Leveraging the assets at your disposal is an important part of growing a business. If that’s the case, though, why do so few small businesses take advantage of digital channels, including eCommerce platforms?
The Appeal of eCommerce for Small Business
According to data published in 2016, 74% of small businesses do not use their web presence to conduct sales. Most maintain an online presence for marketing, but they’re not using the website as an eCommerce channel. In doing so, these merchants are leaving a valuable opportunity on the table.
eCommerce is booming; digital channels give small businesses the chance to reach people all over the world at any time. Going into online sales can give small businesses the opportunity to reach a wider audience than ever, and conduct sales at any time of day with comparatively little additional overhead.
In many of cases, small business owners are reluctant to take that step into eCommerce, and there are a few reasons why:
- Brick-and-mortar sellers are not acclimated to eCommerce. They’re used to dealing with customers on a personal basis, so digital interactions can be alienating and intimidating.
- Verification methods have limited reliability. It’s harder to validate customers’ identities when you’re not face-to-face with that customer.
- More complex return processes. Customers can’t simply bring an item to the store. They must contact the seller, print return shipping, and send it back.
- Less customer insight. It’s harder to get into the details of the customer experience and the sales funnel when you don’t deal directly with a customer.
- Security breaches are possible. eCommerce is a card-not-present environment, meaning that businesses handle a much higher volume of sensitive customer data.
- Cross-channel interaction is a challenge. Of course, eCommerce is no longer a single-channel venture. Businesses need to integrate their channels seamlessly.
The key is to have the right support in your corner. You need cooperation from banks, processors, and industry groups to have confidence in eCommerce’s capacity to pay-off, along with the right technologies to deliver consistent service to customers.
These four points are among the most important to keep in mind before you decide to go digital:
#1. Find the Right eCommerce Platform
You’ll need a platform to work off before anything else. An eCommerce platform allows you to build a digital storefront by enabling interactions between yourself and your customers. These can be fully- integrated or you can build your own; for small businesses, though, an integrated platform tends to be the best option.
These “plug-and-play” platforms allow for easy, straightforward eCommerce business management. Some popular examples of this model include Shopify, Megento, and WooCommerce. They’re all excellent choices for businesses just taking their first steps into eCommerce.
#2. Multilayered Verification Methods
You’ll need an interwoven network of technologies to verify customers’ identities before each purchase. Some of the most important of these include CVV verification, address verification, and device authentication.
I also suggest that businesses embrace mobile wallets like Apple Pay, as they rely on 2-factor authentication to authorize a sale. Of course, these are just a few of the tools you should employ. Only with a network of complementary technologies can you intercept and fight fraud effectively.
#3. Simplify Returns with your eCommerce Platform
Returns aren’t ideal, but they’re not the worst that can happen. Dissatisfied customers who can’t get a return easily may resort a chargeback, which would hurt you more in the long run. Thus, you want to encourage customers to request any returns through your official channels. This means providing round-the-clock service via third-party answering services, and responding to emails, social media mentions, and other customer inquiries in a timely manner.
The internet has no “regular business hours;” therefore, neither do you.
#4. Be Consistent
Customers tend to move between devices including smartphones, tablets, and desktops, multiple times over the course of a single interaction. The experience needs to be just as smooth and customer-friendly across each device as it is in-store.
Your site should be responsive and adaptable to each device. There’s no excuse not to be mobile-ready in today’s environment. You can also allow customers to create an account to track their history and carry single purchases across different devices.