Starting up and running any kind of business presents a range of evolving challenges. But running an e-commerce store comes with its own set of unique challenges in addition to those of traditional business owners. If you’re thinking of starting an e-commerce business, then it helps to know what kind of challenges to expect.
Read on for some of the main problems faced by e-commerce store owners…
Setting up a website and an online store is much simpler and more affordable than it was in the early years of the internet. There are lots of different platforms you can choose for creating your website and processing payments. However, this gives you lots of options to compare, meaning it can be hard to know which ones are right for you.
Here are a few of the most popular e-commerce website builders to consider:
It’s important to do your research into the different platforms to decide which is best for your business. At Vitty, we work with a variety of website platforms, including Shopify, Magento, and OpenCart, so we can help to advise you when building your e-commerce website.
Once your e-commerce store is up and running and your products are ready to go, the next challenge is finding customers. Building awareness of your new business and attracting visitors to your online store can be difficult, so it can take a while to make those first few sales. Developing a comprehensive marketing plan can help you with this.
Some marketing activities that can help you attract website traffic include:
As a new business, marketing is essential for bringing in customers and gaining brand awareness, so make sure you allocate some of your budget to marketing and advertising.
Competition in the e-commerce market is incredibly high. It’s one thing having to compete with thousands of other small e-commerce websites like your own, but then you also have to face competition from the giants such as Amazon. These websites sell pretty much anything imaginable, so they create competition for every niche seller.
Amazon and other big markets can afford to offer things like lower prices, free shipping, and next day delivery without hurting their profit margins too much. This makes them extremely difficult for the average business to compete with.
E-commerce store owners need to determine what makes them competitive, such as brilliant customer service or responsibly sourced products. Trying to compete with Amazon on price alone is a losing game.
There are lots of stages in the customer journey. This gives you a lot of barriers to overcome before actually making a sale. Perhaps the most frustrating barrier is shopping cart abandonment. A customer is about to buy from you, but then something changes their mind at the last minute.
This may be because they find a better offer elsewhere, they decide they don’t need or can’t afford the purchase, or maybe they just get distracted. Some shoppers abandon their carts because the purchase process is too long or requires too much personal information. So, you should make sure that your checkout process is streamlined to avoid sending interested customers away.
Another way to bring back customers who abandoned their cart is to send an email the next day or shortly after. This could be to offer them a discount that entices them to come back and buy, or it could just be to remind them that they were interested or suggest other products they might be interested in.
So, you’ve made it past the cart abandonment barrier and made a successful sale. But don’t start spending those profits yet, because e-commerce returns are another challenge you have to face.
Statistics on this subject vary, but this chart from Shopify shows that e-commerce return rates are more than double those of brick-and-mortar stores at 20%, increasing even more around Christmas and for larger purchases.
E-commerce return rates are likely higher because customers can’t see and feel the products in person, meaning they are less likely to meet expectations. Make sure your product photos and descriptions are clear and comprehensive so customers know what to expect. A clear returns and refunds policy will also help to avoid complications and negative feedback.
Shipping and fulfilment costs can really add up for an e-commerce business. And thanks to Amazon and the like, online shoppers have come to expect fast and free shipping. Reaching the checkout and seeing high shipping costs is a big contributing factor towards cart abandonment, yet many small online businesses can’t afford to cover the costs of shipping.
You’ll need to weigh up the pros and cons to determine whether you should offer free shipping or next day delivery, and whether you can afford to. Although it could eat into your profits at first, offering free shipping could help you make more sales and encourage customer loyalty. In this case, you will need to figure out which option is more profitable in the long-run.
The good thing about running an online business is that your shop is always open. You can make sales 24/7 without being restricted by opening hours like brick-and-mortar shops. However, this also means that your customers expect 24/7 availability when it comes to customer service requests.
You can’t personally be available around-the-clock, and most small or start-up businesses can’t afford to employ a customer service team. So, how do you manage this? Having a comprehensive FAQ section on your website and clearly signposting it can help to reduce the number of enquiries you receive.
Adding a customer service chatbot can also help to resolve your customers’ issues while you’re not available. Beyond this, you should offer shoppers multiple methods of contacting you and make sure they know what to expect. This may include listing hours of availability next to your phone number and setting up an auto-reply for all email enquiries, informing the sender of when they should expect a reply.
What are the main challenges that your e-commerce business faces? If you need any support with setting up and maintaining your e-commerce website, creating the website copy, or marketing your e-commerce business, then contact Vitty to find out how we can help you.What Are the Major Problems Faced by E-Commerce Store Owners?