The COVID situation has forced many businesses to rethink their online presence. SHANE O’NEILL offers some practical advice for improving your digital strategy.
Sales continue to increase year after year as customers become comfortable with the process of internet shopping.
And yet, so many retailers are hesitant to introduce e-commerce to their business.
For these naysayers, the risks include the ability to fulfill orders, inventory management, and even concerns about fraudulent purchases. If you’re one of these hesitant few, it’s time to rethink your understanding of e-commerce.
Few people realise that e-commerce isn’t restricted only to online transactions.
Most retailers have well below a 3 per cent conversion rate for online sales. It’s about the entire online sales experience that leads to transactions, and in-store sales that are secured by an online encounter.
Why are sales conversions under 3 per cent? Many independent retailers market their business within a specific radius around their store. Customers can easily stop in to see, touch, and try on the jewellery, which most still prefer to do, particularly with engagement rings.
Why is this important? It’s about customer expectations. In an online shopping experience survey, 36 per cent indicated they would outright abandon a purchase based on a bad experience and 30 per cent would never return to that website again.
More concerning, 33 per cent would immediately go to a competitor. It’s important to understand that consumer shopping habits have drastically changed in the past 10 years.
What sort of functions can be put in place to stop these customers from fleeing? Customers are seeking robust image galleries with product titles, descriptions, and pricing, as well as wish lists, product inquiry support, and, of course, the convenience of finalising a purchase online.
Today people begin their shopping online, exploring many different retailers for the products they are seeking and before reaching a final decision based on that browsing experience. Now more than ever before customers have made a decision before they enter a physical store.
If you think you may be falling behind the rest of the market, consider utilising the following tools to improve your position.
The internet offers many powerful tools that when used correctly, will not only close an initial sale, but establish a loyal relationship with a customer for years to come. Evaluate your current online store with the following ideas in mind:
• Current tech: Mobile responsive websites are a must-have. Current technology is focused on making the shopping experience more streamlined by eliminating consumer hesitation.
Automated systems that contact visitors and users who have products in their shopping cart are commonplace now.
• Product galleries: Offering high quality images of products should be common sense for all businesses, however, unfortunately many jewellery retailers are still offering half the effort required. Your customers want to see a product from all angles to really get a feel for the piece – give them that experience!
• Details and descriptions: High quality product galleries should be paired with well-written details and descriptions, however, far too many retail sites still fail to provide this to customers. The more information you can offer your customer about a product the better. These are your online showcases, make them fantastic!
• Opt-ins and communication: Make sure it’s easy and straightforward for customers to contact you, including opting into email updates and appointment forms.
• Shopping cart and payment: It goes without saying that you’ll need a shopping cart system, but think about offering a number of payment options.
Including an option such as PayPal is also important, as many people feel secure using this service. Offer all that you can, within reason – it would be a shame to miss out on a great sale because you don’t offer a customer’s preferred payment option.
• Reviews: Trust is crucial between the retailer and customer. An overwhelming source for new orders is referrals. Reviews are the online version of person-to-person referrals. Consider platforms such as Podium to quickly build your review numbers.
Add another dimension
At the end of the day, website visitors need to have a smooth experience to finalise a purchase and an important part of that experience is any e-commerce angle. The truth is some customers would rather shop from the comfort of their own homes. Often, these customers have purchased from you before and have a positive view of your business.
Don’t let them down! There’s no way around it – e-commerce will continue to shape how people shop online and there’s a chance the pandemic has permanently altered foot traffic to physical stores.