You're small, but you're mighty – and you've picked a great time to launch or grow your e-commerce business. At the beginning of 2020, e-commerce in the UK was expected to be worth EUR 222.5 billion, and that's before everyone started to exclusively shop online due to the global pandemic.
While the market certainly is lucrative, it's important to have some differentiating qualities that will drive your business forward. Britain is already a heavily digitised society, with 96% of the population expected to be online this year.
This provides plenty of opportunities for business of all sizes – as well as a high level of competition. Delivering excellent customer service could be the key factor that sets your small e-commerce retailer apart from the pack, and here's how you can do it.
Offer quick and cost-effective delivery
There's often a misconception that small businesses take longer to deliver. Yes, on occasion, this may be true, but sluggish delivery times can often be attributed to a lack of established relationships with the right couriers or third-party order fulfilment partners.
Having a swift and efficient delivery service isn't exclusively reserved for the big players on the e-commerce scene. With Asendia on your side, the same industry-leading delivery options can also be made available to your small online retailer.
If you want to win over more customers, we can help you formulate a strategy to provide free shipping as part of your brand's promotion. Essentially, this tactic means that the cost is rolled into the price of the product, but the key is to do this while still providing value to the customer. For example, if the contents of your shopper's cart have reached a certain value, it may make it more feasible for you to include free shipping as an option.
The other advantage of working with an experienced courier is the insight you'll receive on how to lower the cost of your shipping without compromising speed of delivery. This could mean access to better, more economic packaging solutions, or using a distributor that has the necessary established channels to ensure that your goods get to the customer in a competitive time frame.
Provide a smooth checkout process
One of the biggest turnoffs for online shoppers is a holdup at the checkout. Numerous factors may make your customer feel dubious as they reach that final conversion stage. For example, your e-store's platform may lack the smooth user experience that makes checkout quick and intuitive. Too many fields to populate, unrecognisable payment methods and added shipping costs can lead to an abandoned trolley.
Key tips to improve your checkout
- Remove barriers such as the necessity to create an account or sign in – give buyers the option to purchase as guests.
- Make checkout sequential so that the purchaser can track their progress and estimate how long it will take them to finish the transaction. If they suspect a never-ending series of windows and fields to populate, they may exit your website altogether.
- Provide an easy shipping solution that clearly states the expected delivery times and the prices that accompany each of the shipment options you have available.
- Be consistent with your branding on the checkout page, this will help boost the buyer's confidence when handing over their payment details. Landing on a page that doesn't align with the look and feel of your other webpages may make them question the legitimacy of the checkout.
- Offer payment methods that they know and trust with all the necessary hallmarks and security features.
Offer a simple returns process
One of the first things that may interest your online shopper is your returns process. If it's complicated, time-consuming, or expensive, you may very quickly dissuade your customer from purchasing.
First-time buyers may not have a tangible experience of your brand; they will naturally be concerned about your product's ability to meet expectations once delivered. If their order isn't satisfactory, they are likely to want a quick and efficient returns process.
Your courier or third party order fulfilment partner can help you here by either taking on the task entirely and managing your returns, or provide you with the cheapest and most efficient alternative to ship the goods back to your warehouse.
At Asendia, we offer a comprehensive returns solution that enables your customer to label their item and leave it at a convenient drop off location – this option is available to both domestic and international customers. From there, we will handle the returned item on your behalf. This fast and efficient dispensation ensures that your customer receives a high level of service and that any issues are resolved quickly.
Keep on top of your inventory
There's nothing more frustrating for a customer than making a purchase only to receive an email a few hours later stating that their item is out of stock. This kind of scenario usually indicates poor stock management capabilities or an inefficient integration between your website and your warehouse inventory monitoring software.
For an effective process that not only meets your customer's expectations but also helps you to keep on top of stock levels, it's essential to have a responsive database that communicates between your platforms in real time. Some e-store CMS platforms come with inbuilt tools to help you manage stock levels; alternatively, you may consider software such as Orderhive, Katana or ShipStation.
Minimise delivery mistakes and breakages
While mistakes can always happen, many businesses use operational models that continuously allow for manual errors or poor handling to creep in. Regardless of your company's size, you should always begin your order fulfilment process by building a strategy that's focussed on optimisation and continuous learning – whether that’s adequately training your staff on picking, packing, labelling and shipping your goods, or quality testing your packaging and ensuring that your orders are always sufficiently protected.
As your business grows and the pressure on your resources increases, it may be worthwhile to outsource the entire shipment process to a third party partner that has the necessary infrastructure and experience to handle your shipment needs. This will take a lot of the pressure off of your team and ensure that your goods always reach their destination in prime condition.
Be an excellent communicator across all channels
Nothing gives buyers confidence in your brand quite like an excellent customer and after-sales service. Being responsive on the platforms that your target audience is most active on is key to establishing an image as a reliable and customer-centric business.
Small e-commerce retailers are able to move mountains in this area because their time, attention and dedication to customers is what differentiates them from the big online giants that have a higher volume of communication and queries to process.
Giving your customers the option to reach you through the channels that are most convenient for them is also an excellent way to ensure that you're alerted to important feedback when it matters the most.
Have an easy to navigate website and search bar
User experience on your website is crucial. If you manage an extensive catalogue of products online, be sure to have everything linked up with the correct metadata so that users can find what they're looking for through the search bar.
Since you don't operate a brick and mortar establishment, you should treat your website like your most important asset. Keep your virtual shop front tidy, intuitive and quick to load.
Automation is huge in 2020 and it will continue to be an important feature in any marketing strategy in the future. With so many great tools and innovations, it's not hard or particularly expensive to improve your e-commerce platform and incorporate automation to boost efficiency.
Examples of where automation may apply to your business are:
- Email lead nurture strategy: As part of your marketing plan, you can automate a series of emails that help nudge your leads towards conversion by entering them into a lead nurture workflow. Tools such as HubSpot and MailChimp are a great way to segment your audiences and keep your buyers or prospects up to date with product or industry developments.
- Invoicing: Manual invoices are a thing of the past. Gateways such as PayPal or e-commerce platforms like Shopify have an automated invoicing feature that ensures your buyer receives an accurate copy of their invoice with no effort on your behalf.
- Chatbots: If your sales team doesn't operate 24/7, you can build a chatbot that collects contact details or directs your customers towards existing FAQ content on your website. This means that even though a customer or lead may be browsing your site late in the evening, you're always able to assist in some way.
At Asendia, we're trusted by some of the world's leading brands to offer support throughout the entire order fulfilment process. Alongside our big e-commerce customers, we're also dedicated to delivering the best service to smaller e-retailers, ensuring they're able to seize all the opportunities that are available to online sellers.
Speak to our experts today for insights on strategic order fulfilment and find out how we can help your e-commerce retailer grow a happy and satisfied customer base.