Back to Basics with Ecommerce 101

Back to Basics with Ecommerce 101

Buying and selling products have always been simple. Retailers stock products, a buyer picks it up and pays for their purchase. Over time, open marketplaces turned into shops dotting our streets and sprawling suburban malls. The process was essentially the same: pick a product, pay for it, take it with you. The customer experience was, for all intents and purposes, relatively easy. 

Commerce and all players involved have adapted overtime to keep up with demands, technologies, and evolving buyer behaviors. Buying has never felt more democratized and specialized in consumer needs. Now, buying is scattered all over our devices: buying a t-shirt on Instagram, loading up your cart of home goods on a brand’s website, checking out merch listed on your favorite band’s Facebook page or calling up a retailer to place something on hold. 

Before planning for the future, do a gut-check on how solid your foundation is. Go back to the beginning and ask a few crucial questions:

  • What are the guiding principles for retailers? 
  • What are the most important tools retailers need to run their business? 

Here, we give you a little insight into how solid checkout foundations, customer experience, and automation will help solidify your business’ base to grow for—and with—the future. 

Solid checkout foundations

At the bare minimum, your ecommerce store needs to provide a way for customers to check out efficiently. The faster the experience, with less friction, the more likely your customers will complete their checkout, and return for a second purchase. Think of a smooth checkout experience as the ultimate goal in commerce. 

A smooth checkout experience involves addressing the top reasons why shoppers abandon their carts:


Reasons for abandonments during checkout

Strategies to address these reasons fall into two key buckets: optimizing for speed and conversion and customizing your checkout experience. With over 1.8 billion orders processed, Shopify Checkout is already optimized for speed, conversion, and customer experience. But here are a few ways to further amplify your checkout experience:

Conversion and speed
      • Combat a “long and complicated checkout process” by offering accelerated checkout methods like Shop Pay, Apple Pay, and Google Pay. For example, Shop Pay lets customers checkout 60% faster and results in up to 18% higher conversion rates from returning shoppers.
      • Automate promotions to save shoppers from having to remember discount codes. With Shopify Scripts, you can easily experiment with top-performing discount strategies to optimize for conversions.
      • Use a reliable payment gateway your customers can trust. With Shopify Payments, your online store can experience up to 4% higher credit card approval rates, resulting in lower abandoned cart rates.
      • Dynamic checkout buttons allow customers to buy right from the product page with one-tap accelerated checkout in their preferred payment method. 
Customization
    • Establish trust with your customers by adding a security badge to your online store so they know their information is kept safe. All stores powered by Shopify are PCI compliant by default—keep customers’ minds at ease by visually displaying this on your online store.
    • Boost customer trust by extending your brand throughout your checkout. Entering the checkout experience should feel like the rest of the website. On Shopify checkouts, you can customize from the inside out. Whether you’re adding extra fields or making design changes to match your brand, the sky’s the limit.
    • Ninety-two percent of shoppers prefer to make purchases on sites that price in their local currency. So if you sell to an international customer base, localize the entire shopping experience with Shop Pay by allowing shoppers to browse and checkout in their local currency, or risk abandoned carts.

Create a memorable online customer experience

Customer service has never felt more important than now and will have lasting effects on brand loyalty. 93% of buyers are more likely to make a repeat purchase if that brand has excellent customer service. Additionally, increased customer retention rates by 5% allow profits to go up anywhere from 25% to 95%.

There are a lot of brands can do in lieu of an in-store experience with a friendly store associate to make buying online efficient and memorable.

  • Make product discovery faster and easier for your customers by replicating that experience online with product recommendations and product reviews. Displaying recommended products to customers makes it easier for them to discover new products. About 92% of customers read other customer reviews and ratings before making a purchase. Product reviews can help empower your customers and round out their purchasing experience with information. For example, Yotpo helps brands collect reviews, ratings, and photos from customers, which can help with conversion. 

  • Let shoppers visualize your products from the comfort of their own home. Enhanced image technologies allow your buyer to visualize what a product looks like on their person or in their home without having to step foot outside. 3D models in AR have been shown to increase conversion rates by up to 250% on product pages. For example, Rebecca Minkoff uses 3D models to give shoppers a better sense of detail on the product, scale, and sizing. In a similar way, videos can be used to complement product descriptions with reviews, product demonstrations or explainer videos.

Sizing charts, or if you're using models in your shot, explain in the product description the height and weight of that model for your buyer’s reference. Retailers like Gymshark do a good job of this.

sizing chart

Your customer support team as part of the customer experience 

Sometimes buyers still need a customer service representative to help them out. Ramp up more customer support by studying engagement rates of each channel to see how your customers prefer to be contacted. Are they communicating with you on social media or phoning in their questions? Email or chatbots? Thirty-eight percent of buyers are more likely to make a purchase if a brand offers a live chat option on their website. Installing a live chat button with Facebook Messenger or Drift lets retailers do just that, giving shoppers easy access to you if they have any questions. 

Customer service reps are only as great as the training that gets them there, so don’t skimp on building and equipping your team properly. Invest in a training program that empowers your customer service team to provide the best possible service they can. Keep them up-to-date with FAQs and queries. Strengthen their knowledge base with lunch and learns, or keep a regularly updated, open Slack channel or Google Hangout so they can ask a question and get the answer fairly quickly. 

Lastly, think of customer support and community as complementary. In the commerce ecosystem, customer support feeds into community and community feeds right back into your business and the support you provide. Consumers, now more than ever, want brands they can trust, not simply with their money, but on a human level. 

Ecommerce automation

There are a lot of important tasks involved in running a business. Many of them are labor-intensive and can slow down other operations or creative processes. It’s important to look at where efficiencies can be made that strengthen how the business operates without sacrificing customer experience. Ecommerce automation is one big way to help to simplify the complexities and demands of a business. 

Automation helps reduce the number of these labor-centric tasks many retailers are often faced with. This includes tasks like notifying customers when their orders are ready for pickup. 1.1 billion workflows have been created on Shopify Plus, each one eliminating a manual process, and saving a total of 9.2 million hours (or more than 1000 years). Automating everyday tasks can eliminate hours of manual labor required from your staff and reroutes that energy into creative or innovative endeavors for your team.

What can you automate?

Ecommerce automation touches all areas of the business from inventory to fraud.

  • Inventory management
    Ecommerce automation helps with management of your inventory, whether that’s notifying suppliers through Flow alerts when stock is low, or unpublishing out of stock items and republishing when a fresh delivery arrives.

  • Customer experience
    Flow lets you identify and track customer behavior by tagging conditions like order types, order value, specific product purchases, and more. When a customer makes a second purchase from a store, for example, Flow can automatically trigger a thank you email to strengthen the relationship.

  • Fraud prevention
    Flow can be used to help with Shopify Plus’ existing risk analysis. Additionally, ecommerce automation can be configured to notify your own security or fraud-prevention specialists for a hands-on review, which can save you money.

How to automate your ecommerce operation

Shopify Flow is an ecommerce automation application that can help automate tasks, campaigns, and processes within your store. Flow can even be integrated with other automation applications like:

  • Launchpad to schedule events or sales. Ir also provides monitoring and preloading capabilities too, reducing the amount of manual work needed by a member of your team. 
  • Scripts to automatically apply discounts, payment options or specialized shipping options for customers, feeding back into that seamless checkout experience. 

While commerce practices have evolved to include extraordinary and innovative ways of shopping, like through a smart mirror, in a video, or on a live stream, all those foundational aspects of buying still exist, too. Creating a strong checkout experience, customer support system, and automating your tasks all fundamentally strengthen your foundation in these unprecedented times.

About the author

Sarah MacDonald

Sarah MacDonald is a culture writer and editor based in Toronto. Her words can be found in the Globe and MailHazlitt, The Walrus, CBC Arts, Elle Canada, VICE, and many more. She currently works as a content writer at Shopify Plus.

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