How do you ensure your online shop is a success? By getting the basics right you can increase your sales and save yourself time and money. Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, many of us have taken the decision to move our bricks and mortar stores online or to develop an online shop presence. Ultimately, you want your store to work efficiently and not take up too much of your valuable time. Here are some top tips and ideas to help you get the most from your eCommerce site and online shop fulfilment process.
Choice of eCommerce Platform
There are a variety of eCommerce platforms available for you to build and manage your online shop. These platforms vary in range and complexity. Some of the most popular eCommerce platforms are Magento, WooCommerce and Shopify. Magento is a traditional fully configurable platform, that will probably require you to employ a developer to build, test and set up your shop. At the other end of the spectrum is Shopify. This is known as a SAAS (Software as a Service) and is a sophisticated cloud based, hosted solution. It’s relatively easy to set up which means you can quickly and cost effectively set up your online presence and, if you’re tech savvy, you may be able to do this yourself. There are also a range of website building sites that offer drag and drop features , such as Wix, SquareSpace and GoDaddy, to quickly build a site.
Once you’ve decided what you are going to sell online, managing a supply chain of your stock is key to your success. Too much stock and you could tie up too much money whereas not having enough stock will put off your hard won customers from doing business with you. You know what they say…every disappointed customer will tell 10 others about their disappointment. Now that face-to-face contact is more challenging, building customer loyalty is critical to your success. You can start to build confidence in your online store by having an excellent supply chain process. There are a several ways to approach this…
Managing the storage & shipping yourself
Usually favoured by a small start ups and run from your home premises or small local industrial units. These is a great way to get started and will provide you with insight into how you want your goods packed and shipped. However, what may work in your garage may not work for a
professional fulfilment company who may have more efficient and better way of storing and managing stock and fulfilment. Also, as your company grows managing deliveries will become more and more labour intensive to manage.
You will need to develop a relationship with a supplier who will then supply your product on your behalf to your customer. The key advantage of this arrangement is that you will have low start up and operating costs and no physical stock to manage.
The disadvantages are that the item will cost you more than the wholesale price, you will have no control of your stock, no product quality control, no control over delivery and you will have to handle all the customer complaints. Running a successful dropship solution will depend upon how well you can develop a great relationship with your supplier.
Storage and Fulfilment Outsourcing
Alternatively, you can outsource to a fulfilment specialist. This will be a company who specialise in third party logistics (3PL). You’re buying their expertise without the expense of purchasing expensive warehousing, recruiting and managing staff or investing in stock management and IT systems. This frees up your valuable time to focus on what you do best ie running and developing your company.
Your stock may determine the type of storage or warehousing facility that you need. If you are selling medical equipment of some food stuffs you may need to utilise a specialist warehousing facility who are licensed or have refrigerated storage. Some warehouses will only offer fulfilment for stock that is 100% barcoded. You will need to shop around to find the solution that’s best for you and your stock.
Many 3PL companies offer complementary services such as customer services to handle emails and phone support. Customers like the reassurance being able to speak to someone on the phone especially if the product they are purchasing is high value.
Using a 3PL provider will ensure you provide a great customer experience. You’ll know exactly what your stock is like and the condition it’s in and be able to specify how you want your orders packaged and despatched.
Stock System – Save time
You will need a stock system to manager your stock. Platforms such as Shopify have their own inbuilt stock system. If you use a 3PL provider, for transparency and peace of mind, make sure they can provide you with online access to your stock.
Many 3PL companies will be able to link their stock system to your e-commerce platform such as Shopify, WooCommerce or Magento and other sales outlets such as eBay and Amazon. This ensures that orders are received seamlessly, the stock counts stay synchronised across all outlets including face-to-face sales, if you have them, and you have full visibility of your stock availability and orders despatched.
Payments – Save money
One of the most common fraud claims is chargeback fraud. This is where the shopper makes an online purchase using a credit card, receives the goods (often at a different address) that are in perfect condition then requests a chargeback from the card issuer. The card issuer will refund the buyer in full and debit your account. You end up with no money and no goods.
You will see many sites now insist on using extra security such as OTP (One Time Password) or 3D Secure, these services normally incur a charge for their use. Shopify has its own payment gateway called Shopify Payments, which builds in a delay before you receive your funds. This enables you to check payments on all orders and manage any that look questionable. If you think an order looks suspicious you may decide to contact the customer and asking them to send a BACS payment instead.
It’s important to protect yourself against chargeback fraud as this can adversely affect your business, disrupt cashflow and incur additional bank fees.
One other tip to increase sales, is to make sure your confirm or pay buttons are in green, regardless of your corporate colours. We’re trained to see green as go, red as stop and amber/orange as pause. You want to encourage your customers to go go go!!
There is no one size fits all ecommerce shipping solution. Your shipping strategy will change and develop as your business grows and your market expands. This can impact upon your choice of packaging, size and weight of your packages to certain destinations, products that you can legally sell and trade tariffs incurred.
Initially, you will need to decide if you want to offer free shipping, charge a flat rate or charge real-time carrier rates. If you’re not sure, research what your competitors are doing. You’ll also need to decide if you want to offer next day or two day shipping, international shipping or offer an in-store pick up service.
Most 3PL companies will have shipping accounts that you can utilise or you can utilise third party shipping solutions such as ParcelMonkey.co.uk or Parcel2go.com or set up your own directly with your preferred carrier. This last option, whilst possibly creating the most set up hassle, does have the advantage of being transferable if you decide to move fulfilment partners. you will also have complete transparency of your shipping rates.
Your customer journey is going to make you stand out from your competitors. It’s difficult to build a relationship with your customers when there is no face-to-face communication. There are a wide range of email notifications that can be set up to trigger communications to your customers. Regular communications enable you to build a rapport with your customer which can lead to loyalty to your brand over a lifetime.
Platforms such as Shopify have many of standard communications built in and set up for you to configure. For example you can trigger a personalised email to confirm an order, confirm when the order has been shipped and provide product returns information. You can also increase your sales potential by setting up a ‘you have abandoned your shopping cart’ email and possibly offering a discount for their order. These communications are powerful and work in your favour.
You can also set up emails to notify you when a transaction takes place on your site. This may act as a notification for you to carry out any payment fraud checks before authorising the order ready for fulfilment.
How Dawleys can help you
Combine top tips with our range of award winning services to help you successfully run your online shop. Dawleys are an award winning company who can provide you with expert eCommerce storage and fulfilment solutions.
Our services include a stock system that links to the most popular eCommerce platforms and integrates with shipping companies. We provide you with 24/7 access to your stock. Our extensive warehousing and pick/pack services are complemented by our trained inbound and outbound call centre agents, PCI compliant payment processing and a customer services unit.
Some useful links
Dawleys Customer Service solutions
Financial Ombudsmen – disputed transactions