There are many eCommerce best practices your business can follow to reach the next level. Each growth phase requires its own focus, but some foundational efforts will help you no matter your stage. When you’re ready to tackle more sales and higher order volumes, moving beyond that small-business phase, we’ve got seven ways to help you scale.
1. Pursue reliability
You’re not a newbie. You’ve got an established brand, and your quest for eCommerce best practices is all about scaling that brand. First, congratulations. Second, take a moment to think about what got you here. The competitive advantages and high-quality products you’re known for should guide your investment and improvement efforts.
You want to become a reliable store and partner for your audience. Give them what they want at expected quality. Rinse and repeat. It’s a core way to develop recurring revenue from happy customers. Let that guide the eCommerce best practices you choose to follow.
One way you can start to achieve these results is to pursue automation and software-based checks. Scaling means doing more work but not always having more people to do it. So, look for opportunities to outsource and automate intensive practices. You might start with a service that looks at competitors and ensures you’re pricing things correctly for Amazon and other channels.
Automating your email campaigns could help you build a consistent pipeline of reviews; with people, you can send coupons later. Or, you could turn to a plugin that automatically shows customers products related to what they’re looking at in hopes of landing a sale. Order processing and tracking can be automated.
Review processes and systems that help you build and grow consistently.
At Red Stag Fulfillment, we use automation to target reliability for our order accuracy guarantees. By incorporating multiple checks of the products in each order, we can deliver some of the highest order accuracy in the industry. Becoming reliable in that metric has made us confident enough to pay customers for every mistake we make. By being that trusted, we’ve become many companies’ competitive advantage, ensuring an ongoing and healthy partnership.
2. Streamline the backend
Your technological needs will expand as you grow. So, the software eCommerce best practice is to review tools and ensure that everything plays well together. You want customer data to flow through CRMs and eCommerce platforms. Order data should move from your website to the warehouse for faster fulfillment, and then back to customer tools to automate the delivery of tracking information.
Most of these pieces can talk to each other, but it takes work. You’ll need partners focused on eCommerce integrations and tools designed to help data flow. It takes a significant amount of focus and effort to get this right. That’s because you’ll likely have:
- eCommerce platforms
- Marketplaces and sales channels
- Digital payment platforms
- Social media tools
- Shopping cart tools
- CRMs and customer tools
- Order management solutions
- Warehouse management systems
- Tools to select carriers and shipping services
- Business analytics
- Marketing tools
- And more
Every piece of software will have its rules for integration and data sharing. The more you can get these systems to talk, the more information you can leverage. That reduces manual data entry and the chance for human error. It also eliminates some delays, so you can start picking and packing order as soon as it’s paid for, instead of waiting until the next day.
As data moves faster and more reliably, so does your business.
3. Invest in customer service
Don’t let “it takes money to make money” be an adage you roll your eyes at when someone says it in a business development meeting. There’s some truth in that malarkey, especially when it comes to making your customers happy. So, if you’re growing beyond a small business and have some money to reinvest, consider putting that toward your customer service capabilities.
Excellent customer service is always on the list of eCommerce best practices because studies continually prove that it works well.
At the heart of this, we see that investing in customer service can increase retention and drive existing customer lifetime value higher. Knowing also that it’s cheaper to focus on existing customers than find new ones, and customer service tackles two significant growth concerns with a single investment.
The other side of that coin is how poor customer service can kill your business. More than half of U.S. consumers will switch brands after their first low-rated service experience, and that rises to 80% if they’ve had two or more bad experiences. Only about 20% of your audience will forgive a bad experience of any kind — like getting an order wrong or having it arrive late — if they feel that your overall customer service is “very poor.”
Getting it right
You don’t want to be rated poorly. So, it’s time to invest in multiple customer service channels. That starts with your website’s contact information and FAQ pages. From there, add immediate customer service channels when possible. These can include chatbots for answering common questions or looking up order information. Live chats with agents are another smart option that’s becoming more affordable for many growing and mid-sized eCommerce businesses.
In eCommerce, you’re less likely to get phone calls than you are messages on your site or social channels. So, consider investing in agents for these options and train them on how to deescalate an issue. You want the customer to feel heard, and their problem solved. Every interaction is meaningful because it can lead to an immediate conversion or provide opportunities to generate positive reviews.
From a fulfillment perspective, we take the approach that order accuracy and delivery are part of customer service. You start by setting expectations with customers for when something will arrive. Then, you meet or exceed that. If you’re struggling to achieve this at scale, it’s time to speak with a 3PL. Whether that’s us or someone else, getting help can make a significant improvement in your offering and customer satisfaction.
One final stat to consider is that 78% of shoppers have canceled a purchase due to a poor customer experience. Solve that, and you’ve stopped a major cause of cart abandonment. Now, let’s look at ways to mitigate other abandonment risks.
4. Turn your shopping cart into an elephant
ECommerce success is all about getting the right product in front of the right person. Sometimes, that’s easy, thanks to specific intent and direct searches. Other times, it can be difficult, especially when you’re trying to buy a gift for that person in your life who never says what they want. One secret for figuring out what these people want is to head to some of their favorite online stores and see if anything is left in the shopping cart. That way, you can see what they’re interested in and were thinking about buying already.
Your store can do the same. The best option is to build a shopping cart like an elephant, so it never forgets. Look for plugins and integrations based on your eCommerce platform, like Shopify, so that your cart serves as a reminder tool. You want to do this in a few ways:
- Link the cart with customer tracking tools for immediate retargeting
- Have the cart display on every page
- Store cart information so that it’s available the next time the person visits
- Use cart products for personalization, such as recommendations based on browsing habits or items related to what’s in the cart
- Use your CRM to deliver cart abandonment emails leveraging the information above
Having a knowledgeable cart helps your business by giving your more opportunities to sell. It also simplifies follow-up efforts so you can make your case regularly. For the customer, an intelligent cart makes it easy to shop, find what they need, and check out when they want. Sometimes, people leave to price shop, or when something immediate comes up and they need to go to a different site.
An innovative, reliable cart supports retargeting and email follow-up so that it’s easier to win back these shoppers.
5. Build value propositions for every product
Most eCommerce companies, and businesses in general, expand their product lines as they grow. Let’s think about eCommerce best practices covering products and their expansion. You start offering more sizes and colors, items related to your core products, or even create something new to have a unique offer. All of these can help you scale, as long as they’re not eating all your capital through added inventory costs.
You want to start selling these SKUs quickly to avoid the capital crunch. To do that, your site needs to create a clear value proposition for every product. Each item needs to show why it’s worth a shopper’s attention and how it stands on its own. It’s easy to do this for your big money makers, but not every brand takes time to demonstrate the value of smaller items and add-ons.
The value proposition should carry over from ads and marketing to the product page so that the customer stays engaged. It’s why someone will buy this specific item from you. A strong value proposition includes:
- How your product the customer’s concern
- How your product makes them feel because of that solution
- Specific benefits that can be easily understood and quantified — like a zero-shrinkage guarantee
- What sets you apart from the competition
Those elements need to be present for everything you sell, even if it’s a $2 item you typically just use as a freebie or upsell. Not only does this work increase the likelihood that someone will purchase what’s on the page, but it also allows you to make a case for your business if they navigate to another product or category.
6. Expand shipping and reduce pricing
Sometimes scaling means getting the basics right. In eCommerce, that has a lot to do with your supply chain. While optimizing inbound freight can give you a leg up and ensure product availability for shoppers, that’s been a challenging achievement in 2021. So, instead, let’s look at the last mile and how you might be able to improve it ahead of your next business season, even if that’s just a few weeks away.
Start by reviewing your carrier agreements and capabilities. See what you can offer people in terms of reliable service at lower costs. The goal is to offer free shipping while reducing your shipping expenses. Why start here? Because people love it.
Free delivery is the top reason that people shop online because of how convenient it is. That’s bolstered by easy returns, fast sales, friend recommendations, and the chance to have fast delivery too.
Give the people what they want. To afford it, you might limit free shipping to certain order values or slightly increase pricing. You can also renegotiate your rates with carriers, especially if you’ve grown significantly since you’ve had your rates set.
One other point in that chart from Oberlo is the 28% that want next-day delivery. While you might not be able to offer that to everyone, it shows that people want fast delivery too. The good news is that people are usually willing to pay for those faster options. Give them a chance, even if the expense seems high, so that they can choose if they want it.
As you grow, the top shipping eCommerce best practice is delivering goods to people within two to three days. That means scaling your people, inventory counts, and shipping options. You’ll probably need some last-mile support from a 3PL or a significant investment in warehouse space. For companies looking to expand their space and offer faster delivery, there’s one additional step you can take.
7. ECommerce best practices: Regionalize your inventory
During early growth stages, it can feel easiest to manage order fulfillment from a single location. At scale, however, that setup can create delays and cause you to pay much more than necessary to reach customers. Growing too large at one location puts you at risk, especially during times of high sales volume like the year-end holidays.
Thankfully, eCommerce companies can avoid potential cost increases and fulfillment delays by moving inventory to multiple locations. Instead of one warehouse filling every order, you can inbound freight to two or more in different regions. Then, warehouses get the orders with the closest destinations, optimizing your last-mile delivery. It can save you a lot on these final shipments while making it easier to offer those next-day and two-day speeds people want.
Splitting your inventory across multiple locations saves because you’re reducing the last-mile delivery of all those orders. Inbound freight shipments to multiple distribution points likely will cost more than inbound freight to a single location, but most companies save enough on order fulfillment to more than makeup for that cost.
Recent data shows that distributing your inventory in multiple U.S. locations can reduce total shipping costs by 25% and yield 13% savings to a company’s entire bottom line.
That’s why Red Stag Fulfillment offers two eCommerce fulfillment locations for every client. Plus, our locations support regional carriers that can be faster or more affordable for many local moves. Regionalizing inventory for businesses like yours helps us deliver a better service that you and your customers will love.
Bonus eCommerce best practice: Find a logistics partner you trust
Almost no one gets into eCommerce because they love shipping. We’re the odd business out here, and that’s because we love getting fulfillment right. It’s fundamental to our operations. If fulfillment, both inbound and outbound, aren’t your favorite things, it might be time to look outside your business for some help.
3PLs like Red Stag Fulfillment specialize in the warehousing space, technology, people, and carrier relationships needed to keep supply chains moving quickly. Our focus can be eliminating your shrinkage and getting every order out on time every day. Your focus gets to be offering great products, landing the sale, and delivering high-quality service.
As your business becomes more prominent and SKUs get more complex and varied, your fulfillment requirements grow too. Find a partner that understands your company and products, the specific needs you have, typical troubles you face, and how to help you delight customers. Your 3PL should specialize in you, and that’s our goal here at Red Stag.