If you look back on the last time you visited an eCommerce store and made a purchase, it was likely sometime this week or during the holiday peak rush. The eCommerce game has changed so significantly in recent years that it’s become a regular part of our lives. For some of your shoppers, eCommerce has a prominent place in their daily activities.
Your eCommerce store needs to be at its best to capitalize on that and beat out the competition.
So, we’ve put together five improvements for your ECommerce store that you can quickly, efficiently, and affordably implement as you start the New Year.
1. Upgrade your cart and checkout
Your eCommerce business has never had more competition. ECommerce more than quintupled in the U.S. from 2010 to 2020, reaching $861.12 billion. That competition is even more challenging in the final push for sales during the year-end holidays. Now, your store has plenty of data to use to give you a better chance in 2022. It all starts with the shopping cart and checkout process.
ECommerce stat roundup from Red Stag | Source
Improve your cart’s utility by ensuring it travels with customers across every page. Have it store what’s in the cart for as long as possible — and use this for retargeting if you’re able to track your audience. Take that same approach of cart visibility to pricing and fees.
More than half of shoppers say they’ll abandon a purchase because of an unexpected cost. Combat this by eliminating any hidden fees you have and generate a shipping estimate in the cart as it follows your audience from sales page to sales page. Inputting a ZIP code can help you provide that estimate. Flagging it specifically as an “estimate” minimizes the surprise factor.
For the checkout process, you’ll want to minimize and streamline, too. Allow someone to move through the entire process with as few screens and form fields as possible. You can start by allowing people to sign in with other platforms, such as Google or Facebook accounts. Ensure people can check a box to have shipping and billing addresses automatically the same, and reduce fields like phone numbers that you don’t actively need or use.
Not sure how to achieve some of these options? Start by looking at the plugins and tools made specifically for your eCommerce platform.
2. Prioritize one selling point per page
ECommerce website improvements often focus on design and page elements. This year, instead of trying to cash in on what’s flashy — like drone footage or auto-play background videos — simplify your approach. Take the standard advice of reducing page size and elements for loading faster, and then crank it up a notch.
Design your sales pages to promote one idea and have as few buttons as possible. Set a core message for your store or individual products. Tweak copy around that message and emotional appeal that resonates with your audience. Build it continually across your pages so that every product, post, and sales page will reinforce your value and core message.
If you don’t have the team or time for consistent refreshes, focus on bringing everything back to your brand staples. If you have the capability, consider methods that would continue the holiday themes or emotional anchors that worked well at year-end. Scarcity is often a key holiday-sale motif because not only are products scarce, but so is the time to buy and have goods shipped. That’s a tactic you can use throughout the year too.
Expanding on the scarcity approach, you want everything to highlight: “Act now before it’s too late!” Copy should discuss how the product works best right now. Countdowns should focus on sale timelines and product availability. Push the reader to want it immediately, instead of thinking of it as an investment. Grip them, keep them hungry, and minimize all the other menu, search, and ‘related product’ content so that your audience has just one outlet for that drive.
3. Share your values
People want to buy from brands that have the same values. You’ve got to express yours to gain that benefit, and it can lead to significant gains. In the U.S., 83% of Millennials say it’s essential for them to buy from companies that share their values. They’ll also pay more for your products if proceeds go to charity or you’ve got programs that give back to the community.
So, look for options that already align with your business interests. That might be supporting the local community, having goods made in your country, or securing eco-friendly commitments to things like fewer plastics. In some cases, like moving from Styrofoam to biodegradable peanuts, you have environmentally friendly options that also ensure you meet business regulations.
Statistics from the 5W 2020 Consumer Culture Report | Source
These benefits hold true year-round, but they may help you most during a sales bonanza. You need every advantage when it comes to securing holiday dollars. However, these values have long-term benefits too, by creating connections with casual visitors and new shoppers.
Getting your charitable connections or building out website content around your values now can help customers decide to buy from you over a competitor. Plus, they make great additions to marketing campaigns by highlighting many of the charitable aspects of your operations. The sooner they’re on your site, the sooner you can tie these to campaigns around common themes, from holidays to being eco-friendly to giving back in general.
4. Streamline returns
Marketers often prioritize the sales funnel and pipeline, which means interactions happening after the buyer’s journey can be excluded from materials. However, you should leverage some eCommerce business practices when they’re beneficial for customers. One of the most significant areas is the processing and management of returns.
During the pandemic, we saw a rise in eCommerce purchases and returns. With order volumes expected to stay high, returns are just as likely to remain elevated. Simplifying and streamlining returns benefits you and your customers. For marketers, it gives you a potential competitive advantage to highlight before the sale.
Have your company work through the process to streamline it, minimize requirements, and clarify your needs with customers. Create warehouse space specific to returns so that your team can check and review them quickly. That helps customers get paid or new goods back faster. You want that because 92% of consumers will buy from you again if the return process is easy.
When that process improvement is finished, refresh your email campaigns around returns. Send customers information about the process or elements they need, like return labels. Follow-up emails should ask about the process. When someone is happy, ask for reviews and provide links.
5. Improve your shipping
Fast and free shipping options are two things that customers still demand. A lack of either can lead to significant cart abandonment. However, offering both gives you a chance to make the right pitch to nearly every member of your audience. Thankfully, faster shipping and free shipping options are both affordable if you have the right partner or plan.
Consumer habits and preferences for shipping | Source
Making this affordable requires a consistent process and approach. You’ll want to determine how you can afford this and then market that to customers. There are opportunities to turn your fast and free shipping methods into a sales pitch, giving people what they want or nudging them to slightly increase their order values.
A few of the more common ways eCommerce brands make free shipping affordable are:
- Setting free options as slow ground shipping
- Limiting free shipping, such as offering it only on new products or making it unavailable for discounted items
- Setting a minimum order-value threshold for free shipping
- Baking the cost of shipping into product pricing, ensuring you’ve paid for it on every order
Thankfully, these solutions can be implemented quickly via nearly all leading eCommerce sales platforms. And, adding faster shipping options typically only needs you to verify that your warehouse can process those orders quickly. Your big task will be verifying that orders are working correctly, creating on-site messaging, and updating your ad campaigns to highlight that free shipping.
Weigh the options open to you and adjust based on what’s right for your audience and business. For example, while you may reduce your margins on some orders, adding a threshold for free shipping can improve your overall average order value. For larger and more expensive goods, customers are usually willing to either wait longer or have a higher cost threshold for shipping, making it easier for you to recoup some costs.
If you’ve grown too much to do this yourself, or can’t afford to expand to a new facility, find a third-party logistics provider (3PL) to handle a channel’s sales as a test run. Give them 30 days to see if your revenue per sale increases and if customers are happier.
ECommerce Store in Conclusion
With the start of another year, we can’t help but take a look back to last year. It felt like no one was able to catch their breath last year, and there’s a risk this year will be the same. Your eCommerce store and business can avoid some of that concern with best practices listed above. While they’re must-have improvements, each can be completed easily in the first quarter of the year.
We think that refreshing your page messages, connecting with customers emotionally and via shared values, and improving service elements like checkout and returns can all benefit you significantly. When determining where to start, look for the best places to improve the customer experience. Put them first in your ECommerce store, and you’re in the best position to have them return.
Jake Rheude is the Vice President of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of ecommerce. He has years of experience in ecommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.