Due to the ever growing number of website-building and e-commerce tools available, it has become easier than ever for to launch an online store. With saying that, because of large retailers like Amazon setting the bar for shipping and customer service so high, it’s also easier than ever to get trampled by the competition.
Here are three of the biggest challenges small online retailers currently face and advice for how to overcome them.
Shipping and Tracking
Same- and next-day delivery, easy tracking options, and hassle-free return policies are just a few of the standards that e-commerce giants have set in place for the industry. Customers have come to expect this level of service, no matter what site they’re purchasing from, which places a lot of pressure on small retailers.
Many e-tailers simply give up and charge flat shipping rates because integrating real-time rates is too difficult. This costs them money when shipping is higher than the flat rate and leaves money on the table when it’s not, or the customers just never buy because shipping rates are too high.
Shipping really does matter, and customers notice when their options are limited or vague. Transparency is the best policy when it comes to shipping.
People will buy based on shipping, not on product price, and that’s really telling about how consumers are thinking. They’ll look at a small retailer’s site with a lower price, but don’t get an accurate shipping estimate. If they buy through Amazon Prime, they know they’ll get it in two days.
The demand for easy delivery tracking has increased as well. Instead of making customers do the legwork and track their own package, You, as the retailers, should be proactive about communicating with their customers about delivery status through email or text-message notifications. It may cost you some money up front to integrate the necessary systems for flexible shipping, tracking and returns, but once they’re in place, you will keep your customers happy!!
Once an e-commerce merchant has established itself as a national retailer, the frontier is next. Yet the number of legal and shipping hurdles required to sell internationally can make some smaller businesses have second thoughts before they jump into the global market.
Many small retailers sell online domestically but are afraid to expand internationally. I encourage you to sell to international markets because overseas buyers will generally pay more for U.S. products.
Start with English-speaking countries like Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom to start boosting sales and growing your business. Other countries have different commerce regulations, so do your research to make sure your business is legally compliant.
One of the biggest concerns consumers have is the risk of fraud when they’re shopping online. With highly sophisticated malware and savvy cybercriminals, customers’ card and bank information can easily be stolen if a merchant doesn’t take the proper security measures.
Mike Keresman, founder and CEO of e-commerce payment solution provider Cardinal Commerce, noted that the consequences of fraud are much more severe for small businesses.
“Sometimes, hackers will target small merchants because they can’t fight it,” Keresman told Business News Daily. “Larger retailers that have a lot of orders might be able to underwrite a 2 percent fraud rate, but smaller merchants can’t afford to play the numbers game.”
There are many solutions available for preventing fraud, such as consumer authentication and utilizing trusted, established payment platforms like PayPal and Google Checkout. But I warn you to be careful about placing too many layers of security between your customers and their purchase.
The easier and more comfortable you make the buyer experience, the more likely the customer is to make an order. You in no way want them to feel insulted by your up-tightness.
So relax, stay vigilant and stay smart all at the same time.