The e-commerce industry gets bigger each year, with no signs of slowing down. With e-commerce growth comes e-commerce challenges.
As more consumers grow comfortable with online buying, there are increased opportunities for stores of all sizes. Starting an e-commerce store has also got easier in recent years, with platforms like Shopify and Prestashop streamlining the setup process.
There are, however, a number of challenges that most store owners have to face.
So what issues should anyone looking to get into e-commerce be aware of?
1. Cart Abandonment
Cart abandonment is a serious challenge for every store owner.
Sometimes the checkout sequence is not particularly intuitive or secure, so consumers back out of a purchase. In many cases, though, a consumer has not committed to a purchase, with indecision playing a key part.
When you can reduce cart abandonment levels, this can have a big impact on sales figures. Collecting email addresses allows you to follow up with further promotions, possibly offering a coupon code.
Retargeting can also be used to promote your offers across third-party sites.
2. Product Development
Product development can be a painstaking process for store owners.
Initially, you will need to come up with a product idea, preferably something unique that is not offered across a range of sites. You will then need to have samples produced, before moving on to the production phase.
If the product doesn't prove to be popular, you could be faced with a lot of unwanted stock. You can increase your chances of success by performing research on suppliers, surveying your audience to see if there is demand, and even drop shipping existing products to test the marketplace.
3. Customer Service Communication
From the first visit to a site, people expect a quality customer support system.
You can reduce the need for customer services by providing clear and visible instructions that deal with common questions about shipping and returns.
You also need to think about how consumers like to communicate.
An effective system will cater to the multi-channeled customer preferences we see today, including:
- phone calls
- video chat
- live chat
- social media communication
4. Gaining Repeat Buyers
Acquiring a new customer is a difficult process.
To build a successful e-commerce business, turning leads into buyers is essential. Creating a flawless experience from start to finish gives you the best chance of gaining repeat buyers.
Along with developing exceptional products, make sure the buying process and customer service experience is seamless. You can also develop loyalty programs to encourage people to return.
5. Returns and Refunds
Returns and refunds are vital factors for e-commerce stores.
Consumers don't have the option of checking items in detail, so expect to be able to return them if they are not happy. It is important to have a clear returns and refund policy, making sure it can be found easily on your website.
Successful stores avoid negative reviews and bad customer experiences by going out of their way to please people who have a product issue.
6. Shipping Costs
Numerous tests have been conducted across a range of stores that found offering free shipping led to greater conversions.
Customers can be reluctant to pay for shipping costs, making it a key factor when dealing with competing offers. You don't, however, have to offer free shipping if it doesn't make sense for your business.
You could focus instead on differentiating your products, so customers won't compare competing offers. You can also try to streamline your processes, possibly using a fulfillment center to lower overall costs.
7. Competing with the Giants
Competing with the giants like Amazon can be a struggle for smaller store owners.
Large stores can buy in bulk, helping to reduce their costs.
Their fulfillment process might also help them to save money, allowing them to offer similar products to your own at a reduced price.
Smaller stores can stand out, though, particularly when they brand themselves effectively.
There will be an audience who don't want to buy from a major retailer, instead preferring smaller brands that offer a personal touch.
You can also use social media and blogging to create a community around your brand and the products you sell.
Wrapping Up: E-commerce Challenges
Every business opportunity will have issues that need to be overcome.
One of the most exciting parts of entrepreneurship is solving a difficult problem and growing your knowledge and experience. Each of these problems could stop a store owner in their tracks, but they can also help them move to a new level.
The satisfaction of overcoming a problem could be the factor that inspires you to move forward with your e-commerce goals.