This is a guest post written by Melissa Sawyer
The internet has revolutionized many aspects of modern life, from the way we work, to the way we shop. E-commerce is an industry built entirely around the internet. Purchases in e-commerce occur solely within an online environment eliminating the elements of physical interaction that using a traditional brick and mortar store brings.
For it to be viable for customers to shop online instead of at a brick and mortar store, the online experience needs to be convenient and practical – more so than using the physical store. In many cases, this will manifest in the form of cheaper products and a wider variety of stock than a small store could offer.
However, the strength of a brick and mortar store will always be that the customer leaves with the stock then and there. The item is theirs immediately, without any further delay. Shoppers are willing to wait for their items only if the online shopping experience is easy and free of complications.
Excellent service and efficient delivery are just as important as a well designed site
Many online shoppers are simply there to browse. They place items in their basket, but ultimately pull out of the transaction at the end. This is what is known as shopping cart ‘abandonment’. Since online shoppers can easily comparison shop, it is important that the experience is of the highest standard. This extends beyond just how a site functions, and is applicable right up until the product has been successfully delivered to the customer.
Internet shoppers will always be influenced by the aesthetics of an online store. If it works well and looks good, customers will be happy to give you their money. Businesses know this and spend large amounts of money on web development. However, a flashy site but poor customer service is a sure fire way to alienate customers and ensure that they won’t return.
One of the biggest criticisms online retailers face is poor delivery of purchased items. Goods arriving late, damaged, or failing to arrive altogether are common issues with online retail. The New York Times recently ran a piece that highlights the some of the issues online retail face, particularly shipping mistakes.
Certain hiccups are bound to happen from time to time, but if those issues are resolved well, then the customer is more likely to return. If missing or damaged items are dealt with professionally, and swiftly, then a customer will be more likely to give their businesses in the future. However, if a customer is left waiting a long time for an inadequate resolution, then you can forget it.
Steps can be taken to prevent delivery mishaps
It seems painfully obvious, but a well placed ‘fragile’ sticker on a package can work wonders. People will tend to be more careful if they know the item will be easily damaged. Packing orders well is another must. If orders from your e-commerce site keep arriving broken, then your packaging may be to blame just as much as an heavy handed courier or delivery staff.
Selecting a reputable company to carry out your deliveries is essential. As always in the world of business, reputation is everything. Choose someone you know has a good track record of quick, safe deliveries. It is even better to use a company that offers recorded delivery, especially if real-time tracking of shipments is offered. This offers peace of mind to online stores who dispatched the order, and customers who eagerly await the goods that they have paid for. After all, if any complications arise, it will be your job to explain this to the customer. This is a small detail that is often overlooked and can be extremely damaging to customer relations.
Many online retailers opt to do as money.co.uk suggest and protect their items during the delivery stage through the use of ‘goods in transit’ insurance. This means if items are lost or damaged while it is being delivered, then they are covered and costs can be recuperated.
If your store operates locally, and runs its own local delivery service, then it may be an idea to fit delivery vehicles with a vehicle tracking system. This allows you to see the driving habits of delivery staff, with some systems being so advanced that they can analyze the sharpness of turns and harshness of braking. These can be valuable tools for stamping out any aggressive driving that may be responsible for damaging products in transit.
Ultimately, e-commerce is built upon trust
Online shoppers put their trust into online stores to a greater extent than in physical shops. There is a massive degree of faith involved. Online shoppers cannot inspect the items themselves, so are trusting online retailers that the products they order bare resemblance to what is presented on screen, but also that they will be delivered within the time frame stated.
People flock to online shopping due to its ease and flexibility. The majority of time, this will prove to be a smooth experience, but even small errors cost businesses money. It is important to remember, just because an order has been placed and the products have been shipped, it does not signify the end of an online retailer’s relationship with a customer.