5 Keys to Success for Online Merchants in 2018
Ecommerce continues to be a growing industry and can be a lucrative business endeavor for those entrepreneurs who embrace technology and are willing to keep up on the new trends that keep their online store fresh, functional, and attractive to buyers. Though online retail sales only made up almost 9% of the total retail purchases in 2017, these numbers continue to increase every year with no sign of plateauing. That means now is the perfect time to make your mark in this ever-growing and changing industry. Do you have an online retail business or have considered starting one in 2018? Here are five keys to your success.
Key 1: An Omnichannel Strategy
The majority of online shoppers no longer browse or make purchases from a desktop computer. They are shopping from tablets, phones, and other mobile devices and they expect a seamless experience no matter what device they are shopping on. If you do not have efficient integration across multiple channels, you will lose customers.
Buyers not only expect a hassle-free and consistent experience, but they also gravitate towards stores that have a storefront app. Mobile device users tend to spend the majority of their time within apps rather than on mobile sites. A recent survey found that 60% of online shoppers prefer storefront apps to mobile sites when it comes to making purchases. If you can get prospective customers to download your app through an innovative marketing plan and plenty of incentive, you can turn fickle customers into loyal shoppers and brand enthusiasts. You can also capitalize on the functionalities that apps offer including push notifications and content personalization opportunities.
Key 2: Security
There’s no faster way to lose customers and damage your business than by experiencing a security breach. Online merchants are especially susceptible to security threats that include credit card fraud, unprotected online services, phishing attacks, and exposure of private client information. That’s why it’s vital that your site has multi-layered security, including tools like geolocation, 3D Secure 2.0, AVS, and others that may be specific to your unique business model. You should also monitor all transactions for suspicious activity, have an SSL Certificate in place, and require your customers to use strong passwords.
Online merchants should also ensure that their ecommerce platform is PCI compliant, which means it adheres to the strict policies and procedures that guarantee credit and debit card privacy. This platform should perform frequent PCI scans and issue updates to scan for threats and prevent vulnerabilities.
Key 3: Embracing New Technology
Online merchants must stay current with (or ahead of) the times to be successful in 2018. This includes embracing new technology such as voice search and chat bots that will help customers find what they need quickly and easily. Incorporating automated processes will also make for a faster and more efficient user experience while also freeing up retailers to focus on marketing, expanding their inventory, or working on other parts of the business that need their attention.
Key 4: Optimize Customer Experience
It’s imperative that your customers have a great experience each and every time they visit your app or ecommerce site. If you’re selling physical products, make sure you have detailed product descriptions and accurate photos and include reviews from past purchasers. To encourage shoppers to return or to buy more, include a ‘products you may also be interested in’ section or offer a coupon for the next time they buy. Incorporate pre-fill forms so customers don’t have to waste time re-entering information every time they want to buy something and include a checkout progress bar that tells them where they are in the purchasing process. Finally, always make sure your shipping rates are competitive (ideally, offer free shipping) and keep in touch with the customer throughout the shipping process by sending confirmation emails when the product ships and when it is delivered.
Key 5: Excellent Customer Service
Technology, automation, and security should never be seen as a substitute for good old-fashioned customer service. In fact, these should all add to the overall customer experience. If you effectively use technology, you can serve customers quickly and seamlessly, but you must never lose that personal touch. Make sure you have options for those customers who want to talk directly to a customer service representative and always make sure customers feel valued through rewards, personal messages, or incentives. Good customer service helps prevent ‘friendly fraud chargebacks’, where a customer experiences an issue with their order and finds it easier to dispute the charge with their issuing bank rather than contacting the merchant. If you treat customers right, they are more likely to treat you right in return.
Taking advantage of the online shopping trends and launching or growing a successful online retail store does not have to be complicated. When you embrace technology, focus on security, and ensure that your customers can shop how they want while still feeling valued, you have the keys that will lead to ecommerce success.
About Jared Ronski
Jared Ronski is co-founder of MerchACT and works with merchants globally to ensure they are paired with the right merchant account for their specific business needs. He has worked closely with higher risk business models and has provided companies of all sizes with payment processing solutions.