Tips for Streamlining E-Commerce Processes
The wave of the future, e-commerce is booming worldwide. More and more consumers are enthusiastically embracing the ease and convenience of online shopping — and why shouldn't they? They can find almost anything they want at any time and order it with just a few keystrokes on their laptops, tablets or smartphones.
For retailers, this is great news. E-commerce is creating new and exciting market opportunities. Retail e-commerce sales in the U.S. alone have grown from $167 billion in 2010 to over $304 billion in 2014. Furthermore, Statista predicts that total sales will be nearly $500 billion annually by 2018. The U.S. Census Bureau, in its 2015 first quarter e-commerce report, estimated that for the last three months of 2014 alone, retail e-commerce in the U.S. netted $79.6 billion, a 2.3 percent increase over the previous quarter.
Growth in the e-commerce industry is a good sign. Online merchants and service providers can expect to see their sales soar. However, growth of this kind doesn't go unnoticed — it also attracts fierce competition. How can you stay ahead of your competitors? By being efficient. Efficiency is key to running any successful business, and e-commerce companies are no exception. Efficiency means less waste and greater profit margin. In the world of e-commerce, where customers have come to expect speed-of-light ordering and checkout processes, efficiency can make the difference between a repeat customer and a lost customer.
Are you looking to streamline your e-commerce processes? Do you want to know how to speed up your checkout page, day-to-day business tasks, even paperwork and inventory management? Here are a few tips that can help you increase your efficiency levels and put your business a step ahead of the competition:
1. Give your checkout system a checkup. According to the Baymard Institute, more than 68 percent of online shopping carts are abandoned before the checkout process is complete. Does that represent people who change their minds about a purchase? Shoppers who are frustrated by the process itself? Don't drive customers away with a convoluted checkout procedure. Keep each step simple and clear. Replace distracting headers and footers with a progress indicator to reassure consumers that the order process is moving forward successfully.
2. Make sure help is available. E-commerce can speed and enhance the shopping experience for your customers, however, keep in mind that not every order decision will be seamless. Have customer service representatives available for those customers who need a little extra help with the ordering process or who might have questions about your products and services. Make your contact information (e.g., phone number, email address) easy to find so that consumers won't leave in frustration when their questions go unanswered.
3. Use pre-printed labels. Pre-printed labels save time and money, and can include your core information, logo, return instructions and address. Then when each order comes in, only the customer's variable information will need to be added. As a result, the print time on each order will be reduced, helping get it out the door that much faster. Pre-printed labels can help to streamline your entire shipping process.
4. Integrate your data. You can use label and form combinations to your advantage. With data integration, information from invoices, packing lists and shipping labels can be shared, speeding all these processes, eliminating data-entry errors and streamlining record keeping.
5. Fill your tool chest. The internet lends itself to marketing and processing tools; take advantage of them. Some examples include Shopify, which lets you create an online store or add e-commerce features to an existing one, and 1ShoppingCart, which offers marketing, merchandising and payment processing services. Both of these services have trial offers, so you can see if they're a good fit for your business before committing any cash. While HubSpot doesn't process orders or payments, it does offer a wide range of other useful tools. It can help you with website creation, landing pages, social media campaigns and marketing analytics.
E-commerce processes may be new, but when it comes to business, good, old-fashioned efficiency will never be out of style.
Don Amato is vice president, sales of Chicago Tag & Label, which offers products to help organize your business and streamline processes, including integrated forms and labels, tags, and packing slips.