“Online retail is booming and is the next big thing!” Rest assured, this is not an overly-enthusiastic rhetorical claim by some zealous internet purist. Economists and retail analysts agree that online retail has shown steady progress over the last few years and is here to stay.
According to Business Insider, worldwide ecommerce sales increased by 15.5% this year from 2017. In stark contrast, traditional brick-and-mortar sales only increased by a paltry 3.1%. In the US alone, ecommerce sales accounted for 10% of all retail sales—up from 8.2% a year ago. Not only that, online shopping is estimated to be a $526 billion industry in the US, with more than 80% of internet users expected to make an online purchase in 2019.
Why the Shift to Online Retail?
So why this aggressive shift towards online retail? The most obvious answer is the convenience it provides to its users. Online shopping is hassle-free, usually offers free delivery, and saves so much time! For retailers, it eliminates the pressure to continuously expand physically and open costly brick-and-mortar outlets; an online ecommerce portal ensures an additional revenue stream, not to mention the automatic promotion of the brand.
The Secret to Online Retail Success
Online retail, despite all its pros, is not for the complacent or lazy business owner/manager. It requires constant innovation, which includes providing impeccable and super-responsive human and technical support.
The human part of ensuring a seamless online retail experience includes offering attentive customer care center support and omnichannel customer experience management. The biggest pitfall is not responding to customer queries and/or comments quickly and efficiently—rub a customer the wrong way and brace yourself for some irreparable (and fast-spiraling) brand bashing on Facebook or Twitter! On the other hand, handle a customer with the due care and diligence, and bask in the generous lauding and viral exponential appraisals of your brand! The customer is truly the king (and queen) in the online retail world!
Now come to the second part of innovation—the technical aspect. Technology changes fast. For an online business to run smoothly, it needs to be supported by a solid and scalable online inventory management system and strong backend support that tolerates no downtime.
Nothing puts off an eager shopper who has liberally filled up his/her shopping cart and excitedly clicked check-out more than encountering an annoyingly slow response time, and worse, inefficient or insecure online payment services. According to Statista, 42% of online shoppers worldwide prefer to make their payments via credit cards, while 39% prefer Paypal; imagine the volume of business you would lose if an insecure payment system is in place! Your potential customer will be replaced by a sulky user ready to vent out their frustration on social media. Your listing and inventory management must also be par excellence to ensure all the information is up-to-date and you have no surplus or shortages.
Another important aspect is the content on your website, whether it fully describes all aspects of your service or product and resolves all queries of the average customer. Poor quality content and brochure websites do not garner high conversion rates.
Did you know that you only have 0 to 8 seconds to get the visitor’s attention through the headline and the landing page, and even a one second delay can result in a 7% reduced conversion rate? Moreover, detailed product content is considered extremely important by 88% of online shoppers. Not only should the website be aesthetically pleasing and fast, it should be intuitive and interactive, with grammatically correct content that highlights your unique value proposition.
So how to juggle the tricky trinity of online retail, which is maintain the quality of your product/service, ensure a flawless customer care service, and provide solid operational support and backend support systems?
The solution is delegate! A prudent business always focuses on its core product and delegates the ancillary and supporting (but equally important) workflows and tasks to the experts! For online retail, the optimal approach is to get onboard a reputed and well-established support services provider that provides all these services at lower cost than an in-house setup. Doing so ensures a unified and seamless customer experience, translating into higher brand loyalty and return on investment.
Checklist for Getting Ahead of the Curve
- Get call center support to
- answer queries of potential customers,
- resolve any issues that arise with current ones
- provide omnichannel support: email, social media, text, phone, fax etc.
- manage your customer database to keep track of purchasing history and loyal customers
- manage your feedback and reviews to convey a positive brand image and transform disgruntled customers to satisfied repeat customers, and
- give technical support in case glitches appear on the online platform.
- Invest in backend support for your online retail platform to ensure
- fast loading speeds, working links, pages, and graphics,
- a responsive shopping cart, and
- a secure online payment system.
- Partner with an ecommerce support services provider to
- manage your ecommerce brand,
- ensure up-to-date listing and inventory management,
- optimize product information through data entry, data cleansing, product catalog management, and indexing services and
- provide order processing and tracking services.
- Get an expert content writer to ensure your website’s content is
- search engine optimized and
- grammatically correct.
Case in Point
PatPat, an online apparel company that aims to make affordable quality apparel for moms and kids, seems to have nailed the online shopping experience just right. They focus on providing reasonable, trendy, and quality wear. But what truly makes them stand out in the jungle of online apparel sites is their attentive customer care. Did they deviate from their core competency of providing apparel to focus on managing the omnichannel customer experience?
Of course not, they simply recruited a customer care center expert. Initially, they only needed two customer care agents but the number grew exponentially as their business flourished, and they now have 30-plus agents ensuring an empathetic customer care service. The increase in this number shows how important a well-equipped customer care center is! Their 24 hour call center manages their brand image by providing customer service, omnichannel support, and ecommerce support services.
PatPat is flourishing because the work is done in unison—PatPat focuses on and provides the core product while IdeasUnlimited helps add value to PatPat’s value proposition. Indeed, a win-win situation!
In a nutshell, retailers that have not figured out how to build a powerful presence online, have not invested in doing so, and are not planning to do so in the future will be left behind. Online retail is certainly not a fad—it is here to stay. The way to get ahead of the curve is to focus on your core competencies and partner with a specialist support services provider for support systems—let your product shine on a scalable and efficient ecommerce platform!