Your website may attract followers, but ensuring customers click through to ‘buy’ is another step altogether
It’s an exciting time to take a small business online in Australia and grasp the opportunity to go global. The lower Australian dollar, social reach and access to international marketplaces (such as the Tmall storefront for eligible businesses to sell into China) means you could connect with customers all over the world.
“International selling just gets easier,” says Dirk van Lammeren, General Manager Small Business at Australia Post. “Consumers are becoming increasingly confident and comfortable with eCommerce as an alternative, or complement, to traditional bricks-and-mortar retailing. This confidence is supported by greater security for payments and delivery, a broader range of available products, and anywhere, anytime smart phone technology.”
But while the environment is ripe and customers may be attracted to your website, there is no guarantee they will engage your products and services. It takes convenient processes, sophisticated delivery and a personal touch to ensure people take the next step.
A customer-first approach
To provide a great online service you need to understand your customers and anticipate what they want – often before they’re aware of it themselves, van Lammeren says. He recommends researching what motivates them, and knowing when and how they want to shop.
“Start small and test the market,” he says. “Be willing to experiment and learn fast to discover what works.”
The key is to deliver a great experience from the moment the customer discovers your store to the moment they receive their parcel.
“Customers like to see new [product] arrivals showcased. Make it as easy as possible to find and use the online store, and ensure that it’s backed by reliable checkout and delivery. Be very clear about what your customers can expect in terms of total cost, and shipping and returns policies. Online shoppers will go elsewhere if it’s too hard.”
One of the biggest challenges to overcome is the high rate of abandonment in shopping carts at checkout. He points to existing marketplaces, such as eBay and Amazon, which offer customers an easy-to-navigate checkout process, as examples for small businesses.
“Research shows that many shoppers identify free shipping as the most important option during checkout, and will even add more items to their cart to qualify. Flat rate postage options can help businesses factor shipping into overall sales costs.”
Post-sale care matters
Customer care doesn’t stop once a sale is transacted – every step to delivery will determine if they engage with your business again. A vital part of this is an easy returns process.
“Choose the right partners to fill any gaps – for example supply, fulfilment, payments and logistics…someone you can trust to support an overall positive customer experience.”
He says around 40% of returns are facilitated in the first week of a delivery, with over 50% of people preferring to drop their item off at a Post Office or street posting box. Often customers want alternatives to home delivery, with the option to reschedule their deliveries if their plans change.
Small businesses have the advantage of being able to forge connections with customers via email, social media or even handwritten notes. Done with the right audiences, this can lead to future conversion.
“Engaging content such as blogs, inspiring photography, videos and reviews can help inspire customers to purchase and keep them coming back,” he says.
Written by: Jacob Robertson