Online retailers already have their hands full trying to stay afloat and keep the ship steady in a burgeoning e-commerce sea. As online commerce grows, with experts predicting $4 trillion in annual sales between now and 2020, smart retailers are doing everything they can to improve the customer journey. While running a successful e-commerce store is not rocket science, there are some commonly overlooked simplicities that could make a big difference in the bottom line each quarter. Here are five ways to stay ahead of the game in 2017.
1. Proper Order & Inventory Management
Order management goes beyond knowing what’s in the inventory – it’s also about where it’s being sold, how much is in stock, cost and profit margins, and which vendor or vendors a retailer is using to replace their stock. Numerous reports have found that out-of-stocks cost retailers billions annually simply because website visitors who had the potential to become buyers were unable to convert. Moreover, improper inventory and order management requires a forward-thinking approach that enables a retailer to sustain an ample supply of their best-selling goods.
For larger retailers, they’re able to afford premium order management services, providers. However, a majority of retailers happen to be small or medium-sized businesses and require a more budget-friendly approach. The good news is that most shopping carts (Bigcommerce, Shopify, WooCommerce, etc.) offer integrations or addable plugins that come at a reasonable monthly price. For WordPress users, there are also plenty of quality premium plugins that they can add to aid in proper order and inventory management. This simple step can help an online retailer to reduce cost, increase conversions and better manage their inventory.
2. Streamline Fulfillment
Fulfilling orders is as important as the proper management of inventory. But plenty of online retailers struggles when it comes to delivering their goods in the timeframe they designate while managing shipping costs, packing lists, tracking numbers and customer updates. For multichannel merchants, this matter can become even more complicated because they have to utilize different backend systems to access order data, and none of these systems really talk to one another.
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Fortunately, there are a variety of shipping software solutions out there that feature multichannel integration and compatibility. These solutions talk to the shopping cart or marketplace channels using what is called an API. This allows the software to automatically import order data and customer information, saving retailers time and money. A retailer then can compare real-time carrier rates (to reduce shipping cost) and can generate their shipping labels and packing lists without having to manually copy and paste data. This results in more competitive shipping prices, reduced fulfillment time, and more accurate shipments, all to the benefit of a retailer’s bottom line.
3. Use a Social Posting Service
Social media is becoming a mainstay for online shoppers. A number of surveys from think tanks have concluded that the majority of consumers want to buy from brands they feel personal about. According to an eMarketer study, 45% of consumers only buy from brands they read about, saw reviews on or heard about on social media. Needless to say, a social presence is an incremental aspect of maintaining a brand in e-commerce. But with so many social sites and so little time, what can a retailer without a big budget do to stay in the game?
The solution is rather simple: Use a social posting service. Solutions like HootSuite and Sprout Social take the legwork out of managing social posting. These solutions will require that a retailer spends some time setting up their accounts and getting everything into place. However, once the initial setup time has concluded, they enabled instant postings and can even schedule posts and updates to the most popular social channels all from a single platform—easily shaving hours off the workweek.
4. Add Coupons & Integrated Product Reviews
Coupons and product reviews are two simple additions that an online retailer can make to boost their sales. Recent reports have found that 96% of mobile users redeem at least one or more coupon in a given year. What’s more, integrated and verified product reviews have the potential for an 110% sales uplift on any given product page. So how does a retailer go about adding these two must-have features to their online store?
While it is not possible to add coupons or product reviews to marketplace accounts like Amazon or eBay, any standalone shopping cart or WordPress site can easily be updated. A quick look at the plugins section for WordPress or the App Store (for the designated shopping cart provider) will yield plenty of results. Most plugins are low-cost, ranging from $5 – $49 per month to add. A variety of other providers offer HTML integrations for digital coupons and verified product reviews as well.
5. Make Returns Easy
Lastly, returns matter. Without an efficient system in place to process returns, a retailer is alienating their customer base. Amazon and Zappos have already set the standard for hassle-free online product returns. The Wall Street Journal reports that a majority of customers want free return shipping, but this may not be capable for many small to medium-sized retailers. While some retailers work the cost of returns into their bottom line, when returns are made easy, regardless of any added fees, customers are happier and are more likely to buy from the same retailer in the future. Notably, retailers that can offer free returns have been historically shown to have stronger customer loyalty and improved long-term retention.
Around 65 percent of customers read a return policy before converting, and what it says can make the difference between a sale and a missed opportunity. Even if a retailer has to charge for returns, integrating a system that lets customers process the return and generate a prepaid shipping label online is still the next best option. A variety of software services is available in this regard, with addable plugins and integrations for virtually all platforms being offered at competitive pricing.