Global data indicates that consumer use of e-commerce has unquestionably risen during the COVID pandemic and now includes essential and non-essential items formerly purchased most often in-person. These purchases run the spectrum and include cars, houses, groceries, restaurant-prepared meals, jewelry, art, and electronics. There exists a rapidly growing emphasis on convenience or non-contact shopping during these very interesting and shifting changes in our global economy.
E-commerce shopping channels present a different set of challenges for retailers. For some, there exists a significant shift in income from brick and mortar to online that demands a different set of skills and tools to address the accompanying and somewhat different set of customer wants and needs. In the midst of this, the mainstreaming of the mind-body-spirit industry continues, bringing forward a new set of interested shoppers who may be more accustomed to online shopping.
Overall, retailers are experiencing the effects of global shortages and supply chain delivery issues, shortages of personnel, and looming above all of that, the severe and challenging topic of competing with Amazon or Etsy. While no one can predict how long this trend will continue, seven proven strategies can support and encourage your success in online sales as a core component of your business.
1. Keep your primary focus on the customer’s online experience and connection to your brand
One of the best ways to create a memorable online experience with your customers is to develop a sense of partnership. Send the message throughout your site that you are there to help meet their needs, that you are listening and responsive to their inquiries. Through newsletters, special coupons, and private sales, you can remind them why they came to be on your customer list in the first place. Using contact forms or even customer phone numbers, you can offer access to your company that closes the gap between in-person and online shopping. Ask shoppers when leaving your site to rate their experience and be actively responsive to their input.
While some e-commerce merchants send daily emails, many customers don’t like to feel over-contacted. Give them options as to how often you will contact them rather than simply the opportunity to unsubscribe entirely. Use click map software or other tools to learn which parts of your website attract the most traffic. Let the customer guide the experience you build for them. Don’t take a ‘brick and mortar ‘approach to your online store. Acknowledge this as a truism, and you will develop and maintain a successful e-commerce business.
2. Offer rewards or customer loyalty program with incentives and make them reachable and meaningful
Give your customers a reason to constantly shop your website by providing them with incentives and rewards. These types of programs are proven to increase customer retention, provide repeat business and help customers to feel valued, which can positively impact your bottom line. There are a reported 3.3 billion customer loyalty programs in place right now around the world, and they exist in such numbers because they help retain the customer you worked hard to gain in the first place. These programs often guide an online consumer to choose a particular online retailer from which to purchase, help to build and maintain brand loyalty, and most of all, can turn your customers into brand advocates. Offer easy-to-achieve levels of loyalty incentives that avoid customer frustration. There are many types of programs that can “plug in” to your website. Consult your website administrator for the best loyalty program for your e-commerce channel.
3. Offer experiential services and activities on your website
Give your customers a reason to constantly visit your site, perhaps by offering a series of free guided meditations or horoscope readings or book reviews, blogs, a Q & A column with a spiritual teacher or author, or something unique that cannot be found elsewhere. Whether for sale or offered for free, these enticers can include classes, live online readings, astrology forecasts, book excerpt readings, book reviews, or anything that especially invokes the use of something from your online or brick-and-mortar store. Your experiential offerings can change constantly, and something new may not be needed daily, but often enough that visitors will want to visit your site. Don’t forget to use a pop-up form so that you collect opted-in email addresses for your monthly newsletter. This also keeps your customers in close connection with your brand.
4. Create unusual offerings, including subscription boxes, product bundles, or other product sets that increase the attractiveness of buying these items online
Create offerings that appeal to customers across all generational segments, introducing them to your brand and what it offers to them personally. For example, consider offering a monthly themed box that might include several of the following: stones, herb bundles, journals, candles, meditation tools, a featured book, and a surprise inclusion for a flat price. Each monthly box can present a themed collection not available in other venues like Amazon or Etsy. Product bundles might include a book set, a coloring book collection, wisdom or tarot cards, or more. Customers will expect the price to vary according to the content. Make sure your bundles are only offered to customers who shop in your online store, continuing to ensure their loyalty.
5. Offer free shipping
One of the most successful ways that big e-commerce companies create repeat customers is through offering free shipping. ‘Abandoned’ shopping carts most often exist because of the final addition of taxes and shipping costs, which can sometimes surprise and consequently cause a prospective buyer to decide to wait or even reverse their decision to purchase. While taxes cannot be avoided, you can offer free shipping by modestly increasing your product price to cover some of your customer’s shipping costs, but don’t expect to cover your shipping in total. While your sales margin might appear lower than you would like, the recovered cost to get the customer to your site and to keep them as a repeat customer more than makes up for any lower profit margin. You might want to limit your free shipping offer to the United States or your own country or to offer it for shopping above a certain level, such as $35 or more.
6. Create a second chance
Ensure your website software automatically delivers abandoned shopping cart customers a special email offer of an extra discount or something that strongly encourages them to return and complete their purchase! Over time this can account for a significant level of sales. This continues to support your customer’s online experience and connection to your brand.
7. Make it safe
Online shoppers have certain expectations which drive their use of a shopping channel. These include easy access to your product and service selection and equally easy checkout on your site. They also expect contact-less delivery and assurance of online safety and security. Ensure your website administrator has installed all types of security and safety software to avoid a data breach. Consider advanced technology such as a multi-factor authentication system.
By following some or all of these seven strategies, your e-commerce business can flourish and grow and keep your business and brand robust and viable for years to come.