The Whole 9 Yards on E-Commerce

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Success in E-commerce means a great website, an efficient supply chain, and good customer support.

E-commerce steps

With an unprecedented ability to compare prices and shop around without ever leaving the house, more and more people are utilizing E-commerce. In this market, keeping customers and creating a positive buying experience is more important than ever before. Some companies have sought to become the cheapest, resulting in lower margins and larger profits.  Others have invested in being the fastest and most reliable in order to set themselves apart through service and product value.  Companies are seeing these investments pay off as positive customer experiences, leading to repeat business.

So how are successful E-commerce companies setting themselves apart? The internet. Yes, that seems obvious because that is literally the definition of E-commerce. But how companies utilize this tool is the defining factor between good and great. Ten years ago, you could use a boring and inefficient web page for your business, and customers would be ecstatic. The internet was new enough that people were happy with the ability to shop online, and didn’t care too much about looks or functionality. Today, the bar has been significantly raised. See the list below for the keys to success in the E-commerce world.

1. Fast and Efficient Website Usage

In today’s world of instant gratification, customers don’t want to wait for screens to load. For instance, one study showed that for every 1 second of page load time, customer satisfaction went down by 7%. To me that seems a bit excessive, but if a competing site loads instantly, which would you rather shop on? Broken or outdated links are also dissatisfying to customers.

2. Website Functionality

It can be frustrating navigating through a complex website to find what you want. Customers need to be able to quickly and easily find what they are looking for. To do this, creating a logical menu hierarchy that fits your product line is essential. Also, a site search engine that is actually useful can be great tool to find products. If customers are unable to find what they need, they may assume you don’t sell that product and begin looking elsewhere.

3. Mobile Compatibility

Almost everyone nowadays owns a smart phone and they want to be able to use it–for everything. And that of course includes shopping online. It is crucial that E-commerce sites have an app or mobile version. Some companies are even using a mobile first strategy, where their focus primarily lies in promoting and improving their mobile app before worrying about the desktop site.

4. Website Content

Do your products have detailed descriptions and pictures? If not, you are a step behind the competition. This is extremely important when shopping online. It can be difficult to know what you’re actually getting without seeing it in person, so the details you provide have to paint a clear picture of the product. Customers are also looking for reviews, videos, frequently asked questions, etc. to get further insight on how the product looks, feels and functions.

5. Customer Reviews

How often do you look at customer reviews before making a purchase online? According to an online poll, 61% of you answered yes to that question. Reviews have become an integral part of the online shopping process. They create conversations about the product that give it life; real people giving their real life experiences using a particular product. And that realism adds trust to these reviews; so much so that reviews are even more trusted than the manufacturer’s description. Surprisingly, even negative reviews are good for overall sales of the product. If every review was 5 stars, wouldn’t that be a little skeptical? Having some bad reviews adds to that realism and trust. It stirs up and adds to the conversation. Any publicity is good publicity, right? Now don’t get me wrong, if too many of the reviews are bad, that will indeed effect sales of that product negatively.

6. Customer Support Systems

The next entity customers today expect when using E-commerce is an online support system. How quickly can issues they face be resolved? Most customers prefer a “do it yourself” or self-service support system rather than having to call in. A good website should allow most issues to be resolved online without much effort. For example, it has become nearly standard practice to be able to return an item or track a shipment with a few simple clicks. Having to call for help is considered a last resort and typically means the issue is a bit more complicated. And let’s face it, with the modern age of texting and email, many people simply don’t like talking over the phone unless they have to.

7. Social Media

Social media is a powerful tool that can be used to connect to your audience. It allows companies to show off their latest products and reach out to first time customers. It also gives a way to see what customers are saying about your products, similar to customer reviews. And recently, social media has reached an almost disturbing level of targeting audiences. Have you ever seen advertisement and wonder how they knew you liked that brand? That’s because they do. Advertisement optimization can target customers based on their Facebook likes, age, location, job title, interests and many more. So yes, the internet can basically read your mind and hit you with ads that you are more likely to click on.

8. Supply Chain

So you think you have E-commerce mastered after reading this, but you are forgetting about what goes on behind the scenes. Customers want their products fast; free 2-day shipping has almost become a standard. We can thank the great improvements in supply chain that have made this possible. To put it simply, supply chain in the world of E-commerce is the entire process from an order being submitted online, to when it arrives at your doorstep. Many businesses will turn to a material handling integrator, such as Bastian Solutions, to help improve and perfect their distribution networks. Developing an efficient supply chain network will help eliminate quality errors, improve delivery times and throughput, reduce inventory and decrease overall costs.

9. Adaptability and Growth

In 2015, online sales in the United States were at $335 billion; that is roughly 8% of all retail.  This number is expected to reach $414 billion by 2018, which is roughly 11% of all retail. It is not difficult to see where this trend is going, which is why it is so important for the E-commerce world to be quickly adaptable to handle this significant growth. Shape a company and culture that embraces change and encourages experimentation. Keep evolving and growing to stay of ahead of trends, or even create the trends yourself.

Danny joined the Bastian Solutions team as a Project Engineer in February 2016 and is based out of the Grand Rapids office. He has been involved in troubleshooting the Amway facility as well as making updates and improvements. Danny is experienced in project management, industrial engineering and continuous improvement.

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