Challenges All E-commerce Sites Face and How to Solve Them
Despite fierce competition, e-commerce sites tend to encounter a common set of challenges, especially when not properly planned and executed. Some site owners are so overwhelmed by these issues that they decide to suspend operations altogether.
These challenges however, are not unique to young e-commerce sites. Even the most established sites, including Amazon and eBay, still face these concerns on a daily basis. The difference between established sites and those that have left the game lies in the way these issues are addressed.
In this overview, we’ll
a) take a look at the most common problems e-commerce sites face and
b) how you can solve them.
Delivering a true omnichannel experience
Customers expect to have the option to shop and interact with their favorite retailers on different platforms. They want to be able to place an order on an e-commerce site, track the status of their order using a mobile app, call a customer service hotline to ask a question about their purchase, exchange it for another item at a brick-and-mortar store, leave a review on Yelp, and get regular updates on upcoming sales or promotions through email.
Source: Packaging Strategies
This approach to e-commerce is called an omnichannel experience. It allows customers to reach your brand whenever and wherever they wish. If your business isn’t moving toward offering an omnichannel presence, it risks getting left behind by the competition. Here are some steps you can take to form an omnichannel strategy:
- Identify key channels: If your company is just starting with e-commerce or is gradually scaling up its online presence, you may start with a few channels first. Identify the channels that your customers prefer. These may include phone, email, social media (and live chat), messaging apps, or in-app communication. You need to integrate these channels and ensure that the content and tone of voice is consistent. You may even use chatbots to automate your responses to common customer inquiries.
- Use context to respond correctly: Your e-commerce platform has a wealth of data about customer transactions. Performing real-time analytics will help you determine the next steps to take whenever a customer gets in touch with your brand. For example, when an existing customer logs into your e-commerce site, the site should be able to access their purchase history, even the transactions made in-store, and come up with relevant suggestions.
Creating a true omnichannel experience may seem complicated, but this need not be the case. The best ecommerce platform for your business will be able to integrate with the different channels you’re already using and make customer data readily available for these channels to utilize.
Shopping cart abandonment
Abandoned shopping carts (where people put items in their cart but fail to check out) are relatively rare in physical stores but present a big problem when it comes to e-commerce. An abandoned shopping cart means lost opportunity costs. Most of the time, a high cart abandonment rate indicates a poorly-designed e-commerce site or unnecessarily complicated processes.
The good news is that you can reduce cart abandonment and get more of your customers to click on “Checkout”. These simple strategies will get you started:
- Increase the page load speed: One study shows that e-commerce conversion rates go down by 7% for every second delay in page loading. To reduce the page loading time, we recommend optimizing the images on the checkout page, removing unnecessary HTML code, or limiting social plugins.
- Implement an exit intent pop-up: An exit intent pop-up displays when detecting that a page visitor is about to close the browser tab. You may use this pop-up to offer incentive deals or discounts, or promote new items to keep the customer on the website.
- Send cart abandonment emails: Some customers abandon their shopping carts because of technical issues beyond their control and forget all about their transactions. Sending a cart abandonment email featuring high converting email copy will remind them of their pending purchase and give them an express lane to complete their orders. Send one email within one or two hours after the cart abandonment, then follow up after 24 hours if the customer still doesn’t push through with the purchase.
With so many competing options available, you need a compelling reason for your customers to stay on your website or come back and complete a transaction. Cart abandonment doesn’t have to mean the end of your relationship with your customer. When you handle cart abandonment properly, it will lead to higher revenue and better customer loyalty.
Keeping customers loyal and engaged
According to Forbes, attracting a new customer costs up to 5 times more than retaining an existing one. While we’re not telling you to abandon new customer acquisition, you need to rethink your customer retention strategy. At the very least, you should exert as much effort on keeping your customers loyal to your brand as you do on attracting new ones.
Building trust and loyalty among your customers isn’t something you can do overnight. The first step in establishing trust is to ensure that your customer service processes are efficient, from ordering to shipping to after-sales service. Even if you have a good product, you can’t expect your customers to stay loyal to it if your customer service is lacking.
Aside from providing superior customer care, you also have to engage your customers and keep them interested in your business. Posting relevant articles to your company blog, for example, will help your customers identify market trends and position your brand as a thought leader. Publishing instructional content will allow your customers to get the most out of your product and solve the pain points that led them to your brand in the first place.
Loyalty programs are also a great way to build customer loyalty. Implementing a loyalty program achieves two goals. First, you get to reward your top customers for sticking with your business. Second, you encourage them to buy from your business more often or to refer you to their contacts, generating even more revenue and possibly converting them into repeat customers.
Attracting quality traffic and increasing conversions
Building a shiny new e-commerce website is the easy part of running an online business. Attracting quality traffic – users who are likely to make a purchase – is more challenging. According to conversion rate optimization firm Invesp, the global website conversion rate is around 4.3%, while for the U.S, only 2.63% of site visits result in conversions.
E-commerce conversion rates vary across countries and industries. If your business is performing at a lower rate than the average site, it needs to attract customers who are ready and willing to buy. You may try the following strategies to increase conversion:
- Focus on high-converting channels: A significant number of non-converting visits come from channels populated with customers who are not interested in your product or are not in your target market. Social media, for instance, is not so efficient at getting customers to convert because it casts a very wide net. An email newsletter, on the other hand, is relatively effective because it reaches people who have previously indicated an interest in your brand, either by downloading content from your website or signing up to your mailing list.
- Promote your best-selling products: Within your site, different products will have different conversion rates. Using a page analytics tool will help you identify which product pages have the highest traffic and the most conversions. These types of insights can help you determine the products you need to promote. For example, if you run a lighting fixture store and your page insights say that chandeliers perform better than pendant lights, you may feature chandeliers prominently on your home page and enjoy higher conversions.
- Use long-tail keywords for improved SEO: If your customers can easily find you via Google, they are more likely to visit your website. Optimizing your website and product pages for long-tail keywords (specific phrases with more than two words) will attract customers who know exactly what they need. For example, the keyword “transistor radio” will lead you to the Wikipedia page on the subject, but the keyword “RCA portable AM/FM radio” shows this Amazon product page in the top three results because it is optimized specifically for that keyword:
Attracting traffic to your e-commerce site is good, but if your site visitors don’t make a purchase, you are not attracting the right kind of traffic. Focusing on high-converting channels, promoting your bestsellers, and optimizing your product pages for long-tail keywords will help you target visitors who are more likely to convert. This is referred to as the Quality-over-Quantity rule.
Choosing the right technology solution providers
Between two or more businesses offering the same type of product, the one that stands out is often the company that has chosen its technology solution providers well. Many online retailers encounter difficulties with growing their business because the solutions they chose were not easily scalable or because they engaged the wrong partners to manage their operations.
Technology is one of the bedrocks of business growth. You need to choose the right solutions for all facets of your business, such as collaboration, customer relationship management (CRM), order management and fulfillment, inventory management, website analytics, email marketing, and finance and accounting.
In this sense, “the right solutions” does not just mean software that offers all the bells and whistles. For small businesses, it may also mean integrations with existing software, user-friendliness, and low costs. For example, some businesses may need specialized bookkeeping software, especially if they handle large volumes of complex transactions. Others choose to start with cheaper Quickbooks alternatives for simpler transactions then upgrade when they can afford it and it becomes necessary.
In addition to choosing the right software, hiring the wrong partners for software maintenance and project management may adversely affect your growth. You may think you’re saving money by hiring someone with a very low cost, but in the long run, you may end up paying more for software repairs and data recovery on top of the sunk costs of system downtime. Select a partner that has a proven track record in implementing the solutions you need and is able to provide assistance as soon as you detect an issue with your solutions.
Operating an e-commerce website brings challenges that are different from those you encounter while operating a physical store or another type of business. As your business expands, addressing these challenges will help you convert them into opportunities for generating more revenue and establishing customer loyalty.
The way that you deal with problems will determine the direction your business will take. Focusing on the customer, offering a true omnichannel experience, attracting quality traffic, and partnering with the right technology partners will help you take your business to the next level.
Jimmy Rodriguez is the COO of Shift4Shop, a completely free, enterprise-grade ecommerce solution. He’s dedicated to helping internet retailers succeed online by developing digital marketing strategies and optimized shopping experiences that drive conversions and improve business performance.