and always include the invoice in the package
Failure to follow these rules can land you in hot water with the card associations, and it can have a negative impact on customer loyalty too.
4. DON’T exceed chargeback limits
The card brands have established acceptable thresholds for the number of chargebacks an eCommerce business can have without being placed on a chargeback monitoring program. They vary by card brand, but a good benchmark for thresholds is one percent, meaning for every 100 good transactions you make, you can lose one chargeback and stay within the limit.
It’s a good idea to know and stay within your chargeback thresholds ahead of time rather than finding out what your limit is the hard way. Once you’ve been placed on a monitoring program, it can be very difficult to regain your footing since the plan comes with additional fees and severe penalties for additional chargebacks.
5. DON’T neglect mobile users
Every customer who visits your website should have a good browsing experience. The site should look and perform just as well on a handheld device as it does on a desktop computer. That doesn’t happen by accident, it happens by design—by responsive web design and dynamic stylesheet languages to be precise.
A responsive design means the site can recognize the characteristics of a device that is displaying the page, including the width of the browser, and adapt the images and content display accordingly. That way, the website will look and work the way you want it to, for every customer, regardless of how they’re viewing the site.
Don’t underestimate the number of customers who will be accessing your site on their mobile phones. Statista reports that in 2017, 34 percent of all U.S. eCommerce retail purchases were made on a mobile device and predicts that number will reach 53 percent by the end of 2021.
If you keep these five simple, yet crucial tips in mind as you develop your eCommerce site, you’ll be off to a great start. Want even more practical advice on how to design and operate an eCommerce retail business? Download the Everything eCommerce eBook. It’s packed with practical tips like these to help eCommerce newbies and hopefuls get the best possible return on their eCommerce investment.