One of the most exciting business opportunities for many budding entrepreneurs is in the world of ecommerce. It is low cost, scalable and the market for online shopping is growing at a rapid rate. Just ask the founders of Who Gives a Crap, an online business selling toilet paper that has grown so fast it has donated more than $400,000 in profits to sanitation projects in the developing world since launching in 2012.
But for many entrepreneurs, building a successful ecommerce business is fraught with challenges, whether they’re an old hand or new to the game. With so many moving parts involved, it’s essential to have a firm understanding of the various friction points in ecommerce and the right tools to resolve them.
The ecommerce experience can be broken down into five key areas: browsing, buying, shipping, returns and support. Greasing the cogs of these five functions, either at an overarching business level or in the execution, is not just a business luxury—it’s a business essential.
The ecommerce platform on which your store is built will determine the experience your customer has from the get-go. First impressions certainly matter, and having an easily navigable online store is critical. Ecommerce platforms such as Neto help budding retailers set up shop quickly and easily, in addition to providing an omnichannel solution where their inventory is represented not just on their own online stores, but also on other marketplaces such as eBay.
Offering customers the opportunity to engage more directly with their online shopping experience is a unique way of enhancing the browsing stage. The fashion industry has done a particularly good job of this, with several companies going one step further by allowing customers to personalise or customise their items.
Payment and shipping go hand in hand, and thus buying is one of the most critical stages for online retailers. According to research, a whopping 46.1 per cent of shopping carts are abandoned at the payment stage.
A quick and uncomplicated payments experience is the best way to tackle this. For example, my company Sendle partners with payments company Stripe for our seamless payment infrastructure solution. All the customer needs to do is enter his or her credit card details, with no need for superfluous and lengthy forms, taking the friction out of payments and encouraging completion of purchases.
Likewise, the same research shows 35.7 per cent of customers abandon their carts when they are faced with shipping costs. To avoid this, retailers should consider using a parcel delivery service that offers flat rate national pricing. By using a service like this, online retailers can start shipping instantly, with no contract and no minimum order quantities.
With door-to-door shipping solutions, retailers no longer need to line up at the post office to deliver their parcels to customers, saving them time to focus on other elements of the ecommerce experience.
Often overlooked, returns are a valuable touch point for customers. A good returns experience builds customer confidence in the retailer and encourages people to visit the store again. Some businesses have even been modelled around the returns mechanism, such as innovative online retailer Kent and Lime.
Kent and Lime sends out a personalised ‘kit’ of clothes, with customers only paying for what they want to keep and returning the items they don’t. Having a seamless returns procedure is an integral part of the entire ecommerce experience, one that entrepreneurs cannot afford to ignore.
Customer service and support is now inextricably and unavoidably social. If a customer isn’t getting a swift or adequate resolution through the regular support channels, they are more likely than not to air their grievances on social media.
In that respect, support is an extension of marketing efforts and has a direct reflection on the business’ reputation. As they say, your business is only as good as the last customer interaction. Consider using a platform that can manage support tickets in order to keep on top of customer support and to ensure a speedy response to enquiries.
Bringing it all together
If you have thought deeply on each of these five areas and found the best system for you, you are well on your way. But to truly remove friction from the customer experience requires you to integrate across all of these dimensions so that all of the different tools talk to one another.
James Chin Moody is the co-founder and CEO of Sendle.
Want the latest retail news delivered straight to your inbox? Click here to sign up to the retailbiz newsletter.