If you are embarking on introducing e-commerce to your business, then try to remember these 5 tips.
What is e-commerce?
E-commerce is traditionally known as “electronic commerce” or “internet commerce”. It refers to the buying and selling of goods and services online, including the transaction of money. In a nutshell, many businesses are now scrambling to sell their goods and services online as they were reliant on face to face sales pre Covid-19. Ireland, in particular, was believed to be losing billions in online sales to businesses outside of Ireland.
Tip 1 – Make the sale easy
When embarking on e-commerce functionality for your website or app, remember there is a customer involved in this process. Make the sale easy for them. Make the process easy for them. Ask somebody to test the buying process that will give you honest and critical feedback.
If the purchasing process is too cumbersome and not feeling secure, then start again. Websites with e-commerce functionality (i.e. being able to purchase online) are losing sales as they are out of touch with the customer.
As a customer, if I don’t get a warm and fuzzy or secure feeling when buying online, I just go elsewhere. Keep in mind that the internet makes your competitors more accessible. I don’t have to get in the car to go somewhere and contemplate the decision making purchase. The internet makes the decision making and purchasing process simpler and quicker – in theory!
Tip 2 – Keep in touch
There is nothing worse than buying online and not receiving some sort of email confirmation to confirm your sale. Keep your customers informed if there are delays. Try to offer an indication of when they will receive their order. Email them when the order is being dispatched.
Keep in mind your own positive online purchases. What did they entail? If you’re not replicating these experiences in your own business, then revisit the process. It is important to not loose touch with your customer once the purchase is made. You still have the chance to make a lasting impression.
I had a poor shopping experience online in recent weeks. I won’t name the business, but I’ll give you an outline of my purchase and you can make your own decision if it was adequate.
- At the end of March, I bought a product online from a website.
- The packaging and branding on the website enticed me and I added it to my cart.
- Lots of their produce was out of stock, so it was slim pickings, but I was grateful to be able to buy my purchase.
- There were two items in the cart. One item arrived about a week later in a plain, unbranded brown envelope. There was no explanation where the rest of my order was.
- I contacted the business to see where my order was. No reply.
- I then contacted again a few days later. No reply.
- About a week or so later I received a generic email (it obviously was being sent to others too), explaining the product was delayed getting to them.
- They promised I’d have it early the following week. I waited. No sign.
- A week later than they promised, the delivery arrived. A month after I ordered it!
However, the most underwhelming part for me was not just the major frustration at a very delayed delivery. It was the packaging. On the website the packaging looked colourful and vibrant. This is not what I received! It arrived again in a plain and unbranded brown envelope. The packaging within the envelope was plain. There was no invoice, receipt or note to explain what my order was and what was in the envelope. I had to go through each plain, unmarked item to teach myself!
In normal circumstances I would complain. However, I took a step back and thought, why should I? They clearly were a business under pressure. They clearly didn’t think about the overall customer experience. I think if I had complained I might have been the straw that broke the camels back. I’m conscious of mental health, particularly at the moment, so I left it.
Tip 3 – Not just the online order, remember the offline element
This is one of the most crucial parts in my mind. Yes, the online order, customer and user experience are important. However, too many businesses fail after this hurdle.
As a business owner, you can fall into the trap of “job done”, online order received, just ship it out! No, that’s not the case! Please remember the overall experience for the customer. It is about the opening of the parcel, if it is a physical product.
- How is it packaged?
- Is it branded?
- Is there a note inside to explain what should be in the parcel and how to return it?
- Is there a “thank you” note from the business? (It doesn’t have to be hand written, just ensure it is on branded paper)
If you haven’t thought through this part, then it is not too late to address it. It might be the logistics part in your mind and for your chosen delivery provider to worry about. However, that is not true.
- What did you put in the parcel?
- How did you wrap it?
- Did you put yourself in the shoes of the customer when they are opening it?
My Bezzu experience
I’ll share a story with you of an online order that delighted me. It is also a reminder to think of the offline, as well as online promotion of your business. My mum is an avid reader of the printed version of The Irish Times. We spoke on the phone after she read an article in this paper and there was an advert or a mention of an app called Bezzu. She knew that I needed to get some shoes online for my little girl, so thought I’d download it and give it a try.
As Bezzu say themselves “Bezzu is a revolutionary app where you can shop for the fashion you love, while also helping independent stores to survive against online giants. Every time you shop on Bezzu you’re putting money straight back into local communities.” This resonated with me, so off I went to my couch and shopped! I was looking for shoes for both myself and my daughter. I found a pair for her and a pair for me. Great app, mobile rendered and a very straightforward shopping experience.
Now for the delight
My daughter’s shoes arrived in brightly coloured (yellow), An Post packaging. It was very appealing to the eye. The next thing I noticed when I opened the parcel was that there was a beautiful handwritten note in the box. It was personally written by the store owner/assistant and was a genuine hand written thank you note on their branded compliment slip. They don’t currenly have a website, but I could still buy from them online as I found the product they sell through the Bezzu app. Very clever!
I’m assuming they have to give away a certain percentage of the sale to Bezzu, but this must work for them while they currently have no online purchasing platform. Their store is in Ballina, so it was a “win-win” for them. I obviously wouldn’t normally buy products in Ballina as it is not in my geographic reach. However, the power of selling online broadened their customer reach. It really was a simple thing, but the hand written note was a fabulous gesture. I’m going to name the store as I mentioned to them that I’d include them in this post. They are the lovely Jimmy Raftery shoe store in Ballina, Co. Mayo. They can be found here on Facebook.
Tip 4 – Mobile shopping and navigating no website for sales (yet)
The above example of stores using the Bezzu app to sell their produce is great for any business that does not have a website. I’d rather see a business use a third party provider rather than scramble to put together a poor user experience on a rushed website.
Another way to navigate this is to have an engaging message service on your business Facebook page.
Again, I’ll give you an example from just a few days ago. The summer shoes I purchased for my daughter in Mayo were great. She loves them. However, I needed to get a pair of something else for the summer that was not open toe and slightly larger. I saw on a local Facebook group that a Wicklow based shoe shop was as “open for business” as they could be during lockdown.
No website, no problem
- I found them on Facebook and sent them a message with the measurements of my daughter’s foot and roughly what I was looking for.
- This was sent by me at 11pm on Friday night.
- By 8am on Saturday morning the store owner had sent me images of 5 different pairs of shoes that he had in stock in her size.
- I chose two, asked for the price and then made the decision to order one pair for the moment and see how we get on size wise.
- I asked how the purchase could be completed and I just had to provide my phone number.
- He rang me and I confirmed my card details over the phone so the payment could be processed.
Now, wait for it! This is the best part!
- Keep in mind this was a Saturday around lunchtime when we spoke on the phone.
- He said that he’d personally drop the shoes to my house and that they would be with me that evening (Saturday)!
- And what’s more, he did not charge for delivery as I was “local”.
- Again, I’ll name this wonderful business and would like to extend my thanks again to Steve of the Shoe Box in Wicklow Town. They can be found on Facebook too.
Tip 5 – Incorporate Customer Feedback
To be fair, I possibly give customer feedback too readily. However, I’m passionate about business and businesses either improving themselves or continuing what they are doing. If we don’t give feedback to businesses, they won’t know if they are doing something right or wrong.
Yes, I should have given feedback in the first example I gave here – lack of communication, over promising and under delivering, poor branding, disappointing packaging, etc. Would you like to know if it was your business? Do you ask your customers for feedback? If not, why not?
When you’re doing everything really well, it is important to know that too. As the saying goes “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” – you need to know if your customers love what you’re doing. Then keep doing it!
If the feedback is telling you that you’re not doing things well, then correct it.
In summary, the key message is not to forget about your customer. Are you making the experience as easy as possible for them to buy online? Is the overall experience a good one? Have you used your branding to its full potential? At Lush Marketing we offer marketing strategy meetings and e-commerce is an area that we are quite passionate about.